Soon we will be celebrating 25 years of economic reforms backed up by liberalisation and globalisation. I was a toddler then. By the time I grew conscious to my surroundings, whatever conceptual resistance had greeted liberalisation had dissipated. Somewhere along the way a sexual revolution happened right in the middle of the information superhighway.
Sure, my mother's sisters in metropolitan India went through a conundrum over females' right to sexual expression in the 1960s to the 80s, duly recorded by Femina, Eve's Weekly and Women's Era. But as the 20th century passed into history, a more voluminous one happened. Some say it was backgrounded by the Internet revolution, others say it was foregrounded. Either way, it is one aspect of 'liberalisation' which the mainstream media is not likely to talk of. Reason? The media is still dominated by 20th century folks.
The internet has done things to our minds which we hadn't budgeted for. Young women—as early as preteens—are not only having sex with hymen-defying casualness, but also recording themselves in the act for pure joy's sake. We now have a generation that has given hedonism's old mantra—if you have it flaunt it—a completely new meaning.
We are done with banning porn out of the awareness that technology would always keep a step ahead of our anxieties. Another disturbing new truism is that today's young adults are setting a norm which factors in none of opposition to which we were conditioned to (weakly) offer. Who remembers today the 2005 Bollywood thriller, Kalyug (2005), which touched the raw nerves involved with the MMS proliferation? The script sympathised with Pavitra Bharatiya Naridom's entrapment in a voyeuristic world. But a decade down that road, the template has changed. Now we have Pavitra Bharatiya Naris encouraging their partners (both sexes) to film them in coitus. How do I know? Because I regularly surf porn sites to record the turning of the great kalchakra.
Porn of the Indian amateur variety seems to the hottest thing on the net—an average upload of "Desi Bhabhi" or "Indore Red Sari girl" or "Indian honeymoon couple" gets close to a million views before dissolving from the home pages of the major porn sites. What's most intriguing is that the females in them are not tricked by perverted husbands or boyfriends, but perform the acts of deepest intimacy fully conscious that the camera is rolling.
The popular arts have already recorded, albeit with moderation, the new liberalism in female attitudes to voyeurism. In Masaan (2015), the father of a young woman is blackmailed to ruination by a cop who barges into a hotel room to interrupt her (the Richa Chadha character) in the act of lovemaking and even films them in a position deemed "compromising". In the perspective of new India, the boyfriend, the cop and the father do only the things expected of them—suicide with shame, seek graft and buckle respectively. Only the girl defies, through indifference to her father's woes and reconstruction of her own life nevertheless!
Our mainstream media is stuck with its head under the sand. It is refusing to recognise that sexual expressionism in the 21st century can somehow appear profoundly primitive despite a foundation on sophistication. But then, who needs the mainstream media these days? Anybody with a camera can be journalist. Youtube.com is a better mirror to society than all those noisy nightly debates on the idiot box. Four-minute bits on youtube.com feature Delhi college girls frankly admitting that they not only masturbate frequently but also don't mind sexting with good looking guys they don't necessarily consider Mr Right.
The new Indian woman is not manifesting any of her politically right parents' disdain towards porn. She has joined the enemy. However, there is a social ambush waiting for her. The permanence of a recorded line or act on the internet will prevent these liberals from moving on. Today's girls want maximum sexual freedom at its perverse best plus 'stability' through marriage with boys with single syllable names, a job in finance who loves her only a little less than his golden retriever.
So, on the silver jubilee of the great Indian "growth" era, let's wonder where the sexual revolution is headed.
Shruti Chopra is a columnist and author, Battered Experience, 2011