I decided to use the iPhone as my cultural text for my visual culture essay. I came to this decision as I wanted to explore the potential issues associated with smartphones and pornography, and the clear link between this aspect of modern life and the late John Berger’s musings on nudity and the male gaze in ‘Ways Of Seeing’ seemed too strong to ignore.
In order to start thinking about my argument, I began finding articles about the subject at hand. Below, I have documented and annotated each one:
‘Smartphone Porn Use Set To Rise Dramatically By 2020’ – The Telegraph Online
“The public’s appetite for online porn is set to continue to grow at a dramatic rate, according to research published this week, with phones becoming porn users’ favourite medium. A study by digital analysts Juniper Research has concluded that adult smartphone users will each watch an average of 348 porn videos on their devices in 2015.
In total, the researchers estimate that 136 billion sexually explicit videos will be watched on smartphones this year. If that sounds like a lot, they go on to predict that the number will increase by a further 55 per cent over the next five years, to 193 billion videos. According to the Juniper report, titled “Digital Adult Content: Market Trends, Forecasts and Revenue Opportunities 2015-2020″, the increase will be more significant in developing markets, as Wi-Fi and 4G technology become more widely available. The rise will be less steep in western Europe. However, net growth will be at its greatest in the United States. The report also predicts there will be a boom in pornographic content created for new virtual reality devices. However, porn producers are set to continue to see their profit margins suffer as more users turn to free streaming services such as PornHub. Currently the global porn industry is estimated to be worth around £62 billion.”
- article gives statistics which presents stronger argument – “smartphone users will watch watch an average of 348 porn videos on their devices in 2015”
- clearly suggests link between phones and porn – “as Wi-Fi and 4G technology become more widely available
‘Porn In A Pocket’ – India Today
“Stark naked, she pleads with folded hands. ‘Please mujhe jaane do (Please let me go),’ she tells the man intent on raping her on the back seat of a car moving through rush-hour traffic in Delhi. He laughs maniacally and slaps her into submission while his friend on the front seat captures it all on a mobile phone. A young Punjabi bride, the choora (white and red bangles) signalling her newly married status still in place on her wrists, is sexually violated in full view of a bunch of guffawing men. ‘Hai maa (Oh mother)!’ she screams in obvious agony only to be admonished with Punjabi expletives by one of the bystanders for bringing her ‘pious’ mother into the ‘gandagi (dirt)’.
Amidst the sugarcane fields outside Haryana’s Pataudi town, a young girl surrenders to her paramour’s sexual demands. He revels in her anguished screams relenting only briefly to let her take a call from her mother. ‘I will be back in the afternoon,’ she tells the anxious parent as the boyfriend continues to record everything on his smartphone.
Millions of Indians are surreptitiously satisfying their secret voyeuristic selves with such clips and others even more sadistic. Nine million-plus Indians download and view proscribed adult content (pornography) on their mobile phones, according to a 2012 report on telecom portal Themobileindian.com quoting industry sources. Not to mention millions of others who are now consuming porn quite literally by the gigabyte-the vilest videos depicting real or contrived rape, incest, paedophilia and violent sex-now freely available on micro memory cards or pen drives at almost every mobile repair shop, cyber cafe, and even with pavement hawkers.
SLEAZE ON SALE NEXT DOOR
It is barely past 10 on a Friday morning and the bylanes of Gaffar Market in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area are already teeming with buyers. Seated on a red plastic stool amid an eager huddle of migrant workers and college students, Bablu Singh, a young man attired in jeans and a flashy black-and-yellow T-shirt, shows them flitting images of all that he would let them have for the right price. With the practised air of a veteran salesman, he quickly strikes a deal with a factory worker and four friends-Rs 150 for three of the raunchiest Bhojpuri films and two dozen sex clips all neatly loaded onto the memory card on his Chinese smartphone. ‘You’re getting a bargain. I know you will transfer it to your pals here for free,’ Singh tells the man, quickly moving on to to his next prospective customer. ‘You fellows are not going to believe what I have for you in here,’ he tells the college boys meaningfully drumming his fingers on his laptop. ‘These new clips probably have some girls you know.’ They are hooked as he deftly extracts the memory cards from the boys’ phones to ‘recharge’. Rohit Kumar, 22, is a school dropout who makes his living selling pirated DVDs on the pavement in Chandigarh’s Sector 17 commercial centre. Desi and foreign rape videos, he says, are the most sought-after. ‘Everyone, students, rickshawwala bhaiyas and older gentlemen like you always ask for those first,’ the youngster smirks. But can he load it on a memory card or pen drive? ‘No problem, but delivery next day.’
ADDICTION OF THE MORBID KIND
So do Indians share a morbid fascination for depictions of sexual violence? Mobile phones were used nearly 4.1 million times a month on average to search with the keyword ‘rape’ over the past year, according to Google AdWords. Search keywords included ‘Indian girls raped’, ‘raping video’, ‘raping stories’, ‘raped in public’, ‘little girl raped’, ‘raping mom’, ‘father raping daughter’ and ‘raped to death’. This again doesn’t include people who go out and buy their fix of sleaze-on-the-go from mobile repair shops, the street corner DVDwala or the overly friendly cyber cafe owner. The obvious portability and the voyeuristic prospect of viewing smutty videos in public spaces seems to draw a wide cross-section of people to phone porn. Manmeet Kaur, 25, was shocked when she discovered dozens of ‘rape porn’ videos alongside ‘highly objectionable’ footage with former girlfriends on her fiance’s smartphone. She confronted her fiance with the evidence before dumping him. ‘He was two-timing me with his mobile phone,’ she says.
THE WORST IS YET TO COME
In February 2013 a year-long survey of 964 collegians by Rescue, a Mysore-based ‘moral consciousness’ group, concluded that 75 per cent of all male undergraduate or pre-university students regularly consumed porn. The study also reported that the boys were ‘six times more likely’ to view the proscribed adult content on mobile phones.
Incredible as it may sound, the nine million Indians estimated to be using mobile devices to download porn, spend an average of Rs 5,500 every year on procuring content. The road ahead and its direction is no secret. The US-based Strategy Analytics estimates that smartphone penetration in India will touch 33 per cent of all mobile users by 2015. The Bangalore-based Convergence Catalyst, another mobile industry watchdog, predicts that India’s smartphone market will double over 2013 crossing 44 million handsets.
In January 70-year-old Niyaz Raza of Govandi, Mumbai, was arrested after he allegedly raped a 13-year-old girl, his sixth victim, and circulated a 12-minute mobile phone video of the teenager performing oral sex on him. More recently, on April 15, 22-year-old garment factory worker Manoj Sah and 19-year-old Pradeep Kumar admitted in police custody that they had watched porn on Sah’s mobile phone before raping a neighbour’s five-year-old child in East Delhi.
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER?
In April 2013, Kamlesh Vaswani, an Indore-based lawyer, petitioned the Supreme Court seeking legislation that would make the viewing of pornography a non-bailable, criminal offence. Vaswani says Indian society is in serious peril with young children having access to “more than 20 crore” porn videos and clippings of “graphic, violent, brutal, deviant and destructive” content than ever before. Robert Jensen’s July 2004 paper on VAWnet, a US online resource centre on violence against women, contends that all available studies broadly support the 1970s feminist critique of pornography-that it harms women and children. Psychologist and women’s activist Kishwar Ahmed Shirali, 75, who works with women and child victims of violence in Kashmir, however, says the link between pornography and sexual offences has never been conclusively established. She says that most Indian men including those accused of rape ‘were exposed to a prevailing culture of patriarchy and misogyny for years before being exposed to pornography’.
While the jury is still out, it’s a chilling thought that your cook, driver, the neighbourhood postman, anyone among the line of autorickshawwalas on the street corner, the neighbour’s teenage sons or even the nice young executive who lives next door and always offers to carry the groceries up to your flat, could have been watching porn on their mobile phones moments before they engaged with you. Or your five-year-old daughter.”
- highlights a major link between smartphone pornography and violent crimes – “they had watched porn on Sah’s mobile phone before raping a neighbour’s five-year-old child in East Delhi”
- majority of porn watched is violent and disturbing
- sheds light on another way in which phones increase porn viewing – “two dozen sex clips all neatly loaded onto the memory card” – people make money selling these clips, which they transfer to customers’ phones via memory cards
- counter argues that it isn’t merely smartphones that have created problems of violent sexual crime – “most Indian men including those accused of rape ‘were exposed to a prevailing culture of patriarchy and misogyny for years before being exposed to pornography’.”
‘The Battle Against Porn’ – New Internationalist Blog
“I have to believe in personal freedom. I am after all, a journalist and have been one for a fairly long time. Why, then, would I support a ban on pornography? Curtailing freedom is anathema to me. But I abhor porn. Not from a moral point of view. What two consenting adults do in their own time, in or out of their bedroom, is their own business, I believe. I cannot and will never be part of the moral policing brigade. The 1970s was all about rebelling against the hypocrisy of our parents’ generation. Remember?
I have thought about this long and hard.
The reason I detest the porn blitz, which has gone viral in India, is because I believe it puts women and children at risk. I have been writing about women’s issues, rape and child abuse for so long that I am thoroughly sick of having to do so. I have been told by youngsters, whose opinions are based on the gospel according to the internet, that I am being naïve, ignorant and ill-informed.
Why am I sounding off like the fundamentalist I’m supposedly not, they ask me. It’s quite simple, really. Dismiss my views as unscientific, as not based on empirical evidence and so on. But the police report that child and violent porn was being viewed by the perpetrators in a huge number of rape and sexual-abuse cases. Mark Bridger, the paedophile who kidnapped, raped and murdered 4-year-old April Jones, had lots of paedophile porn on his computer. Phillip Noyes, acting chief executive of Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), says April’s case adds to growing evidence of the link between child sexual abuse and extreme porn.
Child porn is for perverts, I can hear critics say, but adult porn is our birthright. Right? Wrong. I typed ‘porn’ and ‘rape’ into a search engine. The offers to watch virgins deflowered (my version of expletive deleted) forcibly and violently is what comes up, time and again. It is revolting viewing.
I came to the conclusion that many, but not all, rapes are linked to porn when I first read about the 3-year-old Delhi infant raped immediately after the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape. The perpetrators used an empty bottle to brutally violate the child – inspired, it seems, by the new violent porn addiction being watched by all and sundry on their smartphones. An activist from Jharkhand state in eastern India reports that 10 and 12-year old boys there are able to download violent phone porn for as little as a couple of pence. The result: an explosion of violent sexual abuse in tribal Jharkhand, where the word rape did not exist in the adivasi languages.
Rape has existed since time immemorial everywhere. In India, Dalit, adivasi and other economically vulnerable women have been raped as a right. And the rapists – whether politicians, priests or the powerful rich – continue to rape with impunity.
‘Did the priests who abused children have the internet to watch porn in the 1960s?’ taunts a dismissive reader. I am a relic, apparently – ignorant, too, without empirical evidence to prove my case. A Chennai judge observed that many marriages in India are falling apart because men want their wives to enact the porn scenes they watch. Divorce on sexual grounds has increased exponentially, civil and family courts report, because of men’s new-found sexual preferences, inspired, apparently, by their birthright to watch porn.
The new rapes, the devastatingly violent ones – although of course every rape is by definition violent – are being directly linked to the violent porn being watched by urban and rural men on their smartphones. The use of a metal rod in the Nirbhaya rape was not ‘normal sex’; it was not even a ‘normal rape’. Watching the violent porn episodes are not for the faint-hearted: they are ugly, brutish and perverted.
It is imperative, nowadays, to always walk the line of being ‘cool’, ultra-modern and liberal; meaning the individual’s self-gratification comes first. I think this is an abuse of the term ‘fighting for freedom’. Protecting women and children from violence and sexual abuse is, to me, paramount. And if it means banning harmful porn, so be it. That, to me, is non-negotiable.”
- argues a clear link between violent pornography and sexual crime
- argues that not all sexual crimes are a result of porn, but that the extremely violent, perverted acts of rape and abuse seem to be a direct result of porn, with people attempting to copy what they have seen in videos
‘Basically…Porn Is Everywhere’ – Children’s Commissioner
“The first year of our Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups revealed shocking rates of sexual violation of children and young people in these contexts. We obtained incontrovertible evidence that, between August 2010 and October 2011, at least 2,409 children were victims of sexual exploitation. Equally troubling was the evidence that at least a further 16,500 children were at high risk of being sexually exploited because they showed three or more risk indicators.
The Inquiry team heard children recount appalling stories about being raped by both older males and peers, often in extremely violent and sadistic circumstances, and in abusive situations that frequently continued for years. The majority of victims are female, although there is no doubt that boys are victims too.
This appalling abuse blights the lives of those affected, leaving them struggling to cope with the legacy of their abuse.
The use of and children’s access to pornography emerged as a key theme during the first year of the Inquiry. It was mentioned by boys in witness statements after being apprehended for the rape of a child, one of whom said it was ‘like being in a porn movie’; we had frequent accounts of both girls’ and boys’ expectations of sex being drawn from pornography they had seen; and professionals told us troubling stories of the extent to which teenagers and younger children routinely access pornography, including extreme and violent images. We also found compelling evidence that too many boys believe that they have an absolute entitlement to sex at any time, in any place, in anyway and with whomever they wish. Equally worryingly, we heard that too often girls feel they have no alternative but to submit to boys’ demands, regardless of their own wishes.
We commissioned this important literature review to deepen our own and others’ understanding of the impact on children and young people of viewing pornography, including extreme and violent images. Research in this area is fraught with ethical difficulties. While this report has shed considerable light on this complex and important issue, there is no doubt that much more work needs to be done before definitive statements can be made about causal links between the use of pornography and perpetrators going on to commit sexual abuse or exploitation.
It is unclear whether pornography is more extreme and violent today than in the past. What is clear, however, is that children’s access to pornography is fundamentally different from that of previous generations because of the prevalence of these materials on the internet. Explicit sex and violent still and moving images depicting rape, bestiality, the use of pain and humiliation are potentially just a few clicks away. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets and their use by children and young people to access the internet, often away from adult supervision, make it very difficult for parents to control access to these images. In addition, there is a significant problem of sexual bullying and harassment through children and young people sending personal, intimate images to others; this can have profoundly distressing consequences.
This report goes some way to answering our questions about the impact on children of viewing pornography. Our request to the researchers was that they presented to us the unvarnished evidence, free from ideology. We know that pornography is pervasive and that a significant proportion of children are exposed to it or are accessing it. We know that boys are more likely to view pornography out of choice than girls, who are much more reluctant viewers. Most worryingly, the evidence here shows that exposure to sexualised and violent imagery affects children and young people and that there are links between violent attitudes and violent media.”
- distinctive link to access to porn – “children’s access to pornography is fundamentally different from that of previous generations”
- “one of whom said it was ‘like being in a porn movie'”
- still states that evidence is not entirely conclusive that porn definitely leads to violent sexual crimes, but does say “the evidence here shows that exposure to sexualised and violent imagery affects children and young people and that there are links between violent attitudes and violent media”