BETWEEN THE SHEETS

Sonali Khan was holding on to her virtue, and then she fell in love... with several men. She drinks whisky, not Cosmopolitan

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Those Dozing Porn Gods

It’s time they’re jolted awake by women who watch
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Tagged Under | pornography | women | political statement
Why has porn turned into a political statement? Is boycotting it my  only option?

Donna: “Being alone isn’t that bad. It’s a great opportunity to get to know yourself and be comfortable with who you are.” Jackie: “Oh Donna, I already love myself, I just want to french someone.” — from That 70s Show

If you feel for Jackie as wholeheartedly as I do, you’ve probably done what I did. Taken matters into your own hands—literally. It all started when I decided to give playing by the book a shot. I’m dating only one guy at a time and though we’re not calling it a relationship just yet, we’re sexually exclusive. Which is what led to the predicament: what does a woman do when the only man she is sleeping with travels for extended periods of time? I now believe it when The Sun tells me that nearly 66 per cent of British women watch porn. (The only number I could dig up for India is that 47 per cent of women find porn acceptable.) There I was, watching reruns of That 70s Show when Jackie so cruelly reminded me that I hadn’t frenched my not-yet-boyfriend in over a week. That’s when I had a sexual epiphany. I’ve often heard men complain and women snigger that a woman can get sex whenever and wherever she wants. True? Perhaps. Tougher than finding sex is finding a man you want to talk to and possibly share a meal with before you jump his bones. True? Probably. But tougher still is navigating the misogynistic minefield of internet porn.

Just when I’d made my peace with the inherently plastic, French-manicured, bronzed and hairless women with bosoms that point resolutely north, another set of misgivings sprung up, pouring icy water on my fast-evaporating libido. You can get past the frustratingly obvious emphasis on male pleasure, but how do you get past the violent undertones and language derogatory to women? The whores, sluts, bitches and cunts that are used as dressing on the porn salad must surely put off a large part of those 66 or 47 per cent women, right? That night, as I grappled with my guilt for being drawn to a misogynistic culture, I wondered why something that ought to be a healthy outlet for sexual impulses had turned into a political statement. And was boycotting visual erotica my only option?

A few years ago, I spoke to Sandy Wenderhold, owner and managing director of Sansyl BV, one of the oldest players in the Netherlands’ adult industry. According to Sandy, “Consensual sex is an equal act. How can it be sexist? Porn is actually just two people having sex. Personally, I think it’s inspiring that people can be so uninhibited.” It made perfect sense to my 22-year-old self.

But the reality of porn is another beast altogether. Imagine you’re in bed trying to pick something fun to get yourself off. First, you need to choose a category. MILFs are pitted against Cougars. Asian Teens vie with Luscious Latinas, and Party Sluts with Ghetto Gals. Men bring anything between 8 to 12 inches to the table, and apartheid is a common practice. If you don’t have a marked preference for any category, the choices go from bad to worse. You now sift through the buffet on the basis of the sexual act. Would you prefer female genitalia being ‘destroyed, slammed, slapped, clamped, torn up’ or ‘ravaged’? Or do you prefer the more docile ‘facials’?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: as long as the participants are consenting adults, it’s nobody’s business what their Google history reads. What’s sad is that misogyny runs so deep in porn that if you want to consume it at all, you have to either accept or ignore its off-putting packaging. Why is it ‘Dirty MILF Gets Slammed By Young Cock’ and not ‘Adult Fun-Loving Woman Enjoys Sex With Generous Young Partner’? You don’t have to study internet analytics to know that ‘Dirty MILF’ will get a lot more hits than ‘Adult Woman’. Indicative of how under-evolved our understanding of eroticism is? I think so.

But there’s hope yet. I stumbled upon a 2009 TED Talk on the future of porn by Cindy Gallop, the mind behind MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, a video sharing site that aims to bring realism and fun back into the world of recorded sex. There are pornographers like Princess Donna and James Deen, who champion porn that doesn’t make my lady parts shrivel in fright, porn that is feel-good and dignified, honest documentations of pleasure. Maybe the porn gods are finally waking up to the fact that a third of their viewers have vaginas. And no, we don’t like them creamed.