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Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex: Why India’s Proposed Porn Ban Won’t Solve The Real Problem

By Shambhavi Saxena:

The Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has proposed shared efforts with India’s Internet Service Providers (ISP) to ban pornography in the country. The strategy is straightforward — block over 40 million porn websites from around the world that are currently accessible in India. However, the motivations and anticipated outcome of the ban appear highly dubious and need to be examined.

feministporn

The principal concern is to eliminate child pornography. This is noble enough, but past events have repeatedly shown that banning controversial items produces the opposite of the desired effect. Bans make poor deterrents, more often than not elevating the value and demand of the item they seek to ban. This move by India’s government is rather limited in perspective, aiming at a superficial end. The blocking of porn websites in no way assures the end of production, distribution and consumption of child pornography in India. It is more likely to spark off a system of bootlegging, so to speak.

One needs to understand where the government is coming from, on this issue, and there is a clear moralistic basis to it, which is to be expected but disappointing nonetheless. There is a desire to protect the “cultural sensibilities”, which are apparently ruptured by pornography. Just a gentle reminder that these same cultural sensibilities are responsible for millions of girls not receiving sound education and equal economic access; the same cultural sensibilities have created such an intense institution of hatred and abuse towards non-heteronormative gender and sexual expression; the sensibility that would have you believe “she was asking for it” and that forgives “pissing in public but not kissing in public”; a sensibility that places undue pressure upon men to be breadwinning poster-boys for ‘masculinity’ and demands of women the unobtrusivequalities of ‘femininity’; that very sensibility that has given us gems such as sati and child marriage, is now being protected loudly and proudly, while the real problem of pornography is too taboo to even speak about.

There’s nothing quite so wrong with the idea of pornography in the same way that there isn’t anything wrong with the act of sex itself. What is understandably unsettling is the voyeurism and the consumption of a human body, but feminist porn has revealed that there is scope for consent, comfort, respect and even diverse representation, if you take porn to be any other form of visual media.

The trouble with porn, as an unregulated industry, is that in spite of resembling a thriving profession, like catering or dentistry, there is no guarantee of pay and no way of ensuring the emotional and medical well-being of the performers. The danger lies in porn as a site of abuse, exploitation and degradation, which it most certainly is. Many times, porn can and does convey very warped notions about the performativity of sexuality. Sometimes, viewers begin to accept and emulate the underlying abuse and degrading (and degraded) behaviours which porn has succeeded in normalizing. Mainstream porn is also just as guilty of manufacturing unrealistic expectations of the human body as any other form of popularly consumed visual media. The way in which porn is mostly filmed begs discussion as well. There is a clear pandering to the male gaze in the majority of porn that is produced, which depends upon camera angles and focal points that reduce a female performer to the parts of her body served up like a three course meal. These are among some of the real concerns about porn that the custodians of “cultural sensibility” have not addressed, or even taken the time to understand.

The government’s “moral obligation to society”, in this case, is limited to blocking sites. It shouldn’t. The limitations of such a proposition are clear enough:

– Blocking porn hosting websites, in practical terms, is tedious business. It will put a lot of strain on internet traffic, and slow down the network.
– Blocking, en masse, requires major upgradation work to current infrastructure, to be able to keep internet speeds up.
– Proxy sites and other means of sharing files will still be available to internet users. Sadly, where there is a will, there is a way.
– This is no way guarantees the end of child pornography. We may even see an aggressive and doubly exploitative response from the industry in a bid to satisfy demands and keep raking in money.

The government has suggested collaborating with NGOs to “create awareness” about the “ill effects of porn”, but makes no mention about the issues of producing porn in the first place.

The government’s plan is to say “don’t watch porn” instead of urging persons to ask “why am I still watching porn?” It will relegate “porn” to a discreet, shifty-eyed whisper, instead of recognizing it as legitimate socio-cultural phenomena, and unpacking its implications on society, thus prohibiting any chance of introspection and change on a deeper level.

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  1. Babar

    …these same cultural sensibilities are responsible for millions of girls not receiving sound education and equal economic access.

    The cultural sensibilities are responsible for giving girls an easier life compared to boys, which is why more boys are out of school working as labourers, cleaners, servants, in lock factories, as mechanics, in restaurants, as street-vendors, at tea stalls, as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, woodcutters, rickshaw pullers, etc.

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      Do you even actual read the articles or do you just wander the internet pushing your opinions about in a sad plea for attention? I genuinely want to know.

    2. Ishan Janbandhu

      It depends on what place one lives in.

  2. Babar

    …which depends upon camera angles and focal points that reduce a female performer to the parts of her body.

    Either feminists are confused, or they are simply full of hypocrisy and double standards. Women are showing their ‘body parts’ in public, in very revealing attire, and actually fight for their right to do so. This entire blog is littered with pictures of semi-nude women. An author recently posted images of a wannabe model in her undergarments which was met with praise. But we will selectively argue against what we see fit. By the way, it is porn we are talking about. The camera is not going to focus on the decoration of the room.

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      I do agree with you in part. In fact, my article does function on the premise that porn is really just another form of media, like adverts and billboards and music videos and films. Having said that, there are two things that I had raised here:
      1) Pornography is a profession in many places, and involves the same effort as making a film. As such, it should come with safeguards that any and every workplace requires
      2) Blinded by its own moralizing, censoring politics, the BJP led government isn’t at all engaging with what makes porn tick. It’s been labelled as “ashleel” or the product of western influence, because of concerted efforts to quell any real discourse on sex and sexuality.

      Why is there a need for porn? Why should it be exploitative? Why should it not be analyzed as something that has a direct impact on a large number of viewers, just because it’s a ‘clandestine’ activity? Why brush it under the carpet?

      The idea behind the ban is oversimplified, like all bans generally are. Porn is bad because sex is bad. There is no rational argument for why porn is bad, given by the IT Minister. There really needs to be more dialogue about this.

      The ban won’t do a thing.

  3. Monistaf

    The reality, and the appeal of the internet is that it simply transcends all jurisdictions and it cannot be limited or controlled, because fortunately, networking protocols were engineered to facilitate open communications across a network and not limited by political, ideological, religious or geographical boundaries. Attempting to block web-sites has been tried before and has had limited success in countries like China, but they pose no barrier to someone who is determined. Quote ” there is no guarantee of pay and no way of ensuring the emotional and medical well-being of the performers”. There is no guarantee of pay or anything else for so many others that do not participate in porn either, so this is not unique to the porn industry. Quote “Many times, porn can and does convey very warped notions about sexuality. Sometimes, viewers begin to accept and emulate the underlying abuse and degrading (and degraded) behaviours which porn has succeeded in normalizing. ” What about movies? Don’t they convey warped notions about love and romance? I would contend that any media that has mass consumption has some effect on the audience, but none of this is forced on anyone. Porn, like anything else, is an individual choice. If you do not like it, you can opt out, but let us not attempt to enforce our sense of right and wrong and our sense of morality on everyone else. I personally, am against any form of censorship in any media, especially the internet, because if we want to be free, we have to accept and live with the consequences of our own actions and be tolerant towards everyone else who does the same. Here is a quote from JFK that sums it up quite well “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to ones own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression and persecution of others”.

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      I do agree with you in part. In fact, my article does function on the premise that porn is really just another form of media, like adverts and billboards and music videos and films. Having said that, there are two things that I had raised here:
      1) Pornography is a profession in many places, and involves the same effort as making a film. As such, it should come with safeguards that any and every workplace requires
      2) Blinded by its own moralizing, censoring politics, the BJP led government isn’t at all engaging with what makes porn tick. It’s been labelled as “ashleel” or the product of western influence, because of concerted efforts to quell any real discourse on sex and sexuality.

      Why is there a need for porn? Why should it be exploitative? Why should it not be analyzed as something that has a direct impact on a large number of viewers, just because it’s a ‘clandestine’ activity? Why brush it under the carpet?

      The idea behind the ban is oversimplified, like all bans generally are. Porn is bad because sex is bad. There is no rational argument for why porn is bad, given by the IT Minister. There really needs to be more dialogue about this.

      The ban won’t do a thing.

    2. Himanshu

      Indian govt. is motivated by Chinese and Russian governments to impose ban on pornography. The rationale of the govt. is to prevent spreading of lust in society and to save our culture which they in some form are right as no govt. at centre wants to destroy thousands year old culture which has kept the society intact from sexualisation-adultery, gangbang, swapping and bestiality. I and my friends (including well bred ones) have seen the debauchery of west so I know why govt is mulling over the issue. One of the biggest causes of rape is addiction to lustful sex which comes from watching porn. A rapists will rape a women whether she wears a salwar suit or top and jeans as he has to satiate his lust which is psychological disorder.

      Then why so much hullabaloo on banning? Isn’t our social fabric has kept us away from lust? Do we want to see a common Indian husband (leaving liberal husbands and wives) treating her wife as a sex object due to his addiction to porn? Can you imagine the psychological condition of those women? Where is your youth ki awaaz for those women when even a dimwit knows that in porn women are treated as sex slaves? Where are they in your article? Writing an article with calculated biasedness to suit the vested interest of liberals is not a better way to distort and present your views and questioning govt’s decisions, moral values, and traditional system.

      India is home to circa 1300 million people and 95% of the Indians adhere to their culture and prefer sex only in marriage and keep themselves at arms length from porn materials. 5% are liberal anglophile Indians who believe in free sex. Policymakers take decisions by taking into account of whole India and not just those 5% liberal Indians.

      Govt is also banning child pornography. Child pornography has destroyed the childhood of thousands of children in the west by pedophiles and gays. Atleast banning will prevent displaying it online-something is better than nothing. Adult erotic/celebrity videos will be there to set the mood for lovemaking and is better than porn.
      So I think justice to both liberals and non liberals.

      Digression-You also have some wrong notions regarding Child Marriage and Sati System. Sati system came into existence in Rajput kingdoms circe 800 A.D. due to raping of dead women by Muslim invaders. Sati system was in existence in North India and not in South India as Muslim invaders attacked mostly North India. Muslims would attack a village and forcibly take young girls and women with them. Its due to this fear that a woman preferred to burn herself after the death of her husband. Genocides of Hindus were also common. It was solely a woman’s choice. A woman in those times would proudly immolate her then to be raped by a beast. All lies were started by britishers that women were forced to burn themselves as a part of their divide and rule policy and to make Indians self-loathing for such practices.
      Child marriage was a covenant between two families in ancient times to expand their clan just like arranged marriage. Mostly two parties would meet and set marriage if parties or boy/girl liked each other and actual marriage would take place only when a girl and a boy attained full puberty. It was 15 for girl and 17 for boys in those times.
      You might have also heard about JNU planning to debunk Aryan Invasion Theory soon which was started to divide North and South India. Both of them have same DNA. It was also a lie propagated by whites to divide India.

      Ultimately, the question is why people watch porn? Where is the real sex between a man and a woman involving exchange of power of him with love of her in a trustful relationship? In this age of animalism, people falsely accepted that by having ready made material and gratifying their sensual pleasure, they will experience happiness but its the contrary which is witnessing by people today. Everybody wants a shortcut in this world with less pain, more happiness, pleasure but its not possible.

    3. Voice of reason

      @Himanshu – Stop acting like a hindu bigot, holding muslim invaders responsible for everything wring in Hinduism. Learn to accept facts , it is people like you ( well breed), who impose views in the name of keeping “culture alive”. Also dude please get you facts right, even a wikipedia search will tell you that the first instance of Sati practice started during the Gupta empire era, long long before islam even existed. I am a hindu brahmin, but that does not mean that i will follow religion blindly. The fact is like any other civilasation or culture, we have both good and bad in our culture as well.
      Coming to watching Porn, which pathetic survey tells you only 5% of Indian indulge in Porn, and how do you believe this with a sane mind. if only 5% population indulged in watching porn, then how come it is a threat to women, i am sure 5% population does not contribute to all rapes. the Fact is porn industry is huge globally and also in India and hence a very significant number of people indulge in it. Also you moron please tell me how does a show like “Two and a half men” not destroy your so sensitive India Culture ( sensitive as apparently porn can destroy it) and values. How about saas bahu serials, are they not dividing the traditional joint families, ban them as well. Stop wearing western clothes and for heaven sake please stop using the internet, people will be spared from your horrible comments and also as it is invented in west it might destroy your values.
      please dont destroy this nice site with your half cooked, extremely ill informed comments.

  4. Rishabh Raj

    Well said, “Where there is a will there is a way”. The effort to ban porn in India is worthless. Even if they ban, as you said, ’40 million’ porn sites, how could they stop us downloading xxx from torrent sites, as it would be unfair to block torrent, because it would cause heavy surge of internet surfers to move their arse from their computer screens and protest in large numbers on road. I would say, lame effort by the government to save our so called ‘Indian Culture’

    1. Arjun

      > lame effort by the government to save our so called ‘Indian Culture’

      Just shows your inferiority complex, no matter how much you try you will not become a westerner.

    2. Ajay

      Arjun, your comment shows exactly whose got a complex.

    3. Dhruwat Bhagat

      Arjun,
      you inherently have an inferiority complex when you have to hide behind the garb of your culture to justify your views.
      The other person is expressing his own opinions as an independent thinking person but you keep repeating your same refrain about how your pride of being an Indian defines how you – and – the others need to live their lives.

    4. Arjun

      @Ajay & @Dhruwat Bhagat

      i have a inferiority complex? 🙂
      i have lived enough no of yrs outside india so i have real people to people contact with people, whereas these people who are fascinated with west, only have access to outside world in terms on what is shown on TV.

      it is those people who dont want to lose any opportunity in trying to be like west (read white skin) are the people who suffer from inferiority complex. Culture is about identity, you dont see a Japanese calling Japanese culture so-called Japanese culture. but you will see an Indian doing that, shows the lack of identity & inferiority complex. Just like a Pakistanis thinks of themselves as a extension of Arab society, Indians thinks of themselves as a extension of European society. neither the Arab accept Pakistanis, nor the Europeans accept Indian as part of their society.

  5. Cool

    I tell you a short story-HOW TO DESTROY & ENSLAVE A SOCIETY WITHOUT WEAPONS by just using SEXUALISATION
    A man was made Mayor of the city. He was overwhelmed with the strong social fabric in the city, rich culture and diversity. Very low divorce rates and crimes, people were religious and had respect for one another but mayor was not a good man by his principles.

    He decided to create a plot to divide the society using perception management, dialectic principles and reverse psychology by appointing psychologists and policymaker.

    -He created fake holy text to make people self loathing of their religion by bribing the scholars so that people can became atheist and reject the holy books as outmoded and anacgronistic.
    Note-A religion is the biggest hurdle for any corrupt politician/media to sexualise the society.

    -He advocated Liberalism in the guise of free lust through media to create a fissure in the society so that people herald it as a part of modern world.
    Note-Lust is necessary to objectify people as a mere sex object and hide the love which builds a society.

    -He intorduced radical feminism in the society to make women hate the patriarchy system and males. They were told that men are sex starved animals and treated them as just sex toys..
    Note-Extreme Feminisn is prerequisite to escalate the divorce rates and to hate men and his nature.

    -He allowed pornographic websites to be displayed on the net to change the perception of women-i.e. to see the women as just a sex slave of men. So that rape cases, eve teasing, gropping could increase in the city.
    Note-porn change the perception of men towards women abd he see him as a toy to satisfy his sexual hunger.

    -He advocated homosexuality as natural as heterosexuality to destroy the natural love between men and women to increase divorce rates, reduce population and hate marriage.
    Note-Homosexuality is the best tool to destroy marriage. once marriage is destroyed you can easy control the society as its obvious that succeeding generations would become homosexuals alongwith heterosexuals.

    -He bribed Media to denigrate holy texts, gods, arranged marriages, love as anchronistic. weekly debates were planned to ridicule them using cunning logics and sophistry.
    Note-Nothing is possible without mass media as we all know.

    -No fault divorce clause was introduced so that 90% of the property could go to women so that women would be encouraged to see marriage as the best way to increase theur fortunes.
    Note-To create divorce, you have to tilt the favour to either of the sexes. Better choice is to tilt it towards women.

    Guess what?
    Within 10years, Rape cases increased manifold which never happened before his tenure and women treated every men as rapists.

    Love was replaced by lust. days were gone when men used to court women for marrriage. it was replaced by sex dating.
    Men became lustful and started treating their wives as sex slaves and saw every passing women as sex toys and catcalled women with vulgar cliches. Women on the other hand wore skimpy clothes to lure them for sex. Both became lustful for each other’s pleasure. Men and women became homosexuals and subverted the sanctity of marriage. They slept and had sex with hundreds of their friends. One night stand, gang bang, orgy, became very common. They married one other just for satisfying their lust. Divorce rates rose to 70% from 1%. Adultry, partner swapping became the norm for most couples which led to divorce. Divorced parents became pedophiles and screwed their own children.

    Altogether, Mayor was successful in destroying the social fabric and was elected twice. He was accorded with prize by the politicians for modernising the society and was also elected twice after his first tenure.

    PS-Why he did all this? He knew that when lust pervades the society people lose half of their cerebration and objectify the living beings as mere object of their sensual gratification. He had learned the tactics from us, denmark, germany, holland etc.

  6. Templetwins

    There is a clear pandering to the male gaze in the majority of porn that is produced, which depends upon camera angles and focal points that reduce a female performer to the parts of her body served up like a three course meal.

    This is bullshit. In most pornography female faces are seen, we constantly hear their moaning and their complete body in different angles, we only see the genital action of the male performers, in reality male porn stars are just a penis and female porn stars are complete human beings.

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      I urge you to reconsider that opinion in the context of how media, not just porn, is invested in sexualizing women’s bodies more than sexualizing men’s bodies. Also, this is an article you should really refer to: http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2013/12/one-third-porn-viewers-women-exactly-world-needs-feminist-porn/

      Cheers

    2. Templetwins

      I’ve just read that article, it reiterated my point exactly ‘Most porn videos have just a penis on the screen whereas the woman or rightfully in this case – the machine, gets full focus.’ Yet it paints women as the victims, it is similar to Hilary Clintons quotes, ‘Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat’. Even when men dies in war, somehow women are the primary victims of war, even when the male pornstar is just a penis, it is the female pornstar who is dehumanized. It can’t get more solipsistic than this.

      None of the porn-stars are forced into this, most of the porn stars are proud of their professions too, the mainstream actresses. If you feel feminist porns are good, no one is stopping you to watch it or produce it or support it, just don’t dictate what kind of porn men should watch. We should stop blaming movies, porns on the violent nature of individuals who tries to emulate it.

  7. Ishan Janbandhu

    It seems Government is going nuts under the term Hindu culture. British writers claims during British Era as far as 200 females use to lay their bodies for a single Bhraman priest in India. What Indian Culture are they talking about ?

    Moreover porn cannot be root cause for the evils against women in the society, it is the intent of Human beings.

    1. Arjun

      > British writers claims during British Era

      and here is what British Writers claim now 😀
      Online pornography to be blocked by default, British PM announces
      bbc.com/news/uk-23401076

      and David Cameron is no Hindu 🙁

    2. Aditya Malpani

      Yeah..and British writers also claimed that people in South India and Africa are decendents of Ham(third son of Noah) and the whites have the right to keep them as slaves to help them get forgiveness of the sin committed by their ancestor Ham.

      Just read Breaking India written by Rajiv Malhotra to get a different perspective on the caste divide in India.

  8. Gaurav

    in the normal course of life we humans have different relationships with our fellow humans… colleagues, spouses, siblings, paternal and maternal relatives, neighbor etc. sex is just one aspect of humanity, to ensure that other relationships do not suffer we as humans have learnt to dilute the sexual aspect of our lives so that it does not overshadow other human relationships. every society is bound to pursue this course of action to varying degrees. there is no reason to blame this on our culture because it all depends on the comfort level of majority of population towards sex in general. younger people are generally more comfortable than the older generation. it is only natural for the older people to try to steer people in a direction which is perceived to be more appropriate. I do agree that banning porn is not going to solve any issue. but I do not agree that porn reduces woman to an object infact it is the other way around. men are almost invisible and the industry is completely focussed on women. popular culture (movies, music, books, paintings, sculpture) also explores female sexuality more passionately than male sexuality.

  9. Aditya Malpani

    When the previous govt was banning porn aftermath of nirbhaya rape case, no one was shouting culture at that time. Rather most of the feminist sections were supporting it.
    Now the govt has changed so the culture has come into picture. WOW

  10. sahil

    While I am not sure of the impact on society and trafficking part which are definitely pretty complicated, I don’t think porn is a right way to learn about sex or for that matter a factual representation of sex. I think a couple of you may have seen the movie Don Jon starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as a porn addict and how he enjoys that more than the company of his girlfriend. It also leads to people having unrealistic expectations from sex. Personally I wouldn’t say a ban solves the issue, but watching too much porn can create serious problems.

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A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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