QUEEN’S ROAD: Recently, when the story of a child abuse scandal in Pakistan was broken, 400 video recordings of more than 280 children being forced to have sex, were discovered. Just another form of porn, that is also distributed and consumed.
In 2013, according to reports, the Shakti Mills rapists made the survivor watch clippings of porn on their mobiles before violating her. This too is one way to consume porn that is as easily accessible to a potential rapist as it is to the parliamentarian we caught watching an ‘objectionable’ video in the assembly. A rape video was widely shared some time back on WhatsApp till an activist reported it. In 2012, when a young girl was assaulted outside a pub in Guwahati, footage of swarms of men tearing at her clothes and pawing her was uploaded online. An entire industry has mushroomed around recording women without their consent or awareness in changing rooms and public washrooms. Not to mention the MMS grabs that are part of ''revenge porn'' uploaded by ex-lovers and misused by blackmailers. Porn sites are not usually known to be conscientious about using content that involves adult consent at some level and when we advocate the right to consume porn, we also must think of where it comes from and who it exploits to make a quick buck.
In a repressed country where 40-odd couples from hotels in Madh Island and Aksa were rounded up by the police, the short-lived ban on porn would have appeared to be another oppressive clamp down but now that the dust has settled down, maybe a little attention can be paid to the idea of freedom and what it entails.
Yes, we should not have archaic laws to criminalise love in any form. The right to be intimate with a consenting adult is a sacred space that must never be vitiated by law or lawmakers. But, porn is not about intimacy, is it? We cannot banish it from our virtual world but we can try to examine what it stands for.
Porn in the end is not about desire, about connection, about love. It is about control, gratification and voyeurism. The objectification of the female form in our cinema is bad enough but easily available porn takes it to another low where women even when treated with violence, stay subservient.
Ran Gavrieli, a scholar of gender studies at Tel Aviv University, works to, "promote positive body image in a society flooded with negative sexual imagery." Ron gave a remarkably honest and enlightening TED talk where he discussed why he stopped watching porn. He did not say porn must be banished but that HE stopped watching it. And he did it because, porn brought "anger and violence" in his private fantasies. And because, he realised that he was creating a demand for "filmed prostitution because that’s what porn really is. Porne stands for prostitute; graphia stands for documentation. Porn is a genre — it’s not about erotica or healthy sexual communication. It is all about male domination and subordination of women as a way of being, as a part of the genderial hierarchy in this world.’’
Most of the porn industry, he says, is driven by "whatever men find arousing.’’ Even if it is,’’ to see a woman or child cry’,’ even if it is rape. He says, "In every mainstream porn gallery, we can find the rape category side by side with the humiliation category, abuse category, crime category and so on." What porn does is to normalise this behaviour, this narrative without "sensuality and mutuality’’ and make it aspirational.
Says he, "We are all vulnerable to pornography. Because everything we watch invades us. We have 90 per cent of 12-year-olds watching porn on a regular basis. And it has both an addictive and a paralyzing effect. And very often boys turn into imitators of what they see, which then means they become aggressors. Aggressors, even when emotion is involved. And girls get this notion that if you want to be worthy of love, first and foremost you have to be worthy of sexual desire."
He says, "There is so much sexual abuse going on within the confines of relationships. "
Ron works with students and finds that when intimate moments are sold to WhatsApp applications or the Internet, it is always the girl who "suffers from shaming and mortification.’’ Suicides occur when the sense of shame is complete.
He says, "Porn is a question of life and death sometimes. It is mainly a question of life and death for the people who participate in porn, because porn is not an embodiment of freedom of speech, freedom of occupation, blah-blah. No. It’s an embodiment of sex-exploitation, working side-by-side with human traffic, raping, pimping, solicitation. For every one porn star with a book contract or a production company, we’ve got hundreds of thousands of women and girls who do not survive. The sex industry spits them back into brothels, streets. And I am not joking. This is the whole spectrum of prostitution.”
He is all for sexual freedom but, says, “We need to put genderial hierarchy aside, subordinance aside.”
So many women in the porn industry, according to him, do not even make it to the age of 50 because of "drugs, STD, being murdered by a pimp, a boyfriend and the fourth reason is suicide once again. Because if you are a prostitute, on camera or off camera, you are in the situation that we can refer to as social death. And when I sit in the privacy of my room and watch porn, even without paying, I am still consuming. Whatever I am watching is creating a demand. And wherever there is a demand, there will be a supply. There is a correlation. "