Nectar in a Sieve
by Kamala Markandaya
Analysis: Steaminess Rating
Exactly how steamy is this story?
There’s only one sex scene in Nectar in a Sieve, and outside of that one discussion there’s not much in the way of explicit sexual description. Instead, sexuality is more present in the book as a dangerous force.
There’s a dichotomy between sex within love and sex outside of it. Rukmani remembers being nervous on her wedding night, but she pretty openly says she gets better at sex as her relationship and body mature. (Remember, she’s twelve when she gets married.) Nathan and Ruku’s night of passion during Deepavali is beautiful and lush, but represent the exception and not the rule. Sex is more often discussed as one of the dark sides of necessity in the context of poverty and the rise of prostitution.
Kunthi and Ira turn to prostitution. Both women gain some power in exchange for sex. Ira gets to feed the ailing Kuti, while Kunthi gets some affirmation of her beauty from the attention she receives from men, and eventually their payment is what begins to sustain her financially.
Women’s sexuality gives them power, including the power to make money through prostitution. In a society where women don’t have many options, sex may be one of the few ways in which they can assert themselves as breadwinners. This brand of sexuality is threatening to other women (like Ruku) but its most interesting effect is on men. On the one hand men want women for their sexuality, but their excessive sexuality precludes women from being objects of love and respect. In a world where economic necessity can trump the finer points of life, some women have no where to turn but selling themselves.