The porn dilemma. To ban, or not to ban, is the question.

The porn debate is hitting public consciousness (read browsers) with a vengeance. Even as the Chief Justice of India’s refusal to pass an interim order banning porn made reassuring headlines, reports of porn sites being inaccessible started hitting social media.

Chief Justice of India HL Dattu had said in early July, “Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody can come to the court and say ‘Look, I am an adult and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room? It is a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty) of the Constitution.’ Yes the issue is serious and some steps need to be taken… the Centre has to take a stand… let us see what stand the Centre will take.”

There is no official stand from the government, yet several porn sites are reportedly becoming inaccessible for some users over some networks like MTNL, BSNL, Vodafone, Spectranet and ACT with users getting a blank page or a message saying “The site has been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority.” Legally India and The Mint have independently verified, citing anonymous sources, with one and three ISPs respectively that the blocks on an unprecedented 857 websites were notified on Friday by the government and should be implemented Monday onwards.

This is problematic on several levels.

Lack of transparency in governance

The secret bans of websites are a non-transparent and undemocratic undermining of the rights of citizens of a democracy, with rules about what is allowed and what is not allowed decided and implemented in secrecy and with no opportunity for citizens to be notified or to have a dialgue on the subject. It is yet another mark of a “Pvt Ltd” government’s contempt for democracy that fits in with a pattern of arbitrary restrictions imposed on people, ordinances replacing laws voted on by representatives of the people and serious and unscientific fudging of national data to create perceptions favorable to he government’s image.

Violation of citizen rights

As pointed out by Chief Justice Dattu, such blocks are a violation of a citizen’s right to personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution. That the government not only violates the rights of citizens, but does so in a manner that leaves citizens no opportunity to object is an alarming indication of authoritarian and arbitrary impositions of morality as defined by undisclosed persons.

Encouraging a culture of sexual repression

I have pointed out in another piece that a society that represses sexual expression ends up encouraging stress, frustration and aggression among citizens. Sex is a fundamental urge and a culture of taboos around sex is detrimental to self actualization and contentment among citizens.

The need to mitigate harms of certain kinds of porn without violating the freedoms of citizens

It is true that certain kinds of porn can influence people into seeing harm to another as acceptable entertainment. Rape porn, revenge porn or child porn in particular comes to mind. Porn with unusual object insertions can result in self harm as well as additional injury during rape. A person’s freedom ends at another person’s nose. However, there is also plenty of porn that is little more than harmless eroticism and even more that can enhance the sexual lives of people by providing them with ideas to pleasure their partners – something a sex-phobic culture of ours never allows dialogue about, even as they teach young adults about how to be a good husband or wife. Well, sex does make or break marriages very often, and perhaps regressive sex-phobic orthodox leaders can take comfort in knowing that their sacrifice may help keep the marriages they so revere, happier.

If something has the “potential for causing harm” and should be banned merely on the basis of that potential, we’d probably need to ban driving and elections altogether. They have both got way more potential to harm people than porn.

The need is to mitigate the influence of porn that can lead to potential crimes, while respecting the right of people to privately engage in whatever activity they will, as long as it harms no other. It isn’t as impossible as it sounds, but it will take more effort than a lazy dismissal of citizen rights.

Can something be done to prevent harm of porn without banning it?

I think it can. Here are some suggestions.

Porn is a personal matter and not government business for the most part. Porn does play a constructive role in the sex lives/education of many people. However, there are harmful types of porn that can and should be regulated – not necessarily banned, but mandatory warnings added, etc. “The following actions are illegal in most countries” is not unreasonable to expect before rape or child porn in a country where smoking depicted in a film requires absurd disclaimers.

Ads like “single moms want sex” should not be allowed – they create an extremely dangerous perception about single moms at large – for example – ads should explicitly advertise either sex workers or sex products/services and not identities as a whole that may not be associated with a default of public sexual permissiveness.

A country the size of India has tremendous clout – if we legislate that porn depicting acts of violence or pedophilia must carry mandatory legal warnings or that extreme insertions type porn carries “don’t try this at home” type warning, it helps viewers in a country with next to no dialogue on sex get a more realistic understanding of what the acts mean beyond jerking off. If we legislate that failing to provide such warnings, the site will get blocked, all sites doing business will not want to lose it to competition. It will be more effective than banning porn at large, as the availability of healthy porn and appropriate caution with violent porn will help shape public perception toward a more consensual view of sexuality as a whole.

The nation will be encouraged to have a far healthier view of sexuality if, instead of panicking over every instance of sex, we can encourage a healthy Sex Industry that educates, affirms rights of all, and protects from exploitation.

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Vidyut

Vidyut is a blogger on socio-political issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms.

5 thoughts on “The porn dilemma. To ban, or not to ban, is the question.

  • August 9, 2015 at 12:43 am
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    Vidyut….good that women r being so open abt porn….shows they r expressing themselves. But the ban should be for porn on the net in India. Since the infamous DPS girl’s MMS went viral almost 10 yrs ago…a lot of porn stuff came up in India…..most of the matter uploaded was about videos where the women were forced..raped…or hidden cams…. families have been ruined…girls committed suicides as a result……. the problem is our huge and contrast population who r suddenly exposed to something they desired but didnt have access to…..
    Porn in the west is a industry…..they have had a porn culture much before the internet was there….. they have professional actors…festivals… competitions….. be honest and view all the stuff uploaded from India….. porn is always available in the store. Go and get a porn dvd and watch it….. but please accept the fact that the camera has gone into the wrong hands…. videos of women bathing…..buying vegetables….just walking on the street….and focusing on their body parts have been uploaded….. with 24 hrs access to sex…it becomes difficult for police in any country to control all those tightening of muscles….. and please…we have such a huge population and so it is utmost important to ban porn sites in India. Or atleast the uploading on pornsites should immediately stop….

    Reply
  • August 5, 2015 at 12:47 am
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    In thos country decisions are take more by someones fancy, not based on hard scientific fact. Look at ministers comments on reasons of rape.Am surprised, what makes them expert no the subject? Has any one in govt asked the researchers to research the subject collect data. How many rapists in the country have even access to internet. So then it could be just a PR exercise for party image. If the problem don’t get solved they will then put the blam on society, absolving the leadership for kneejerk, out of hat solutions.
    If the objective is to help traficking, conditions of women in that trade, then too where is the expert research guiding govt actions. Will legalizing that prostitution help them is this not the bigger solution. When will the govt. action be based on scientific guidance.

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  • August 4, 2015 at 10:49 am
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    Vidyut, for whom are you writing? Certainly not for the human rights of the women trafficked and prostituted in porn. “The secret bans of websites are a non-transparent and undemocratic undermining of the rights of citizens” (and by ‘citizens’ you mean men) to what? To objectify and to view women being de-humanised? Porn is becoming more and more violent. These days women in porn are subjected to penises thrust down their throats until they gag or vomit, fist fucking, anal without condoms, gang bangs. Porn actresses in the US have an average life span of 36. Many commit suicide. They are having sex with men they find repulsive, having to put up with smelly, sweaty men who don’t give a rat’s about them. What about their ‘human rights’?

    You then talk about “violation of a citizen’s right to personal liberty as enshrined” without once mentioning the violation of the rights of any of the women who appear in porn.
    India: one of the most sexist countries in the world; where the men’s rights movement is massive; home of sati; where it’s still frowned upon for women to own property; where female children are raped and then left for dead; home of dowry and honour killings. Do you want me to go on?

    Women in porn are degraded. There are no occupational health and safety safeguards. The agent, for the most part, takes 50% of the cut. Of any other ’employment’ porn stars have the highest rates of hospital admissions for viruses, bacterial infections, AIDS, internal injuries. They are tossed aside after being used and abused. Demand for younger girls is increasing. Many of these girls are trafficked. You would be better to speak out for the oppressed in your society, whether they be women or poor.

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    • August 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm
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      By citizens, I mean citizens if I wanted to say men, I’d say men. 60% of India’s traffic is porn related. 30% of India’s porn watchers are women.

      You may be astonished to know that all sexual exploitation looks pretty much the same. Women raped suffer, regardless of whether their profession is porn or medicine. Banning porn cannot stop the creation or consumption of porn. So let us not even pretend the ban is a magic wand.

      There is plenty of porn that does not rely on humilation and exploitation. Allowing porn to be made legally actually will allow for monitoring, proper consent forms and more. Sex performers will have rights to file complaints like any other workplace rape.

      Here’s the deal with sexual exploitation. Prostitutes are often trafficked, as are domestic workers. Domestic workers are often sexually harassed and raped as well. You cannot keep outsourcing the work of law to bans. Or are you saying we must ban domestic workers as well? Sexual assault must be prosecuted. This is an independent issue on whether the sexual assault is because the woman is a porn star or sex worker or a pious housewife or a corporate professional forced into a “compromise” for a promotion.

      The idea that hiding a problem out of sight solves it is not just naive, it is dishonest. As though sexual abuse is limited to porn. What other professions have you recommended bans on? Women in pretty much every profession get raped and women who suffer marital rape don’t even have an alternative to refuse OR prosecute rapists by law – unlike porn performers. Not to mention bride trafficking, bride sharing and sexual abuse with trafficked brides is common. Should we ban marriage as well?

      Let us not pretend.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm
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    Agree entirely with these points. As am sure most rational people would do too. Sadly, I think our country has suddenly seen a burgeoning of educated idiots, who don’t understand a thing about politics, discrimination and are totally disconnected.
    I am talking about the average city office goer, who still believes BJP is the true blue liberal party and that the ban on porn is for the betterment of the soceity. These idiots abound all our city spaces and control most of our social capital. The dream of a liberal, open India is long dead, thanks to them

    Reply

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