Thursday, May 23, 2013

Porn – The Good, the Bad and the darn right Sexy

Pornography comes from the Greek word: πορνεία, porneia, as in the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual gratification. Most of us have come across this Greek classic under various other names such as "porn" , "blue films", "adult entertainment movies" or if you have found yourself in conversation with Indian diplomats lately, "obscene films". Some people love it, some hate it, a few have censored this term from their vocabulary and most people deny ever having watched it BUT in my experience all Indians above the age of twelve (yes that does include people living in rural areas as well) know of its existence. As the expression goes, if it looks, talks and smells like pornography, it's most likely pornography. It's hard to miss. 

In India, it's not a new phenomena given that our most ancient sculptures, scriptures and artistic renditions have been as sexually explicit as possible, often making the odd western tourist blush and giggle upon viewing. In fact the Kamasutra explores and celebrates our human form and sexual behavior in a manner which Playboy and Penthouse (cheap American wannabes ) can simply never aspire to be. However, without wanting to be accused of ranting and raving about how amazing we were 5000 years ago, I will defer to examining pornography as a contemporary notion that exists in India in 2013. 


In order to do so, we must turn back the clock to 1995 with the advent of cable, foreign and western television being introduced into Indian homes, and conversely the rise of the adult entertainment industry. From a personal standpoint, I clearly remember the eighth grade when all the so-called "cool boys" in my class used to discuss in vivid detail the heavenly 30 mins of pleasure viewed on FTV at 3am when their parents were asleep. For the sake of honesty, I have to admit that I felt quite left out of these conversations as an eighth grader who felt no particular affiliation to any one tribe in the school yard. Indeed, I was neither part of the cool clan nor did I have access to premium cable television at 3am. Though most of metropolitan India was not in the same shoes as I. It was not a hidden secret, as the Indian judiciary is well aware of its existence, as FTV has had many cases against held them in the past, with the latest just a few weeks back. 

In addition, with the advent of the Internet being introduced to the public on 15 August 1995 via the Ministry of Telecommunications, internet traffic reports soon highlighted 12% of all internet use being pornography-related with roughly 4.2 million websites catering to adult entertainment and 1.5 billion pornographic files being downloaded on a monthly basis comprising 35% of all downloads (Charged with obscenity, FTV faces 10-day ban) Inevitably, conservative Indians can always be relied upon to jump up in horror and criticize the rising popularity of such internet sites and decry in unison that this only takes place in the "West" and never in India. I would recommend that they all read Damayanti Datta's well-crafted piece The Dark Side of Sunny PornNot only have various pornographic videos hit our national headlines, as with all the drama of a real-life "scandals", (be it the DPS kids or our very own Karnataka parliamentarians), but there are also surveys and statistics which demonstrate how common pornography truly is in India. There is no denying the fact that India is one of the largest consumers of porn, which is not a surprise given the size of our population, with the result being that we can normally be found at the top of most Top 5 lists. 

Having established the fact that pornography is present in India, I would like to look into its effects. For starters it is confronting the hypocritical generation, which has put sexual behavior in the category of all "bad things", which includes (alcohol, drugs, pre-marital romantic relations, eating various sorts of meats (beef or pork depending on the color of your book) etc… There is no doubt that in such a multicultural and plural state, this list is exhaustive on its own. 


According to a survey undertaken by the Max Hospital in Delhi over 47 % of children in public schools discuss porn on a daily basis (Internet Pornography Statistics). Sadly their curiosity and questions are rarely addressed by any reliable source. Parents, usually minimally informed themselves on this topic, consequently have no idea how to explain or contextualize their children's questions in this regard. Similarly, teachers are usually apprehensive of words such as penis and vagina being considered to be scandalous and therefore not worth mentioning aloud. If one is lucky, an elder mature cousin will explain sexual intercourse and the terminology in a neutral way (though I must admit the first time I was supposed to be this elder cousin, it was a hard task at which I failed miserably). Sadly most young people venture into this arena all by themselves. As a result, pornography steps in to this vacuum to parent and instruct our children. 

Yes they experiment and yes they will mess up leading to various sorts of complications ranging from teenage pregnancies to naked pictures of friends circulated via text to non-consensual hidden camera videos showing up on the internet. Considering that we are one of the most talented and educated nations when it comes to victimization and the subsequent victim-blaming game, many young people have suffered because of these innocent misinterpretations. Some theories relate porn to the increased sexual violence amongst young adults and I must admit that I do see a correlation between the two. 


However, let us not dismiss this as simply an issue that confronts our youth. Indeed, pornography has affected the older generation of 25-55 year olds significantly as well. Where some couples have found inspiration in these XXX rated websites, videos and magazines to rekindle their sex lives others have taken to this fantasy world so seriously that it is damaging their real relationships. Many marriages are on the brink of falling apart due to the unrealistic expectations advanced and expected by one partner. (I clearly used the word "partner" rather than "husband" as one in every three porn consumers is a woman. Shocking isn't it? Indian women also watch porn. Take a moment to absorb that (Perils of voyeurism). 

So it exists and it affects us all, but what is our communal take on pornography? Some Indians believe it should be banned from the Internet completely, while others are of the view that it should be distributed in a regulated manner. The law, like most of our laws, is rather complicated on this front although it clearly states that pornography is illegal and yet the cyber crime cell has no clue how to implement it. Let's proceed into looking into them one by one. Much like movies, porn also has a multitude of genres to include child pornography, snuff films ( where the actor is murdered, mostly fakes but there are rumors of 'real' movies also being produced), rape and similar brutal/criminal/disgusting movies. I think the people making such films should be incarcerated and so should the consumers requesting and paying for such productions. To put it in context, on a daily basis 116 000 requests for child pornography are made with over 100 000 illegal sites offering such material and 1 in 7 youths having been subject to sexual solicitation. I think most individuals out there would agree that this form of "entertainment" causes more harm than it does good and even the most hardcore supporters of free speech would agree that the above-mentioned genres should be prohibited.

Heavens, did I just type PROHIBITED? Undoubtedly, my liberal, freedom of speech loving friends will rise up in contempt against the very introduction of such a concept. As this is a socio-legal issue, I think one needs to segregate in the two largely independent issues, namely how pornography is created and what are the effects of consuming pornography. 


While the first issue can be clearly examined through a legal lens, the second one is an extremely complex matter, which has received significantly less attention of late. One could say that if pornography is made and disseminated with the consent of those who perform in it (provided they can be classified as legally defined adults), no one should really have an issue with it. 

The effects of its consumption are both complicated and disputed. On the one hand, a study conducted in Japan in 1997-98 came to the conclusion that there was a clear correlation between sexual violence and rape, and on the other hand a paper by Todd T. Kendall entitled Pornography, Rape and the Internet claims that online pornography actually decreases rape. Suffice it to say, the evidence isn't as opaque as one might hope. In my opinion, if properly examined, the outreach of the legal pornography industry could be used for good much like spreading the message of the importance of consent. Using it as a tool to discuss sexuality, Dan Savage provides a concise and impressive review of its potential impacts . 
 

Inevitably, the power of multimedia in our world as connected through the Internet is immense. If we can use this force to spread awareness we can certainly achieve a lot more in terms of gaining further clarity in terms of our questions, hesitations and confusion when it comes to our consumption of pornography and its effects on both an individual and communal level in the short and long-term. However, first we must tackle the authorities and leaders that bind us who maintain such a narrow approach towards the large horizon that is the internet that there is very little that can be achieved before this is addressed and taken in hand. 


Inevitably, the power of multimedia in our world connected through the Internet is immense and has deep potential. If we can use this force to spread awareness we can certainly achieve a lot more in terms of gaining further clarity in terms of our questions, hesitations and confusion when it comes to our consumption of pornography and its effects on both an individual and communal level. However, first we must tackle the authorities and leaders that bind us, who maintain such a narrow approach towards the large horizon that is the Internet. There is very little that can be achieved before this is addressed and taken in hand. Indeed, let us not deny what is most obvious to us all, the fact that pornography can act as an agent of violence. However, the question worth asking is whether it can also carry valuable awareness messages. If executed properly and conscientiously can pornography develop into a tool for the dissemination of sex education? The optimist in me may be veering off course, but if the high minds at Disney managed to weave the pursuit for women into the narrative of Beauty and The Beast (and every other famous cartoon for that matter) surely the producers of pornography can find a way to shed some much-needed light on sexual behaviour through porn? 

Many questions and fewer answers it would seem.

Original Link http://makedelhisafe.blogspot.in/2013/04/porn-good-bad-and-darn-right-sexy.html

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