PornHub’s Data On Indian Women Watching Porn Shows A Middle Finger To Taboos

Posted on January 9, 2016 in Sex, Society, Staff Picks

By Rohini Banerjee:

As an eager, impressionable 13-year old, whose hormones were just kicking in and whose parents and peers shied away from the mere mention of ‘sex’, I took to watching porn. This is an all too familiar story in many Indian households. With the lack of comprehensive sex and sexuality education in most schools and universities, and the lack of constructive discussions about sex in both domestic and public spaces, many of us think that porn is the answer. Hence, it is really not surprising that in a recent survey conducted by popular porn website Pornhub, Indians—and especially Indian women—were found to be the 3rd largest consumers of pornographic content in the world.

pornhub-insights-2015-year-in-reviewIn a country where discussions surrounding sex are still taboo, where premarital sex and non-heterosexual sex are seen as ‘dirty’ and ‘against Indian culture’, watching porn is both a way of exploring one’s sexuality and a giant middle finger to moral and sexual policing. It’s true that the porn industry is still largely sexist, and fetishizes and objectifies the female body in harmful ways, but there is also porn out there that is feminist and empowering. According to the data that has emerged from the survey, Indian women spent an average half a minute longer per visit to a website hosting pornography, as compared to their male counterparts. The average session time for Indian women visitors, the data revealed, was 8 minutes and 31 seconds, while Indian men stayed just a little over 8 minutes. The global average for time spent by women is 10 minutes and 10 seconds, as compared to men, whose average session duration was only 9 minutes and 22 seconds. The active engagement of women with porn serves to challenge the common notion that porn is for men and by men. It’s also an important assertion of female sexuality, a reclamation of the same from patriarchal constructs which see women—and especially Indian women—in the Madonna/Whore binary.

Our society drills within us the tenets of being a ‘good girl’ from a very young age, and ‘good girls’ aren’t allowed to even think about sex until after marriage—and sex that is not heterosexual is an even bigger no-no. The moment a woman starts to embrace her sexuality and exhibit the same, she is judged as morally corrupt, as someone whose ‘reputation’ has been called into question. In such an environment, watching porn, for a woman, is almost a political act. It is a challenge to moral and sexual policing, and patriarchal notions of ‘propriety’ that are thrust upon us from the minute we are born. By watching porn, and watching it so eagerly, women are showing these bogus notions of ‘Indian culture’ and ‘propriety’ a massive middle finger and embracing their sexual drives and desires like never before.  India also featured among the youngest female consumers of porn, with an average age of 31, which just goes on to show how more and more young women are refusing to give in the aeons of patriarchal conditioning that precedes them.

The increasing amount of women who are watching porn, and doing so regularly, also serves to break the stigma surrounding female masturbation. Masturbation is something that is always talked about from the male perspective and is often not applied to women at all. But that is woefully untrue, and the porn-watching habits of Indian women are further testament to that. Yes, women masturbate, and can orgasm without an external male presence. They too have sex drives and kinks, and experience arousal and climaxes from watching pornographic content. Female masturbation, like sex, is yet another taboo imposed upon women. Women who masturbate, are considered ‘promiscuous’ and ‘ill-reputed’ (seriously, what is this collation of a woman’s sexuality with her ‘reputation’?!?) and women actively engaging with porn, and masturbating to porn completely overturns such notions.

While there is still a need for more feminist porn, the data that has emerged from this survey is actually quite revolutionary. We need to challenge the air of forbiddenness that surrounds porn, and for that, we first need to challenge the type of porn that is made to appease the heterosexual male gaze. Now that so many women are watching porn, more of it needs to be about women and for women. And the patriarchal policing of women who watch porn and explore their sexualities? That is already being upturned by the results of this survey. It’s great to see Indian women reclaiming their sexuality like this, and here’s hoping that the porn industry takes this into account and produces porn that will continue to help women explore their sexuality while simultaneously helping them get some really good orgasms.