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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 9, Dated 05 March 2011

Porn At The End Of the Rainbow

Don’t think it’s sordid just because it’s leaked. The world of Indian sex tapes has some sassy surprises, says NISHA SUSAN

THE MOMENT in which your innocent sex tape turns into porn is the moment when English news channels talk with long faces about privacy and the Hindi channels, with less long faces, use variations of the phrase ‘zaleel harkat’. Until that moment, the sex tape1 was something you made one bored afternoon or slightly drunken night. You did it ‘me, by myself’, with your significant other, for your significant other or with a horde of fellow revellers all laughing hysterically because what could be funnier than pretending you are sexy. (Though you know you are. Of course, you are).

Once earnest editorials are written about lives ruined in premier institutions, the party is, alas, over. The disingenuous questions always posed at this moment are: Why make sex tapes? Why do ‘these girls’ agree to be taped? The answer to both is ‘because they can’. You can apply pop psychology labels of voyeurism or exhibitionism but they don’t tell you anything new. Human beings are always tinglingly alive to new tweaks on old pleasures. The phone camera is this decade’s sex tweak and the making of the sex tape is merely a new addition to the human repertoire. You could even call it position No 34. 2 (Aside: sometimes the phone camera as sex toy is not just a metaphor. Once people were embarrassingly hospitalised with root vegetables where they ought not to be in, you now hear of freak accidents involving cell phones in places they ought not to be in.)

And once you understand that, you figure why ‘these girls’ agree to be taped. Allow the possibility that the sexually curious young woman might (surprise, surprise) initiate the creation of a sex tape, throw herself into it enthusiastically and even watch it uproariously. Hence the cult around the beautiful woman in Mysore Mallige (a wildly popular sex tape that emerged from Karnataka in 2003) or the genuine admiration for the Noida MBA student in the 2009 MMS who gamely stripped and danced for her lover.

Sometimes a phone camera as sex toy is not just a metaphor. You hear of accidents with phones in places they ought not to be

The Internet is awash with ‘Indian homemades’. (Of course, the altruistic nature of the Internet is such that someone somewhere created a website with a ‘rainbow’ device. Pick a spot on the rainbow and find porn shot in that exact tint. Happy surfing.) Two genres of Indian homemades are considered blue-chip. 1) Fake/real sex tapes of Bollywood or political celebrities. 2) The ‘leaked’ tape from an educational institution. IIT, JNU, Noida B-School — these labels are instant narratives for viewers to hang their fantasies on..

Few of the thousands of Indian sex tapes ever make it to the news but many make for interesting viewing. Somewhere on Youporn or Redtube or any number of other porn sites is a video labelled ‘Delhi University Girls’ — a group of five raucous girls, sprawled on the floor of what looks like a hostel room, whose hysterical giggles is the soundtrack to their irritating essays in porn stardom. Apart from howling at each other to ‘dikhao, dikhao’, each takes coy turns to tug down her neckline and flash her cleavage at the camera. And that is as far as it goes. But the video is pregnant with the potential of how much further they could go, visibly marked as they are by their knowledge of how ‘girls gone wild’ behave in front of camera. It’s the kind of stuff that’d make Naomi Wolf’s hair stand on end.

American anti-porn activists such as Wolf and Andrea Dworkin have argued that young women and men in the West are doomed to play porn stars in their private lives. After the arrival of the Internet, Wolf argues, porn has become the wallpaper of our lives, teaching us our expectations of what sex looks, feels and smells like. Certainly, if you have watched the 2004 Delhi Public School (DPS) student’s MMS, you would believe that apocalypse is now. The schoolgirl in the MMS is persuaded by her boyfriend to ignore the phone he is holding over her head. Because, don’t worry, he is not recording her, you hear him say. He is only watching porn on his cellphone. This is a schoolgirl who thinks it is all right for her boyfriend to be watching porn on his cellphone while she is giving him a blow job. (Of course, being ignored in favour of porn is a legitimate sexual thrill too for someone somewhere. But it is too depressing to attribute such jaded palates to children).

Southern comfort An MMS that leaked from Karnataka in January

Cut to February 2011 when emerged the JNU couple who made a tape of themselves getting into the mood for some action by watching some porn. JNU’s chief proctor complained in an interview to TEHELKA, “Both of them start having sex after watching a porn clip themselves. The room has been given to them for studying and research and not for such things. There is a lot of healthy entertainment available on campus. Even then if they did such a thing, then it is objectionable.” Does healthy entertainment mean table tennis or Iranian cinema? Because then, Mr Proctor sir, sorry. Mohsin Makhmalbaf just does not cut it for a hormonal couple. For those bred on the image, sex is spectacle. Anti-porn activists have argued that the psychological damage lies in women imagining that their sexual persona lies only in being spectacle — and not in their eager muscle, nerve and imagination. Unfortunately, that attempt at reconfiguring of our sexual imaginations has been undertaken by mainstream pop culture — movies and advertising — just as ably as porn. So it is not so lurid to imagine that some of the people who make sex tapes are secretly hoping for leaks — because look at how good I look from this angle, how could I possibly keep this wealth to myself?

MANY FANS of homemade sex tapes like them for their grit, awkwardness and surprises — bored as they are by the slick finish and paint-by-numbers predictability of the multi-billion dollar porn industry. (So, of course, the porn industry now has legions of films faking the homemade sex tape aesthetic). As you plunge and drown in the sea of breasts, buttocks and body hair of Indian homemades, you are likely to find a surprisingly charming exponent of sex tape. This is roughly how it goes. A young woman, sometimes plain, sometimes spectacularly pretty, looking with mild, unstudied amusement or curiosity at the camera. Without coyness or giggling, she undresses a bit. Perhaps a hook or two of her sari blouse.

The mumbling voice behind the camera tries to coax her to go further. Sometimes she follows the suggestions. Sometimes she ignores them. The camera sometimes gives up and decides to zoom in on her lips, her eyes, her jawline. In another era, the awestruck lover might have been mucking about with a paintbrush instead. What is also evident in this variety of sex tape is the subject’s faith in her own desirability and trust in the person playing with the camera. Presumably until the video went online. But that is just an assumption. Yon unschooled maiden (whom we could eagerly fetishise) too might this very moment be discovering the joys of being a spectacle, as her sex tape joins billions of others online.

Many fans of homemade sex tapes like them for their grit, awkwardness and surprises

Here is the only way of preventing your sex tape from leaking: don’t make one. If you must make one (which you must), prepare for two possibilities. You may never view it more than once because what felt good is not necessarily going to look good (as clever little James Franco confessed in January about a sex tape he made when he was 19, sending search engines into a frenzy). The second possibility (and this we guarantee) is that someone else is going to view them. Over and over again. And perhaps rate them and leave badly spelt comments below. Prepare to grin and bear it.

Many of the women in ‘Indian homemades’ — the ones from Noida, DPS or JNU — are victims only in that the universe conspires to shame them for their minor sexual adventure when the tape leaks. Urban myths abound how they paid the price — they must have surely paid the price, we say almost hopefully. Once we acknowledge that we crave to see and be seen, perhaps then the sting embedded under our skin will dissolve.

1 We are using the phrase ‘sex tape’ rather than MMS even though no one uses VHS anymore because it sounds friendlier than any three-letter acronym.
2 As homage to Rule 34 of the Internet, a meme which states that "If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions."

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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 9, Dated 05 March 2011



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