By: Udita Singh (CCS Intern)

Danny Frederick in his paper, Defending Pornography, lists four arguments against pornography, namely, the deprave-and-corrupt argument, the harm-to-others argument, the harm-to-children argument, and the degrades-women argument. And then there is Mr. Jug Suraiya who says “Pornography is not a crime. But it could well be a sin, the sin of boredom, which is nothing more, or less, than the defeat of the spirit”, all this while lauding “erotica”. Oscar Wilde once said “Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace”, Mr. Suraiya’s distinction between pornography and erotica is one such line. More often than not such matters come down to tastes. But Mr. Suraiya’s point – poor quality of porn –  is well taken. The question is why? We think it’s because young artists don’t aspire to be actors, script writers, directors et al in the industry, at least partly because of the legal-risk involved.

Few openly accept the existence of porn-production centers flourishing in many regions of India. ‘Blue Films’ are produced in multiple languages – Bengali, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi and Assamese. And in Kerala ‘Mal-porn’ is a roaring business. One can even list the differences between North and South Indian porn!  Yet, there is no acceptance of the industry and hence the lack of a platform for discussion.  This is not new, back in the days of license-permit Raj, Khushwant Singh  subscribed to the  ‘Screw’ magazine, which the customs department cleared on the pretext of it being an engineering guide! Elites who sailed to Europe for vacations came back with glossy erotic pages. The funny this is that while “sex” remains a no-no word in Indian living rooms, Google Trends has a whole different story to tell. New Delhi ranks a not so astonishing 4th, in terms of access to porn, Los Angeles – where porn is very much legal -ranks 8th!

Acknowledging the existence of a porn industry in India, rather than putting it under wraps, will help us deal better with child pornography, HIV, and trafficking of womyn. If recognized as a ‘legitimate’ profit-making industry, just like all other for-profit businesses, it will not only support creative entrepreneurs and encourage respect for workers, but also raise standards in the quality of porn!

Take the 2009 ‘savitabhabhi.com’ case for instance: a wife and sister-in-law living a lusty adulterous life in a world where more is better. The popular online toon series was distributed amongst many websites and porn magazines but ultimately banned by the Government of India – the creator had to reveal his identity: a UK based NRI, second gen businessman. It’s roaring success was largely due to the gentleman’s creativity. Another NRI, Richard Menon of New Jersey produced the ‘The Indian Playboy’. The film is his story as an immigrant, entrepreneur and a player in the adult film market – the story of a conservative Indian who got fed up with the corporate world and decided to start his own porn business in the US. Interestingly, Richard does not plan to shoot any adult films in India, he says politicians and women’s rights groups here are difficult to handle. Clearly, the ‘feminazis’ continue to shun many interesting voices. This despite the fact that there are categories of porn – unimaginatively called ‘feminist-friendly’ porn – which put women in the driver’s seat.

Hugh Hefner once said “The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex”. He is a millionaire, and millionaires are not too often wrong about what got them there. A bill on legalizing pornography would be a “civilizing” move and a welcome change from the “Why-are-we-so-corrupt-debate”. And that reminds me, when was the last time someone went on a hunger strike for porn-sake?