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Why porn ban won't stop a Savita Bhabhi from fulfilling India's sexual desires

Rini Barman
Rini BarmanAug 05, 2015 | 11:30

Why porn ban won't stop a Savita Bhabhi from fulfilling India's sexual desires

In Sarnath Banerjee's first 2004 graphic novel Corridor (published by Penguin), the search for pornography leads to unexpected (and hilarious) consequences for Shintu, one of the most naive and sheltered characters in the book. Newly-married Shintu has been mollycoddled to a state of beatific ignorance by his Bengali mother. As a result, neither he nor his bride know much about sex. They spend their wedding night playing board games.

To set things right: Shintu goes in the seedy lanes of Old Delhi and Palika Bazaar, in search of porn. He is given a Mary Poppins CD, with the promise that the cover is entirely misleading. After watching the porn film, he and his new wife have "minutes of satisfying sex". But at the end of it all, Shintu has a new problem, he thinks: "How come the man in the blue film is still at it?"

This, in a nutshell, is the allure and the problem with the discourse around the #PornBan in India. We can't make up our minds about porn: Is it a booster dose of harmless fun for the comically ignorant or is it a builder of unrealistic expectations or does it really trigger sexual violence?

Before we discuss this, let's take a peek at some of the country's most loved porn magazines. Before the circulation of internet porn, and even today, there is still a demand for the supply of pulp porn comics, magazines, and stories. I confirmed this after frequent strolls to the old Delhi second-hand book stalls which turned out to be more rewarding than I thought. Apart from the studious students who are mostly seen buying tonnes of their course/entrance books/Victorian novels etc, there are those sniggering (as if nobody is noticing) around stalls catering to basic aphrodisiac needs, "Bhaiya woh waali magazines hain?"

Disclaimer: A voyeur must always know that the one monitoring him is more often than not, a voyeur. (Researching 857 plus adult sites is no joke, Mr Vaswani!)

So, near the Delite Cinema hall, I found secret hideouts of pulp erotic magazines from Kaamini to Vaasna to Nagin to variants of Savita Bhabhi (an infamous web-porntoon character). Some of them are comics, with a highly engineered sense of sadomasochistic humour, and some are the usual girl-rejected-by-lover-boy-finds-sex-elsewhere, with huge caricatures made of the female body, both well-endowed and otherwise. What, however, remains compelling is, we cannot categorise the consumers of these pulp porn magazines into one. The fact that they come in cheap, pulp paper with very low costs, doesn't really say anything about the class of the consumers. As often argued, that only lower middle class (mostly men) find access to these magazines (this idea also comes from the notion that since their income levels are low, they cannot control their "crass", sexual hunger). Considering how diversely crowded these stalls are on Sundays (bhaiyaji tells me many book pulp erotica are available via phone), this could be a mistaken assumption.

Agreed that sexual jurisdiction functions to safeguard the "middle class/elite" idea of the "Indian family" (as also cited by many, but, what is this essential assumption that within these kinds of social institutions, there can be no voyeurs?). In Deepa Mehta's Fire, when a family servant is caught watching porn, he spills the venom to end a poignant homosexual relationship as revenge (He states that watching porn is similar to the "dirty" experience of two women making love). Chatur Ramalingam in 3 Idiots slips porn magazines down hostel doors of his batchmates to distract them during exams, some of our Parliament ministers were watching porn in a proceeding, and of course there is a long list of people enjoying pornography in such institutionalised spaces. So is the argument of banning porn to keep purity of institutionalised spaces intact, really true?

Another trend among the Twitter posts regarding porn ban is the anxiety of porn leading to more crimes of sexual violence. "So India bans porn. Will this decision lower the cases of sexual violence or increase it. I wonder". "Bad move as it will only increase rape in India. Absence makes the heart grow fonder". "Can Govt. in India PLEASE BAN VULGAR ITEM SONGS IN INDIAN CINEMA first? will prevent crimes against women!" All of this hints at a popular notion of porn/item songs driving men to release the psychopath in themselves. However, this is very futile and stupid, because, this puts all men under the same category. Not to forget, there are also women who watch porn (dance to item numbers) religiously, so are we trying to say, that females have no "inflammable sexual desires" as such? (Also, this doesn't consider the popularity of porn among the third gender.)

The answer to this question leads me to the country's infamous Deshmukh porntoon comic Savita Bhabhi (some say the film Sheetal Bhabhi was inspired by her). The terms "Aunty" and "Bhabhi" fit a formula; their erotic extramarital affairs are common in Indian "desi" porn - they are neglected by their spouses, fancied by brother-in-law (his friends),they aspire big (dreams of becoming Mrs India, winning bravery medals, stops dacoity, saves the nation from sex-hungry terrorists and more) and their anxieties manifest in dreams (wet, too). They use WMD (weapons of male destruction) but we ought to keep in mind, their voices are not to be taken seriously. The creator of Savita Bhabhi also made a film (2013) envisioning India 2070, where censorship is everywhere, and it is only Savita who provides men their comic relief. Quite, far-sighted!

Laura Kipnis, a cultural theorist has suggested that since porn isn't going anywhere anytime soon, we should study it. I also think, there shall be these secret markets for the distribution of porn. Banning will only ensure more readership of "woh-waali" magazines. And perhaps, now, examining pulp porn books can be taken as a "serious" activity.

A few days back, there was a circulation of a Facebook post that said "India is a country where everything is banned, but anything is possible".

I suggest we explore the possibilities, while keeping our fight for freedom of expression on. Also, now you know where to find your copy of "pulp friction"!

Last updated: August 06, 2015 | 18:11
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