THE WOR­RY­ING CASE OF PORN

There is no doubt that porn de­picts vi­o­lence against women and af­fects people’s be­hav­iour. But, is ban the so­lu­tion?

The Asian Age - - In Focus - GOKUL M. G.

In late Oc­to­ber last year, In­ter­net ser­vice providers ( ISPs) such as Re­liance Jio, Air­tel, Voda­fone Idea and BSNL were or­dered to block porn web­sites on their net­works — a move that trig­gered sev­eral de­bates. The govern­ment made the de­ci­sion to ban 827 porn sites fol­low­ing an or­der by the Ut­tarak­hand High Court. The court had is­sued the or­der to curb un­lim­ited ac­cess to porno­graphic web­sites, in view of an in­ci­dent that took place in a Dehradun school, where four stu­dents gang- raped a Class 10 girl. The four boys who bru­tally as­saulted the girl con­fessed that they had watched clips of vi­o­lent porn be­fore com­mit­ting the hor­rific crime, which shows how pornog­ra­phy has over­pow­ered the main­stream cul­ture. Iron­i­cally, since the much- talked porn ban, Google Trends for In­dia has shown an in­crease in search terms such as VPN, Free VPN and Proxy.

The Ut­tarak­hand in­ci­dent was not the sole rea­son for the ban, though. It was just another as­sault case that hap­pened as a re­sult of porn ad­dic­tion. It’s no se­cret that much of porn is vi­o­lent, but many people don’t un­der­stand the ex­tent to which porn’s un­der­ly­ing mes­sages in­flu­ence be­hav­iour. Porn is full of people, par­tic­u­larly women, be­ing dis­re­spected, co­erced, and phys­i­cally and ver­bally abused, and that’s shap­ing how so­ci­ety thinks and acts.

Porn could be so dam­ag­ing when acts of bru­tal vi­o­lence against women turn en­ter­tain­ment for some­one else. This hy­per­sex­u­al­ity has its ef­fects on cul­ture and it hi­jacks nor­mal sex life in a big way. Dr Gail Dines, an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed speaker, au­thor, and a fem­i­nist pub­lic in­tel­lec­tual, says ad­ver­tise­ments and new age mag­a­zines have turned a fe­male body into a mere com­mod­ity. Gail, in her book Porn­land: How Porn Has Hi­jacked Our Sex­u­al­ity, points out how males are get­ting de­ceived in a way. Hyper­sex­ual videos give them the false im­pres­sion that women want to be dom­i­nated and sub­mis­sive all the time. She slams porno­graphic videos from the no­to­ri­ous ‘ dark web’ that mostly con­tain child abuse, vi­o­lence, forced par­tic­i­pa­tion, degra­da­tion of women, and prop­a­gate anti- fem­i­nine mes­sages. She is of the opin­ion that even pros­ti­tu­tion is a form of ex­ploita­tion of women and an in­stance of male dom­i­nance. It is a prac­tice which is the re­sult of the ex­ist­ing pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­etal or­der. But on the other side, a sec­tion of fem­i­nists thwarts this idea say­ing the body should be lib­er­ated and these are all a repack­aged ver­sion of the old cler­i­cal moral­ity. “If there is any­thing fem­i­nists should be in agree­ment on, it’s our right to make our own de­ci­sions about how we use our bod­ies,” says Lau­ren Rose­warne, se­nior lec­turer, Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne.

Renowned psy­chol­o­gist Dr C. J. John says that hy­per­sex­u­al­ity has its ef­fects on to­day’s life. “To make matters worse, videos that show vic­tims of vi­o­lence who seem to ac­cept or en­joy be­ing hurt give porn con­sumers the im­pres­sion that it’s okay to act ag­gres­sively,” he says.

“But in re­al­ity, they do not get any­thing that they ex­pect,” he adds. The ex­pectancy level from real life re­la­tion­ships af­ter watch­ing porn is also at stake as, once he or she is not get­ting what they have seen on porn sites, it lands ev­ery­thing in dis­ar­ray. “In a male- dom­i­nated so­ci­ety, porn sites, es­pe­cially the vi­o­lent porn, sets a bench­mark which could be de­ceiv­ing for the user and spreads much of sex­ual fal­lacy than any­thing use­ful.”

Mean­while, since 2015, the UK has been try­ing to im­ple­ment age ver­i­fi­ca­tion for its users by sub­mit­ting valid IDs be­fore en­ter­ing porn sites. Now, it seems only a mat­ter of time to im­ple­ment the law. When asked if it will work in In­dian sce­nario, John says, “Age ver­i­fi­ca­tion or ban won’t tackle the is­sue com­pletely. Def­i­nitely, it will have a cer­tain de­gree of im­pact, but people al­ways find another way. There are other on­line plat­forms like What­sApp where porn could be eas­ily shared or viewed. The videos that in­crease hy­per­sex­u­al­ity could not get fil­tered there. And, I don’t think it will be hard for people to find a source where they can view porn. It may also tempt people to take videos or pho­tos of that sort. Not ev­ery­one would do that, but it is a pos­si­bil­ity. Coun­selling and proper sex ed­u­ca­tion are the only so­lu­tions. It should start in school. Chil­dren and par­ents should know how porn could af­fect their lives.”

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Priya Vargh­ese opines that the new age me­dia’s way of prod­uct en­dorse­ment is also sex­ist. “The way some ad­ver­tis­ers por­tray women is ac­tu­ally anti- fem­i­nine and the im­agery that pro­vides, es­pe­cially to a younger au­di­ence, is ap­palling. Porn videos that are vi­o­lent in na­ture give people a false idea about nor­mal sex­ual life, and women.

Mean­while, people do not get proper sex ed­u­ca­tion; they are ashamed to even say the word sex as if it is taboo.”

So, what if we ac­tu­ally ban porn com­pletely or de­mand age ver­i­fi­ca­tion IDs like in the UK? IT ex­pert V. K. Adarsh says, “Ban­ning the porn com­pletely won’t re­sult in any­thing good. The de­ci­sion to block porn sites is not ac­cept­able as there is no spe­cific law against porn in In­dia and like the cen­sor­ing in films, there is no proper fil­ter­ing hap­pen­ing. Even if the court or­ders to ban porn com­pletely, In­ter­net ser­vice providers can­not do any­thing if the users share porn videos via any other mes­sag­ing or so­cial me­dia ap­pli­ca­tions. Though they can mon­i­tor what’s be­ing shared, there is no sys­tem to find what con­tent is be­ing shared in a video. The pol­icy by the UK won’t work here as people are not go­ing to share per­sonal de­tails like IDs. They might find other op­tions. Curb­ing the flow of pornog­ra­phy is not as easy as we think, though ban­ning sites is pos­si­ble. I am of the opin­ion that some­times pornog­ra­phy helps re­duce the num­ber of sex­ual as­saults.”

Since the ban, porn sites have been try­ing to find a way out of the prob­lem by any means. Ac­cord­ing to Porn­hub, the largest pornog­ra­phy site on the In­ter­net, it is ready to work along with the govern­ment and help rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion. An of­fi­cial state­ment by the vi­cepres­i­dent of the com­pany, Corey Price, sums up what is the mode of op­er­a­tion they would like to carry out to re­peal the ban in the third largest porn- watch­ing coun­try. His words were sub­ject of de­bates and talked much. He wrote, “There are no laws against pornog­ra­phy in In­dia and watch­ing adult con­tent pri­vately. It’s ev­i­dent that the In­dian govern­ment does not have a so­lu­tion to a very se­ri­ous and sys­temic prob­lem in the coun­try, and is us­ing adult sites like ours as a scape­goat.”

Curb­ing the flow of pornog­ra­phy is not as easy as we think, though ban­ning sites is pos­si­ble. I am of the opin­ion that some­times pornog­ra­phy helps re­duce the num­ber of sex­ual as­saults – V. K. ADARSH

People are ashamed to even say the word sex as if it is taboo - PRIYA VARGH­ESE

Porn sites, es­pe­cially vi­o­lent porn, sets a bench­mark which could be de­ceiv­ing for the user and spreads fal­lacy - DR C. J. JOHN

Im­age for rep­re­sen­ta­tive pur­pose

Im­age for rep­re­sen­ta­tive pur­pose

Dr Gail Dines

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