If there’s anything you wanted to know about porn and didn’t know whom to ask, read this book. Its tagline goes: ‘How to survive the porn epidemic in India’
BOY: “How to have sex? Of course, I know how to do it! Ha, are you kidding? We do have internet in Bhopal, you know.”
GIRL: “One day, friend had sneaked a phone in her bag, and we watched porn in school on her phone. It was strange; I didn’t even see all of it. I also saw it with my boyfriend after that…It was weird; I don’t know, it was very strange.”
These typical responses – different for boys and girls – are testimonies in the book Pornistan, which has taken such a comprehensive look at the world of seamy videos that no angle has gone unexplored – much like the camera does when shooting porn. The material Aditya Gautam presents is well-substantiated by interviews and research stories. However, the underlying assumption seems to be that everyone is into it – which is just not true. Like the girl above, some people shy away after the first glimpse. Yet the blurb makes a sweeping generalisation: “We have all seen it. Our intimate partners have seen it. Most kids by the time they are 11 have seen it.”
Consumers of porn tend to think there’s no harm in it. Of course, it is highly damaging to us as a society, but do porn addicts stop to think of the effect they are having on their own minds and souls? They should, because of the burden of expectations weighs heavily on their own performance. Harvard Medical School has called it porn-induced erective dysfunction. After all the enchanced images, fake orgasms and general idea that the act is worth filming, when it comes to the consumer’s turn in the bedroom, he can’t live up to the hype. Now this is a burden he had a choice not to carry.
The author has gone way beyond generalising to get actual quotes from people, even if anonynmous, and to describe real-life experiences in detail. (page 35). In a chapter titled The Dysfunfctional Dick, a typical porn addict’s excitement when he meets a hot girl is well conveyed. They are two consenting adults, and he has avidly watched the stuff on screen in ample measure, so what could go wrong?
Everything. In the throes of passion, if you shift positions and want to try out new stuff, things can go wrong. If you think you can do it multiple times without resting the tool, things can go wrong. But he is given a second chance. In preparation for the next time, he doesn’t indulge in self-help for a few days, to build up the momentum. But the dysfunction is back. It seems easier to finish off by himself, and he does. Except that the girl probably thinks: What’s the point in my being here? And moves on.
So who is to blame for the tide of porn washing across the world? A conclusion that the reviewer comes to after reading the book is that the medical profession itself is partly to blame for legitimising porn.
After all, sperm donors are sent into a room where they watch sexy films till they can produce the goods. The same goes for in vitro fertilisation, except when the patients are a heterosexual couple.
And what about all the research the porn industry has pawned? The author has done a good job of summarisng it for the reader, but the thought does strike that a lot of people are making good money doing research into smut. Academicians are spending precious hours going into such intriguing questions as: Does problematic porn use lead to reduced overall sexual satisfaction? Does the threshold of desire go up as one graduates from soft porn to kinkier or more violent videos? Cambridge University took up the following question to ponder: Is brain activity in porn addicts similar to that in drug addicts and alcoholics?
Interestingly, a doctor in Delhi – a neuropsychiatrist, whatever that means – gives the insight that the addiction is due to a chemical produced in the body, dopamine. To quote: “It is really not up to a pornography viewer after a certain level to regulate what they want to do and not want to do. Because once they are in, the dopamine gets them hooked. They watch a harder, more intense version of porn to get a dopamine high, and then when real sex cannot match that high, it leads to lower levels of dopamine and hence decrease in libido.” Which also reinforces the point made by this reviewer earlier: Porn is giving a lot of doctors a lot to do.
The pharmaceutical industry also gains, of course. When you want to go beyond what Nature has to offer, you turn to drugs and supplements to boost your libido. Enter Viagra, which is often taken by men to enhance their performance even without asking their partners if they are keen on such enhanced activity.
The Virtual Reality industry is also salivating at the idea of getting more people hooked. Elina Bergland, PhD, raves, ”Future technologies, like advance wearable tech, virtual reality, intelligent sex toys and artificial skin, will become part of our everyday lives and redefine the way we enjoy sex.” So instead of going out and wooing a partner, our consumerist society is going to need more and more money to spend even to get its rocks off. Sounds like a doomsday scenario.
The book, of course, tries to answer the burning moral question: Is porn good or bad? While it does not take any stand against this illegal content doing the rounds on the internet, it does say tamely at the end that sex education is the only answer to children looking for lurid material. No instant gratification here. Read the book to find out where you stand on the issue.