‘Sex Bomb’ celebrates the joy of embracing sexuality and love as a British-Indian Muslim woman

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“It’s so easy to put women in boxes,” writes comedian Sadia Azmat in her memoir Sex Bomb: The Life and Loves of an Asian Babe. “Judging whether we’re the right or the wrong sort of girl, trying to make our identities and facets work for your head and understanding of the world, but ultimately you can take the hijab off the girl, but you can’t take the girl out of the hijab.”

Azmat, who hosts BBC podcast No Country for Young Women, has penned a book about her experience as a British-Indian hijabi Muslim woman who loves sex. In this hilarious and honest memoir, Azmat takes us on a ride from the beginnings of her forming her sexual identity as an “Asian Babe” (a term that’ll likely make a bit more sense when you read the following extract), to rejecting an arranged marriage, and to rejecting the stereotyping, politicisation, and fetishisation of the hijab.

Ultimately, this is a book about enjoying sex on your own terms and rejecting what other people think you should do or be. It’s about upturning society’s rigid ideas of what it means to be a South Asian woman, and casting off the prioritisation of white women as the acme of hotness.

Sex Bomb: The Life and Loves of an Asian Babe, published by Headline, is out now. You can read an extract below.


Once, when I pulled the short straw, my mum asked me to go to the newsagents to do the shopping and pick up the usual — some pitta bread, milk and butter. I was about eight years old and tried to avoid boring chores whenever I could, but my parents were conscious of instilling responsibility in me as early as possible. There was always a sense we were on borrowed time and they didn’t want to encourage complacency.

I had thrown on a white T-shirt and blue shorts and hunched my shoulders in defeat as I walked down the road to the local shop. I was easily distracted by the goodies when I got there. I would always take my time scoping out all the shelves and looking at the ice creams through the freezer door, my fingers hurting as I left them against the cold glass for too long. Though I did many trips to the local shop, this time stands out to me, because on that day I saw an oldish white man in a suit flicking through the magazines section. On the top shelf, too high for me to reach, I noticed that the entire row was dedicated to pornographic magazines. I’d come across passing references to these on television before, but this was the first time I was ever confronted with them in real life. I was transfixed even though I knew I was not their intended audience: these magazines were for ‘adults only’.

Magazine after glossy magazine showed women dolled up like they had an important engagement to attend to, except they can’t have been going anywhere because they were all posing with their boobs out. My initial feeling was shock at the shopkeeper’s negligence as I felt it was his responsibility to have shielded me from these explicit images. At the same time, I felt intrigued, and with the blame firmly off my shoulders, I kept gazing. All the magazines had white, blonde women on the front of them, except the one the man had picked up.

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The magazine in his hand was bright yellow and had the title Asian Babes written in capital letters across the top, in the same style as the bubble font used for Bollywood movie posters. Asian Babes is a British softcore pornographic magazine which featured photographs of women of South Asian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai origins. It had three Asian women on the cover, with one looking distinctly Indian. I would have gasped but I knew this was something I should not have been looking at. I tried to safeguard my modesty by focusing on their faces rather than the rest of them. They were smiling and looked so happy. This was two firsts for me, seeing Brown girls on the cover of a magazine and seeing them in compromising positions. I almost dropped the pitta bread.

Although I knew their semi-nudity was naughty, because that’s what I’d been told, I did not know why. I didn’t understand why, if it was wrong, they were being displayed in a shop in broad daylight. Yes, the magazines were out of reach, but they were definitely not out of sight. Of course, the fact that these women were scantily dressed was an attraction for the men viewing them, but I also knew that the reason men lusted for these Asian women was because they couldn’t have them. It was taboo. They were unattainable, part of a group that was forbidden for them to explore. These guys were not only into Asian women, they were jerking off to us. That was very curious to me. I looked hard at the cover of the magazine and wondered what the women’s parents thought or if they’d run away from home, but what I couldn’t bring myself to consider at the time was that this was their choice, or that they might have enjoyed this work. I didn’t understand the position these women would hold in their families or communities.

Once they’d put it all out there, could they be part of the same structures I was a part of, or did they have to sacrifice them for their work? I pondered on what motivated them to be photographed half-naked because up until then I’d been told all their special bits should be for one person. Was this giving back to society by sharing their special bits with the world, and by doing so were they still special? Were they from off the beaten track and, if so, could they simply return to the fold if they should choose to later down the line? I had never seen Asian women depicted this way before and I almost felt betrayed. Until that point, I’d only seen Asian women cower in shyness if a man should even come as close as a metre towards them in Bollywood movies. I’d always been taught how innocent we were and what good homemakers we were. Suddenly I was seeing that Asian women could be a ‘type’ or sexually desirable, and that they could even be confident enough to show their bodies on a public platform.


I had never seen Asian women depicted this way before and I almost felt betrayed.

Obviously as a kid it’s not usually that impressive seeing a woman with her bits out but because this was rare and unheard of it had a revolutionary impact on me. At its peak in the nineties, Asian Babes was the highest grossing erotica magazine in the UK, which was no small feat considering such women were deemed ‘repressed’, ‘conservative’ and ‘frigid’. Standing in that local shop on that regular day was the first time I’d ever understood that I, Sadia Azmat, possessed sexuality. It made me feel awkward and funny but also a little naughty (in a good way). Up until then, it was all hidden and kept secret with a lack of knowledge but, in that moment, standing with the cover staring me in the face, there was nowhere to hide. I was confronted by sex bombs for the first time, and not only that, the consideration that a sex bomb could be an Asian babe like me. It opened up the possibility to me that, to my future partner, I could be one. Though I may have become aware that I had sexuality, it didn’t mean I had any idea what it meant or what to do with it. And that’s where this book comes in.


Sadia Azmat’s Sex Bomb: The Life and Loves of an Asian Babe is out now through Headline.


https://mashable.com/article/sex-bomb-sadia-azmat-book

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