Porn freedom in India versus US: Is comparison justified? – Part I

Editor’s Note: Received this article over email, author ‘anonymous’.

Porn in different societies has different meanings. It has different effects on different individuals as well. In the recent case of banning pornography in India the opposition to such a ban was made on the basis of a comparison between the two democratic societies of the USA and India. People who supported the withdrawal of the ban petition cited some common conventions practiced in the USA which makes banning or regulation of pornography an unrealizable adventure. This article will address the problems associated with such broad and sweeping comparisons between our democracy and the USA’s.

First of all there are some glaring differences between the society of India and the society of the USA. Also there are vast differences between an ordinary Indian and an ordinary American. Then, there are also differences between the political and judicial systems of both countries.

The differences between Indian and US society can be very easily seen and felt. Ours is a traditional society where even Modernity and Urbanism has bowed before centuries of traditions – leading to the growth of a truly multi-dimensional and complex system of social behaviors which we call the Indian society of today.

In our case, which is pornography these three following things can be readily observed in our society –

  1. a) Sex and nudity are considered taboos by the vast majority of people in India and even today especially for ordinary women it is not safe to openly flaunt her sexuality. This status is gradually changing but the change has been brought about by economic freedom and educational growth and not by mass courting of a ‘sexual revolution’ where attaining sexual gratification is both the means and ends to sexual freedom.

In the case of the USA, nudity and sex was never a taboo for the vast majority of the people. There were also movements that actually removed a lot of the social stigma associated with sex and nudity. It has been observed that economic freedom and education only played a small part in the scheme of things because the major factor was the attainment of ‘individual liberty’ which included sexual freedom.

  1. b) Indian society is less about the individual and more about the social. This is the very basic trait of India. This trait is universally accepted in India as a necessity and wherever this trait is absent or is lessened the growth of vices and crimes can be seen. This simple attribute of the Indian society has been responsible for providing the unique character and protection to the various social institutions like marriage and family.

In the USA the individual is at the center of the universe. The attainment and fulfillment of the needs and desires of the individual is paramount to social needs. This characteristic of the US society can be seen again and again in lot of cases. In the USA, the individual wins at the cost of society.

  1. c) In India there is the concept of ‘shame’. This shame is a form of social punishment reserved for deviants and it acts primarily against women. Shame is of paramount importance in Indian social life because it cannot be simply wished away nor it can be denied. This characteristic of the Indian society is immune to either urban or rural settings because it travels via kinship and can linger on for a very long period of time.

In the US society there is far less worry about societal shame. Shame is not cared for and when required it is reserved for the perpetrator and not the victim. Such distinction is not made in Indian society. It is also not the right time to discuss whether this is good or bad but point has to be made that it exists as reality only in Indian society and not in US society. Shame, like fear, can also make a person do unspeakable things.

These three differences between Indian and US society should be understood by looking at three more realities that exists in Indian society –

In Indian society women are not at par with men, especially in social and religious capacities.

Women in India are more prone to violence stemming from online sexual abuse or from online ‘shaming’.

India is not a very safe place for women and the onus of protection ultimately lies on the woman herself.

Note- it is not in the scope of the article to argue whether this is good or bad. But none can deny that as of today this is the reality on the ground.

Against the backdrop of such harsh realities let us look at the case of pornography.

In the USA today, there is a major concern about the proliferation of Online Pornography and whatever consequences it may eventually bring. The major works emanating from the USA today suggests that porn is not only a dehumanizing anti-woman phenomenon but is also a moral and a public health crisis. There are studies done in the USA that have linked pornography to rape or to the mental conditioning to rape, to human trafficking, to torture, to psychological impairment, to physical ailments, to child abuse, to marital discord, to aversion to religion, to sexualization of children, to indecent and immoral behavior, to public nuisance, to prostitution, to domestic violence etc. Yet, the anti-pornography movement is weak in the USA because the proponents of pornography successfully connected porn with the ‘freedom of expression’ and exploration of individual sexuality and also successfully ‘normalized’ porn as a gentlemen’s passion.

On the other hand, in India pornography was everyone’s little secret and had remained so until the advent of Online Pornography. There was and still is no porn industry in India. Whatever adult material was available was ‘imported’ or illegally made. There were therefore, no major social concerns regarding it. Porn was tolerated because it was underground and was not ‘omnipresent’ like it is today. The knowledge of India’s erotic history in the form of temple art and the Kamasutra (a book on relationship where less than 20% of the content is about sexual forms) was never considered pornography and rather it was considered as devotional, sensual and artistic erotic imagery. Somehow today, many people call the same thing ‘pornography’.

Today we have the phenomenon of online pornography. Pornography has reached one and everyone. There is also complete anonymity on its access and use. There is a huge consensus growing all over the world that this unfettered access to online pornography is not without its fair share of problems. There have also been a lot of studies done on the subject and in almost all cases it has been found that porn has some level of effect – either good or bad – to many a problem. The common problems associated with Online Pornography can be understood by looking at its types and by judging the reactions to it. Both India and the USA are top consumers of porn but the reactions to it are very different in both countries.

In the USA the following kinds of porn is being made and distributed online – porn from the adult industry, non-consensual porn, and child and animal porn. Of these the last one has been criminalized but yet reports and statistics suggest that as much as 50% of all porn material is of the illegal kind. Then there is the case of non-consensual porn and as of today a lot many of the states in the USA are still working towards its criminalization. The non-consensual porn available in the USA has many names like – homemade porn, amateur porn, revenge porn, leaked porn, stolen porn etc. Finally, there is the porn from the adult industry which is the only one amongst the three that – pays its performers, is being taxed and that which is actually being protected under the USA’s ‘freedom of expression’ exercise.

So, it can be rightly deduced that the porn industry which is legal and legitimate in the USA is the original source of American porn. The other two kinds of porn are criminal activities and are only disguised as porn.

To be continued…

One thought on “Porn freedom in India versus US: Is comparison justified? – Part I

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s