Many people, including our decision makers, understand any type of porn, by its very nature, to be misogynistic but that is not necessarily the case. Violent or misogynistic porn is a small proportion of what is actually viewed and when you compare that with the sheer volume that is consumed, it helps put things in perspective.
In the musical, Avenue Q, a character known as Trekkie Monster explains to his friends the reality of adolescence in the form of a song entitled ‘The internet is for porn’. The internet, he goes on to say, was actually ‘born for porn’ or what our folks from the previous generation would call it – ‘blue’ films. Well, our current administration believes that the internet is solely meant for other things and, with that in mind, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has now blocked access to over twenty thousand pornographic websites all over the country and they are set to add to that list in the near future. No doubt, there are teenagers all over the country mocking their friends over this censorship’s effects on one another, but in our part of the world it has been far too easy to equate porn with anti-social behavior.
As a general rule, we are given to very simplistic cause and effect relationships that are then sweepingly generalized over the populace. All because we can’t be bothered to dig in a little deeper or even use our heads for that matter. He or she smokes weed – hence they must be a drug addict! It’s not only overly simplistic to conflate porn with violence against women (VAW) but also patently wrong to do so.
What is really concerning about this initiative is that some administrators genuinely give the impression that this is some sort of a panacea for all ills, when it comes to gender based violence issues. Not our entrenched patriarchy, our sexually repressed society, parochial sexual views, personal upbringing, societal apathy or even police incompetence – but internet porn. Bravo!
These sorts of censorship initiatives are usually the result of governments and their administrations taking action to prevent ‘degradation of moral standards’. Nepal is no different but it’s funny that corruption and blatant thieving doesn’t count as going against our moral code, but I suppose that happens when you get to define the code yourselves.
So, does this censorship really make sense? Yes, there are gullible adolescents and adults beyond urban reaches that have access to porn and possibly form unrealistic and twisted notions of what sex is like or should be from content available on the internet. But in sexually repressed societies like ours, it’s equally important to understand that porn acts as an outlet for pent up sexual frustrations and curiosity. Is it better to allow someone to relieve themselves (for lack of a better word) by briefly watching pornographic content or have them given to fantasizing and then perhaps trying to act out that fantasy in reality?
One would assume that a lot of the thinking behind this censorship drive focused on the danger that porn risks normalizing violence against women in general and in sexual interactions in particular. While a correlation can be proved perhaps on a case by case basis, blanket censorship is akin to saying that flying isn’t safe because we have crashes every other year or so. Many people, including our decision makers, understand any type of porn, by its very nature, to be misogynistic but that is not necessarily the case. Violent or misogynistic porn is a small proportion of what is actually viewed and when you compare that with the sheer volume that is consumed, it helps put things in perspective.
Also, a recurring argument in any case against pornography vis-à-vis women’s rights is female insubordination – the fact that porn degrades women and contributes to gender inequality in society. But one look at the world over and we find that women enjoy more rights in societies with liberal attitudes to sex rather than conservative societies and their accompanying bans on co-mingling and, perhaps, pornography.
Of course there are a lot more dimensions to it that my simplistic comparison above and that is not to say that we should all just get our clothes off and pretend to be open minded, but it helps to have a little perspective – especially if our decision makers are deluded enough to believe that one stroke of legislation is enough to solve all VAW issues. Of course it’s not just VAW but also the issue of protection of children, specifically issues revolving around safe browsing and limiting their exposure to this type of content. But these are parenting issues that the state frankly cannot police and one that a wholesale ban is hardly likely to solve.
The truth is that sex sells and one look around us will confirm that – from adverts for car tires, to carpets, phones, alcohol to education opportunities in Australia – it sells like hot cakes. In any case, the internet isn’t the only medium for transmission of this content and people still got their hands on porn long before the internet came about.
If our objective really is to control sexual deviancy and the resulting violence, it cannot be done by banning porn alone. For that there need to be deterrents, laws, enforcement mechanisms but more importantly education and a change in attitude towards protection of women. By all means, our administrators can ban explicit content left, right and center if they want to, but sitting there and pinning their hopes only on censorship to cover up law and order shortcomings isn’t going to work. There is no such thing as a magic bullet for tackling violence against women. But even if there were, this certainly would not be it.