Erotica hues beat COVID blues

Updated: Jul 12, 2020, 07:53 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

Stories about sex on Zoom, sexy microfiction on Instagram and anonymous yet trending erotica podcasts are proving that the pandemic has given a boost to erotic pop culture

A still from 365 Days, which has been trending on Netflix
A still from 365 Days, which has been trending on Netflix

If the name Michele Morrone gives you weak knees, you have watched 365 Days on Netflix. Despite a Rotten Tomatoes rating of zero per cent, the erotic thriller is a viral hit and is among the top 10 most viewed movies on the streaming platform across India, Australia, Brazil, Spain and the US. It's about a Sicilian Mafia boss Massimo (the very hot Italian actor, Morrone) who kidnaps Laura (Polish newcomer Anna-Maria Sieklucka) and gives her one year to fall in love with him before he will let her go. Very Mills and Boon-ish in both plot and erotic scenes. Based on the best-selling trilogy of Polish novels by Blanka Lipinska, 365 Days is being called "travel porn"—a mix of wealth porn and soft-core actual porn—and, as the New York Times (no less) said, is "apparently an appealing combination in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis when many viewers have been at home for months on end".

Mumbai-based lawyer Shivani Sharma, who saw it recently, says, she watched it for the sexy parts, as the rest is just drivel. "I watched it for the same reason people watch porn". And the film, which released a month ago, continues to rank second in India, says Netflix.

It would seem that the pandemic and the lockdown that has followed, and is still in place in most countries, has led to a greater demand and uninterrupted supply of erotica—books, audio books, movies, podcasts, and arty Instagram accounts. At a time when we are alone—many away from their significant others and, and the possibility of an intimate dalliance or a one-night stand uncertain at this time—and constrained, it's perhaps erotica that allows us to let our minds and bodies run wild. And to pleasure ourselves behind locked doors, so we forget the grim reality outside. Erotic poet Khusboo Balwani says, "It's all about being atamanirbhar. It's content that distracts people. So, even as more people are consuming it, more people are creating it. We didn't have time before, but now we don't have that excuse to fall back on."

If every great tragedy leads to the creation of art—as a Guardian piece said: "there would have been no Gone with the Wind without the great war"—the 2020 pandemic has seen many creators fill the intimacy void. Even if much of them prefer to remain anonymous. The podcast called Sex Stories on Spotify, which uses the lusty and busty popular porn character of Savita Bhabhi, was trending on the app in the last week of June. The "description" of the "real sex stories" is by someone called G Gwari. We searched high and low for the creators but couldn't manage to get a hold of them. Spotify says that the content stopped showing on the charts a few days ago.

The women who started OhMyHrithik a few years ago
The women who started OhMyHrithik a few years ago

On Juggernaut's reading app, Ananya Saha, commissioning editor-digital, says that erotica has seen a rise among readers. "Erotica has always been one of the most downloaded genres on our app, but we are definitely seeing a surge in these times. We are also getting new authors [most write under pseudonyms]." Among the most popular is Khushbu [a pen name], who writes Karan's Konfessions. Khushbu, 43, is a Kolkata-based writer who works at a multinational firm by day. She says, "Karan is a sort of a modern-day Don Juan, and yes, he is more in demand now. I think people are reading as they want to escape the world, and go into a fantasy world that's far away from the real world and all its problems." When Literotica, one of the largest erotic fiction websites, ran a contest recently to invite lockdown inspired novels and stories, they got a variety of stories. Some dealt with "unexpected quarantine partners", in which roommates, friends, and, even step-siblings hook up. Others were about voyeurism, where people bond by watching each other through windows, or even Zoom. And some were just sexcapades, where people were having sex while sanitising, or opting for a sexual position that didn't involve face-to-face interaction. As Seema Anand, London-based mythologist and an acknowledged authority on the Kama Sutra, says, "It's all about pleasuring yourself right now. We have to get into that mental fantasy, so that we don't explode. The spike is a natural one. I am also getting lots of enquiries for talks on erotica, though my expertise is all about ancient history."

An @alphachanneling post
An @alphachanneling post

But, while reading erotica has been fashionable ever since Fifty Shades of Grey, the lockdown has also seen an increase in its consumption on social media. There are accounts that will make you blush, and then peer into your phone to work out the details of what goes where. One of the most popular ones is Alphachanneling, who has been uploading his erotic artwork for seven years. His works shows couples in various positions of pleasure. "What I think has changed is that people are on social media at all hours of the day. While earlier traffic on my feed depended on work hours, now, it seems that since many people are working from home, there is a more steady online presence throughout the day," the artist says over email. This reflects in a report by Mindshare India and Vidooly, that tracked recent online content consumption trends.

The report's findings for the first quarter of 2020 show a steep increase in content consumption as it reported the time spent by the average user to be over four hours per day as compared to previous 1.5 hours on social media platforms. "There is so much more to consume now, and since, it's in the form of art, and not porn, it's more palatable for me," says writer Rohan Dahiya.

Parag Sharma
Parag Sharma

But along with art, it's erotic microfiction, and quotes and anecdotes that have caught the audience's eye. Parag Sharma, who goes by the handle @melancholic.writer.official on Instagram, writes hot and heavy fiction—"I run my tongue across her mouth and taste every desire I had yet to satisfy, realising how much time has passed since I devoured her last". The 34-year-old, who works in Gurugram as a civil engineer, and is at his home town Bhopal right now, says most of the inspiration comes from his personal experiences and wild fantasises. And he reaffirms that the lockdown has led to him getting more likes and views. "I think everyone has always been interested in sex, and during lockdown, they are finally admitting to it. They want something that they can connect to, and gives your goosebumps. My following has also gone up to 27k. I post everything between 10 pm and midnight, as that's when everyone is reading."

Oh My Hrithik’s creative to invite lockdown stories and experiences
Oh My Hrithik's creative to invite lockdown stories and experiences

Everyone surely is reading, and scrolling, including young women between the ages of 18 and 25. OhmyHrithik is an Instagram account dedicated to a UGC (user generated content) platform created for sharing female fantasies and self-pleasure. Mansi Jain, 20, a mass media student and one of the women who runs the site, says, "The UGC has increased, so has the traffic. We are getting many more questions now—as the girls are getting to know more about themselves. We ask every few days 'what's on your mind?' and we have got questions on multiple partners and infidelity, and 18-year-olds who want to be dominated, and 21-year-olds who want to dominate. People are using this time to think about what they want."

Namrata Kumar
Namrata Kumar

The final word goes to home baker Namrata Kumar, who says that she started doodling erotic doodles after watching Alphachannel, "It was calming and gave me a sense of achievement. I think this spike can be explained simply—this is a time when we finally have time for ourselves. We spend 90 per cent of our time with acquaintances, colleagues and friends, and often can't be ourselves. Now, we are in our underwears at home, and indulging in erotica as it has been seen as something we do during leisure time. It could even be leading to a better time in the bedroom, but it's surely teaching us something about ourselves sexually."

Trending across platforms

Books by Kolkata writer Khushbu, trending on Juggernaut

  • 365 Days on Netflix
  • Savita Bhabhi on Spotify
  • Karan's Konfessions on Juggernaut
  • Alphachanneling on Instagram

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