Porn ban in India – mainstreaming of women’s lack of sexual agency

Approximately 800+ pornographic websites suddenly went off the internet in India. There were no prior announcement, discussion, no legal basis to the decision. But that’s not to say it is entirely thoughtless, hell no. The great thought behind is that a ban on porn is going to put an end to rapes in this country.Versace--woman and naked man--various women's 90s

The real hero of the occasion, Kamlesh Vaswani, a certain male lawyer, gave a lot of thought to the plight of women in this country in the aftermath of December 2012 Delhi gang rape case. After much thought he found the answer, to stop rape ban porn. So the hero filed a case in Supreme Court seeking ban. SC gave the decision that such ban is not possible. Yet, few month’s later, the Modi government banned porn.

Because according to the great minds at ‘good governance’, porn or sex or sexual desire and gratification are all things male while half a billion women in this country are all just walking holes, completely lifeless, agency less, voiceless inanimate holes. Men just watch porn, grab a hole and dig it. What about women who like to watch porn, or be in one? Well that specie apparently do not exist, nigh impossible to exist  – women have no liking, disliking, they are objects.

In just one sweeping action of the government the sexist mindset, that women have no right to speak in their own welfare or decisions that affects them, has become mainstream.

Pornography and feminism

So what do feminists feel about porn? Pornography is a highly debated topic amongst feminists with very divergent views both in favour and against its production, distribution and consumption.

The radical feminists have always taken anti-pornography stand and sought a legal ban on its production and distribution. According to them pornography is misogynist and demeaning to women, it is produced purely for male consumption and reduces women to sexual objects.

Sex-positive feminists on the other hand are of the belief that sexual liberation is as important for women as economic liberation and that pornography can subvert traditional gender norms and give women a sexual agency.

Another set of feminists oppose the state censorship of pornography irrespective of whether they are personally in favour or against it.

The question therefore is should the State be allowed to control our rights in the name of morality?

According to Wendy McElroy pornography is an example of freedom of expression in the realm of sex and sexuality and it should have the same legal protection as any other political heresy. Many feminists who are opposed to misogynist pornography simultaneously root for freedom of expression and strongly object to any kind of censorship. Pornography allows women to derive pleasure from sex whether by viewing it or performing it and this would not be possible if censorship is allowed.

Nadine Strossen rejected the idea that pornography leads to violence against women because if images could corrupt and influence the audience then all war films should be banned. She uses scientific studies to refute the statement Monkey See Monkey Do as there are enough research to show that there is no relation between seeing porn and that translating into action. On the contrary, suppression of sex may lead to eroticization of violence. In her book Defending Pornography she claims that it is an inherent part of our sexuality and is a healthy practice.

By some estimate global porn industry is worth $97 Billion. It can be safely assumed that many women derive economic independence and sexual agency from this industry. It is absolutely ridiculous to presume that all such women need saving by self-righteous men. One cannot help laughing at Mr. Vaswani’s statements about the harmful effects of porn on women:

“My fight has been against obscenity. I feel watching porn fuels violence against women. It propels men to commit sex crimes. I saw no women come forward and speak up against pornography, so I did it.”

When told about the horror that women watch and enjoy porn too he said,

“I do not think these reports and data are authentic. To say Indian women watch porn is an insult to their dignity.”

Well Mr. Vaswani I’ve got news for you, women do enjoy porn and it is possible to make porn which is not oppressive to women rather gives them a sexual agency and portrays them as strong sexual being.

Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier known for his dark story lines and explicit images, have taken some initiative in this regard. His film company Zentropa Entertainment is world’s first mainstream film company to produce hardcore pornographic films many of which were created for women audience. This initiative led to a rise of European wave of female friendly porn. Films like Constance (1998) and Pink Prison (1999) are said to be directly responsible for the legalizing of pornography in Norway.

While its true that much of the debate about pornography is about women’s safety, exploitation and gender stereotypes, at the same time much of the debate is also about women’s sexual agency and choice. Pornography, like any other art form or creative expression, cannot be shunned in its entirety. Each production should be taken as a case to case basis and questions like who is it meant for, what kind of agency it is giving to women, is it being violent, is it oppressive and so on should be asked.

Making pornography legal would enable us to raise these questions. Once an art form (if I may call pornography one) openly comes into public view, the inherent misogyny, biases and oppression in it can be scrutinized and debated. Banning it would serve only one purpose, complete denial of women’s sexuality and agency.

2 thoughts on “Porn ban in India – mainstreaming of women’s lack of sexual agency

  1. Great post. I would suggest small change :
    “pornography subverts traditional gender norms and gives women a sexual agency”
    to
    “pornography can subvert traditional gender norms and give women a sexual agency”

    Liked by 1 person

Share your views

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s