I want to focus on the pre-Web imagination of porn that Vaswani and his endorsers are trying to impose upon the rest of us. There is a common misunderstanding that all porn is the same porn, no matter what the format, medium and aesthetics of representations. Or in other words, a homogenising presumption is that erotic fiction and fantasies, pictures of naked people in a magazine, adult films produced by entertainment houses, and user-generated videos on the internet are the same kind of porn. However, as historical legal debates and public discussions have shown us, what constitutes porn is specific to the technologies that produce it. There was a time when DH Lawrence’s iconic novel now taught in undergraduate university courses — Lady Chatterley’s Lover — was deemed pornographic and banned in India. In more recent times, the nation was in uproar at the Choli ke peeche song from Khalnayak which eventually won awards for its lyrics and choreography.
In all the controversy, there has so far been a “broadcast imagination” of how pornography gets produced, consumed and distributed. There is a very distinct separation of us versus them when it comes to pornography. They produce porn. They distribute porn. They push porn down our throats (that was probably a poor choice of words) by spamming us and buying Google adwords to infect our search results. We consume porn. And all we need to do is go and regulate, like we do with Bollywood, the central management and distribution mechanism so that the flow of pornography can be curbed. This is what I call a broadcast way of thinking, where the roles of the performers, producers, consumers and distributors of pornography are all distinct and can be regulated.
However, within the murky spaces of the World Wide Web, the scenario is quite different. Internet pornography is not the same as availability of pornography on the internet. True, the digital multimedia space of sharing and peer-2-peer distribution has made the internet the largest gateway to accessing pornographic objects which are produced through commercial production houses. However, the internet is not merely a way of getting access to existing older forms of porn. The internet also produces pornography that is new, strange, unprecedented and is an essential part of the everyday experience of being digitally connected and networked into sociality.
The recent controversies about the former congressman from New York, Anthony Weiner, sexting —