The internet produces pornography that is new, strange and unprecedented. How can you regulate it?
We have shared it with our friends. We have watched it with our lovers. We have discussed it with our children and talked about it with our partners. It is in our bedrooms, hidden in sock drawers. It is in our laptops, in a folder marked “Miscellaneous”. It is in our cellphones and tablets, protected under passwords. It is the biggest reason why people have learned to clean their browsing history and cookies from their browsers. Whether we go into surreptitious shops to buy unmarked CDs or trawl through Torrent and user-generated content sites in the quest of a video, there is no denying the fact that it has become a part of our multimedia life. Even in countries like India, where consumption and distribution of pornography are punished by law, we know that pornography is rampant. With the rise of the digital technologies of easy copy and sharing, and the internet which facilitates amateur production and anonymous distribution, pornography has escaped the industrial market and become one of the most intimate and commonplace practices of the online world.
In fact, if Google trend results are to be believed, Indians are among the top 10 nationalities searching for pornography daily. Even a quick look at our internet history tells us that it has all been about porn. The morphed pictures of a naked Pooja Bhatt adorned the covers of Stardust in the late 1990s, warning us that the true potential of Photoshop had been realised. The extraordinary sensation of the Delhi Public School MMS case which captured two underage youngsters in a grainy sexcapade announced the arrival of user-generated porn in a big way. The demise of Savita Bhabhi — India’s first pornographic graphic novel — is still recent enough for us to remember that the history of the internet in India is book-ended by porn and censorship.
Recent discussions on pornography have been catalysed by a public interest litigation requesting for a ban on internet pornography filed in April by Kamlesh Vaswani. Whether Vaswani’s observations on what porn can make us do stem from his own personal epiphany or his self-appointed role as our moral compass is a discussion that merits its own special space. Similarly, a debate on the role, function, and use of pornography in a society is complex, rich and not for today.