Richa Padte: Indian Writer’s New Book Calls For ‘Rethinking Porn’

CYBERSPACE—Author says that in 2013, when the government of her native India proposed two separate measures to ban pornography, arguing that the bans were designed “to protect Indian women,” she suddenly found herself, “very, very angry—with everyone who thought that they were doing women a favor” by making porn illegal in the world’s second-most populous country.

But the planned porn bans—one by the country’s parliament, the other from the India Supreme Court—got her wondering if others were as outraged as she was, so she began doing research, and found something that surprised her.

“I actually started talking to people for the book, and I realized two things,” she said with the Indian edition of GQ magazine. “One, what people were sharing with me were not stories of anger, but stories of joy. Second, I realized that this wasn’t a women’s issue. The pursuit of pleasure, sex, intimacy—everyone who’s human wants these things.”

Five years later, Padte has published an account of her experiences with online porn, and the experiences of her many interview subjects, into her new book, .

“The idea that porn is bad for women has been espoused by anti-porn movements across the world, and the word that is often used is ‘protection’: women’s bodies need to be covered up and protected—not only from men, but from sex itself,” she writes in the book, an excerpt from which was by BuzzFeed.

“When I asked the women I surveyed what they liked in their porn—and what they wanted to see more of—the most frequent answer I got was related to consent. One woman writes, ‘Porn where the woman looks like she’s been coerced or forced isn’t sexy and just makes me feel uncomfortable. Porn where women have autonomy is sexy.’”

India appears to be a country with unusual tastes in porn. Research by data scientist Seth Davidowitz in his recent book Everybody Lies showed that—based on internet search data—India leads the world in the popularity of breastfeeding porn, and that while Google searches for instructions on how to breastfeed a baby are common everywhere, in India they are matched by searches for instructions on “how to breastfeed a husband.”

But though Padte says that her preferences lean toward “feminist porn,” she also spoke to men in India about their experiences with viewing porn as teens—and came away with some surprising results there as well.

“Boys are not having the experience they pretend to each other they’re having. Imagine being 12 years old and seeing these huge white (pink?) dicks, these impossibly curvy women, doing all sorts of things that they can’t imagine doing,” she told GQ India. “One told me of how he almost threw up the first time time he saw a blowjob. Another told me it took over a decade into adulthood for him to be okay with the shape and size of his penis. Made me realize that men also experience vulnerabilities around porn.”

Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography was published on May 15 by Penguin India, and is available as in the United States.

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