When we asked women in a survey about what they liked to masturbate to, a third said they masturbate to words (matlab erotic books and stories). Well, reading a steamy novel is like a two-in-one, it turns your body on as well as your mind. And who says it’s only about novels — novellas, poetry, fan fiction… anything you can read can do a great job!
Do you remember a phrase or passage or scene you once read that got you all hot and bothered? Well, here’s a sparkly, sexy collection with many more that will hit all the right spots!
1. A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and Other Erotic Stories by Aranyani (English, 2013)
A pregnant woman suddenly finds herself taken over by insane cravings that make her decide to do things at erratic hours, like have her long-suffering husband give her oral sex, or eat truffles, or rub seetaphal onto her vagina, or smell her husband’s boxers. In the eight other stories in this collection, an artist has a mad affair with her Russian neighbour, erotic games take off in a house full of women cooking delicious food, a woman breaks up with her boyfriend and discovers what she really likes. If you like your sexy times hot, sweet and wacky this is the book for you.
2. Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (Bengali, translated into English by Arunava Sinha, first published in
A young woman checks into an empty Kolkata guest house and finds a leopard-print panty in a cupboard, which smells of moist earth. But she isn’t disgusted by it — she’s more intrigued than anything. Somehow, she can’t get herself to throw it away, so she keeps it, wears it, and slowly begins to take on what she imagines is the passionate character of its previous owner. The moment she puts it on, she falls asleep and wakes up to the wild moans of a couple having sex — except they’re in a painting on the wall. Freaky, deliriously funny, and incredibly frank, the book traces how a woman reinvents herself and her sexuality by wearing a stranger’s underwear.
3. Lihaaf by Ismat Chughtai (Urdu, translated into English, 1942)
A short story, which got the author in tons of trouble, and an obscenity trial at the Lahore court in the 1940s, it isn’t explicitly sexual — it has more to do with the sensual power of touch. Lihaaf is about a young girl, who is in awe of and head over heels about a formidable woman named Begum Jaan. Begum Jaan has had a miserable life after marriage because her husband is gay and can’t satisfy her sexually. She gets her masseuse Rabbu to rub and bathe and scratch her body all through the day, and on cold nights. One day when Rabbu is otherwise occupied, the young girl massages Begum Jaan instead and discovers a waterfall of feelings that she didn’t know existed.
It all begins with Begum Jaan moaning,
4. Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Collection of Erotic Love Stories (Edited by Ruchir Joshi, 2009)
From two women making love, while dreamily discussing the writer Ismat Chughtai’s story The Quilt, and a woman who masturbates on a train while sexting her married lover, to a 27-year-old virgin man’s first sexual encounter, this collection of short stories takes a long hard look at people’s funny, serious and moving encounters with sex. It has stories by both established writers and those who were new at the time, including Samit Basu, Parvati Sharma, Sheba Karim, Sonia Jabbar, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, Rana Dasgupta and Jeet Thayil.
Bonus: In this collection, one number Agent of Ishq (you will find it soon enough) has hot and exciting dream sequences with a Bollywood superstar
5. A Handbook for my Lover by Rosalyn D’Mello (English, 2015)
A viciously honest story of a young writer’s turbulent affair and break-up with an older, famous photographer, it tells you about the everyday desires, the seduction, the hurt, the moments when polygamy fails, the longing on nights when they don’t have sex and the passion on others. The sex scenes are gripping because of the tension and the back-and-forth between the couple, as in this sequence, which takes place after they’ve been fighting:
6. Paro: Dreams of Passion by Namita Gokhale (English, 1984)
Priya is furiously in love with her boss BR, and fantasises about her fleeting sexual encounters with him around the clock. But then he goes and marries Paro, a woman who doesn’t give a damn, who sleeps with whomever she wants, and marries whom she chooses, from dodgy politicians to bitter Marxists. Although the author says didn’t plan to write ‘erotic’ fiction when she wrote it back in 1984, the book is a frank exploration of sex and fierce independence, particularly in the bits where Priya voyeuristically imagines Paro and BR’s sensuous lovemaking: ‘I could picture him slowly undressing her…I would become her, and feel a triumphant power in his climax, and arrive myself at heaven’s gates, to the feverish clutch of my index finger.’
7. Sita’s Curse: The Language of Desire by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu (English, 2014)
Meera Patel is a bored, but not a boring homemaker in Mumbai, who jumps at a chance to escape a soul-killing marriage through a steamy affair. The book begins with an intense masturbation scene, with Meera gradually undressing and caressing herself. But she is constantly interrupted — by a squawking parrot, and her husband knocking and demanding parathas for breakfast. Pretty soon you realise that Meera’s husband would rather fall asleep than have sex. And that when they do have sex, it is incredibly disappointing for Meera. So Meera pushes off to the house of a young chap, Yousuf, whom she meets online, and that’s where the fun, and her search for fulfilling sex, begins. There are also accounts of her explorations of self, which are quite luscious and detailed:
8. One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Tamil, translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, 2010)
Kali and Ponna are a pair of farmers in Tamil Nadu. A happily married couple, they have a great sex life. Their only source of unhappiness is their childlessness. Under the influence of her mother and mother-in-law, Ponna is persuaded to observe an old tradition in their region — Kali sleeps with another man on an auspicious date. The logic being that the goddess Pavatha would be appeased, her sterility will lift and the couple would finally have a child. But when Kali does go through with it, things begin to go wrong. Ponna becomes resentful, treats Kali horribly, and becomes, for the first time, rough with her in bed. Their marriage is ripped apart. The most sexually-charged passages of the book are those in which the husband reminisces about how they used to be: how she used to tug playfully at his loin cloth, how much they enjoyed being naked together, and how madly in love they were.
9. Mitro Marjani by Krishna Sobti (Hindi, translated into English, 2009)
A headstrong woman named Mitro, who is the daughter of a ‘fallen woman’, has zero qualms about talking loudly about her sexuality. She’s stuck in a household of eight people with a disapproving mother-in-law but that doesn’t stop her from thinking about and expressing her desires. Unsurprisingly, her husband is threatened by her sexuality, and feels emasculated because he can’t satisfy her sexual needs. The sexy thing about this book is how vocal Mitro is about what gets her ticking in bed, while the grand, confident one-liners about her body are to die for: “Have you seen such breasts on another woman?” Even better are her mother’s ruses, like her plan to procure good sex for Mitro — to “call a gardener for her garden”.
10. The poems of Kshetrayya (Telugu)
Kshetrayya was a 12th century composer who wrote padams of devotion to Lord Muvva Gopala (or Krishna), the deity of his village of Muvva (in Andhra Pradesh). He writes from the point of view of a woman deeply in love with Muvva Gopala. If, as they say, anticipation and foreplay is huge part of sex, the poems of Kshetrayya have got it bang on, because they take the drawing out, the build-up of sex and turn it into a delicious literary art form. His poems focus on all aspects of sex: what happens before, during and after, are all paid equal time and attention. The descriptions of the sex itself can seem abrupt sometimes, but they have to be read in entirety to really get the feel of them. Here’s a quick excerpt: it feels incomplete because it is, but you get the idea.
11. Silappadikaram by Ilango Adigal (Tamil, translated into English)
Kannagi, a woman brought up in a rich family of traders, suddenly realises her life is turning upside down. Her husband leaves her for another woman and is then framed for a crime he didn’t commit. She goes to mad lengths to defend him, even burning down half the city of Madurai in her rage. The erotic charge of this epic poem that is roughly estimated to be over 2,000 years old is in its lush descriptions of women’s bodies (there’s a fixation on breasts in particular), perfumed breezes, lovers laughing, restless nights and pleasure being visible in the eyes of the women, and Kannagi’s murderous all-consuming rage.
12. Radhika Santwanam by Muddupalani (Telugu)
Frank, no-nonsense descriptions of sex and the love triangle between Krishna, Radha, and her niece Iladevi. This is the hot, much-admired material of this poem, written by the 18th century poet and courtesan Muddupalani. In the poem, she walks us through a young girl’s first sexual experience. Later, Radha tells Iladevi a few tricks about enjoying sex and how important it is to recognise your right to pleasure. The loveliest thing about this poem is seeing women taking the initiative for sex throughout. So Krishna is left to grumble about how pushy women are: “If I tell her of my vow not to have a woman in my bed, she hops on and begins the game of love…” “Many parts of the book are such that they should never be heard by a woman, let alone emerge from a woman’s mouth”, said one jealous Telugu novelist. Now you know you just have to read it.
13. Absent Traveller (Prakrit love poetry, translated into English by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, 1991)
If you haven’t read these poems yet, you are in for quite a lot of unexpected sexual frisson and even some knowing laughter. Written between 1,800 and 2,000 years ago, and translated into English by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra in 1991, these tiny poems feel like they were written yesterday. This selection is full of poems about judaai, the pain and extreme longing of separation.
In these startlingly hot poems, the lovers are often coy, but always acknowledge their sexual appetites.
Or take this one where someone who is narrating the bad sex someone else is having.
Or when a woman has just tried viparitarata aka being on top, for the first time, her lover has this to say.
14. Close, Too Close Tranquebar Book of Queer Erotica (Edited by Meenu and Shruti, 2012)
This volume is a clear example of how versatile and inclusive erotic writing can be, and how erotic writing can be used to invoke a whole bunch of feelings, beyond just plain arousal. From stories about two women who see each other underwater and then shower together, to a mythological story about two men who disguise themselves as newlyweds to be later tricked by the gods, to one about transmen wordlessly negotiating the limits of each others’ bodies (in a story that also touches upon necrophilia — hey, different strokes for different folks), to one that eroticises groping on a bus, the volume covers a variety of tones designed to evoke feelings as varied as arousal, heart-sickness, cringe and even a little bit of creepiness.
15. Amaru Shataka (Sanskrit love poetry, translated by Andrew Schelling, 2014)
Amaru was a mystic who wrote around 800 AD. He wrote delicious love poems in Sanskrit, about both homosexual and heterosexual love. Sometimes, his poems talk delightfully of love between women, sometimes they sound outraged at sub-standard hetero loving, like this one that reads:
The poems are passionate yet playful, and uniquely evocative in their narrative. The fact that they involve the kind of conversation you’d imagine taking place aloud and in people’s minds while having sex paints a particularly vivid picture, like this poem about two women making love:
16. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2017)
This fast-paced new novel weaves in erotic stories from people we don’t usually see in erotic novels and movies, and don’t generally expect to see either: Punjabi widows. It takes place in Southall, UK, and deals with all the stories we don’t expect to see “under the white dupatta” that characterises these women. But it’s a pity, because women at a certain point in their lives, certainly the one these women in the story are at, have a very unique way of thinking and talking about sex, and it’s absolutely delightful to read. The erotic bits aren’t always arousing or titillating, but are sometimes amusing anecdotes told by the women to each other — it’s still a fun way to read erotic stories. I mean, if it wasn’t in a story about Punjabi widows, how would we ever come across an exchange like this:
17. Gita Govinda, by Jayadeva (Sanskrit love poetry depicting the “pastimes” of Krishna and Radha)
If irreverent and light doesn’t hit your switch, Gita Govinda may be more up your alley. It is a lyrical (which is apt, because it’s meant to be sung) 12th century Sanskrit compilation, full of honeyed descriptions of love, sex, longing and desire. While it’s full of beautiful descriptions of sex and love, it’s the flirting between Krishna and Radha that you’re likely to find the most erotic in this long volume of poetry by Jayadeva (who praises himself frequently at the end of each chapter, which is a bit of a turn off). There are also loads of invocations of nature: words like honey, nectar, flowers and bowers are used and re-used, so it can’t help but paint a pretty picture. This is a volume you’d turn to if you like romance, beauty and sweetness in your erotica.
18. The High Priestess Never Marries by Sharanya Manivannan (2016)
The High Priestess Never Marries isn’t a book of erotica, but it’s full of desire and sexuality, used for various reasons, not merely to arouse. All of the women in her short and long stories are compelling and powerful in their own way, which lends something wonderful to the very experience of reading the volume. Sharanya Manivannan’s genius lies in the unexpected details, and this is a characteristic that makes the descriptions of sex, work so well too. Like this,
19. Confessions of an Indian Woman Eater by Sasthi Brata (1971)
In this book, Amit Ray leaves his upper-class home to travel from Calcutta to New Delhi to London, with nine books and seventy rupees. We begin with his introduction to sex — he’s lying on a string bed on the terrace of a house, watching a couple on the neighbouring terrace have sex. Amit pays close attention to his own pleasure, pointing to exactly what in the scene had aroused him — the fact that he couldn’t see the couple’s faces, that they didn’t know he was watching, and that he had participated without the possibility of rejection. This is only where it begins. The book then follows Amit through his travel across countries and all his erotic, sometimes tender, and occasionally pathetic encounters. Explicit, direct, not always politically correct, the book was briefly banned in India when it was published in 1971 (but the ban was lifted).
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