Hiding behind porn / Studied ignorance in India attributes rape to watching porn

[ Daily News and Analysis, 14 May 2013]

No son of Bharat-mata is bad himself. In the subcontinent, not for once have I heard from the parents of any errant youth that bad actions of their child might have something to do with, well, their child. Typically, it is ‘bad company’ that is the culprit of choice. The reasons of all things bad with us are to be found outside of us – a curious position that helps a perpetrator look like a victim. Externalities explain our vices; our intrinsic qualities are the source of our virtues. When this way of absolving the self gains wide public currency as a social ideology, we have a society that is always looking for scapegoats. The types of scapegoats that are found also express the subterranean ideologies and anxieties we have. When the migration of the rural poor to the city gains currency as a ‘cause’ for rapes, it tells us less about causes of rapes and more about ideology and anxieties of the people with whom this ‘cause’ resonates with. Such is the case with pornography as another cause of rape. What is even better, pornography has also been bandied about as one of the causal elements in contemporary rape. Rather than implicating the training in gender violence that society and family’s own values and norms faithfully provide on a daily basis, porn has been identified as public enemy. Legislators and the chatterati in the Indian Union are deliberating whether pornography, especially the online variety, should be banned. ‘Does porn cause rape’ is a question that has been discussed in these circles for public consumption. Certain women’s rights workers, virulently swadeshi ‘porn is Western, rape-causing evil imported into pure India’-types, free speech wallahs and freelance libertarians debated the issue in various fora. Many asked whether anyone wants their mother to be a porn-star? No one asked whether anyone wants their mother to be brick-kiln worker working 16 hours a day at slave-wages.

Beyond the obvious impossibility of showing causality of porn and rape, this debate has illuminated something quite embarrassing. In spite of web statistics that clearly document the subcontinent as being one of the top enjoyers of porn, almost no empirical work exists that studies porn and rape in brown folks in brownland. A minor part of the reason is that folks who abhor quantitative methods of research and analysis have the shrillest voice when claiming causality and/or correlation between porn and rape. A cocktail of moral righteousness, so-called ‘common sense’ and homemade theories of human psychology dominate the porn/rape discourse in the subcontinent.

This also points to a greater void. For a people so numerous, research on their sexual lives and on sex in general is scanty beyond textual and media analysis. Where are the physiological, psychological and behavior-analysis studies on sex and sexual enjoyment of brown people? Numerous journals on sex studies and sex research exist. Why do studies from the subcontinent figure in them so rarely, especially at a time when scientific research output from here has actually grown in almost all other fields? This gaping hole in the body of research closely parallels the ludicrous illustrations of the human body in the subcontinent’s biology texts, where all hint of external genitalia are erased. It is this air-brushing of reality that sustains a warped conception of propriety. What can studies inform us? Lets take the example of one of the few such studies done here. A 2011 paper by Kalra, Subramanyam and Pinto  studied the sexual behaviors of  a cohort of Mumbaikars over age 50 and report that 57% of those aged 60 and above were sexually active. Geriatric sexuality, thankfully, is goes beyond Hugh Hefner. How does that sit with the casual bundling of grand-children with grand-parents at night, with a tacit assumption that old folks do not have sex? In the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor’s research group at the University of California at San Diego reported sexual satisfaction increases with age. Where is the corresponding study about our brown mothers and grandmothers?

During my student life, I have been the subject in numerous experiments, mainly at Harvard and New York University, where I have been shown sexually arousing pictures on screen. My reactions to them, in the form of galvanic skin responses (GSR) were recorded. Such work seeks to understand emotion-laden visual information processing by our nervous system and also the psychological underpinnings of certain facets of human experience. Where are such studies from the psychology departments in India?

Without research and knowledge about the full expanse of the human experience, how long shall we go on understanding society? Sexuality being an integral part of that experience, empirical research into sexuality of brown people is needed. Sex exists beyond health, disease, adolescence, safety, and reproduction. It has to be studied for its own value.

Finally, prurience is as old as life itself. Try not scratching an itch. It is hard. Do not scratch other people’s itches unless they ask you to. It is easy. Let us not mix up the two.

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, Eros, Gender, Scars, Sex, Under the skin

5 responses to “Hiding behind porn / Studied ignorance in India attributes rape to watching porn

  1. Dr. Manas Joardar

    Its really thought-provoking. More such articles need be published for mass consumption. Thanks.

  2. lf

    89% of porn web pages are in the US. Most porn revenue also in the US. Now we learn that Harvard and New York Universities use porn for scientific studies. Rape prevalence is hugely more in the US than in India. So is abortion prevalence. I’m not convinced that linking rape to porn is equivalent to choosing a convenient scapegoat. The connection is not demonstrated in the article. I’m a sexually active man well below geriatric age and I enjoy sex and I sleep regularly with my kids. I never touched them sexually and I don’t think I will ever do. Here also the article fails to articulate the connection. Implicit associations won’t do. One can’t blame supposed amateurishness in others while being not serious oneself.

  3. Sarajit Majumdar

    Most of us don’t study deeply the aspects of human behaviour. Accusation that porno causes rape is an off the hat reason. Garga at least tried to locate the fault with analysts, not rapists. Good piece, this one.

  4. lf

    The mother of my kids, Indian urban middle class educated on Tagore, hired a professional to perform a legal Guantanamo in her uterus. If not rape then what is? The entity with the least power on earth has been smashed in her own blood. If not scapegoat then what is? I threatened the professional with a lawsuit, following which, my wife convened a tribunal made of both of us, her mother, our closest friends, and the death sentence against the only being whose voice was not heard, has been pronounced in the name of respect of human beliefs and compassion.

    Like Openheimer we are sons of bitch, and I more than anyone. Because I was the judge.

    Family and friends, all flesh, is going to death.

    Sorry for what seems like a non-academic distraction, but that is about the relation of modern Indian educated middle class to rape, scapegoat and sex, which is the subject of this article.

  5. somenath guha

    The root cause of gender inequality lies in the actual act of sex itself. The fact that a woman lies down and receives it and a man gives it dominating over her, defines the relationship. It will never change unless some day man woman can make sex standing, equal to equal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s