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?
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
Dr Gail Dines