Forget the Lokpal. Who will be your Porn Pal?

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Illustration: Anand Naorem
Illustration: Anand Naorem

Kamlesh Vaswani? Hello? Are you there? I know what happened. It’s okay, don’t worry. You are jaded by those pornbots that seem to appear on all websites. There you are, innocently trying to buy a size XL Polo T-shirt on Jabong or get a 90-percent-off discounted gym membership on Snapdeal and you are assaulted by ads of ‘bored housewives near you in Indore’ and some photo of a girl lifting her skirt or her shirt.

I know, I know. All these ads for porn on every page are putting bad juju into your love life. Nor can you get any real kicks from watching porn either. It isn’t like when we were kids and you read Debonair in the afternoons while everyone else was asleep. It used to be so good, but now the thrill is gone.

What? What are you saying? You are not an annoyed consumer finding that you are spending too much time on Desibaba? You are a concerned lawyer? You want to make viewing Internet porn a non-bailable offence because it causes crimes against women? Arrey Kamlesh, why did you settle for this old chestnut for your moment of microfame? You could have, if you don’t mind my suggesting, asked for any of the following to be made into a non-bailable offence:

A. Not taking Responsibility For Your Officers’ Outrageous Behaviour Towards Rape Victims While You Are Police Commissioner.
B. Being Sarcastic and Quoting Non- Pertinent Facts about Violence Against Women While You Are Police Commissioner.
C. Shutting Metro Stations and Assembling Water Cannons against Protestors.
D. Slapping a Protestor Till She Bled

Accha, chalo. Now you’ve gone and done it. Let’s not worry about spilt milk. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned spilling since that might excite some people. But really Kamlesh, I’m interested in the details of your epiphany, the exact moment that brought you to the courts.

Yes, of course everyone’s saying now that last week’s rapist-murderer watched porn before he set out to torture a five-year-old. That’s like saying Mark David Chapman read The Catcher in the Rye before shooting John Lennon. Studies around the world (China, Japan, Denmark and the US) examining the connection between rape and pornography have found that in the decades since access to Internet pornography has increased, rapes have decreased. These studies do not prove that watching more porn reduces rapes. What they do prove is that watching more porn does not increase rape. Of course, you too probably did widespread, ethnographic research and behavioural psychological testing before you arrived at the Supreme Court? No? Then it’s your experiential reporting that you would like to use to enrich the legislation? Did you feel overcome by a criminal impulse to attack women after one hour too many on Indiangilma? Or did you control the impulse with a cold shower and a warm mantra?

Also, Kamlesh, I was wondering: since we haven’t figured out the whole Lokpal scene yet, who do you think should be in charge of this new business? Who will decide what is porn? Who will decide who is watching too much? Who will ensure that the watchers of the watchers are not getting too high on torrents? Who will ensure those ads for fruit juice, where the mango squirts on women’s faces, are not exciting men’s sexual nature? Who, in short, will be Porn Pal? (Maybe we will need a new name because I think that might already be taken.)

Before I forget, the thing that I did want to tell you, Kamlesh, is that women watch porn too. What? You don’t believe me? Ask any women friends or relatives who are fond of you. I’ve spoken to all manner of ladies who told me all about their porn viewing. The Delhi University lecturer who likes a little dirty, desi, gritty porn with hairy chests and legs. The former banker who recently discovered Japanese porn and, at one point, devoutly followed the antics of a Mexican male porn star on Twitter. All the Indian women who have been reading Fifty Shades of Grey in Indore? Now add, I don’t know, a few zeros after that number to get all the female porn viewers in India. You’d have to preemptively arrest them all as rapists.

You’d also have to arrest my 20-something housemaid who wanted to know, hee-hee-Didi-do-you-have-those-kinds-of- movies-in-your-phone? Because she has them on her phone. She is a responsible employee, a loyal friend, a devoted mother and an all-round sound citizen. Are you going to chuck her in jail? I ask because her three-year-old daughter would miss her and the co-conspirator father very much. You’d have to start an institution to house all of the orphans of porn. Then you’d have to make sure no custodian rapes them or tortures them or prostitutes them. (You do know that Madhya Pradesh has had the highest increase in child rape cases between 2001-2011 and a whole lot of them have happened in juvenile justice homes?)

Then once all that is done you will have to keep an eye out for all those mad couples making their own sex videos on their phones and web cams. When they re-watch them for an evening giggle, you’d have to arrest them too. Kamlesh, it would lead to situations like the one Margaret Atwood described in a scene where Hamlet’s mother is talking about the sad love life she had with his father. Gertrude says, “Every time I felt like a little, you know, just to warm up my aging bones, it was like I’d suggested murder.” Or as she would have said if she lived in Karnataka, “What of your father goes?” Do you really want so much public energy and finances to be spent on monitoring people of varying age, caste, gender and inclination who occasionally do a little Paro-do-you-touch- yourself?

See, I don’t disagree with you. Porn is full of idiotic assumptions about women. But lots of genres have idiotic assumptions about lots of stuff. Porn has genre-bred cliches the same way mythological movies, superhero comics, romance novels, diamond jewellery ads and Ford ads do. In porn, the pizza delivery guy/salesman/ postman always meets women in underwear. In porn, women will always make slurpy sounds and goo-goo eyes while giving a blowjob. In Indian porn, people only seem to do their relatives. Those are the rules of the game. You change three ingredients and oops, like Satyajit Ray said, you are offbeat or, worse, art.

You know Kamlesh, you are full of good intentions, so you shouldn’t waste them. What you should organise is some sex ed through porn. What would be good sex education is for men to sit in the same room while women watch mainstream porn. Hear women laughing, snorting and giggling while you watch the wish-fulfilment of the male creators of porn and you will be a whole, new man. You could also diversify from the current object of your PIL, which is frankly a bit boys-only. Organise these screenings and listen to lesbians howling with laughter at the girl-on-girl sex in mainstream porn made for men. Listen to straight women talking about the quivering possibilities in watching gay male porn. Listen and you might get an education. Each one, teach one.

Of course, you are right. It is troubling because a lot of porn shows women enjoying rape. For the longest time, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam movies all believed no woman says yes to love, sex, coffee, ice-cream or marriage without being chased through the streets by middle-aged heroes. And in the decades that we watched these movies most people knew that life had different rules from the movie screen. And if they don’t, Kamlesh, you really can’t do much about it. You can’t mandate introspection. Apparently, you can’t mandate introspection even for police commissioners or assistant commissioners.

And yes, Kamlesh, sometimes our desires do overlap with the bored product of a cynical porn creator. Because our nerve endings are not politically correct. Sometimes we (men, women, hijras) are excited by the fleeting thought, just the thought of being thrown down and taken a wee, tiny bit against our will.

But the real thing? Not so much.

[email protected]tehelka.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. hmm…Could not read the full article but got essence. Sushan you have also played into the hands of the agenda of portraying women as commodity and make money. It would be good If you go little investigative to ascertain how many girls are victimised in the process of making porn films. Porn rackets have cropped up in cities to suit porn movies by trapping vulnerable girls. And unless media defends the ‘Right’ to watch pron in net and keep the demand afloat, what would be the need to make porn films. Anyway, I have no opinion on the whole issue of watching pornography except this concern.

  2. Wow Nisha , great article. Just imagine what will happen to all those students in Engineering colleges who spend all their free time watching porn in their hostels and let live others peacefully ? What will they do with all that free time ? Khali Dimag Shaitan Ka Ghar.

    I think India is one of the top 2-3 countries in watching porn. If they will Ban porn , Most of the people will cut their Internet connections so it will have a negative impact on our Economy as well. Theek hai ?

    Watching port is the National time pass .

  3. Hi Nisha,

    I am an amateur filmmaker making a short documentary on the correlation between indian cinema of the 90s and the rise in eve teasing cases in the recent years – would like to interview people on both sides of the fence. I would like to feature an interview with you in my documentary. Please let me know how to get in touch with you and the appropriate time to do the same for discussing the same further. Hoping for a favourable response 🙂

    Thank you,
    Ishita Samaddar
    [email protected]

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