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Banning porn to ban all versions of perversions

editorials Updated: Aug 18, 2015 02:28 IST
Porn ban

My first exposure to pornography was under unusual circumstances. While researching for my book, India in Love, I visited the illegal filming of a ‘blue’ film in suburban Mumbai. A grimy two-star hotel room served as the location, a quiet Maharashtrian girl, so nervous that she couldn’t talk (good thing she had no lines) played the female lead alongside a middle-age white man. The director/producer/distributor ‘Rocky’ intended to film the whole thing on his iPhone.

I left shortly after the shoot started, mostly because I was afraid that this affair would get busted by the cops. I had been told that Rocky was one of the “best in the industry,” and was known to make high-quality, aesthetic porn films. In reality, Rocky was a low-life thug, who had made a film so appalling, that when I actually saw it later, I felt sick to my stomach and threw up.

As I researched, I expanded my porn horizons beyond Rocky, trying to conduct a hypothesis test between healthy sex lives and pornography. I found none. What I found instead was that most pornography was bone-chillingly violent and sexist. I also learnt how pornography distorted notions of sex for young men who had never had sexual relationships. They had warped views of what women looked like without their clothes and of what a loving and healthy sexual relationship should be like.

I discovered that for many Indian men, pornography created perversion. Men who had never seen a woman’s bare leg were suddenly, with the click of a button, seeing women bare it all. For most, it was too much, too soon.

According to Gail Dines, the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality, the prevalence of pornography is desensitising men, and viewers are seeking out harsher and more degrading images — so much so, that even the porn studios are shocked. With ready access to smartphones and hand-held devices, the audience is also getting younger.

Research shows that men who start watching porn early in life had trouble developing relationships with women, some even prefer porn to sex. While watching porn does not make men rapists, research relates pornography with sexual violence.

Dines discovered that all the men she had interviewed in prison, who had raped children, were users of child pornography. While initially all the rapists were horrified at the idea of sex with a prepubescent child, after watching child pornography all of them raped a child within six months.

In a country like India, where there are few venues to talk about sex, the cues for sexual behaviour largely come from online porn. India’s youth are learning how to lead healthy sexual lives in the most unhealthiest of ways.

The anti-censorship brigade says that banning a thousand porn sites won’t really achieve much — after all, there are an estimated 500 million pornographic websites. Porn, like prostitution, has been around from time immemorial, and in all truth, it probably isn’t going away anytime soon. But a ban would send the right signal, and it would be a small step in the right direction. Not all of us may agree to a ban, but we all can agree that India cannot afford to breed a generation with distorted notions of sex and women. For this, porn must be banned.

(Ira Trivedi is the author of India in Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st century. The views expressed are personal.)