Lifestyle

Why is porn such a big deal in India?

In India, while viewing sexually explicit material in private spaces is not illegal, Section 67 of the Information Technology Act makes it illegal for anyone to publish or transmit “obscene material” in electronic form. However, no matter what, one thing is clear: there’s a huge demand for porn globally. In fact, a new report in Pornhub, an adult website, has revealed that 89% people in India porn via mobile devices in 2019, which is up 3% from the figure in 2017.   But why is porn still a big deal in India? “Porn is a big deal everywhere in the world, but it gets more attention in India because of the clash in thinking of the two generations – ones over 40 and those under 40. The older generation sees porn as a violation of their moral values, attack of their holy culture and a disrespect and degradation of women. The younger generation sees it as a thrill, a sense of accomplishment, outlet to their rebellion and a gratification which is instant. While this disparity may continue for another generation, both sides of the audience still watch. One to condone it, and the other to rejoice it.  Additionally, its human nature, you want to do more what you are told not to. So till our society don’t put a lid to this Nok-jhok, the rest of us will continue to do it more and more,” says Raj Armani, Co-Founder & COO, Besharam, India's sexual wellness brand. According to sex and behavioural sciences experts, sex is one of those abiding mysteries from which teenagers seek an answer. And while it’s much easier today to reach out for answers through the social media or the general web, often the answers come in the form of pornography. Dr Niveditha Manokaran, dermatologist, venereologist and clinician in sexual and reproductive health, reasons that things you don’t know about are always a big deal. “And there are several sides to pornography, which makes it secretive, stigmatising, exciting, misinformed and illegal,” adds Dr Niveditha. “Unlike sex in real life, pornography is a film directed, produced, choreographed and edited in which actors act out scenes. Pornography is not a simulation of real life events, just as a movie like Avengers isn’t and you cannot try to jump off buildings and shoot spider webs in real life.”   Porn for a long time Apurupa Vatsalya, sexuality educator and mental health first aider believes what is clear is that there is a huge demand for porn globally. “So porn is unlikely to go away,” she asserts. “Moreover, despite being the world’s second largest population, we are a sexually repressed culture. Many of us still believe that having or talking about sex outside the context of marriage is morally wrong. But none of this means that people aren’t exploring with each other or that they aren’t curious. It just means that these topics are shrouded in shame. A natural extension of that is also our aversion to adult cinema.” Apurupa also believes that in a country such as ours, where parents still shut their children’s eyes during an intimate scene onscreen and refrain from expressing any physical affection with each other, something like porn is going to be frowned upon. “This is not to say that all porn is okay. We’ve had the likes of Mia Khalifa step forward and talk about the abuse she experienced in the adult film industry. Indeed, the porn industry is an exploitative one and perpetuates a lot of myths — around how women are supposed to be treated, use of contraceptives, what type of bodies are deemed desirable, what genitals are supposed to look like or what type of sexual acts are considered default. They’re also shot from a male gaze point of view,” says Apurupa.   Unreal depictions Leeza Mangaldas, India’s foremost sex-positive content-creator, believes many people view porn as a gateway to understanding and exploring their own arousal and desires. “Also, watching porn brings sexual pleasure minus the fear of pregnancy, disease or rejection. So, all porn cannot be considered  ‘bad’ just like all porn cannot be considered ‘good’.” Even so, Leeza points out the necessity for boundaries with regards to porn. “It’s important that the adult industry does everything in its capacity to ensure porn performers rights, and to ensure that the porn on their platforms is ethical and consensual at all levels,” says Leeza. However, there also exists ethical porn and other types of erotica — in both audio and text. “This is something I have personally accessed and find interesting,” says Leeza. “These resources are usually paid, centre the pleasure, ensure the consent and comfort of all parties involved and are a realistic depiction of people, emotions, their bodies and the acts they engage in.”   Changing mainstream definitions With the rise of local and global OTT platforms like ALTBalaji and MX player in India, there has been a significant increase in the production as well as consumption of mature content.  “The narrative that previously existed in mainstream media was that folks don’t engage with each other sexually until they’re in a serious relationship (which is or will lead to marriage). However, intimacy is a just a natural expression of connection, romance or even libido for many of us,” points out Apurupa. So what does the rise of easily accessible adult content signify? “The fact is that Internet was born due to porn. And Internet will evolve for porn. So if porn wants to be seen and found, the world will adapt to get it to the eyes and ears of everyone who wants it,” says Raj.   Apurupa believes while there’s some amount of sensationalism and sex definitely sells. "The OTT platforms are more representative of the reality and desires of this generation,” states Apurupa. Even so, people consume porn but can’t or don’t talk. “There has to be education around why type of porn is okay to consume. For instance, when my clients express guilt around watching porn, I explain to them the ethics of its consumption. We collate resources that are non-exploitative and consensual,” says Apuruva.   Porn use is up A new report has revealed that in India, 89 per cent people watched porn via mobile devices in 2019 — up three per cent from 2017 when the figure already touched 86 per cent. “Thanks to Jio and others who deliver internet for pennies and mobile phones to many. Porn does not discriminate. From smallest towns to largest states, it  land in your hands, everytime you type it on Google, Pornhub, IMbesharam or any place where there is a keyboard and a searchbar. The 3 per cent increase probably is just the new internet users, because the ones who were part of 86 percent would not have given up and moved out yet,” says Raj.   Platforms need to be highly vigilant Leeza makes a point when she says porn needs to be ethically produced and centred on consent on all levels and that porn platforms need to do a hyper vigilant job of regulating non-consensual, abusive, or exploitative content. Many porn sites do not regulate or monitor its porn intake, which is how a lot of wrong, illegal and unethical pornography get onto the Internet and to the viewers. Pointing out how many sites that show porn do not have a disclaimer for the audience to differentiate between ethical and unethical porn Dr Niveditha says elaborates on what ethical porn is.  “Ethical porn prioritises pleasure, safety and health. It respects different bodies, sexuality and safety. It is more realistic. It is usually got from paid and monitored sites, and you pay for the artist and work involved,” she says. But Leeza points to one huge problem in making that a possibility. “Viewers must be willing to pay for ethically produced porn. Most consumers’ expectations that porn be free become a big part of the problem,” she adds.   Ethical pornography Film legally shot with the actors and actress’s consent and awareness fall in the category of ethical porn. Dr Niveditha Manokaran, dermatologist, venereologist and clinician in sexual and reproductive health, adds, “Ethical porn is legal and accepted in many countries. But please remember that illegal porn where sexual act is shot without the consent of the people involved and child pornography are punishable offence and is not the same as ethical porn.” The doctor also believes that the administration can help pull out the illegal and unethical porn. “Rather than being in denial and using a blanket approach of making all porn illegal, it will be beneficial and sustainable if we can differentiate between ethical and acceptable porn and non-ethical and criminal offences, and filter what is acceptable and what isn’t,” she adds.     I watch it. And I watch it with my spouse also. I remember, the reason why I got internet at my home, with those slow dial in modems, and silly scratch cards to punch activation keys and activate internet on ’Satyam Online’ in those days, was to find out what’s this big deal about porn.  My dad still doesn’t know what that charge for $29.99 was for his card. — Raj Armani    “Most young people get introduced to pornography by accident  or through a friend. As per the results of an online survey I did, I found out that people were 12-13 years old when they saw pornography. A ban on porn will not solve the problem we need to introduce comprehensive sexuality education across India in a mandatory way,” says Karishma Swarup, Sexuality Educator and creator of @talkyounevergot on Instagram.

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