(This column, about an Indian cartoon-porn site that was blocked by the Indian government, was published in DNA edition dated July 3, 2009.)
In a recent episode from the enormously popular Savita Bhabhi cartoon porn series, the services of the sexually ravenous protagonist are enlisted in an enterprise of great import to national security. An undercover officer of the Shimla police seeks her help to entrap dreaded gangster Jwala Gadar, who is hiding in the hill station; and although Savita Bhabhi is initially overcome with justifiable fear, she valiantly allows herself to be persuaded to sign on “for her country’s sake” in this tantalising tour of duty. The rest of the episode revolves around the graphically explicit ways in which Savita Bhabhi penetrates Jwala Gadar’s security cordon and finally ensnares him by deploying her “Weapons of Male Destruction.”
Even though the episode is in the end revealed as nothing more than a poly-orgasmic fantasy of a Savita Bhabhi on hormonal overdrive, it revealed to us that beneath her substantial and eternally heaving bosom, the bawdy Bhabhi’s heart is in the right place. Selfless service of that sort in the national interest would, in the real world, have earned her a civilian honour of some sort on Republic Day (although, knowing Savita, she would have done something outrageously carnal even on such a solemn occasion, like surreptitiously fellating the visiting head of state during the flypast!).
But in a cruel twist of bureaucratic betrayal, she now finds herself banished from Indian cyberspace. This is perverse at several levels.
Of course, the government ban is about as impotent as Savita Bhabhi’s workaholic, sexually clueless husband, and as her growing legions of fans have discovered, there are ways of getting around the ban by using proxy, anonymiser websites that cover your tracks. What is really disturbing, therefore, is the meddlesome, patriarchal mindset that underlies the decision to confine this iconic representative of a sexually liberated young Bharatiya nari to a chastity belt of the technology age.
For starters, it isn’t the job of a government to be a Net Nanny, looking out for “morally outrageous” online content that might corrupt impressionable minds: that responsibility should begin and end with parents. And there’s a whole lot of software out there to help keep the Net safe enough for concerned parents. A government that so readily starts playing moral policeman against cartoon characters, when there are countless other more pressing, real-world moral and material crimes it should be preoccupied with, risks becoming a caricature itself and is taking us down the slippery slope of censorship on frivolous grounds.
Secondly, the selective ban on Savita Bhabhi, when an entire universe of online pornography still exists for anyone with Internet access, is patently discriminatory. The weirdest aspect of this selective ban is that right now, Japanese hentai (or erotic manga comic), for instance, is more accessible in India than the culturally local (and for that reason, more alluring) Savita Bhabhi.
In fact, this offers a clue to the real reason that might underlie the decision to ban her. However improbable the Savita Bhabhi plotline scenarios might be, she represents an unconventional minority of Indian women in the real world (including, increasingly, in small-town India) who are sexually aware and assertive – and who aren’t inhibited about seeking out sensory gratification outside of traditional primary relationships, particularly when that primary relationship is singularly lacking in sizzle.
To morally inflamed minds, the real threat that arises from the Savita Bhabhi phenomenon is the life force that throbs a few inches below her navel, which leads her to, for instance, seduce teenaged, testosterone-driven cricketers in her neighbourhood who venture into her parlour to retrieve their balls. Let’s lock it up and throw away the keys, shall we?
I’m aware of the classical feminist arguments about the corrupting influence of pornography: that it commodifies women and debases them. But that argument would be valid if it weren’t just Savita Bhabhi that’s being targeted for a ban. In any case, the case against pornography is better made through public education (including sex education for young adults) than through ham-handed and completely ineffectual censorship efforts.
Curiously, recent medical research has even established that pornography might actually help promote good health, given that heightened levels of testosterone in men are associated with lower incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease, osteoporosis, cardio-vascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and clinical depression.
But, in the end, all this is just mindless beating around the bush. The real reason to Save Our Savita Bhabhi is that she represents a refreshingly new face – and much else – of one subset of young Indian women, who is giving hormonal young Indian adults not just cheap thrills but an important lesson in life. If the babu behind the ban isn’t persuaded by this argument, perhaps we could get ‘Savita Bhabhi’ to make a flesh-and-blood presentation behind the closed doors of the Culture Ministry. She usually makes a compelling case in such situations…