Cyber Sexy by Richa Kaul Padte
Updated: Feb 14
Review by Meera Mokashi
With apologies to Jane Austen: it is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a good internet must be in want of porn. It is also a well-known fact that there are as many things that can turn people on as there are people in this world.
What the book Cyber Sexy does is that it unpacks the various dimensions of this simple statement and gives us so many lenses with which to review it. The author relates stories of how the experience of online conversations, porn or just the Savita Bhabhi viewing has been for them. Listening to people share these stories is extremely relatable to the point that I found myself saying ‘hey, me too’ on multiple pages!
Besides making it relatable, what this book does, above all, is that it raises a very important question which is this: In a world where there are infinite things that can be turn on for different people and the same things could be boring to others, how can we define what
counts as porn?
As the judge she quotes from a famous case in the US said so confidently --“I cannot define porn, but I know it when I see it”. This is precisely what creates all the censorship problems due to the inherent subjectivity!
Here are ten reasons why ‘Cyber Sexy’ is a must read.
1. The sexy history.
We live in a society that is obsessed with power and in order to maintain this power there has to be a control over everything that holds power and that challenges power. Porn is no exception to this. Pornography in a way liberates people and demonstrates human desires hence it stands as threat to the existing power dynamic that is dependent on micro managing every individual and their desires and how they act upon them. The gatekeepers (censoring boards?) are usually the elite and privileged people of upper class and upper caste. What Cyber Sexy does is that it explains how there is power to porn and why it was defamed in the first place and what is the politics behind it. It talks about how our Indian culture that gave us Kama Sutra and temples with erotic sculptures underwent a drastic change when the British came along with their Victorian morals.
2. Pro-porn or Anti-porn?
Richa Padte elaborates how pornography is not just one thing which can be scientifically defined. If we cannot even define what it is then how can we be pro or
3. Evolution of porn.
Reading this book is like going on a journey from past to the present. After talking about the origin and history of porn, the book discusses how the internet became a game changer. Porn has existed for centuries but the internet made it available to ‘common’ folk. There is a mention in the book that there were findings of an ancient ruined temple, which were erotic, but they were never published and were on display only for the men in power, and that was the very first exclusive porn exhibit.
Internet changed this power dynamic at the core by democratizing access to such material.
4. Safe space?
If you read this book, which I really think you should, then you would realize that there are so many arguments that are made against porn that have no basis. E.g. The argument that the porn increases the tendency to rape but in reality, there are many published scientific research reports that state that there is not direct link between media and a particular action. In fact the internet can be a space for creating support groups for many people. The chat forums, sexting, uploading homemade material and controlling who sees it, are a great way to interact with people just like ourselves. This is especially helpful to those who are struggling with their own sexuality in their real life.
5. DIY and Homemade porn!
There is an entire section dedicated to homemade and desi porn!! Did you know that Indians are one of the leading viewer groups to watch porn? Not just hetero porn but also homosexual, group, etc. So, you are not alone!
Richa not only talks about how these laws are made but also informs us about all the laws present in India with regards to porn. The use of these laws is misinterpreted to control the very population that they are suppose to protect. Understand the politics behind the governing of porn.
7. What about the kids?
The most commonly used argument against the porn is about how it will affect the ‘innocent minds of the kids’. The author talks about how banning porn doesn’t erase the curiosity that children have about sex and sexuality. There are hardly any sources of sexuality education for most children and thus the internet becomes the only place where they get any information at all. The secrecy around sex is not healthy. Sex and sexuality is not just about the physical act but it is also about the desires and identities of individuals. It is true that most of what is currently available is meant for the male gaze and could be exploitative to those involved so we do need a feminist porn industry that is empowering, inspiring and satisfactory.
Porn as a revenge strategy is outright blackmail and harassment. The lawmakers fail to differentiate the demarcation between lack of consent and porn altogether. As long as there is consent there shouldn’t be interference from law, and if there is breach to consent then the law needs to act on that particular act of offence instead of banning the whole institution. Many of the scandals are discussed in this book with great amount of attention to the detail and also the political motives behind the decisions.
9. Digital Rights!
This is my absolute favorite part of the book which discusses how porn is a human right. I can make what I want to, I can watch what I want to as long as it is consented. By banning porn, you are interfering in my personal life and taking away my rights.
10. Favourite Quotes!
Not to give you spoilers but I would like to share some of my favourite quotes from
“Throughout history, and across the world, women's chastity and virtue have been used as markers of national cultural worth.”
“The idea of sex work weighs heavily upon our collective moral conscience, in particular because most sex workers are women. The idea that women can choose to have sex for a living unsettles many peoples' notions about how women should behave, and these include people who have the power to decide how cities, and by extension societies, are structured.”
“I like that she is in charge of her sexuality, she is aware of what she enjoys and goes after it with no hesitation, I find it quite inspiring”- talking about Savita Bhabhi.
Footnote: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen opens with: “It is a truth universally
acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.