Writers on pleasure and safety: Abha Dawesar on writing “that condom moment”

We really wanted to get some opinions from the renowned writer Abha Dawesar at Jaipur Lit Festival on the subject of writing good.safe.sex. She is an author who is brave enough to keep the sex in her books, it’s all in there; naughty sex, taboo sex, cross generational and cross caste sex, and last and not least queer sex. She also writes  safe sex (hurrah). In “Babyji” there is a hilarious and tension filled school sex education session and in “Miniplanner” a man is complimented for his ability to unroll a condom well.

“Nathan was a masterful lover. He even managed to eroticise the opening of tubes of lube and the rolling on of condoms. He used my body any which way to please himself (………..)

“I want to give you more pleasure than you have ever received”

I wanted to weep. I wasn’t used to such attention and such intimacy. It felt too precious.”

(Miniplanner, 2000)

We caught up behind one of the large festival performance tents and tried to ignore the excitement inside being generated by a session called the “Ups and downs of Himalayan relationships”. Setting aside this noisy and strangely appropriate backdrop, we started by exploring why it can be easier to write explicit sex scenes set out of India, or away from home. She felt that “Indian writers are still understated about sex” and could do more to bridge the gap between private lives and public selves.

Abha admitted however that it was easier for her to set the sex and condom scenes at a distance, and wrote her “condom moment scene” in New York, because “that’s the reality”, but was worried about how the mechanics of the act would get in the way of her writing. She wondered whether

“Writers avoid writing about condoms because it is distracting and mechanical”

We agreed that  it’s time to challenge more writers to write that condom moment, to eloquently deal with the real life mechanics  of the packet, the unrolling..the pulling out.  Wouldn’t we all love to read some Sci Fi, Pulp fiction or even murder mystery condom moments. We need those skills of imagination and empathy to sexy up safer sex.

But how do writers jump off that particular cliff? Leap over this self censorship to write that perfect performance of safer sex, leading by example with wit, romance and beauty?

“Paris protects love” is showing us the way, Abha felt, a safer sex campaign that uses Paris’s love  of its status as the city of love to encourage it citizens to look after each other. She felt that is “united in its message, without cleaving between good health and romance” and it works because it hints at the story and appeals to Parisians who need to have love as part of the sexual script.

So now we had the perfect script but how to do “it” as a writer and construct that perfect condom moment. Abha said she takes all her concerns about reactions to her writing and compartmentalises them – keeping them away from her writing brain. Leaving that internal censor fiddling awkwardly with the condom packet safely occupied elsewhere.

And when you do write sex you can get surprising reactions from quarters you did not expect. Usually positive thought Abha, after all she mused we don’t often know the private life of the people we know. Recently a teacher at a school re-union commended her “guts, for writing the way you do” and young people often write to her on her website saying how helpful it is to see their experiences articulated for them.

“Writing is writing that reality” she felt.

We think it is wonderful that Abha is articulating desires that many feel in isolation. And we give her a lifetime award from The Pleasure Project as a pleasure propagandist for writing yet another great condom scene….delayed gratification……here it is for your pleasure…..

I pulled a condom from the side table and pulled it on.

“Guide me. Will you?” I said to her.

She held my penis in her hand and slid it in. I could feel it rub past the barbell end. It did not feel half bad. It took an endless amount of grinding, swaying and hammering to reach satisfaction, but she seemed to have a good time because of it. I was exhausted when I finally shot. I pulled myself out.”

(Miniplanner, 2000)

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