The Total Absurdity Of This Online Porn Ban

by Mallika Nawal - Aug 9, 2015 06:49 PM +05:30 IST
The Total Absurdity Of This Online Porn Ban

Did Ravana watch online porn before he decided to abduct Sita? Or was it online porn that incited Duryodhana and Dushasana to try to disrobe Draupadi in public? This ban was ridiculous!

Alright…ladies and gentlemen…boys and girls…debased and debauched dudes and dudettes of the democracy…and general perverts – gather around! It’s that time of the year again, when the government will merrily waste the taxpayers’ money and WE – the taxpayers – will read and write about it. That’s right, the discourse in India charts a simple course – first the ban, then the banter.

I am sure by now you would all be aware of the great big catastrophe that rocked India and Indians last week – #PORNBAN.

Even as the nation grappled to come to terms that their favourite porn sites had been banned, many took to social media to express their well-founded outrage. After all, in a nation that prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy, this ban on porn was seen by many – and rightfully so! – as an encroachment into personal space. After all, who gave the government the right to decide what I will or will not watch in the privacy of my home? [By the way, let me first set the record straight – we are not talking about child pornography here, which is deplorable; but some good ol’ adult-on-adult amorous action.]

In fact, the whole incident kinda reminded me of a concluding quote by Larry King in the popular spy-thriller flick, Enemy of the State:

‘How do we draw the line – draw the line between protection of national security, obviously the government’s need to obtain intelligence data, and the protection of civil liberties, particularly the sanctity of my home? You’ve got no right to come into my home!’  

Hence, as I sat there looking at the bright white screen with the following message scrawled across the page – ‘blocked as per the directions received from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India’ – I smiled in amusement and wondered if I should instead book a ticket for Madhya Pradesh, the revered site of the ever-popular Khajuraho temples aka The Holy Temple of Pornographic Sculptures – oops, I mean – Erotic Art (let me not resort to blasphemy lest the government books me for indecent behaviour in public).

(Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
(Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

But then I paused…wouldn’t I be wasting my hard-earned money? After all, the government – by then! – would have obviously demolished the entire “erotic” temple complex and the rubble really wouldn’t reveal much. No, Khajuraho couldn’t offer any release.

As I sat – contemplating! – I was jolted by another brainwave. Maybe, the government was gearing up for a BANFIRE. What’s a banfire, you ask! Well, it’s a “coined” portmanteau of “ban” plus “bonfire”…or in the present context, burning the banned book!

Of course, if you ask me what book, I’m going to beat you with that very book…and trust me, the hard-cover treasured thick-set copy of Kama Sutra that I possess, makes for a powerful weapon indeed. Then again, maybe its time as a formidable weapon is passé, it now itself was in dire need of protection. [Damn…Why wasn’t I informed that The Third Reich was making a comeback?!?] That’s right people…you shall never find my copy! If you still want to ban a darn book – ban mine! Of course, before you go ahead with the banal banning, remember these words by Pansy Schneider-Horst: the only act that sells more books than a good banning is a good burning. Now go ahead, ban a book…any book!

Of course, this implicit ban on the explicit content – in this particular instance – was reserved for online content only. Do you know the pertinent section of the IT Act, under which the present ban was implemented? It’s rather curious to see the government hailing the flag of morality and slapping the ban under Section 69A (1) of the IT Act, which deals with the ‘Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through computer resource.’ The said section states: “Where the Central Government or any of its officer specially authorized by it in this behalf is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above…”

Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that watching pornographic content or reading pornographic literature or using Adult Friend Finder to satiate one’s carnal hunger does not pose a threat to India’s sovereignty or its integrity. It certainly does not pose a threat to its defense or its friendly relations with foreign states. Well, then – it’s obvious – the assumption (behind the ban) was clearly based on the fact that watching porn is a threat to public order and an incitement for one to commit a cognizable offence. Does this make any sense?

So, the government was apparently relying on Newton’s Third Law to jump to this foregone conclusion – Since You See, Hence You Do!

Unfortunately, there isn’t any reasonable rationale for this random rationalization. If [online] porn was the “cause” and crime [against women], the “action” – crimes against women would be zilch in a world where there was no online pornography. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be the case, given the narrative of rape and ravishment in myth and mythology. After all, did Ravana watch online porn before he decided to abduct Sita? Or was it online porn that incited Duryodhana and Dusshasana to try to disrobe Draupadi in public? Or was it because of online porn that rape runs rampant in Greek myth and lore?

To be honest, this pornography-violence causal link – that is often cited as the prime reason for such bans – hasn’t been established at yet. Hence, there isn’t enough reason for anyone to get their knickers in a twist – just yet. [On the contrary, there’s another fascinating trend that has been observed ever since the advent of internet (and free porn) – the steady year-on-year decline in birth rates. Wouldn’t it be amazing if porn was indeed the key to population control?]

To be honest, before the government bans in haste and repents at leisure, here’s some further food for thought: What if porn was good? What if porn functioned as a release mechanism? As reported by Larry Siegal in his book, Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies, convicted rapists and sex offenders apparently reported less exposure to pornography than a control group of non-offenders. Viewing prurient material may have the unintended side effect of satisfying erotic impulses that otherwise might result in more sexually aggressive behaviour.

To be perfectly honest…the verdict is in…and the jury is still out!

Mallika Nawal is a professor-cum-author, about to complete her doctorate in marketing from IIT Kharagpur. She is the author of three management books which serve as prescribed textbooks in several universities across India. She has taught at premier institutes like IIT Kharagpur, and S. P. Jain Centre of Management, Dubai.
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