Porn is where THE HOME IS
Just what was the government thinking of when it banned porn websites? Why, hordes of Indians are making their own sex videos at home. Some are circulating them too, say V. Kumara Swamy, Sonia Sarkar and Sharmistha Ghosal
The ping indicated there was a message waiting for her on her cell phone. Delhi-based Rekha Kapoor picked up the phone and saw that a friend had sent her a video. She played it, and found, much to her surprise, that it showed the friend having sex in a car on a highway.
"She was so thrilled about this that she shared the video with me and some other close friends," Kapoor says. "I was taken aback to see how she unhesitatingly shared her personal video."
Across India, people are recording - and occasionally sharing - their sex acts. Some do it for fun, some as an act of bravado and some to spice up their sex lives. Most stack their home videos for their own viewing, some share them with friends and a few even put them on pornographic sites.
So just what is the government thinking of when it announces a ban on porn websites? The ban, as cyber experts have pointed out, can be contravened in various ways. To top it, how does it expect to control Indians - young, not-so young and old - who are busy filming their own acts of porn?
Take Vidhi, a college student from Virar in Mumbai. "We are a good-looking couple and so we shoot sex so that we can look at the videos when we grow old," she reasons. Vidhi and her lover use apps that allow them to select the background music for the video. "We shot the act with the song Pehla Nasha playing in the background. It was so romantic."
It wasn't all that romantic for the five 13-year-old students - three boys and two girls - who were hauled over the coals by their parents. The five close friends spent time in one another's houses, usually locked in a room. One day, one of the mothers barged in to find them engaged in group sex - and filming it.
"They were doing this for a long time and had even sold some of the videos to someone in the US," says clinical psychologist Aruna Broota, who is counselling the two girls.
It's not just the young who like to film their acts. Sexologist Prakash Kothari says he has come across men in the 80-90 age group who do so. Earlier, his affluent clients did this with Polaroid cameras; now all they need is a cell phone.
"One gets aroused by watching one's own nude clip," Kothari explains. "Couples enjoy seeing their most intimate moments. They recall those moments to fan their desire."
That's certainly true for Ravi and his wife. He often shops for sex toys in Calcutta, which, he says, add zest to the videos that they shoot while having sex.
"We are just bored of regular sex. Filming our lovemaking sessions wearing those sexy things gives us both a high, and we absolutely love it," says the father of two.
Ravi realises that with two children, he has to be careful that their videos are kept well guarded. He makes it a point to put them in a safe docket on his iPad, with locked classified copies on his iMac. The videos are for their pleasure, and they don't upload them on the Internet or even share them with friends.
Not everybody, though, thinks on these lines. In times when the most mundane of acts - from eating a three-egg omelette to getting a new hair cut - are recorded on social sites, can sexual acts be far behind?
Some people don't just not mind their videos going public; they actually enjoy the fact that strangers watch them. Take, for instance, the Raos, a Vijayawada couple, who have almost attained mini stardom with their videos.
"Soon after we were married, we started engaging in live video porn chats with couples from around the world just to arouse ourselves. These even involved demonstrating sexual postures to each other. One such session with us was recorded, edited and posted on a porn site by somebody," says Rajeshwar Rao, 34, a real estate agent.
By the time the couple discovered this, the video had garnered more than three lakh views. They, however, found they weren't angry, but excited that others found the video worth watching. "So we decided to make a small video and post it on the porn site. It again became a hit," Rao adds.
In the past one year, they have posted some 15 videos - with durations ranging from four to 25 minutes - shot with a video camera. Some of the videos have Telugu and Tamil music in the background.
His neighbours, he says, have never mentioned the videos. "Maybe they have never watched them. But I am not ashamed of this, as I am doing it for fun and not money," Rao says.
Lily, a Mumbai-based businesswoman, too likes to upload her sex videos on public sites. The clips, shot in her one-bedroom apartment, are a hit on several porn websites. One can hear background sounds of vegetable sellers, autorickshaw horns and other roadside noises in her videos even as she carries on with what she calls "social service". Lily says: "I don't earn a naya paisa from this. It is pure fun."
According to Alexa.com, an Internet information company that tracks traffic to websites, sites such as XVideos.com, Xnxx.com, PornHub.com, where tens of Indian videos are uploaded every day, are among the most popular sites in the country, getting more hits than some of the more sought after e-commerce sites. None of the sites responded to queries from The Telegraph .
Counsellors say that they have been coming across more and more such cases of ordinary Indians filming sex. "These days, teenagers love to shoot their private lives - when they are swimming, or kissing their partners, or even when they try out a new set of lingerie. Recording the sexual act is only an extension of this. It is natural for them, not an aberration," school counsellor Geetanjali Kumar holds.
Adds Sanjay Chugh, senior consultant psychiatrist, "Telling the world that you're pushing personal and social boundaries, breaking rules, coming out of the close-minded attitude towards sex perhaps could be another reason, although it seems distorted in its manifestation."
The trend doesn't surprise Shanti Dynamite, a UK-based porn star of Indian descent who will soon make her debut in Bollywood. Self-shooting of sexual acts by couples is an international phenomenon and India is no exception, she stresses.
"I have come across many Indian couples uploading their home movies on the Internet and I think that if the individual doesn't mind being seen by many people, it shouldn't concern anyone," Dynamite says. Indian men and women, she argues, are comfortable showing themselves having sex - "it is only the government that acts a bit prudish".
Filming one's own sex life is a form of exhibitionism, argues andrologist Sudhakar Krishnamurti. "Both men and women have a tendency to exhibit themselves. Video recording of one's sex life is a manifestation of that - and the availability of technology had made it easier for them to do so," he says.
For many young Indians, it can also be a sign of defiance. Teenagers, after all, are growing up in conflicting times - where society is still conservative, but they are surrounded by images of sexual activity in films, music videos and the Internet.
"Taking 'sexy' images of themselves offers them a false sense of liberty, bypassing the repression imposed upon them in the real world," points out Debarati Halder, a lawyer and counsellor based at Tirunelvelli, Tamil Nadu. "They feel relatively uninhibited in cyberspace and tend to experiment with their looks and sexuality, but are unable to determine where to draw the line."
Indeed, there are downsides to this. One, the habit can become addictive, warns Kothari. And such clips can also reach the public domain, without the permission or knowledge of someone who has recorded the sex act. Several videos clandestinely shot in bedrooms, college classrooms and even on honeymoons have found their way to websites - without consent.
Revenge porn - when one of the partners uploads a sex video to humiliate an ex - is a worrying trend, too. "When you're in love you trust your partner. You don't expect him to use these pictures to humiliate you when things fall apart," says Halder, who is often approached by victims - mostly women - of this new genre of cybercrime.
Cybercrime, of course, has to be tackled. But is banning porn the way out? Dynamite doesn't think so. She urges the Indian government to take a leaf out of the UK rule book which underwent a change last year.
The UK, she points out, banned acts of violence during sex and their filming and display. Non-consensual sex videos, chaining of limbs during sex, abusive language and some "life threatening" acts were all banned.
Sex is beautiful, Dynamite exults. "Without sex none of us would exist. People as a whole should have a right to be able to do what they want to do as long as no one is being hurt or tortured or forced into things they don't want to be in," she says.
Did we just hear the Indian government screech?
( Some names have been changed to protect identities)