The Big M

I'm a woman and I made a web series about porn in India. This is what it was like

It's heartening to see so many men coming forward to support the campaign.

 |  The Big M  |  5-minute read |   01-03-2018
  • ---
    Total Shares

The phone rings. It's a number I don't recognise, so I don't pick up.

It continues to ring incessantly; the same number - I contemplate truecaller-ing it, but I'm too busy.

Then a message arrives, "Hello I am ----, I want to contribute towards your campaign Know Your Porn. Please call back."

As people fundraising for things that matter to them do, I called back. Immediately.

The conversation went something like this:

Caller: I want to know why you want to talk about porn.

690-daa_022818091752.jpgWhy hadn't I thought of that myself!

Me: It's because there is an explosion of porn in our country, men are watching it freely and without any introduction to it, there are some very dangerous clips circulating on WhatsApp (I cite the child porn and the rape porn clips being made in Uttar Pradesh). And no one is talking about it - it's an emergency that needs to be tackled now!

Caller: "Oh… so you want to ban porn."

Me: "Not at all. I don't think we can ban it. And that's why we have to inform and arm those who are watching the material. And hopefully some of them will make better choices."

Caller: "But you're a lady and you are picking this issue."

Me: (Trying not to snap) "Yes. Porn has a direct effect on ladies in our society and children."

Silence.

Me: "Hello?"

Caller: "So have you watched porn?"

Me: (Mentally sighing) "That's besides the point. Can you tell me how much you're thinking of contributing towards the campaign?"

Caller: "I'm scared to put money in something about porn. What if my family finds out."

I hang up and block.

This is a sample of the many conversations I have had while fundraising for the series. I shouldn't have been surprised but I was. I couldn't believe that such a large number of people still think it's taboo to talk about sex and porn. That such a large number of people can get off on the fact that a woman chooses to bring up the conversation.

It's like the men in our country are living in the triple hells of being stoked by freely available sexual material, being bound by hypocritical family values and the unavailability of sexual partners because "good girls" don't put out.

This prison of massive proportions has put men at tipping point - where even the mere mention of a woman making a series to raise awareness about pornography can become a trigger to keel over. Add dissatisfaction, unemployment, inequality, violence and notions of toxic masculinity to this cocktail and what we have is a keg that easily explodes - making India completely unsafe for women.

This is precisely the reason I felt the need to spend this much time and energy putting together a series on an entirely voluntary basis. Women and children have the right to a safe and violence-free existence.

And why did a woman have to start this conversation? Well, for one women and children feel its effects the most. Secondly, and more importantly, most men don't even know they're in that prison. They think they're having a "good time", that they are being "entertained" and are getting "relief".

In another conversation with a man, he told me clearly and explicitly that he would never back my campaign because he said "I love porn". I tried to explain that we're not arguing with that "love", that the only intention was to start a conversation around the effect of watching porn without any internal filters. Still, he insisted, "I can't support anything that will get in its way."

This left me wondering what it would take to get through to the viewers of pornography without putting them on the defensive. What would be a good way to bring up the topic without making them feel that one is getting in the way of their pleasure?

The answer came from a man. While drinking coffee with an acquaintance, I brought up my new campaign. And he said, "Humour... humour, I think that's the way you can get through to them." Of course. Why hadn't I thought of that myself!

And so it is that it was decided to make it a series of three short films (maybe a minute and a half each), in animation and with humour. Two characters were born - Sunny (a porn watching man in his early 20s from a lower middle class neighbourhood in Delhi) and Rajesh K, his retro hero who magically arrives with the answers. The serious nature of the subject at hand became less serious and so more effective!

The scripts ready and raring to be made - were still looking for funds. And so I kept fielding the calls and doing the rounds of organisations working with men. These organisations are funded and have the strong agenda of working with men and addressing their issues. And yet, not even one of them had any funding or plans to address the issue of the spread of pornography. And since all funding has to be "applied for", there was no money there for the campaign.

Still there is humour in everything and fundraising for "Know Your Porn" was exasperating at first, but eventually it just became plain funny.

The sheer scare of openly supporting anything related to porn, the fear that someone is trying to ban it, the reactions to a woman taking up the cause and the weird presumption that watching porn and taking up this cause go hand in hand.

And then, months of plodding and a failed Wishberry campaign later, the funders came in - all of them men. Some funded with money and others with expertise. And finally, Sunny and Rajesh K came to life and are currently making men laugh while sharing information.

Perhaps the funders are the men who understand the importance of this campaign and the effects or indiscriminate porn viewership among men and society. Perhaps they're happy that a conversation about a taboo can start. Perhaps they want the shame around sex to end.

Whatever the reason, it's heartening to see so many men coming forward to support the campaign and, in the end, to see "Know Your Porn" come to fruition.

Now, step 2: Dissemination! Seeing that the series goes far and wide; in six Indian languages and through every medium - mobile phones, TV, internet and screens everywhere. Even if it means fielding many annoying callers!

Also read: CBFC offended by 'Hanuman' in Black Panther is divine stupidity

Writer

Madhureeta Anand Madhureeta Anand @madhureetaa

Film Director. Director of Kajarya. Founder of the Digital Film Festival - New Delhi, occassional writer, a mom and lover of life.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.