This article is written by Mayank Labh, a student of NALSAR, Hyderabad.
Dear Sunny Leone fanatics,
Has the fact that porn is blocked in your hostel or in your office ever troubled you? Have you ever thought why it is blocked and on what grounds it is justifiable? I am not saying that the blocking is unjustifiable under any circumstances, but I am explaining why five of the most obvious reasons based on which we think access to porn should be curtailed or restricted may not be tenable.
For the purpose of this article I am sharing a working definition of porn here: Porn is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual arousal. I must make it clear at the very outset that the arguments are not made for such kind of porn which is grotesque, highly violent and which exploits minor children, but it’s for such where two or more consenting adults are engaging in sexual adult for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, content filters are not being used in a way that recognizes this.
With the advancement of technology it has become popular and accessible to almost every adult legally and to everyone practically. The extent of its impact, positive or negative whatever it is, is such that a guy quipped “Are we the first generation to masturbate with our left hand?” And another said “it is like potato chips, everywhere and cheap, to be consumed and tossed”. But this potato chip is banned in colleges and universities for reasons best known to them. Be that as it may, here are the reasons why there should not be blanket ban on pornography
- Many people think that college authorities can ban pornographic websites since they are illegal. But is it really so?
According to the laws of India, consumption of pornography is no offence. So, an individual is well within his rights when accessing it in personal capacity. All that the law forbids is its publication, transmission or distribution of something which is obscene. It must be noted that it bans obscenity and not pornography.
The question is whether a government can ban porn websites which distribute or transmit pornographic materials.
The reason being that there are no relevant laws which states or infer that there should be blanket ban on pornographic websites. According to Section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2000 of India a pornographic website can be blocked if it disrupts public order. It seems highly unlikely that a pornographic website can disrupt public order.
Even if the government goes on to block all pornographic websites it would be overreaching its jurisdiction. It is because many pornographic websites are hosted in United States where it is legal and therefore Indian government would be seriously overreaching if it blocks such websites. So, removal of content is only possible if the servers hosting such websites lie within the government’s jurisdictions.
Secondly, such a blanket-ban would be tantamount to violating the rights to free speech and privacy (Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution respectively) since proactive blocking of objectionable content would require ISPs to sift through all content on the internet, including private user-data. Such obscenity laws from which ban seek to gain legitimacy is that it used to protect dominant patriarchal moral beliefs at the expense of women’s human rights. These laws tend to problematise expressions of women’s sexuality rather than considering the question of consent on the part of women.
Thirdly, according to a study commissioned by the High Court of Bombay any “scientific” filtering would amount to censorship. There is no such filtering available which can fairly make a distinction between videos which are obscene or not. Often, it happens that many websites like sex-education also get blocked along with obscene websites.
Now, given that porn websites are available on the Internet what makes an individual not watch such porn websites in their personal capacity? What makes the higher educational institutions in India block porn websites for college students? Do they really serve any point? What are the assumptions behind making such porn websites block?
- One of the assumptions is that viewing porn provokes a person to rape. It is a widely popular belief that watching porn induces negative attitudes towards women. Oh, really? The truth is that there is no such conclusive research and in fact there are many researches which say to the contrary that porn helps understand basic human necessity in a better way.
So, according to a 2010 study by Manjima Bhattacharjya and Maya Indira Ganesh, exposure to pornography may benefit women. The reason for this is that it becomes a new avenue for women to explore and express their sexuality whose sexual autonomy in the “real” world is restricted to a great extent. It was found by the study that exposure to pornography gives women a space to gain information on sexuality, reproduction related issues and to seek pleasure and to claim their equal sexual citizenship rights.
Similarly, according to a psychological research by Bryan and Kelley (1984), exposure to pornography may generate positive attitudes towards women in men.
To add to the argument, it must be brought to notice is that after the censorship law on pornography was repealed in Ireland, there was a significant decrease in sex crimes including rape which was growing before the annulment of the law. (Donnerstein, Linz and Penrod, 1987). If we particularly talk about India, it is found that sexual crimes against women happen where Internet is not even available to the people. Although mobile phones are there but it is found that many of the mobile phones are not able to play videos.
Similarly, Ferguson and Hartley demonstrated an inverse relationship between pornography consumption and death-rates. Another evidence which supports this view is a study of juveniles who are sexual offenders. It was seen that such sexual offenders were less exposed to pornography than the non-offenders of same age group. In fact, such sexual criminals reported sexually restrictive behaviour of parents.(Goldstein, Kant and Hartman, 1974).
In fact, according to some experts, such watching of porn lead to satisfaction of the sexual needs by fantasy induced masturbation and not by with innocent victims.
There is an end number of research to that effect. Even though these researches seem convincing, one might argue that even he/she can also come up with research on the other side. It is agreeable that it might be possible. But does that merit a blanket ban on pornography in Hostel? Somebody once said “if it aint broke, dont fix it” which means that if you are not able to figure out whether something is broken or not then you should not rush to fix it.
- What the administration authorities from the college must know that the people coming for higher knowledge are not kids with some possible exceptions like 11 year old guy Tanishq Abraham who just graduated from college. They know what is good for them and what’s not. The question is whether watching porn has an impact on them. Asurvey of 4,600 young people in the Netherlands, aged 15 to 25, found the behavioural impact of pornography—most of it online now—to be small.(You could access the survey from The Guardian website.) The argument that it is addictive, which is also highly debated, could be extended to sports and other form of entertainment as well. It is inexplicable as to why there is a differential treatment to pornography. (But please do not let this argue with the patriarchal and medieval authorities for they are low in logic and high in hyperbole and it’s not going to be fruitful!)
- Sexual control and social control are usually co-occurring. What often happened in the colleges that in the name of pornography are that many sexual education websites and other websites are blocked. So in the name of banning porn websites the British government banned sites like help lines for children suicide and domestic violent.  There is no reason why educational authorities can’t do such things if given the latitude to ban sites which are pornographic.
- There is an increasing trend that if you ban something it gets more popular. Such ban does not lead to any deterrence and does not serve any purpose whatever that is. People still watch it by using VPN access and proxy servers which are in them legitimate software. It would be very draconian of the government to ban all such legitimate software in order to have a complete ban on pornography. It should not be pornography but it should be mindset that needs to be changed. It can only be achieved through openly engaging in dialogue about sex. The problem is that we live in a sexually deprived and depraved society which leads to distasteful treatment on women and not pornography.
Apart from the problem of high bandwidth consumption due to large sized pictures and video content, or forcibly monitoring that people who use internet within the network (students, employees), use their time for no other purpose except for what they have committed to doing, the ban may not serve any other purpose.
Making the most of Mobiles. LiveMint, 14 July 2013,http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/9JIPq3l8YOerKa3s7dMN7O/Making-the-most-of-mobiles.html