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April 7, 2016

We Asked Indian Women About Their Porn Watching Habits

Naaila Khan

Porn. Most Indians have been brought up to think of it as this quiet monster that rears its ugly head once boys hit puberty. The word has less than moral connotations and is talked about much like sex in India – in hushed voices behind closed doors. Until Pornhub published a report about India’s porn watching habits, after which everyone was talking about it. Turns out India is Pornhub’s third largest consumer, while – get this – viewership among Indian women spiked from 26% last year to 30% in 2015. Surprise, surprise?

Or not really? In a country that boasts both a strong foundation of ‘tradition’ and an increasingly global world view, were women in India always getting frisky with themselves and just turning to online porn now? We asked a bunch of them and turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.

“Women have become more open about their sexuality and aren’t afraid to talk about it or just look it up online. It’s not like we weren’t into pleasuring ourselves earlier – we just weren’t talking about it,” says Archana, 27, a marketing executive. (The fact that almost all of the women we spoke to didn’t care if their names were changed for this story only serves to validate her point.) “Unless it’s an addiction, it’s really not as serious as the government makes it out to be. There are more important things to deal with than to worry about people watching porn,” says Anitha, 30, a fashion buyer.


If you were wondering at all about whether porn-watching was legal, Namita Aavriti, a legal researcher, gave us the lowdown on where the law stands on the matter – and it’s mainly good news. “The legal position is that it’s not an offence, but there’s only one Bombay High Court decision that states this explicitly,” she says. This is by virtue of Article 19’s Freedom of Speech and Expression – everywhere else in the country porn is legal by omission, because the law says that making and distributing obscene material is an offence – but they don’t say that watching isn’t.

So what’s contributing to the spike in these stats? Technology, according to the women we asked.

 “In the early 2000s, going to a shady internet café or a friend’s house with internet were our only options, but now we have Tinder. If you want toys and dildos, you don’t have to go to a physical store to get them – you can be discreet about it,” says Roshini, a 33-year-old graphic designer.

How often do women watch porn? Like most things, it varies. While some said it’s around twice a week, some only indulged in sexy me-time when their busy schedules allowed them to.

“It also depends on where you are in life emotionally. I just had a major breakup and I was pretty low, and porn was my outlet. Porn isn’t necessarily a habitual thing; sometimes, it’s like taking a break – like treating yourself to ice cream,” says Ritika, a 25-year old film producer.
Biology also seems to play a role in the amount of porn being watched. “I find myself watching more porn when I’m ovulating. Almost anything can stimulate me during that time of the month, and you come really quick,” says Roshini.

For some women in long term relationships, porn means getting in bed with their partner. “It makes things more exciting,” says Nitasha, 34, a management consultant. It’s also a fun way to explore things together, according to Archana. “Porn shows you new things to try. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it’s plain funny but often it’s the first time you’re both trying something new, so it’s great!”

Single ladies tend to agree. Letting your partner know that you’re a sexual being is liberating, according to most. Everyone also agreed that it makes sex better – but does it lead to unrealistic expectations of it? Does watching two (or three, or more) slick, hairless bodies with perky, well-endowed assets make women feel worse about themselves?

“Maybe,” says Roshini, “but then you come to realize that once you’re actually having sex, it’s really more about enjoying your partner’s body. Men don’t even notice your flaws if you’re into it. Porn can mess with you if you aren’t comfortable in your skin; but if you are, it can be a wonderful aid.”



If you ask Nitasha though she’ll tell you that slick, hairless bodies are exactly what she wants to watch. “I don’t want to watch real stuff! I know what sex is like in real life – all sweaty and messy – and the reason I’m watching porn is because it’s aspirational. I know how to distinguish between real and reel life, so my expectations aren’t marred by what I see,” she reasons.

Porn’s even become a bit of topic of dinner table discussion. “It’s totally normal to discuss porn over drinks with friends. We might not be exchanging pen drives like my husband and his buddies, but we’ll talk about anything interesting or odd that we come across,” says Kajal, a 28-year old businesswoman.

Along with dropping the unexpected numbers, the Pornhub survey also listed 'lesbian', 'threesome' and 'squirts' as the three most searched words, and judging by the women we spoke to, BDSM and violent sex don’t rank high among Indian women’s tastes.

While some experimented with what they watched, most knew exactly what did it for them and stuck to it. “I’ve watched all kinds of porn but embarrassingly, the cheesy ‘80s porn does it for me. I always get turned on by lesbian porn as well – I like boobs! But as curious as I am, I’ll never get off on child porn or animal porn – that’s where I draw the line,” says Roshini.

What’s interesting was that none of the women we spoke to thought that choice in porn was a gender thing – it’s more about what hits the spot. “I don’t think it’s binary like that. It’s personal preference, which is why you have so many categories in porn. Tons of women I know watch the same stuff guys do, so you can’t label it by gender. For example, since I’m a creative person, I’d also look at a porn movie as parallel cinema, thereby replicating my interests with my choice in pornography,” says Nitasha. Inversely, Ritika says the girl-on-girl scene from Blue Is The Warmest Colour is her favourite go-to when she’s in the mood. “It really just takes 10 minutes – skip, skip, pause.”

Funny porn spoofs were also quite a hit among the women. “The absurd flying ninja is hilarious, so is the spoof of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Sometimes, my girlfriends and I will watch the porn versions of Roman Holiday or Cleopatra – they’re fun!” Role playing and Hentai also figured in their top choices.

While on the topic of different kinds of porn, the new wave of feminist porn that’s been getting a lot of media attention lately seems to be lost on the women we spoke to. “We need to see porn for what it is. Branding a genre as feminist porn doesn’t make it any different – what matters is what works for you,” says Avantika, a 25 -year old financial expert.

 

There was just one grey area that the women felt iffy about – sex trafficking in the porn industry. “I’ve watched tons of documentaries about young girls being trafficked into porn and raped and the diseases they have to deal with, and it really saddens me. But I also know that there are people who do it out of choice, just like with any other profession,” says Veda. “It’s just tough to know which is which.”

We asked Namita, the legal researcher, to weigh in on the topic, and it’s not all good: “The porn industry in the West has measures in place. There’s a strict rule about condoms being used, for example, and all actors are routinely tested for HIV and other diseases, but it’s hard to say whether the Indian industry has the same regulations. Indian porn still gets made and circulated though, and considering there is often prostitution and trafficking involved, it’s safe to say that women are exploited in these situations,” says Namita.

“I know I’m a hypocrite,” says Roshini. “It’s like eating meat. I know that sometimes the animals I’m consuming might have suffered, but I choose to be selfish for sheer pleasure. I love my porn like I love my meat.”

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