What scares the government? Do they worry that millions of young people across the country might be having some fun in the privacy of their rooms?
This government has a certain, remarkably consistent agenda. To its followers it appears to be God’s word and to its critics, it is something to abide for the next five years until other options present themselves. But look deeper and you will notice a method to the madness.
In the latest iteration of this process, the government has decided to ban pornographic sites. The diktat, it can be reasonably assumed, is in line with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS’) vision for India that rests on such subtleties. An India where a certain kind of person is feted: Male, Brahmin, vegetarian, straight. Any deviance from this cultural ideal and the folks in Nagpur find the ground beneath them shifting.
On one level, consumption of porn does have its issues. A lot of straight porn is misogynistic, but I doubt the government was thinking of women’s rights when it took this call. It is more likely that the government was looking to preserve bharatiya sanskriti.
Which itself, as has been repeatedly asserted, is problematic because the bharatiya sanskriti the government is trying to protect is really a Victorian morality that is not inherent to Indian ethos. From the Kamasutra to Khajuraho, ancient Indians showed a remarkable openness to sexuality. The British changed all that and we have now refurbished ourselves in their image.
But this fascination with British mores is not taken to its logical conclusion. We still have Section 377, which criminalises homosexuality. The British got rid of it a long time ago. We don’t think of marital rape as rape, with the government having categorically stated that marriage is a “sacred” institution and anything that happens within its confines is fair game.
I don’t get it. How does marriage being a “sacred” institution prevent rape within it from being called so? Perhaps the government had in mind cases like my old neighbour’s in the city I grew up in. An elderly woman, she was very close to me and my sister, and once told us about her marriage. “I was only 12 when I got married,” she said. “I had no idea about sex. On the first night when Bauji [her husband] touched me, I pushed him away. He slapped me and forced himself on me.”
My sister and I were gobsmacked. “But that was then,” she added. “Ultimately, I came to love him.”
It is possible that she might be speaking the truth about her love, since love is a curious thing and can develop in the most straitened of circumstances. It is also possible that she understood, back then, how limited her options were and that she had no choice but to live with the man who had, in effect, raped her on her wedding night.
But this government is incapable of delving into this kind of nuance. Its morality is rigid, looking to ban pornography or any other “western import” that threatens to dislodge our sanskriti. Inbred problems are apparently okay since they stem from the same sanskriti that the government wishes so eagerly to preserve.
Take another case. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, part of the Sangh Parivar, runs a women’s wing called Durga Vahini, where women are given martial training. It takes young girls under its auspices and trains them to deal with the external threat (again, I assume they mean not husbands, but Pakistan).
This, we are repeatedly told, shows their faith in women power. It is also, unfortunately, where the scope of their idea of women’s emancipation ends. Talk about shaking up the old order a bit, and they lose their nerve. Which is funny, since RSS men are confirmed brahmacharis so they should have little problem with efforts to improve women’s status within marriage.
The status quo continues. What will the ban on porn achieve? Due to technology, most people will still watch what they want to. I don’t understand what scares the government. Do they worry that millions of young people across the country might be having some fun in the privacy of their rooms? Why does this idea make them uncomfortable?
We will hear in the coming days that porn is bad because it encourages sexual violence. Men watch graphic sex on screen and wish to replicate that in their real life, which leads to sexual violence. This is a serious claim and must be investigated.
Break down this argument, however, and you will see how hollow it is from the perspective of those who have put the ban in place. First, the men who watch porn, like the men who force themselves on their wives, are stripped of all agency in this argument. They get aroused — either via what they watch on the screen or what they are told is socially acceptable now that they are married to the woman who is waiting for them with a glass of milk in the upstairs room — and so they go ahead and take care of their needs. The onus of what they feel and how they ought to behave is not on them.
Two, it is possible that the rising consumption of porn is related to incidents of sexual violence. I don’t know if it does but let’s assume it does. Probe this claim and you find yourself banging your head against walls that the same people who want the ban erect. In the recently released Masaan, a couple from Benares who want to try sexual intimacy face such vicious repercussions that it scars them for life. Well, it scars one of them because the other one does not survive the ordeal. With such a social ethos, little wonder that people find all manner of underground means to satisfy their sexual urges. Maybe some of that converts into sexual violence.
The problem is you can’t argue with the government or the larger Parivar. They derive their sustenance from modes of thinking that are so entrenched that it would take nothing short of a revolution to change matters. The ban on porn will probably earn the government some brownie points with its core electoral base but it will have no effect on the ground. There, things are changing, and changing fast, and the government can try and rein in this energy but its actions will only expose its own hypocrisy.
This article was republished from Newslaundry.com.