The recent government decision to ban porn sites has had a castrating effect on many people, yours truly included. As I write this, it is fifteen past midnight and in another laptop window, YouPorn is playing. I am in Hyderabad, and at present, the site is running unhindered here. Thanks to the government for small mercies!
For me, porn is simply a fantasy and has nothing to do with my emotions and love for my wife who is in Guwahati right now. To be honest, Sunny Leone in a skimpy outfit has the same effect on me as an actress in a porn movie.
Of course, I grew up in an age where there was no internet, and our sexual releases were confined to shady picture "handbooks" of copulating couples. Getting a hand on a copy was an adventure, and whoever managed to do so was a hero in our class. The risks of being caught by an elder or senior in our small town were aplenty. You had to be really brave to walk up to the corner bookshop, patiently wait till it was empty of other customers, ask the proprietor in hushed tones about your requirement, and then hide it under your shirt before shuffling off hastily.
Now porn is just a click away and some of it is downright disturbing. But is it true that porn is hurting our society? What is the evidence of that?
1. No empirical evidence that porn causes sexual violence: So far, there is no comprehensive or empirical study to suggest that porn has affected society in an adverse way -- be it sex crimes, sex addiction, breaking relationships or harming children. Is it thus, an exaggeration of some biased minds? In fact recent studies, such as this one, have found that the theory of porn causing violence has little merit, suggesting, albeit less emphatically, that it may even diminish violent behaviour.
2. It's an important release outlet: For many adolescents and adults alike, porn is an outlet that satiates their surging hormones. If banned, the fear is that contrary to the logic, there will be a surge in sex crimes and other related unsocial activities. According to this article in the Scientific American there has in fact been a dip in sexual crimes since the advent of the internet in all its smutty glory. The article also describes a study that found that those who attempt to repress their desire to view porn actually add to sexual problems.
3. It's a form of entertainment: Porn is entertainment -- though of a hush-hush kind, especially in India. Personally, I love it for the novelty. Some of the acrobatics are worth watching for their athletic merit alone!
4. It can actually help consenting adults: Many couples watch it together to spice up their sex lives. Doctors even "prescribe" it at times to couples who are struggling with their sex life. There's a reason for this - research shows that couples who watch porn together are actually happier and more satisfied with each other.
5. Billion dollar industry: Porn is a billion-dollar industry in the West. It is legal and there are major studios that produce good quality content, with all required insurance and precautions. In India however, it is done on the sly and the videos look very amateurish and the "actors" may not work under the best conditions.
6. It is hardly a priority issue: There are many vices in the society which need greater attention -- drugs, corruption, health, sanitation, water. They affect more people than porn potentially can. Effectively, online porn is enjoyed only by a miniscule percentage of India's population that has access to the internet.
So I dare say, let pornography survive. We can continue to debate the content, including the portrayal of women, the merits of censoring violence and so on. But by banning it altogether, we will be pushing ourselves into the dark and regressive ages.
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