Hmm, umm…I don’t know how to begin this. It is that kind of a subject. Actually, I am not at all sure whether I should be writing about this. Nor I am certain whether you can read this. But responsibility and reasonability have never been my virtues, and so here I go.
Last week, a friend espied that his teen-age son had visited a couple of porn sites on the web. And soon he was off like the opposition in Parliament — full of raging fury, but actually amounting to nothing. As a father there was every reason for him to feel agitated and he naturally felt the need to rebuke his ward. He certainly was not holding anything back. In a show that would have made Thirisoolam Sivaji seem restrained and subtle, the friend went over the top. The young boy was puzzled as to why his father was working himself to a lather over everyday porn stuff. ‘It is not worse than the English movie that we watched together the other day,’ the boy told his infuriated dad.
And, if truth be told, I was also aghast. Not with what the young man had done, but because of the fact that porn and other associated fun objects of youthhood are now available more easily than ever.
In our days, porn books seemed part of a strange CAS (Conditional Access System). In those times of quota raj, everything in life was rationed. Sadly, porn apparently came at the last of essential goods list. And we — young and impressionable minds all ready and raring to go —- had to make do with old copies of dog-eared Debonair. It was no mere magazine. It was the touchstone of adulthood. A boy may have started sprouting a moustache, his voice might have started to sound like Usha Uthup with a bad throat and his testosterone levels may have shamed a Tour de France cyclist, but he would not be deemed to have grown up if he had not ogled through the pages of Debonair. If you have read (actually read is not the operative word, seen or viewed would be more like it) Debonair then you are ready to become a man. In other words, it was the kindergarten literature of adulthood. (As an aside, I always found the ‘erotic crossword’ on Debonair a bit too rich. It was disturbingly kinky. It seemed like an AC-fitted room in Ooty or Kodaikanal. Who would want to work out the positions on the grid when the operative horizontal or vertical formations were something else?).
Occasionally, well-thumbed issues of Penthouse and Playboy would come our way. But in these grave matters of serious adulthood, most of us followed the Gandhian rule of sticking with swadeshi things.
Actually, I never saw boys go out and buy the magazine, but it was available in the wink-and-nudge circuit if you knew whom to tap. And the one who usually lends the stuff will naturally come along as it was his way of ensuring that nobody zilched a couple of all-important pages. Like a Japanese tea party, Debonair-reading sessions involved a convoluted ritual. All the friends would gather in one place (usually in the house of whose parents were out of town) and with windows and other apertures shut, the issues of the said magazine would be passed around in stealthy silence. Occasional giggles and arching of eyebrows, which could be an expression of surprise or amazement, would punctuate the closed-door meeting. But that was it. It would all be over, and soon it would be back to the streets for cricket or some good-natured banter and sly laughter on what was espied.
The other day a friend a confessed that he had watched porn with his wife. To me it was sacrilege. The sanctity of porn had been compromised beyond repair. It is not shopping at Spencer’s Plaza to be done along with the partner. Certain things need to be kept under wraps always. It is not prudishness or coyness. But secretiveness is the essence of those things. It is what adds to the flavour. Or to be precise, it is the flavour.
Looking back, more than what we saw in Debonair, the essence of the moment, the agreeable slyness of it all, was what added a special allure to it. The forbidden nature was the quintessence. It was furtive, hence pleasurable.
That is the problem these days. Everything is available on a tap. From photos to real thing, all can be had without much problem. And that is what makes me suspect that today’s generation doesn’t enjoy porn as much as the generation that did before.