‘Oh my, this book was such a breather! I so loved it!’, exclaimed one of the members. ‘I read the entire book crouched on a chair at the Crossword store. I didn’t want to take a copy home lest my mother get uncomfortable and shoot questions at me, so much for bookstores being the current cyber cafes!’ shares another. The latest Sanskaari Girls Book Club Meet happened on the 18th of November, 2018 at 91Springboard, Andheri E in Mumbai where members discussed Richa Kaul Padte’s path-breaking book on rethinking pornography Cyber Sexy.
Through Cyber Sexy, Padte took us all on an intimate tour of online sex cultures. From camgirls to fanfiction writers, homemade videos to consent violations, the book investigates what and how it is to seek pleasure online. The members had an enriching session, where they opened up about their personal experiences and encounters with pornography growing up, how their perception of the same changed over time, the grave need for sex education as a part of the school curriculum and so much more. We discussed the lack of internet accessibility in villages as a result of which there is a digital divide in the pornographic realm and how this leads to an intense lack of sex education among these communities.
Participants discussed and acquiesced to the importance of the need for feminist pornography in the context of the sexual shopping cart that the internet is today. Feminist porn is a term used by adult filmmakers from different parts of the world, who are bringing a feminist praxis to their filmmaking. Feminist porn typically has more women behind the camera, fair labour rights and contracts for sex workers, a greater diversity of bodies and sex on-screen, and an absolute commitment to consent, the implications of which have a far wider reach.
We spoke about what makes women and sex (or porn) a scandalous combination in general and more so, in India. The Indian society has not been very comfortable with sexually independent women, because our independence is viewed as a threat to male-dominated power structures. While dissecting pornography, another question that arises is whether men and women consume porn differently. The answer, Padte says, lies in consent. “Consent is missing from the porn debate. What we hear are words like ‘objectification’, ‘protection’ and ‘morality’. But what we need to hear more of is whether the people who are featured in porn have given their consent- not only to the sex but to the filming, uploading and sharing of said content,” Kaul says. In a way, Kaul-Padte believes feminist porn takes care of this, but promoting the importance of consent is the need of the hour. “Stop making porn debates about morality and start making them about consent,” she urges. The members of the club spent around 2 hours sharing experiences, opinions, analysing cultures and practices and even brainstorming palpable solutions within the purview of social development and research.
My personal favourite takeaway line from this non-fictional piece of work is, “Porn opened my mind to a diversity of desire.” A truly intersectional and liberating endeavour, Padte successfully grapples with the various nuances and challenges of setting such a book within the Indian context, and how!