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Hypocritical and impractical: With the porn ban, the

government has flaunted its control freak instincts


August 8, 2015, 12:02 AM IST Chetan Bhagat in The Underage Optimist | TOI

First of all, let me say it isnt easy to take a stance against something like a ban on pornography. We are
a hypocritical society, especially so in matters related to sex. For instance, it is safe to assume that most
men and several women consume pornography. However, few admit they consume it and come out
publicly against the ban.
However, the purpose of this article is not to defend pornography. Porn can, in some instances, have
harmful effects. Overexposure to porn can desensitise and degrade ones attitudes to sex, harm ones
ability to form intimate relationships, increase objectification of women and lead to motivation and selfconfidence issues.
That said, over one-fifth of the worlds internet traffic is porn. It is clearly a mass product consumed by
billions, satisfying some regular need. The billions of people consuming it seem to be going about their
lives in a fairly normal manner.
At least on five counts morally, legally, socially, practically and politically a ban on porn makes no
sense at all in a free society. These arguments should not be seen as encouragement to watch porn,
but to understand why we should avoid arbitrary state-mandated bans.
Morally, we have a negative attitude towards sex and any form of sexual pleasure. In common Indian
parlance, euphemisms for sex are bura kaam, gandi baat, dirty thing. Hence, it is no surprise that
proponents of the ban consider anything related to porn is awful.
However, truly awful are several Indian mens attitude towards sex. In my empirical study, i have yet to
meet an Indian girl who has not been leered at, brushed past against, groped, molested or made
uncomfortable while she was growing up. Brutal rapes might be rare, but no Indian girl is spared from
the unwanted, non-consensual advances of an Indian man. That is what is bad. That needs to be banned.
Sex isnt bad. Non-consent is. There is no buri baat in two consenting adults having sex. But it is a buri
baat if a man passing a woman in a sleeper train brushes past her to get a cheap thrill. Preventing
people in their private rooms watching a movie made by adults having consensual sex wont solve
anything. In fact, it is immoral to interfere in other peoples private lives.
Legally, Article 21 of the Constitution lays emphasis on individual freedom. Telling people what not to
watch seems to be a clear violation. Sure, some of our archaic laws may be brought into play, but do
we have to? Do we have to impose a regressive, control freak legal regime?
The argument on societal welfare is also specious. The level of sexual frustration amongst Indian men
is enormous, partly because our so-called Indian culture denies natural instinct and forces repression.
This is what leads to uncles molesting nieces, and women having body parts squeezed in buses or trains.
Porn may reduce some of that frustration and prevent repression spilling out on our streets. Banning

porn will only make frustration levels and crimes against women worse. Do we really want more hidden
cameras in trial rooms?
Politically too it is not a wise move. BJP loves pleasing its most regressive, orthodox and perhaps loyal
constituency. However, it is the new, more progressive generation that helped BJP come to power.
Virtually all supporters of BJP on social media watch porn. To deny them is only going to make BJP
unpopular.
Finally, at a practical level, even if you wanted to, you cannot ban porn by blocking websites. I remember
VHS days porn was rampant when the internet did not even exist. You block some sites; mirror sites
pop up or porn gets sold at mobile repair shops in memory cards at every street corner. Its idiotic to
believe a ban on porn can be implemented.
A question that arises from all the anti-ban arguments is this: should nothing ever be banned? The
answer is no. Certain things that cause immediate and grave harm to society have to be banned or
criminalised. A drug like heroin, for instance, can destroy families quickly. A perversion like child
pornography, which by definition involves criminal activity in making the film itself because it involves
children below the age of consent, should clearly be banned.
We need to grow up if we want the world to take us seriously. The key to becoming an awesome nation
is individual liberties. We need to believe that our citizens are not stupid and can choose what is best
for them in what quantity. A republic of bans assumes people are inept and unable to choose, so the
state has to decide for them. With a mentality like that, where a state doesnt believe in its own people,
what hope is there for the world to believe in us?
The government could spend its time better in growing our GDP or improving our education,
healthcare, infrastructure and law and order. Yes, protect us from crime and substances that will kill us
or exploit our children.
However, for the rest, believe people have the right to choose. After all, it is the same choices that
brought this government to power. So believe in that power of choice, not in bans.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Chetan Bhagat is a bestselling author and a popular newspaper columnist.