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Porn has come under extensive criticism from feminists as well. I find this scary. Accusations vary from porn resulting in rape to porn being born from an exploitation of women. I disagree with a lot of these accusations and agree with a few, but do not see blocking of porn as an answer. More importantly, I find it alarming that feminism can selectively abdicate interest in the agency of women.

Who decides whether and what porn should be banned?

A large part of the feminist view is that men deciding what harms women is a problem. A sizeable chunk of feminists also thinks porn should be banned because it harms women. Very few people actually ask porn watching women or performers. In my view, people who don't want to watch porn are not required to watch it, just like people not interested in cricket are not forced to follow scores on cricket websites. Thus, there is little question of porn being imposed on people and the primary stakeholders would be producers, performers and viewers - mostly not consulted in deliberations on bans. Other stakeholders could be law enforcement, social workers and doctors working with the industry and so on. Few, if any women enjoy porn that is violent, but there are women viewers as well as performers who like rough sex porn. Our efforts to figure out a way to reduce the harms of porn don't consult them. In my view not only is this authoritarian, bypassing stakeholders is unlikely to result in effective ways of dealing with the issue.

Can porn cause harm?

There is harm related to porn including addiction, unhealthy expectations about sex and violent or non-consensual sex. On the darker side is a sordid saga of drug abuse among porn performers, sexual abuse and allegedly, trafficking women to make porn, blackmail and more. Extreme and hardcore acts or object insertions can result in people injuring themselves. Those added to a rape can result in serious injury and worse. They can give men all sorts of misconceptions about what women like during sex. And this is "legal" porn (as in not depicting criminal acts) - not even necessarily violent porn. There is also little doubt that a lot of mainstream porn is too aggressive and disrespectful of women for women's tastes.

So are many Bollywood films. I'd argue songs like "Khambe jaisi khadi hain" starring the conscience of the nation, Aamir Khan, with "heroes" pursuing reluctant actresses, heartily idolized by cheering and jeering mob of sidekicks have inspired more non-consensual  sexual pursuit of women than porn films ever will. Catcalls and whistles from the balcony during rape/molestation/erotic scenes are embarrassing cinema traditions. When the heroine can slap the hero for harassing her, and discover at the end of the film that she was wrong for misjudging him. I would argue that public figures and people in positions of authority that excuse rape and hold victims responsible for "asking for it" do more harm than porn. Because these are cultural influences, rather than private activities.

What are the things already being done about "bad" porn?

Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, Internet Watch Foundation and FBI track and seize servers that run child pornography. Google does not want revenge porn to appear in search results. There are other initiatives by ordinary netizens like Anonymous who are relentless in their efforts in their pursuit of child abusers and child porn. Efforts like feminist porn, Porna porn or sex-positive porn are growing rapidly as more and more people turn toward more "real" depictions of sex rather than aggressive porn that "gets off" on humiliating women. Bishakha Datta puts it well in her fine article on the porn ban, "If we applied the free speech argument to porn, we wouldn’t ban porn. We’d fight porn with more porn, make more porn for women." She is planning to create a porn-o-meter service to rate porn for being child, women and law friendly that depicts women enjoying and controlling the sexual action as well. Top rated videos of most popular sites are increasingly of the kind where women participate and enjoy the sex.

Above prejudices and ethics is hard business

A part of the problem is also the "quality", as a pragmatic porn performer who does not want to be named, told me. If a director fails to convey pleasure and emotional connect it can look alarmingly indifferent to a woman's pleasure. A woman's pleasure can be more subtle to portray and capture than a man's very visible orgasm. It is also no coincidence that most films with good production values and acting and direction also have sex that looks enjoyable for all participants.

While the audience was mostly men, this did not matter so much, but with the rise in viewership by women, this has started mattering. If women friendly porn has demand, it will be created. And it should be, because as Pu La Deshpande had said in his speech celebrating the 75th show of the outrageous Sangeet Vastraharan, "There is only one answer to inappropriate things and that is doing what is appropriate in an excellent manner."

Here is Erika Lust, who makes porn videos talking about the need for porn to change.

Porn is hardly a new concern. Other countries already have laws that the biggest sites have to comply with to remain accessible to viewers in order to profit. Any porn site with noticeable viewership already explicitly requires performers to be of adult age and to sign consent forms. They remove reported criminal porn - because they are here to do business from the desires of people, not protect criminals at the cost of their own business and reputation. The question of why aggression with woman turns men on - whether as a fantasy or in real life is a question beyond the scope of this piece.

Does porn symbolize crimes against women?

Meena Kandasamy, a feminist has published an article in which she argues against the porn ban, yet declares porn to be against women's rights (then why should it not be banned?)

I do think that the pornographic industry overwhelmingly represents NOT freedom but its opposite, the enslavement of women's bodies, the casualisation of paedophilia, the trivialisation of rape, the culture of trophy videos of rape, and all this, on top of being one of the most exploitative global sex industries that has trafficking, forced prostitution, abuse and near-slavery ingrained in it.

I invite anyone to check out the top porn sites to see if pedophilia or rape is present at all (whether casualized, trivialized or in another form) let alone "overwhelmingly represents". Women who participate willingly in BDSM cannot be considered to be "enslaved" beyond the sexual role play. I dare say that if the top visited sites don't carry it, most porn viewers never come across it. If you specifically search for child or rape porn, you will find it regardless of blocks, because if there is something you can find on the internet, you can find it around a block as well.

Conditions of porn performers

There are porn performers who reach the top of name and fame as performers and go on to produce their own content and there are those that do a brief stint and reach a dead end - like the bulk of acting and modeling work. There are plenty of "stars" speaking candidly about the profession, including their sex lives on and off screen when their partner is also a co-star; interacting with fans in an extremely candid manner, including doing Reddit IAmAs, where anyone can ask them anything and answering questions on Quora. There are candid Reddit IAmAs of partners of porn performers who speak of dedication to their work and career; the "work" of porn and sex being different things and even being committed to monogamy off screen.

Technology is killing mainstream porn but empowering the talent. It cuts out the middle man and let's almost anyone work from home. ~ Tory Lane

It is a career choice with its occupational hazards. Not all that different from a film star talking about how it isn't all about glamour but days of slogging doing retakes after retakes.

A construction worker abuses her body for far less money and comfort. Do we call for bans on construction work or coal mines because workers fall to their die, get health problems or abuse their body beyond endurance for a pittance? Is it not supremely ironic that feminists who would otherwise object to a woman being measured by her vagina end up condemning entire professions chosen by women because the part of the body overworked is the vagina? Is being a woman all about being a vagina then, that breaking your back ferrying gravel and cement is no reason for a ban but a far less brutal life as a sex performer is? Or is it that there is nothing to be outraged about a woman's sexuality unless she happens to earn from it?

This is not to say there is no ugly side. There are sex performers who get exploited, who face rude costars and suffer unpleasant sex from both the physical stress of postures for camera rather than comfort as well as brutal partners with usually larger than average penises. They speak of the abuse and humiliation of derogatory co-stars, being penetrated roughly, of drugs and exploiters. Why does the "victim" return to do another film? Performers make compromises they later regret because of the lure of money, like any of us. Women have had sex in ways that strips them of dignity for all kinds of reasons ranging from promotions to desperate attempts at preventing husbands from straying.

Defining the whole by a part

But more importantly, it is not so different from the million other people who "bitch" about their jobs, even as they continue to do them. Go to a corporate office, there will be bitter sense of victimization by colleagues and seniors considered to be manipulative, exploitative or otherwise unfair. Of bosses who will push employees beyond endurance to get the "work" done. Of work pressures that lead to suicides. Students commit suicide from exam pressures. Farmers commit suicide because they cannot afford to live. Bigggest common factor in cases of marital rape is marriage. Ban marriage? Every profession, occupation has a terrible side, but porn and prostitution appear to be two where a professional cannot talk about a bad day at work or problems they face without it becoming the "truth" of the industry.

What about the agency of women?

Whatever happened of the power of women to make choices including their own mistakes? If a woman chooses to wear skimpy clothes and walk on the streets of Delhi at midnight and gets raped, do we ask for roads to be closed to public after dark? If a porn performer faces abuse, why is it that instead of insisting that criminals be brought to book, we act like the ministers we condemn and condemn porn instead of the specific criminals? There is some preference within people to prevent porn, just like there is a preference to prevent women out on the streets among those who would deny them agency.

Concerns about Indian porn performers

That said, while I have no data, my perception is that the Indian porn performers do much worse than those in countries where it can be produced legally. I believe this is because performing contracts, mandatory health checks, legal status allow legal porn performers to build proper fan followings and improve  working conditions in ways that they find safe in ways Indian performers cannot. Indeed a lot of Indian porn I have seen appears to be little more than a shoot of a sexual encounter with a prostitute with little production values or direction beyond showing sex. If porn performing were legal in India, many prostitutes would be able to move out of prostitution and dictate who they would have sex with for an income and on what terms. They would be able to create and sell their own porn instead of being videotaped by profiteers who exploited them for their own profit. They would be able to choose producers who offered working conditions that did not exploit them.

What can the government do?

If we really want to do something about porn, in order to prevent exploitation of women, the need is not to ban it, but to legalize porn production so that working standards may be enforced, production companies can be formed and held accountable for the age and consent of performers in videos they produce and more. So that a porn performer may be able to file a case for rape just like any model can, if she gets forced to do things she has not agreed to do. I have often argued that instead of prudish bans on sex related activities like prostitution or porn, India needs to encourage a thriving sex industry that allows the government to crack down on exploitation and crime, because professionals will be interested in maintaining their licences to operate. Instead of fighting a token war against a tide of people interested in sex and profiteers thriving on exploiting women to provide it, the government can turn the bulk of consumers and providers on their side and really create conditions that deter crimes and exploitation.

[tweetthis]The only answer to inappropriate things is doing what is appropriate well. ~ PuLa[/tweetthis]

If porn is legal, it will become easier to monitor human trafficking, because the larger production houses that earn the most will have a vested interest in remaining legal and focusing on the money and they will have a way to be legal. Smaller operators in turn will not be able to earn enough from meager revenues from marginalized visibility to make the risks of crime worthwhile. It may not stop crimes altogether, but it will most definitely help to make them unnecessary as well as serve as strong deterrent for the vast majority.

One strength the government has, is the same one it exploits when it profits from FDI. The size of India's population is an asset when it comes to being a market. If the government can identify porn that encourages unhealthy attitudes about women and consent, it can pass a law requiring such content to carry disclaimers For example:

  • The following material is a fictional depiction of activities that are illegal in civilized countries - for enacted rape porn or "forced sex" etc
  • The actions depicted in this video can cause injury and are performed by practiced professionals. Don't try them at home - for extreme insertion porn.
  • The women in this video have consented to participate in a fictional depiction of dominance over women. Such actions without consent are illegal worldwide. - for rough sex, domination, BDSM, etc

Given the size of India's population, if sites that don't comply are blocked, it will result in a competition for the market share and allow the government to actively combat harmful messages potentially conveyed by porn.

The need is to not measure porn by the ethical standards of prudes with malice toward the industry, but by the standards of those engaging with it.

1

When the state takes extreme steps that make no sense, I get curious. 's hanging being scheduled for the 30th of this month, while the key accused of the blasts are still at large is one such bizarre move. So I went around hunting for information on what else was going on. Here are some of the things I found out. They raise more questions than answers.

Chhota Shakeel tried to kill Chhota Rajan in Australia

On the 2nd of July, Times of published a report that described intercepted conversations between Chhota Shakeel and a key Rajan aide, who was convinced to reveal Chhota Shakeel's whereabouts in Newcastle, Australia. Times of India claims to have a copy of the intercept. A team from middle east was allegedly immediately sent to Australia. However, Chhota Rajan had already escaped after receiving a fortuitous tip off. The article also describes the 's relentless determination to eliminate an aged Chhota Rajan who is no longer a threat to them and describes previous attacks by Dawood's men to eliminate Chhota Rajan.

Dawood was involved in Chhota Shakeel's attempt on Chhota Rajan

Another report in the Times of India, also on the 2nd July said that a voice in the background, heard during a pause in the intercepted conversation between Chhota Shakeel and Rajan's aide was that of as confirmed by layered voice analysis. What the voice said is not reported.

This report also gives us an idea of the approximate date of the attempted on Chhota Rajan when it speaks of Chhota Shakeel being on the move for a month since mid-April when he went to Newcastle for the attack on Chhota Rajan. The report presumes he dropped off the radar after the intercepted conversations or the intelligence agencies would have approached the to arrest Shakeel (but not Rajan?).

*********************

Some background: Chhota Rajan was among key men of Dawood's gang before he split from Dawood due to internal rivalry and differences that got cemented after the 1993 Mumbai blasts. After the split, he escaped to Dubai with the help of Indian intelligence agencies in return for information on Dawood Ibrahim's operations. Intelligence agencies have also allegedly helped Chhota Rajan evade attempts on his life since then. Current NSA and then ex- head, Ajit Doval had also been caught once with Chhota Rajan's hit man Vicky Malhotra. Chhota Shakeel is still Dawood's key man. Chhota Rajan and Dawood Ibrahmin have since been bitter and bloody rivals with constant attempts to eliminate each other. Among India's plans for Dawood Ibrahmin remain a possibility for Chhota Rajan taking Dawood out.

An article in the Daily Mail News from November claims NSA Ajit Doval is forming links with ISIS to encourage an ISIS - TTP collaboration to destabilize Pakistan.

Given that Indian Intelligence agencies are unlikely to leave copies of intelligence intercepts lying around in public places or something, Times of India clearly got the tip off from them about a failed operation "early in the year" - as in, the news was not fresh.

Yasin Bhatkal could get help from Damascus

On 3rd July, 2015, a report in the Times of India stated that Yasin Bhatkal had told his wife that he would get help from Damascus to escape jail. This would seem unrelated to the Yakub Memon issue, except... Yasin Bhatkal used to allegedly be financed by Muzzaffar Kola of the Dossa gang which reported to..... Dawood Ibrahim.

Last year, Yasin Bhatkal's lawyer had received threats from underworld don Ravi Pujari who is currently said to be in Australia and is close to.... Chhota Rajan. Yasin Bhatkal had hardly made any news for months before this.

Chhota Shakeel reveals that Dawood Ibrahim wanted to return to India after 1993 blasts

On 4th July 2015, Times of India published a report of a telephonic interview with Chhota Shakeel in which Shakeel alleged "When we wanted to come back after 1993, you people, your government didn't allow. Bhai had himself spoken that time to Ram Jethmalani, that too in London... baat ho gayi thi... But your ministry... that Advani played the game,". This naturally led to a flurry of accusations and denials.

Other Chhota Shakeel quotes from the article:

"When agencies can hear me plotting against him (Rajan) and know where he is, why don't they get him picked up? Has he not killed people? Is he not a criminal?"

"Every time a new government comes, they make the first statement about us. Usko leke aayenge... ghus ke laayenge... Kya halwa hai? Bakri ka bachcha samajh ke rakha hai kya? Lana hai toh usko (Rajan) lao na,"

"He ran away like a mouse," Shakeel said. He claimed that not one but three key members of Rajan's group had crossed over to his side because of their confidence that they would be taken care of. "I look after even the family of Rajan's aides who had been killed by members of D-Company," (On the attack planned on Chhota Rajan reported by Times of India on the 2nd)

"Haven't killed anyone in Mumbai in the past 5-6 years. I don't want to kill innocents. He (Rajan) brings shooters from UP and gets people killed in our name. I want to continue my business. I invest money and take it back." From another report of the same interview.

On Chhota Raja's image as a Hindu gangster "This is 's job. Take him in the army, send him on the border if he is a patriot. (Patriot hai to army me le lo na... border pe bhejo na! Mulq ke liye kaam karega. Hindu don ka concept logo ka... media ka hai. He has killed all Hindus for money,"

On whether he thinks Indian intelligence agencies are soft on Chhota Rajan "We don't care. They can support him all they want, we will find him and kill him."

* An earlier interview by Chhota Shakeel to Rediff (after their first attempt on Chhota Rajan's life in Bangkok) establishes that the D-Company sees him as a traitor who grew large with their favor and betrayed them as well as stole gold from them.

** The part about Chhota Rajan killing Hindus in India is true. Among recent high profile murders is that of Jyotirmoy Dey, an investigative journalist working for MiD DAY. He is wanted in India in many criminal cases related to extortion, , smuggling, drug trafficking and film finance.

*** Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel are no saints either.

Chhota Rajan still in Australia

On the 5th of June, Times of India published another news report citing an unnamed source in the intelligence agencies that Chhota Rajan was still in Australia and had not left Australia (as reported in previous piece). Chhota Shakeel also was apparently aware of this fact and had not called off his hit men tracking Chhota Rajan in Australia.

Yasin Bhatkal claims threat to life and demands 24/7 surveillance

On 6th July, 2015, Yasin Bhatkal pled before a special court for NIA cases for CCTVs to be installed in his and for constant surveillance not only in jail, but also when being moved to court and back for hearings. Outside the jail, he pulled a letter from his pocket and threw it at reporters standing there. In the letter, he denies telling his wife about any help from Damascus or for escaping jail and fears that he could be killed in an encounter staging his escape.

refused to entertain a plea to bring Dawood Ibrahim back

8th July, 2015. The Supreme Court dismissed a plea by a previous Madhya Pradesh to bring Dawood Ibrahim back to India and that a special investigating team headed by SC judge be set up to probe why indian authorities were unwilling in bringing tje don back to country to face trial in various cases.

Daya Nayak suspended

9th July, 2015. Daya Nayak of the 83 encounters and disproportionate wealth and dubious dealings was suspended after he refused to go to Nagpur after he was transferred, citing a threat to his life.

warrant for Yakub Memon

On 15th July, 2015, a TADA court signed a death warrant for Yakub Memon, even as his mercy petition was pending in court.

Supreme Court turns down Yakub Memon's mercy petition.

22nd July 2015 Supreme Court turns down Yakub Memon's mercy petition "paving the way for his hanging" as expressed by the media.

White House Bar was demolished

28th July 2015, The White House dance bar, run by Ganesh Kamath, understood to be affiliated with Chhota Rajan's gang and owned by Meenakshi Singh, widow of Chhota Rajan's affiliate O P Singh, was demolished.

Supreme Court turned down Yakub Memon's curative petition

29th July The Supreme court turned down Yakub Memon's curative petition. The governor turned it down as well. The President's decision is awaited, but the indications are that the MHA is recommending against it. Other eminent persons are seeking an audience for another petition.

Yakub Memon hanged

30th July 2015. Yakub Memon was hanged early in the morning, on his 53rd birthday in Nagpur jail.

Is Yakub Memon's death warrant a message?

Numerous reports indicate that after the came to power this time, the gangwar is heating up again (if at all it ever cooled). Ajit Doval has a long term mission of bringing Dawood Ibrahim down. The D-Company, on the other hand seems to have stepped up the heat on Chhota Rajan, perceiving him to be an asset of the Indian intelligence (apart from their usual issues with him).

Yakub Memon is the brother of Tiger Memon, though the only place his name appears in relation with the underworld is the case where he's now got the death sentence. Both gangsters and their gangs have extensive networks in India. For example I later discovered from a source that the illegal White House dance bar, where the journalists were attacked and Raghavendra Dube got killed is a front for Chhota Rajan's activities. The source speculated that the journalists could have been attacked for trying to extort advertising revenue (as the too had accused) from the biggies of extortion, so to say. Four aides of Chhota Rajan were arrested from Dahisar by Mumbai police for extorting 15 crores from a businessman.

Ram Jethmalani stated that opposed the move to bring Dawood Ibrahim back to India when he had offered to return, fearing that their connections with him would be exposed. Sharad Pawar claimed that he refused Dawood Ibrahim's offer to return because one of the conditions of his return was that he would not go to jail! Apparently it was one thing to break a promise to Yakub Memon, sidekick with dubious culpability in actual attacks and quite another to bring the kingpin Dawood Ibrahim to India under false pretenses and then break a promise. South Africa had provided a RAW officer intel on fake identities used by Dawood Ibrahim as early as 1994. V Balachandran shares that the Indian government took his report and sat on it to date.

The Sunday guardian reports that according to US intelligence, 26/11 would not have been possible without Dawood Ibrahim's extensive network and contacts in India. Yet not only did an investigation into the Indian angle never happen, the sole attacker captured was put to death in a clandestine manner. Various people had raised questions around this at various times, from the Mossad conspiracy angle brought up by Great Game India blog to questions around Karkare's death and random anomalies like reports of a woman accompanying an attacker or white skinned attackers. Who was being protected and why?

Chhota Rajan indeed owes his survival to Indian intelligence agencies who are rumored to even tip off his people about raids by Mumbai police and seem to be counting on him to eliminate Dawood Ibrahim, even as threats, murders and crimes by his people in India mount. India has never issued a red corner notice against him, regardless of his crimes. Maharashtra government had briefly made a noise about asking to issue a red corner notice against him in the wake of the high profile murder of Jyotirmoy Dey by his hit men, and that news appears to have sunk without a trace, since. Indian intelligence clearly knew where Chhota Rajan was, when Chhota Shakeel called the hit on him. Yet the news reports only indicate that Shakeel would be arrested with the help of Australian government if he hadn't dropped off the radar. Why was there no question of Chhota Rajan being arrested?

These are both dangerous gangs that have committed crimes in India engaged in a blood feud.

Is the Yakub Memon death warrant or Yasin Bhatkal's claim of threat to his life in a staged encounter, coming on the heels of Chhota Shakeel's attempts on Chhota Rajan a message "to whomsoever-it-may-concern" to lay off Chhota Rajan "or your people could die"? Is it a way of getting Tiger Memon to pressure his associates to back off from their chase of Chhota Rajan?

More importantly for India, is our system becoming a pawn in a gang war?

Note: I am no expert on the underworld, and this is merely a compilation from news reports in the public domain.