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Saying it explicitly: Why Indian women watch porn

The kind of erotic material Indian women view, and what they want to, will surprise many. From bondage to romantic-couple porn, the range is wide and wild. But, what they actually look for is to watch women, like themselves, having fun.

sex and relationships Updated: Aug 06, 2015 00:14 IST
Avantika Mehta
While lesbian porn was found to be the runaway hit among women, women across the globe are also watching more
While lesbian porn was found to be the runaway hit among women, women across the globe are also watching more "hardcore" acts than men. (Shutterstock Photo)

Even as the Indian government "bans" pornography, an increasing number of women in the country are watching explicit erotica. The kind of erotic material they view, and what they want to, will surprise many. From bondage to romantic-couple porn, the range is wide and wild. But, what they actually look for is to watch women, like themselves, having fun.



Though the topic of explicit erotic material has, in the past, been considered taboo even among the upwardly mobile urban populace, 60% of Indian online traffic is pornography related. Recent stats released by an adult website PornHub show that 30% of the Indian visitors on their site are women, 6% higher than the global average of women visitors.



In its "Digging Deep" report, the website claims to be "decoding what women want." Its grand findings? Women search for terms like lesbian, couple, men giving oral sex to women and rough sex. HT's survey -- limited to heterosexual urban women who had access to computers and were educated beyond college -- found nothing different.



http://www.hindustantimes.com//images/2015/6/fdf143c4-9ef4-4b3d-bd5a-c2f07a53d10dwallpaper1.jpg

Even as the Indian government banned pornography, the number of women searching for porn online has steadily gone up.



But, the analytics cannot tell you, as these women told us, that it's not girl-on-girl or humiliation action that they're searching for, but for visceral, non-plastic renders of decidedly intimate acts. Women want sex portrayed as a pleasurable endeavour for both genders where both parties are engaged.



"Quality more than quantity," as a Literature graduate from Delhi said it. Another 28-year-old project manager from Bangalore elaborated, "Most porn movies try to cover a checklist of sexual positions rather than stressing on showing two people enjoying sex. There should be more concentration on portraying sex as an enjoyable activity, rather than something accidental."



To put it simply, as one woman did, they "like porn where women have fun too."



And while all women say they hardly ever watch erotica for entertainment, many wonder if they would not do so more if there were balance between how men and women are portrayed in such films. "There is not enough sexualizing of male bodies (in pornographic films)," says a Delhi editor in her 30s. "Sometimes it's amazing to stare at a taut male," she adds.



Read: How women watch porn across the world

Read: Govt explains porn ban



New York Law School professor Nadine Strossen had in 1995 written that "freedom of speech consistently has been the strongest weapon for countering misogynistic discrimination and violence, and freedom of sexually-oriented expression is integrally connected with women's freedom."



The candidness and lack of self-consciousness of many of the women HT interviewed could be indicative of a new way to see sexual desire and gender norms. Many women said they preferred to watch erotica by themselves. When asked if she watched pornography by herself or with her partner, one 45-year-old Mangalore woman laughed and said, "Alone, he is a prude!"



And though the interviewees were promised anonymity, several were nonchalant about who would know. "I don’t really care if people know I watch porn. I do, so?" asked one Delhi-based film producer. As much as they access adult content, a lot of women confessed, it can get "disgusting" to have to see women treated like "they’re stupid or a joke," as a entrepreneur from Delhi said it.



"There is a lot of violence against women in the sense that they are treated as less than equal in some," an entrepreneur explained. She added that "when the woman seems like an unintelligent participant" watching the film is "soul sucking." And though there is alternative erotica out there to address some of these issues, it is clearly not enough. Only a handful of the women HT interviewed knew there was "female friendly", "feminist", or "alternative porn."



Asked if she knew what feminist pornography was, one participant in her late twenties wrote, "No, but I’m Googling it after that question!" A 30-year-old from Delhi, with whom HT’s correspondent had shared the example of Spanish pornographer Erika Lust, wrote back saying she’d found the filmmakers’ TED talk and it struck a deep chord — "The sex can stay dirty but the values have to be clean. Love that!"



Many, however, were unable to find suitable examples even after searching. Many confessed to not being inclined to "dwell that deep" into pornography so as to search for it beyond a simple Google. Female friendly was not, unlike many male-oriented erotica genres, readily available on the websites they frequented.



It is no secret that adult content available caters largely to men; it is "disturbing", says Manchanda how much of it is misogynistic. More than 90% of all explicit adult content contains violent imagery and derogatory language towards women, found a 2010 content analysis headed by Clinical Psychologist and women against porn AJ Bridges titled ‘Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos.’



As a result, many adult content vendors are alienating the women who are its potential viewers. But violent, or one-sided depictions of sex can have a more insidious effect. Many young women confessed to paying attention to portions of the video to do with "pleasuring men" even though those acts did not seem pleasurable to them to perform. They do so because "while growing up, porn worked like an educational primer," and the depictions of sex all-around them offer no other option but the pleasure of men.



"It pretty much works like this: Forcing themselves on a woman turns on men. So most of the videos then were of this nature," said a 22-year-old engineer. She added that watching these videos was "a bit scary." The young girl’s idea about "what a man wants" may be a misconception, but it’s one brought on by being bombarded with videos where consent is either taken for granted, or not depicted at all, or out-right unavailable.



There are, of course, genres and fantasies that come into play, but many of the women stressed they wanted to see "more imagery of consent." And this extended, for a large number, to how the women actors were treated in the film industry as well. "It's important for young women to know that although some of the stuff you see online is a representation of a person's deepest, darkest desires, it is not necessarily a representation of what he or she expects from their partner," says 31-year-old singer/songwriter Anushka Manchanda.



She adds that, "People need to understand that porn can be addictive, and should be well aware of the risks before exposing themselves to it. Awareness is what is important."



Indian filmmaker Bishaka Datta has been attempting to start a "rating" system for websites that host adult videos. The idea would be to rate them on whether the videos are filmed, produced and uploaded ethically. "The performer’s consent in uploading their images on video is paramount," she tells HT.



They also believe that the country shouldn’t ban pornography, but impose standards on the industry. "A country the size of India has tremendous clout – if we legislate that porn depicting acts extreme insertions carries "don't try this at home" type warning, it helps viewers in a country that has next-to-no sexual get a better understanding of the difference between the fantasy depicted in the performance and reality as it is," Goan writer Vidyut opines.



But, bottom line, all the women would like to see pornography that caters to their pleasure too; for female performers in the films to be treated "like human beings and not props;" for sex to be depicted as it is — "messy and funny and awkward" and for the pleasure of all those who are engaged. Sex, says Lust, can "be a truly positive thing if we choose to create films based on good values and with respect and love for our fellow human beings!"