New book reveals how Indian woman is more than willing to talk about her sex-capades

May 13, 2018, 07:28 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Through an intimate tour of online sex cultures — from camgirls to fanfiction writers, homemade videos to consent violations — the book investigates what it means to seek out pleasure online.

Richa Kaul Padte
Richa Kaul Padte

When I set out to write this book, I expected to find that Indian women were watching, making and enjoying porn. And indeed, I found that! What I didn't expect, though, was how comfortable and open they would be while talking about it," says Richa Kaul Padte of her debut non-fiction, Cyber Sexy (Penguin Random House). Through an intimate tour of online sex cultures — from camgirls to fanfiction writers, homemade videos to consent violations — the book investigates what it means to seek out pleasure online. Padte grew up in Kodaikanal and has lived most of her life in Brighton, England. Apart from being the co-founder of the award-winning publication Deep Dives, her writings have appeared in several publications. The well-researched book is full of interesting anecdotes, which had us questioning what we think we knew of porn. We spoke to her about women who romantacise porn, what inspires her, and if women would rather read erotica than watch the act on screen.

Excerpts from an interview:

In retrospect, what would you say the true vision of the book is?
Looking back on the project, what has come to the surface is that Cyber Sexy allows readers to feel less alone. Many people I interviewed said that the experience of sharing their stories removed a sense of isolation, and I know for sure that I as the listener felt a lot of relief, just hearing them. It's a comfort to know how varied desire is; that no matter how strange what's inside us can feel, we're never truly alone.

You have had intense, deep conversations with varied women for this book. Share some anecdotes that really stayed with you.
Not just with women, but with men too. For example, I spoke to one man who said he had always been embarrassed and bullied about the size and shape of his penis, but through participating in nude photoshoots, he came to terms with and started loving his body. This stayed with me, because men are often under pressure to be a certain type of masculine — and they rarely express these vulnerabilities. So, whenever men were able to talk about these gentler, less confident parts of their sexualities, it stood out for me.

What revelations did you have about the Indian woman and her sexuality?
As girls and women we're not encouraged to talk about sex, so I thought there would be some degree of reservation in interviews. I was so heartened to find this was not the case – women were happy to openly share their experiences, and I was more than happy to hear about them.

In your experience, how do men and women consume porn? For example, one may watch porn to please themselves, but quite often, we also think of people we desire. Do you think woman romanticise porn?
I think this might be more of an individual preference than a gendered thing. Desire is constantly shifting, just like fantasies, just like porn preferences. And I don't think romaticising porn is a gender-specific experience. Having said that, I think where women and men's porn preferences do differ is on the question of consent. Almost every woman said that as soon as porn seemed non-consensual, they were instantly turned off. I think as women we are constantly worried about having our consent violated, so our porn consumption reflects this fear.

Do you think women prefer reading porn rather than watching it?
I don't think I've surveyed enough women to make this claim definitively, but what I can say for sure is that erotica, fanfiction, and other sexy writings on the Internet are predominantly women-led spaces. Personally speaking, sex scenes in novels was how I first started exploring my own desires as a teenager, and I think for many women the written word is a safe, intimate space in which to express sexuality — both as readers and as writers.

Women usually find it easier to go without sex for long periods of time. Could this affect their desires?
My point is, everyone can survive without sex, but sex is also a deep human need. I think what does affect women's desires is fear — fear of unwanted pregnancies, abuse, violence, etc. We think twice — or 50 times —before we go home with unknown men. Not because we want sex any less than them, but because gender violence is a reality we have to perpetually contend with. So we often forgo desire because we want to, you know, stay alive.

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