Smut (noun): Yummy erotic fiction or art.

There’s a subjectivity to the term ‘reading’, meaning different things to different people. My father, for example, holds the view that reading the newspaper is the only form of fruitful reading. Then there’s my fifth grade English teacher who introduced us to books like, Three Men In A Boat, Diary of Anne Frank, and the likes. This woman was the one who redefined ‘reading’ for me.

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But in the ninth grade, eons before 50 Shades of Grey had taken over the erotica market, my friend (ola, puberty) introduced me to a book called A Case of Heart Troubled. I’d be damned if I remember the plot, but this was the moment when I discovered the world of eroticas, or what’s now popularly known as Smut Literature. I had to hide it between textbooks to read it, I had to cover it with a newspaper so that nobody realises what I’m reading, and it was one of the cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die secrets we shared back then.

These novels have at some point taught us a thing or two.

I mean it, laugh all the hell you want. Where Ian McEwan fills a considerable part of his works with masturbatory fantasies for men, Mills and Boon gave women a chance. It’s smut that shows women as agents of their own pleasure, asking for what they want, when they want it. 

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It’s these books that taught us to speak up, because nobody is a mind reader, no matter how great his abs. It’s reading these that we realised that to err definitely is human (again, no matter how great the abs) and that ‘the complete package’ is a myth. And yes, they’re best things to go for catharsis. Smut is beautiful.

There’s no escape. You find it, or it finds you.

My friend had found twenty-five Mills and Boon books in her aunt’s wardrobe, who had now moved out of the house. This was my introduction to the world of erotica, and this was the time that we were introduced to larger-than-life boyfriends who came with six packs and knew all the right things to say. 

These were the books that made us fall in love with the idea of romance, daydream about boyfriends with six packs and build castles in the air about what perfect relationships looked like. Don’t worry, we did learn a thing or two about reality and heartbreaks, but there are some things that you just won’t trade away.

“…It’s possible to be a total literary conservative and spend your days reading about sex…”

There’s an uncalled for snobbery that abides in those who pride themselves for having read the classics. The canon- a western body of invisible authorities who decide which written work is worthy of being preserved has always shunned the otherwise ‘nice’ (read naughty) works. Erotica, as a genre, has been an open secret amongst the reading milieu, elitist or otherwise. Sex, shit, and piss has been part of literature even before Aristophanes made his actors strut around on stage wearing phalluses. 

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And if we were ever caught reading one… “The horror, the horror!”

I cannot count the number of times we have giggled together wondering if my friend’s aunt had these many of M&B’s lying around, just how many had she read? She too would’ve hid them between her clothes, or maybe between the books on her bookshelf. I read these hiding them within my textbooks. I cannot even begin to comprehend what my parents would say or think had I been caught. 

And I still cannot put my finger on the ‘eesh!’ that followed it.

Have you seen the kind of sexual pillage that follows the very brilliantly penned The Clockwork Orange? Rape, murder, and loot are looked at in a completely different light because it’s something not meant for the masses, it’s to be read, appreciated, and admired by the elitists of the reading world. 

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But, it becomes dangerous as a film which can be viewed by the general public. We are trying so bloody hard to create a gap between pornography and artistic erotica, trashing one and elevating the other, which is why I felt superlatively confused reading Roald Dahl’s adult erotica, Switch Bitch. Why was it never trashed? Because it becomes ‘art’, coming from one of the best authors of his time.

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Reading is reading, and you always have something that you can take away from them. Not everything has to fulfil your aesthetic value, it can mean different things to different people. Stop hiding the covers behind newspapers. Live it up.