Good Porn, Bad Porn And The Culture Of Ban

There has been an upsurge in the opinion amongst ordinary people and legal experts about the criminal impact of porn on people’s psyche in general and the youngsters in particular, with an increased reporting on crimes against women and children recently. A thought which comes to mind after reading these lines is that the real culprit behind these crimes must be porn. A PIL was filed in April, 2014 in the Supreme Court which sought, among others things, a specific law on pornography; and to make watching of porn videos as a non-bailable and cognizable offence.

Serious concerns have been raised in the PIL about free availability of porn on the internet, its impact on people, violence against women etc. and the Court issued notice to the Central Government and the government replied by saying, “Blocking porn sites would cause greater harm”. Without getting into the legal nitty-gritty of the PIL , the issue at hand is whether we will develop a scientific response to such issues or go by tittle-tattle. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore the scientific relationship between porn and crime and that there is no such conclusive study available or done to establish the same. The article in no way tries to promote insensitivity about crimes against women and children, and is an attempt to understand ways in which the term, ‘Porn’ is defined, used and misused.

Definition of Porn according to Oxford Dictionary is, “Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement. Synonym of Porn includes words like erotica”. On one hand, we have the much stigmatized porn, and on the other, the artistic erotica finding a place in the literary works and part of mainstream culture. There can be any number of opinions for and against porn and the divide results from the way we define it.

So, let’s start by asking a simple question, what constitutes porn? A cursory look at the above gives a standard definition of porn but leaves so many questions unanswered. For instance, a consenting adult couple indulging in sexual activity uses printed/visual material (Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra) to heighten sexual excitement. Under which category will we place such an activity, porn or erotica? Another example can be of a married couple indulging in sex and recording their act to watch it later for purely private purposes. Would it be termed porn and thus stigmatized or will it be passed in the name of private affairs of two consenting married adults enjoying their marriage life. What kind of criminal tendencies will it generate in such cases?

Porn is vital to freedom“, says Rushdie. In an extract from his essay, The East is Blue; Rushdie implies that Muslims are avid consumers of pornography because of the segregation of the sexes. This is not just true for Muslims but for all the people around the world. With no sex education allowed in the schools in India and parents trying their best to avoid and suppress any information relating to the word sex, the youngsters turn towards peers and all possible sources to understand the psychological, biological changes that their bodies go through. This might result in gaining wrong information about their own bodies, unacceptable sexual behaviours etc. If proper guidance can be made available to our youngsters, if free mixing of both the sexes is allowed without any prejudice or bias, then it might change the way we tend to perceive porn or pornographic literature.

India has, according to studies reported in Firstpost, some of the highest rates of sexual crimes against children in the world: in 2007, 53% of children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse. This can’t possibly, given low levels of internet access, be linked to online porn.

We must try and identify correctly the cause of a problem. Dowry practice is prevalent in all corners of the country, but can it be said that it is because of pornography. Of late, it has become a fashion to put blame on those which are not even remotely related to the issue. The article in no way tries to defend or oppose porn or its many avatars. It tries to highlight the way in which we deal with any issue of concern. Terms like development of scientific temper, objectivity, and rationality have been reduced to purely academic discussions and conversations, and every vice is blamed on the west. Freedom has come to be understood in a very narrow sense of the term and moral policing is exercised as a fundamental right in the country. The tendency to prescribe remedy without understanding the root of the problem is posing serious challenges to the society at large. To promote porn or not is altogether a different question. Our decisions and choices should be guided by rationality and not by any unscientific approach.

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