Pornography, Women and Morality

Priyanshi Agarwal and B.Ritika Reddy, Tamil Nadu National Law School, Tiruchirapalli.This Article won 3rd position in 4th RostrumLegal Essay Competition, 2016

Pornography is the collection of pictures, writing, or other material that is sexually explicit and sometimes equates sex with power and violence. This definition would be enough to understand the meaning of the word pornography but not its effects on the society and women, for this we need to know the position of women in Indian society.

With respect to the history of pornography in India, it has seen a huge evolution and changes regarding the same. India being a vast country depicts wide social, cultural, religion and sexual variations, also known as land of erotica, has numerous temples which depict erotic and pornographic images and sculptures practiced by humans, animals, and Gods & Goddesses. Kama Sutra which has its origin from India is appreciated worldwide. Anciently, India was surprisingly open about sex & sexuality. With diverse ethnicity and languages in India, people follow different customs & beliefs that directly or indirectly mould their lifestyles & sexuality.  But after the British era, such liberal attitudes were criticized as ‘barbaric” and currently, sex is considered to be a taboo and stigma to our society. Indian concept of sexuality has undergone evolution over time & has been immensely influenced by various rulers & religions.

Along with the tremendous evolution in this concept, the perspectives of people also have undergone many changes. Earlier, the word sex was considered as an act of love between two people, but now every aspect of this act is considered to be a taboo. People have curiosity about it, they try to know everything about it but still don’t talk about it openly, they are attracted towards this taboo but they don’t accept it openly and the advantage of this curiosity is usually taken by other people to gain profits, like in the case of porn industries and also Bollywood movies.

Nowadays, every movie has at least one item song in it, in which a beautiful girl wears minimal clothes, exposing her body, surrounded by men, who are begging for her attention, dancing with her and are struggling to touch her. Directors of the movies try to put these songs in the movies to attract more and more public and are successful in their attempt to do so.

In addition to this, there are many more ways where people use these elements related to pornography to attract public. One of our classmates was passing through a hoarding board of Subway, a food chain in which it was written in a bold-capital letter the word “sex” and below that it was written “now that we have your attention. Eat at subway.”

Furthermore, in the same way I came across this picture online it was copied by some government of a country. They wrote below the word ‘sex’ on a hoarding, “Now that we have your attention, please pay your taxes.” Indeed, that’s a subtle way to catch someone’s attention. Nowadays, people know that with such elements they can get everybody’s attention. They know quite well how well people get influenced to every aspect of this act.

Previously, it was considered as an act but now such act is considered to be commodity of the biggest money making industries which has women as their main subject matter. According to statistics, there are more than 4.2 million pornographic websites. Around 72 million visit porn sites annually and $3, 075, 64 are spent on pornography every second. There are number of formats of cyber pornography available on the Internet. In the form of Image files, Video files, texts, erotic stories & audio formats.[i] When it comes to India, accessibility of internet has made it much easier. It is typically shown in the recent movies that women are showing their private parts, they are being raped, ejaculated on, urinated on, beaten, sodomized, and left permanently scarred and ultimately such theme is a sharp blow to women’s honour and dignity as it objectifies her and also tarnishes her image in the society.

Though we also understand that person has a right to choose his or her profession or work but why it is often ignored that such women who work there (who take off their clothes in front of the cameras) are doing so because they don’t have other choice or option because even they have to pay their bills, but it is sad that there aren’t enough good, well paying jobs for women out there. No individual especially women would trade their dignity and integrity if they had a better option to earn their living.

Before dealing with this essay, even we were against the porn ban and defended the right to pornography on four main grounds.

  1. Firstly, on the grounds of freedom of speech and expression, which protects the freedom of individuals (in this case, pornographers) to express their opinions and to communicate those opinions to others, however mistaken, disagreeable or offensive others may find them.
  2. Secondly, according to the defense of the liberals, right to pornography on the grounds of a right to privacy (or “moral independence”),which protects a sphere of private activity in which individuals can explore and indulge their own personal tastes and convictions, free from the threat of coercive pressure or interference by the state and other individuals.
  3. Thirdly, there are many studies which prove that watching porn is healthy for your body and also relieves stress.
  4. Lastly, neither the expression of pornographic opinions, nor the indulging of a private taste for pornography, causes significant harm to others, in the relevant sense of ‘harm’ (i.e., crimes of physical violence or other significant wrongful rights-violations). Hence, the publication and voluntary private consumption of pornography is none of the state’s business.[ii]

However when we came to the winding up of this research it is derived that porn has more demerits than merits. Porn creates a fantasy world where men are seen to be a sexual beast who act on their sexual desire. In porn, man are often seen to be a heartless person who is a slave of sexual desire who treats women as an object to fulfill his needs whereas in reality no woman wants someone to call her a slut or whore. No woman in reality wants to be gagged by 4 males, beaten, raped, slapped her until she is limp and crying.

Pornography is dangerous to the future of womankind as it built a perspective of men to see women as a commodity or object to fulfill their desire therefore it degrades their social value and hence is immoral. It also causes rape, and reinforces negative stereotypes of women. To support this statement, the arguments we came up with, is mentioned further in this essay.

Pornography is against our culture and also immoral

Meaning of sexuality is different to different people. For some, it could mean mere act of sex whereas for others it could mean sexual orientation or identity and yet for others it could mean passion, lust and desire. [iii]

India is known to respect women, since early Vedic period women enjoyed equal rights and also taught to compete with men. India has witnesses many influential women personality and proved that women are no longer dependent on men and no lesser than any men.

The problem with pornography is that it projects women as a desperate women who is begging for sex or if not, then the man will force her to do this act which means male will dominant her for such things and such act will obviously degrades the image of women. Such act projects the women in a way which is totally opposite to the women in real world in Indian culture.

Hindu worship many female deities, as aspect of mother goddess and consorts of male gods. The man is not expected to degrade her as she is considered to be gift from gods. We have special role for women, we have many rulers from Rani Laxmi Bai to Indira Gandhi who knew their rights and also fought for others rights courageously. Women in Indian society are treated with full respect and dignity.

In contrast, porn presents women which are opposite to the women in Indian culture. In Indian culture women are presented to be the one with dignity and honor. They are the one who is given the utmost respect. India which is also known as “Bharat Mata,” means “Mother India” is also a female figure.

So in a place where a man who is born by a women, raised  by a women, where he is taught to respect women, so when the same men is allowed to raised on porn he loses all its value and respect towards women and he starts objectifying her. They start looking at women as sexual commodities, the one who enjoys pain or humiliation, one who gets pleasure in being raped or getting physically hurt. They start looking women as the one who always begs, cry or in postures of sexual submission, servility.

As women being an important part of Indian culture, when sexually degraded makes porn immoral.

  • In Feb, 2012 when two minister were caught watching porn during the Karnataka assembly. The issue was covered by many news reporters and was discouraged by public[iv]. The issue to be discussed here is that, watching porn in assembly in not a crime in India but it is against morality, until in 2016 when supreme court said that watching porn in public doesn’t express your freedom of expression.[v]
  • One more immoral act came recently in 2016 on Dec. 15 when 47 children were taken into custody while watching porn in internet cafes.[vi] As if now, there is no law which protects such act therefore such act cannot be considered as a crime but such incidence is against the moral conduct and is therefore immoral.Sex being a controversial subject in Indian society, is often linked to immoral values.

But current laws such as IT Act and IPC criminalise selling, distributing, and publicly displaying obscene or pornographic material. And these laws are enforced to safeguard the public morality and decency though such laws violate the individual’s liberty of a person who wishes to enjoy pornography at his view.

  • The most glaring instance of obscenity laws being used to subvert individual freedom was found in the Ranjit Udeshi case where the sale of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (unexpurgated edition) was banned and the appellants who were selling the books were imprisoned.[vii]
  • Another instance being, The Vagina Monologues, an episodic play by Eve Ensler that explores female sexuality through individual women telling their stories in the form of monologues, was banned from being shown in Chennai as the Chennai Police found parts of the script ‘objectionable’ that could disrupt ‘public order’.[viii]

Apart from this, one of such acts of Indian Government includes banning of the cartoon porn site- Savita Bhabhi which features a married Indian woman’s sexual adventures.[ix] In defence of this, Pawan Duggal says that- “It is a cultural cum legal issue. The courts will have to decide whether Savita bhabhi is a lascivious site or not. Kamasutra and the sculptures of Khajuraho are far more explicit but not considered obscene. So they do have an argument,”

Therefore, the line which demarcates ‘obscene’ and ‘decent’ is still vague. The statutes have been merely copied from the age-old English law and the set of morals which were set back then. Though the laws there have changed but Indian Law remains intact. And so, the growth of black market for pornographic materials indicates the same.

Pornography act as catalyst to crime as it has close impact on our mind

The second argument which opposes porn is that pornography has a co-relation with the people who commits crimes. Here, we am not of the view that watching porn will make you a serial rapist or killer but this argument is based on how watching porn will affect your mind and then ultimately your judgment, though proving this point is bit difficult as it requires proper study of large number of people of different ages from adolescence to puberty, of which half of them should be exposed to pornography while the rest should be isolated from such environment and also there are many other factor which act as a catalyst for such behavior. For this kind of study we need all the information of that person from his family background to his past criminal record which is practically not possible at this point.

It is said by many feminist that “Porn is the theory, Rape is the practice,”[x] we are not here to support what feminist believes to be true but simply supporting our argument of how porn affects your decision making capacity. There are instances in the past where rape is caused after the person was indulged in watching porn. Child abuse, sexual violence against women & other sexual crimes are direct effect of pornography culture.[xi]

  • There was a case reported in Delhi in 2013, where 5 year old girl was brutally rapped by two person from Bihar. It was in the latter state in which it was found that the two rapped accused used to exchange porn clips over drink and that was the base of their friendship.[xii]
  • There was one more case of 21 year old girl who was brutally rapped in Goa in 2016. The accused, Rajkumar Singh, has confessed to have raped Monika several times after tying her to bed in her apartment and also forced her to watch porn clips.[xiii]

These are just two cases where porn is being used; there are many more cases where porn has been involved before committing the offence. One thing we should keep in mind that we are not here to make an argument of watching porn makes you rapist but we are supporting our view that pornography affects your mind, it corrupts your mind, it also dominants your thinking and your judgment. It forces you objectifies women and also the medium to degrade her. It changes your perspective and more or less it is involved in your decision making process.

Pornography has a close impact on human’s mind, there was a survey conducted recently by an NGO- Rescue Research and Training Charity Trust. They covered 3,500 students between the age of 16 to 21 of 183 colleges of about 8 districts in the state and it was concluded that about 76 per cent of the respondents agreed that porn leads towards desire to rape. It was also studied that  33 per cent are attracted by teen porn and also many teenage girls were getting kidnapped for shooting teen pornography and growing demand is said to be the main reason for this.[xiv]

There is one more dangerous effect of pornography that it also depicts sex violence on children. Pornography teaches men that when a woman says no, the man doesn’t need to stop. It teaches beliefs & behaviours where some of the behaviours are both illegal and immoral. They include Rape, Child molestation, Pedophilia, Prostitution, Domestic violence, & sexual harassment. Therefore, in reality man believes that it’s all part of it; which in lot of cases leads to rape. Pornography can teach what to do, with whom to do it, when and how often to do it, it’s okay to do it, and then stimulate the urge to do it now.[xv]

Dolf Zillman revealed that pornography causes men stop feeling satisfied with their real-life sexual partners: their appearance and sexuality. If we consider this statement we can conclude this that porn could be a reason for many failed relationships. Each time when a man watches porn he builds expectation based on what he watches. He started treating his partner as a sexual object and forgets her personal characteristics.

There are certain theories which prove that whatever we see, knowingly or unknowingly it affects our thinking. We tend to absorb the thing we see, for that there are many theories in support of this argument. The mere perception of someone doing something is already sufficient to increase the probability that one will engage in similar behavior oneself. This involves copying the goals of the action and the exact bodily movements that constitute the means of achieving the goal.[xvi] The perception is that the human being is the best amongst all species of life in this world, in consideration of man’s intellectual grasp and capabilities. The powers of icha-kriya-anubhuti — willing, doing, and feeling — exist in all conscious living beings. Further, it is stated in authentic scriptures, every living being possesses minutely in their real self, sat-chit-ananda — existence, knowledge and bliss. For instance, if a person sees a woman being raped or degraded (though she’s been paid to act that way) he might thereby desire this treatment and believe that he has the permission to act this way.

Social Learning Theory is one of the most widely used theories. According to this theory the media are active but subtle educators in teaching readers, viewers, listeners about the world. An important component of this theory is that it explains how people can learn from observations alone. [xvii]

There was one more theory i.e. uses and gratification theory. In one experiment the level of aggressiveness of institutionalized delinquent boys was measured prior to the experiment. One half, chosen at random, was subsequently shown violent films, while the others were exposed to non-violent ones. Those shown violent films were significantly more aggressive in the following days, and this was especially true for those who had first scored low on aggressiveness[xviii]

From these theories we can conclude this that what we see has direct or indirect impact on us therefore we should be careful before letting our children see everything and anything.

We have laws which prohibit men from harassing or abandoning her. The law puts an obligation on the person to take care of her as a wife and also after divorce and as a brother he is asked to protect his sisters  and also ask the same person to take care of his aged mother and his dependent daughter.

The following data shows the effect of pornography on people of different age groups- adolescent boys who read pornographic material were more likely to be involved in active sexual violence.  Juvenile sex offenders (juvenile rapists and child molesters) were more likely to have been exposed to pornography (42% had been exposed) than juveniles who were not sex offenders (29%) and also to have been exposed at an early age (five to eight years old), while juvenile child molesters had been more frequently exposed to pornography than those who did not molest children. Similarly, adult sex offenders showed a high rate of using hard-core pornography: child molesters (67%), incest offenders (53%), rapists (83%) were significantly higher in use than non-offenders (29%). Child molesters (37%) and rapists (35%) were more likely to use pornography as an instigator to offending than were incest offenders (13%)

Therefore we can also say that porn not only demonises our socio-moral values but also causes social violence, upset law, & order in a society. Pornography functions against moral & ethical law, which are essential for the well being of the society. Nature obeys God by the systematic functioning in the way it is designed. Sex which has a divine purpose, challenges the very nature of man & woman; perverting minds in this modern age, tainting the sanctity and purity of sex, promoting objectification and commercialization of humans as sex objects. There is no existence without law & order and anything that is against the law and order is chaotic. Therefore, Pornography is anti-law because it’s totally against the law of nature[xix]

Banning pornography is not against fundamental right

Another issue which come when we oppose pornography is that it is said that opposing watching porn is against the fundamental right of personal liberty. Recently, when the judgment on porn ban came, it created a huge outrage among the general population. It attracted mixed responses where people especially youngsters criticized this ban at a large scale. I would say people overreacted on such decision before trying to see the bigger picture. They took it as the decision would curtail their rights and liberties without realizing that as if now we are not in that state where we can allow such things in our society. According to JS mill’s harm principle, “Liberty is doing whatever it is you want in life as long as it does not harm other people or their property,” and isn’t a case over here, as here your right  of speech and expression is harming their right of personal liberty, against their freedom and also is a blow to their honor. Applying harm principle here will not let porn to win the race.

There are two alternate ways of arguing that pornography discriminates against women-one focuses on the effects of the materials and the other emphasizes its content. According to some, pornography is treated as sex discrimination because it causes violence and antisocial behavior against women. Although technically the obscene material does not itself discriminate, it is viewed as sex discrimination because it results in denials of women’s civil liberties. Therefore, if it can be shown that certain kinds of speech, for example, violent pornography causes substantial harm, then that speech can be prohibited. It is sufficient to demonstrate that the pornographic material causes undesirable behaviour, it is entirely unnecessary to add the rhetoric of civil rights.[xx]

Mostly these sites releases the personal videos of two person without their permission and this act is itself is a crime according to law, as well as is against morality and also against the person privacy. Its like the person who is watching it is enjoying but the other person is suffering. Therefore pornography is a social harm. If a person causes harm to others actively or inactively, it is appropriate for society to condemn him legally or through general disapprobation.[xxi]

Conclusion

From the above arguments we can conclude that pornography has more harmful effects then benefits therefore need to be stop but again we live in a country where we can’t ban anything and everything and therefore we are of the view that banning the porn is not the solution but educating everyone and thereby changing their perspective on seeing things because as said above morality is different in different places because as of now we as a country are not ready for pornography for sex being a very intimate topic.

Nonetheless, pornography is shown to have its terrible effects on women both socially, physically and emotionally. Pornography functions against moral & ethical law, which is essential for the well being of the society. Being against the divine law of sexual conduct, what Porn does is the total disregard & mockery of those divine purposes. Though being a huge global business, porn not only affects adults but Child abuse, sexual violence against women & other sexual crimes are direct effect of pornography culture. Porn habits are something which many people do not admit cause of the stigma attached to it. Porn can’t be considered to have a moral value. It is people who have moral values and therefore they see porn from their point of view which may be defined as moral or immoral.

Hence, the line which demarcates ‘obscene’ and ‘decent’ is still vague. Pornography has is great effects on people. The statutes have been merely copied from the age-old English law and the set of morals which were set back then. Though the laws there have changed but Indian Law remains intact. And so, the growth of black market for pornographic materials indicates the same.  Therefore, in conclusion we would like to say that- “ Pornography is the perfect poison because it gradually erodes and destroys a person from within and affects every other aspect of their life”.

References:

[i] Prof. R.K Choubey, An Introduction to cyber crime & cyber law, Cyber pornography, Pg. 433-435 ( 2nd Edition 2012), Kamal Law House, Kolkata.

[ii] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty 1975

[iii] Kaustav Chakraborty & Rajarshi Guha Thakurata, Indian concepts on sexuality (2005) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705691/ (last visited 21-12-16, 9:00 AM)

[iv] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/minister-caught-watching-porn-in-karnataka-assembly/article2869723.ece (last visited 23-12-16, 8:00 PM)

[v] Minister caught watching porn in Karnataka Assembly watching porn in public can’t come under freedom of speech: SC seeks means to curb child pornography
https://www.firstpost.com/india/watching-porn-in-public-cant-come-under-freedom-of-speech-sc-seeks-means-to-curb-child-pornography-2646286.html (last visited 23-12-16, 8:00 PM)

[vi] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/hyderabad-police-catch-kids-watching-porn-in-cafe-parade-them-in-front-of-media/articleshow/55986986.cms (last visited 23-12-16, 8:45 PM)

[vii] Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1965 SC 881

[viii] Jayshree Bajoria https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3501034.stm , Thursday, 11 March, 2004

[ix] https://gigaom.com/2009/06/25/419-govt-bans-popular-toon-porn-site-savitabhabhi-com-mounting-concern-over,  Jun 25 2009/009

[x] Kutchinsky B, Pornography & Rape: Theory and practice? Denmark. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2032762. (last visited 23-12-16, 9:00 PM)

[xi] National Cyber Safety & security standards 2014, National Cyber Crime Reference Handbook, Cyber Pornography Pg.125

[xii] https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/rape-accused-blames-it-all-on-friend-with-whom-he-watched-porn/story-YdgR1xLErHfBRSWAWERILM.html(last visited 23-12-16, 10:00 PM)

Rape accused blames it all on friend with whom he watched porn

[xiii] Accused forced Monika to watch porn clips, raped her multiple times

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/121016/disgruntled-accused-forced-monika-to-watch-porn-clips-raped-her-multiple-times.html (last visited 23-12-16, 10:15 PM)

[xiv] https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/090316/watching-porn-could-lead-to-rapes-study.html

(last visited 23-12-16, 10:30 PM)

[xv] Mary Anne Layden, Pornography & Violence: A New look at research, University of Pennysylvania.

[xvi] :Boudewijn de Bruin : Media Violence and Freedom of Speech: How to Use Empirical Data Source: Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, (2008 )www.jstor.org/stable/40284260 page no4

[xvii]  Supra N1

[xviii]  Supra N24

[xix] Leviticus 18 (Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible and Leviticus 18 is a chapter of the Leviticus which mainly talks about unlawful sexual relations).

[xx] Erwin Chemerinsky, OUTLAWING PORNOGRAPHY: What We Gain, What We Lose, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Spring 1985)

[xxi] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty 1975

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