What do you do when you want to read erotica? Pick up a copy of the latest mommy porn that has hit the shelves? Google some porn video and watch instead of reading? Well, two women from Mumbai - Meenu and Shruti - decided to do things a little differently. So, instead of looking for material that is already available, they simply decided to create some reading material. There’s more to the twist in the tale. The stories that they sourced, had nothing to do with regular heterosexual erotica. Instead, Close, Too Close, deals with ‘queer erotica’. While the genre has always existed below the surface [and in the west], this is possibly the first book on queer erotica to be marketed and sold on the bookshelves in India.
‘Both of us are interested in the genre of erotica. When we searched we found only two kinds of books in the genre - heterosexual and queer - and all of them existed in the west. We wanted to have something here, but something that was not heterosexual,’ says Shruti.
So they sent out ‘submission calls’, approached some published authors and generally, ‘let the word spread’. ‘We didn’t ask only queer people to write because you don’t necessarily have to be queer to be
able to write queer erotica,’ says Meenu.
‘It is not just about sexual identity, but sexual lives that go beyond expected norms. Queer is also those people. It is an expanding notion. You don’t just talk about sex in the context of marriage. Anyone can write erotica,’ adds Shruti.
‘Talking about sex is such a male thing. Others bring in something different when they are writing about it. Those are the perspectives that come in,’ she adds. Together, Meenu and Shruti read about 20 stories - 14 of which have found place in the book. A lot of the authors used pseudonyms.
And what was the criteria for selection? ‘We focused on diversity. Stories that expanded traditional notions of sex were given priority. Didn’t depend on just how explicit they were - stories with emotional context and those challenging mainstream notion of sex were also given importance,’ says Shruti.
Close, Too Close starts with the interesting Pity That Blush, a story about sexual thoughts in a swimming pool by Annie Dykstra. However, keep on turning the pages and soon the stories become a jamboree of Wham! Bam! Almost a manual of ‘different ways to have queer sex’ and soon you feel like saying, ‘No thank you, Sir!’
Exceptions that prove the rule? Michael Malik G’s Dreams and Desire in Srinagar where the tussle between the old lover and the new one has been brought out poignantly. Ditto about Chicu’s Soliloquy, the story of a crossdresser. Or Devdutt Patnaik’s The Marriage of Somavat and Sumedha, where two boys pretended to be a newlywed couple to win a cow from the queen so that they can marry women of their choice. Only later they realise their love for each other. Another interesting read is Nikhil Yadav’s Upstairs, Downstairs where a journalist goes to cover a Page 3 event and gets into a one-night stand.
But otherwise, one tends to get bored with the graphic expressions. More so, because there isn’t really a build up to it. There is no story to speak of. It is too in your face. Which leads you to the question — is erotica only about sex? And is the market ready for such stuff? The editors, Meenu and Shruti, say they got positive response. ‘Even a year ago, we wouldn’t have been so certain. The book would have been known only in the queer circles. Now, we think the market is ready,’ says Meenu.
Were they open to translations as well? ‘We did solicit writing which we could translate, but that didn’t happen. We would have liked to get something that could be translated,’ says Shruti.
And when that happens, maybe we could expect some interesting stories. Till then, Wham! Bam! Again!