“Why did you start writing erotica?”
This is the question I have been asked more than any other, at reading after reading, for newspaper and radio interviews, all through my 20s. The questioners were usually polite enough not to spell the question out completely: “Why did you — a nice, Sri Lankan, immigrant girl, with excellent English, clearly from a nice family — why did you end up writing erotica?”
One: my immigrants parents had been very strict — so strict, in fact, that their rules seemed impossible to me, growing up in America. No sleeveless shirts. No school dances. No sleepovers at friends’ houses — even girlfriends. No being alone with boys, even if they were just friends. Once I started breaking a rule or two, breaking all the rules became much easier.
Two: sexuality in particular was a source of conflict in my family. A good, Catholic, Sri Lankan Tamil girl was expected to wait to do anything until she was married, and that her marriage would be arranged by her parents, who were older and wiser and obviously knew better than she did what made a good husband. Once I stopped sneaking around with boys, and started outright arguing with my parents about dating, towards the end of my freshman year in college, it focused my interest and attention on the subject of sexuality itself. Writers write about conflict, often the conflict in their own lives, and in my life, all the conflict was about sex.
Three: I was bisexual by orientation, polyamorous by strong preference, though I wouldn’t have that word for some time into my dating life. Given those two things, my only choices were to try to squeeze myself into a societal box of what was acceptable, or to break out entirely. It would have been hard enough being a straight, monogamous girl, trying to live by society’s rules of what a good girl should do. It felt impossible, given my actual desires.
Those are all three true reasons. But I’m not sure they’re sufficient.