Pornography & Empowerment: Don't See Crime with Moral Blinkers On
Pornography creates an alternative where fears and preferences are not judged. It takes away the shame.
When mobs beat up people and chant religious slogans, we do not ban the religion. Why, then, should we want to ban porn if a person is suspected of promoting an app selling adult content and exploiting models? A crime should be treated as a crime without moral blinkers.
In 2015, the Indian government banned 857 adult websites “to protect the Indian cultural fabric and prevent gross misuse of technology”. Websites, films, and books are easy targets to acquire a halo.
Would they ban temples where the frescoes are in poses that celebrate sexuality? What sort of culture prompts men to stub cigarettes in the genital orifices of temple statues? Why is social perversion more tolerable than self-gratification?
We are a repressed society because we do not have a liberal sexual culture, and that includes porn. There is ignorance about the body. Repression and rationalisation have turned us into socially-acceptable automatons.
Evolution and Hypocrisy Around Sex
At a temple of Aphrodite in Cyprus orgiastic rites were practised with much joy. “Voluptuous reading” came into its own in 18th century England with the first erotic periodical called The Covent Garden Magazine. We have our own rich sensual heritage displayed at Khajuraho.
However, to cite the Kama Sutra as evidence of liberalism is a fallacious defence and imbued with its own morality, for people do not riffle through the pages of this manual to relieve their sexual urges. These texts were written in ancient times when tribalism was the only culture. The refinement of material aspects of life has led to a different sensibility.
We grant fine literature and art the status of erotica, but everything else is dismissed as porn. I’d read somewhere that Playboy should not be seen as porn; it is in fact ‘anti-sexual’ with its emphasis on the “reduction of eroticism to sex”. This is semantics. Nobody is producing art when they cohabit.
Porn creates an alternative where fears and preferences are not judged. It takes away the shame.
The individual’s natural existence is already socialised and reduced to a body. A man comes into the world with the burden of his phallic symbol and a woman “the psychology of the ovaries”.
Can Pornography be Absolved of Its Role in Social Debauchery?
As a supporter of responsible access to mature content, I am aware of the dangers when children are drawn into its vortex.
While social media has made young people post pictures of themselves and their friends—and the motives could vary from vicarious thrills, exhibitionism to revenge—it is often the market that abuses children. That market could constitute people in positions of power.
There have been many cases of Indian children being used in such pornographic material. Tourists who hole up for months and pretend to run shelters lure poor kids with drugs. Juvenile homes become dens of exploitation.
An Indian army officer was arrested for uploading 157 videos of child porn; all the kids in it were Caucasian. The authorities, therefore, deduced that since he had not shot those images he was innocent. These are criminals who are in a manner of speaking killing the children, or at least their childhood. To dismiss this as pornography would be diversionary.
Feminism on Test
‘Wise women’ in 16th century Scotland who showed powers as healers, herbalists and surgeons began to be called witches because it was said that as women they were impressionable, credulous, and more carnal. Their talents were deemed irrelevant because their sensuality was threatening.
Feminism is often put to test when it comes to pornography. Those who find it reprehensible use the ‘objectification of women’ angle against it. When Sunny Leone joined mainstream films she immediately became the poster girl of fantasy mainly because of her history.
Taslima Nasreen, writer of frank memoirs who has no problems sharing her picture posing on a giant penile sculpture, was shocked: “When u make a porn actress a celebrity, u encourage ur daughters 2dream 2be a porn actress, rather than an astronaut, an engineer or a doctor.”
This is nothing more than entrenched hierarchy that assumes the tone of intellectual morality. For one who claims to have serious issues with objectification, she had once said that being called a “fallen woman” was an achievement, quite forgetting that this is how many societies view an adult film star, who would never get political asylum. It is notions such as these that objectify women.
Likewise, the accusation of creating a false body image might apply to mainstream advertising and cinema too, as well as the flashing red carpet images with their thigh bombing and safety pin cleavages. In fact, several niche adult sites cater to many alternatives, including different body types. As regards reducing women to the role of pleaser, don’t all roles have specific goals?
Morality and Consciousness
"She stripped down to her undergarments and walked through the streets of Gujarat."
She was dignified as a protestor for she wanted to embarrass her dowry-demanding in-laws. No one bothered to find out whether those gawking had any sympathy for her cause.
The need to 'sex things up' in order to make an impact has resulted in the concern industry indulging in its own forms of exhibitionism, whether it is animal rights ads making curvy models wear animal skin or strategically placing vegetable florets around private parts, or even climate action protestors wanting to draw attention to their cause. We parade widows naked and strip tribal women prior to their auctioning.
It is such socio-political titillation that is exploitative. Choosing to view adult content may help some in the seeking and finding of a sexual identity, as well as idealisation outside of the constricting hold of stratified roles.
Or, if you insist, here’s Erica Jong’s version: “I don't know what the definition of pornography is and nobody else does either. Pornography is somebody else's erotica that you don't like. People are interested in their own sexuality and they've always reflected it in their art. End of story.”
(Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based writer. She tweets at @farzana_versey. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.