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Four things you always wanted to know about watching porn

analysis Updated: Aug 03, 2015 21:31 IST
Abhishek Saha
Pornography

Sunny-Leone-poses-for-the-camera-HT-Photo-Ajay-Aggarwal

The Supreme Court of India asked something important last week: Is a person browsing pornographic websites within the four walls of his home committing any offence?

Chief Justice HL Dattu, while hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Kamlesh Vashwani to block porn websites, asked, “Could he not argue about his right to freedom to do something within the four walls of his house without violating any law?”

According to data from Pornhub, one of the world’s largest porn sites, Indians are among the most "prolific consumers" of internet pornography.

As a section of activists is seeking a ban on internet pornography, especially sites with abusive and child pornography, others consider the move a brazen attack on individual freedom. The technicalities involved in getting porn sites banned too remain a major hurdle for authorities.

The court’s observation provides an opportunity to consider differing views on pornography. Research and analytical writing on porn consumption reveal that for a long time now, experts have wondered about the widespread availability of online porn and whether it affects human behaviour.

Four of the most relevant questions in this respect are:

Does watching porn affect relationships?

Commentators have questioned if watching porn affects one’s relationship and lead to cheating.

There have been questions raised on whether watching excessive pornography can lead to lack of attraction to one’s real-life partner. Another issue often written about is how a man or a woman can be dependent on pornography and yet maintain a sexual relationship with a real-life partner.

On the other hand, many have argued that viewing porn can’t necessarily be linked to cheating or falling out of love with a spouse.

Do women watch porn?

There exists a widespread belief that only males consume pornography. However, emerging data shows women too constitute a considerable part of porn consumers.

According to a recent study based on the analysis on user data from Pornhub, women are active visitors to the website, constituting around 23% of the total viewership. In India, the percentage of female Pornhub visitors increases to a quarter.

The data shows the two categories which women visit most often are “lesbian” and “gay” and they often search for videos tagged as “rough sex”, “double penetration” and “bondage”.

What Pornhub’s data showed can be substantiated by other findings and research work.

A 2011 report in The Guardian said, “There is little difference in the way the genders become hooked…There is the same pattern of exposure, addiction, and desensitisation to increasingly hardcore images.”

Read|Why people watch rape videos: Psychology and technology of it

Does porn change one’s views on women and promote sexism?

One of the most frequently debated issues linked to pornography is how it might affect a man’s perception of women. A lot has been written that in much of pornographic content, women are often depicted only as objects to satisfy man’s sexual fantasies, while getting demeaned in the process.

Anti-trafficking activist Sunitha Krishnan, who recently led the #shametherapist campaign to bring to book those spreading rape videos, told this writer that online pornography is often the “ground from which such behavioural pattern (liking rape videos) starts”.

While some sections of feminists have condemned pornography, another side says certain forms of pornography can be modes of uninhibited expression of female sexuality.

Does watching porn encourage sexual aggression and lead to violence?

Some experts believe an exposure to pornography aggravates one’s sexual aggression and might lead to violence against women.

Many leading psychiatrists believe over-exposure to pornography might aggravate paraphilia, a condition characterised by abnormal sexual desires that is treatable.

On this argument, a 2013 editorial in The Guardian stressed on a ban on websites with content categorised as abusive and child porn, saying, “But there is strong evidence that at the very least it (abusive pornography) is addictive, can normalise violence, and at the same time diminishes sympathy for its victims. It is a kind of incitement to hate. Abusive and violent pornography should be banned.”

Another set of experts say there is no scientific study establishing pornography and sex crimes are interlinked. A few other research works show there is significant difference between the behavioural pattern of consumers of regular mainstream pornography and those who watch violent and fetishist pornography.

(The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990 )