porn by any other name

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Meeharaka syndrome

daya dissanayake

When the Europeans invaded India, they looked at them as sex temples, as pure pornography. Some called it "The birth place of porn". To quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica, "Pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder". Even today the tourist industry exploits them as pure pornography, but available uncensored. According to Victorian standards, "pornography is representation of sexual behaviour in books, pictures, statues, motion pictures and other media that is intended to cause sexual excitement". (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Then Khajuraho is pure pornography for those who seek them for such sexual excitement. Till recent times, no one in India had considered them as obscene, because they are religious spaces, which had been built by the Chandela kings between the 9th to 11th centuries, with some of the most exquisite sculptures created by man and dedicated to Indian gods, and influenced by Tantric philosophy.

Even Mahatma Gandhi, the great man he was, erred about the temples at Khajuraho. He wanted them destroyed. He is reported as saying, "These temples will show the whole world that we are not moral people, that we are not puritans." That is why Claude Markovits wrote in 'Un-Gandhian Gandhi', "he (Gandhi) was a Victorian intellectual rather than an anglicized one, and he himself did not realize to what extent, intellectually, he was a product of the Victorian era". (p.130).

Fortunately for the art lovers of the world, the Mahatma was prevented from finishing what the Muslim invaders did a few centuries earlier, when they destroyed about 75 of the Khajuraho temples. It was Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who had opposed this idea and saved the temples.

True Art is not pornography and Pornography is not art. All pornography is vile, not just the 'blue' videos and under-the-counter porn magazines, but even what the male intellectuals used to give a more 'respectable' term, 'erotica'. All porn is about violation of the human body and mind, and men who created them originally targeted the female, but unfortunately now the female of the species too has entered the market, producing cheap porn targeting other weak minded females and a few men.

Pornography is said to be about unnatural sex acts and perversions, but it was Aldous Huxley who had said, "Chastity is the most unnatural of all the sexual perversions." Probably porn is also a result of the concept of monogamy which arose in the west, which led to the suppression of natural human desires. Taking Aldous Huxley's statement further, monogamy too is unnatural and a perversion, not found among other animals. Did this develop with the Ten Commandments according to the Hebrew bible? "You shall not commit Adultery". "You shall not covet your neighbour's wife". The woman is grouped with the neighbour's other possessions, his house, his slaves and animals. Yet it does not say man could have only one wife, or a woman could have more than one husband.

Perhaps man had misinterpreted the divine command, in the same way some Buddhists have misinterpreted the Five Precepts, by reading the Third precept in isolation, with taking the word kama as sexual desire, while it means sensual desire. If we take all Five Precepts together, as long as we show loving kindness to all life, do not take what does not belong to us, do not hurt or abuse any one by thought or deed, then there would be no need to impose any sexual mores or commandments, and there would never be any need for pornography or sexual violence.

It is the suppression of the sex urge which would have opened the door for prostitution, after the freedom enjoyed by the men in ancient India or Greece. Roger Just (Women in Athenian Land and Life) quotes from the Greek orator Demosthenes "We have hetairai (prostitutes) for pleasure, pallakai (concubines) for our daily bodily needs, and gynaikes (wives) to bear us legitimate children and to be the faithful guardians of our households".

When man became more puritan, prostitution developed its own stigma, and visiting a prostitute was sometimes very difficult in a close knit family or in a village. Pornography would have been the next marketable product for the entrepreneur, because it could be sold and purchased more surreptitiously than buying sex with a woman. Every development in printing and digital technology made the distribution easier and easier, and today any young child could access it on his computer or even his mobile phone or at unscrupulous internet cafes.

Pornography makes the woman a sex object, a 'thing' which could be used or abused. According to Richard Brodie "...men get quickly aroused by visual stimuli, which is why today pornography is much more popular with men than with women." Brodie argues that it was "evolutionarily important" for the male to pass on his DNA.

Pornography cannot be controlled by authorities, by banning films or by burning books. I remember when I was a kid, once they burned a collection of Sinhala novels at the Galle esplanade. The organizers distributed a booklet, justifying their action, why such books should be banned, and this booklet was given even to the children. It contained the juiciest extracts from the books, but this booklet was not burned.

We saw what such pornography would do to a young man, in the film 'Meeharaka', by I. N. Hewawasam, some years back. May be it is this 'Meeharaka syndrome', if I may coin a term, which is one reason for the increasing incidents of rape and violence, by men who are sexually frustrated and who are further excited by pornography.

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