January 24, 2020
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This Battle Is Lost

Women’s sexuality and internet porn are boldly recast by a thorough debunking of old norms

This Battle Is Lost
Cyber Sexy
By Richa Kaul Padte
Penguin | Pages: 255 | Rs. 399

Rich in forbidden content, Cyber Sexy tracks the search for satiating desire from those mythical days in the elusive garden to the brave new world of virtual flesh. Howsoever ind­ividuals may shun it publicly for being politically and morally incorrect, desire runs deep within each one of us. If we were to look within ourselves without shame, we would be faced with variations of the same desires that we condemn others for.      Taking readers on a cyber tour of online pleasure, the author provides a nuanced understanding on why our foregone conclusions on sex, identity, and desire are gender-biased and flawed. Why is it that sexual desire, and not sexual pleasure, a moral problem? Why is there an undue emphasis on male desire for seeking sexual pleasure? Why does society make women feel ashamed of expressing their desires, with a default assumption that porn is worse for women?

Despite ancient sculptures and med­ieval paintings bearing testimony to desire being eternal to humans, reality manifests itself between sheets or beh­ind closets. The colonial idea that anything related to sex is immoral persists under regressive laws, making it obligatory for the state to protect women from its purported impact, both moral and physical.

Cyber Sexy is full of hitherto unnoticed categories of desire. Not that they didn’t exist. The net enabled people who desired differently to feel a little less alone.

The book blows the lid off such ass­umptions. Far from what the laws state and what the state feels, Indian women have come of age in exploring their sexuality and have agency and autonomy to explore their hidden desires. They are as adventurous as their counterparts, some 30 per cent of all visitors on the porn websites were women in 2017.

Cyber Sexy is pregnant with hitherto unnoticed categories of desire. Not that these desires did not exist; the internet only enabled people who des­ired differently to feel a little less alone by giving shape and support to them. And it proliferates because it stirs the universal set of emotions that lie buried underneath. The book offers enough evidence that people are exp­loring each other’s bodies, sexting one another, and uploading their unmet desires on the internet.

Diving into kinky online porn, Richa comes out holding a mirror on society’s subjective moral judgement. As India runs thr­ough its millennial churn, the question worth probing is why are women’s bodies the battlegro­und on which the fight for morality takes place? It is tough not to agree that the solo aim of pushing desire into morality’s deepest trench is to monopolise the power for defining gender roles in a man’s world.

Cyber Sexy provides an equalising narrative on how the artificial binaries have begun to blur. Although concerns regarding seeking consent, avoiding objectification and curbing coercion are relevant, the need to redefine our approach towards fleshy fruits freely hanging on the internet is critical to acknowledge desire as an integral part of human rights to sexuality.

Radical and uncompromising, Cyber Sexy is a book on a woman’s perspective on cyber porn by a woman, which puts to rest the fallacy that by valuing desire one compromises on family values, societal norms, and inner spirituality.

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