What Has Taken the Pleasure Out of Porn?

Love and Sex

What Has Taken the Pleasure Out of Porn?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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here was a swiftness to his movement despite the heavy backpack as he made his way through the narrow school corridors. His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. Eminem’s voice from that year’s biggest hit was pounding in his head, reflecting his own stressful state. He slipped inside the boys’ washroom, took out a black plastic bag from inside his backpack and handed it over to the boy he has just met. The smile on the receiver’s face – and the relief on the delivery guy’s – said it all. “Sabse naya wala aaya hai. Sania Mirza ki duplicate hai,” I whispered as I passed a scratched VCD to my waiting friend.

About 10-15 years ago, in the glory days before the Internet and the ubiquitous tik-tik-tik-ing of dial-up modems, this is how porn was exchanged and distributed in boys’ schools in small towns. Just like contraband. And the rush from this exchange matched that of any other controlled substance.

I come from a small city in UP, where anything related to sex was – is – taboo. Your parents never talked about it, your school barely accepted it, and films and TV were showing flowers brushing against each other to insinuate any kind of sexual union. Add to that hormonal teenage boys discovering one specific part of their body that was capable of doing much more than they previously knew, and you have the perfect storm of illicit CD trading, clandestine viewing sessions, and bouts of self-discovery. This was the time when a boy struck up a lifelong bond of friendship, loyalty, and companionship with his right (or left) hand, and watching porn was much more pleasurable because it was the forbidden fruit.

A lot has changed in the last two decades, but porn, from its consumption to its procurement, has changed more than most. We did not have 4G phones streaming unlimited porn from the internet. Heck, the only useful thing on a phone back then was Snake II. There were no tube website with sleek designs presenting a multitude of categories, subcategories, and porn stars to choose from, allowing us to pleasure ourselves any time we felt like it.

I could now sense what Eve must have felt while devouring that apple. It would have felt like the tastiest fruit in all of Eden, by virtue of it being forbidden.

Back then, we made do with what we had. Porn had to be watched “by appointment”, it had its own set of rituals and was governed by certain codes.

It was a huge event in our otherwise mundane existence; a scandal if not guarded well. We had to plan bizarre excuses days in advance, just to get that one window, that uninterrupted hour-long session, which would transform our entire day, even week. I don’t want to sound like a geriatric uncle, but kids today don’t know what they’re missing. There’s plenty of porn, but the pleasure is all gone.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Older readers will know what a boon Michel Adam’s Fashion TV was in those pre-broadband, dial-up connection days. Never in their wildest dreams would artists like Mario Testino or executives at Pirelli have imagined that schoolboys in India were learning to fap while watching their artsy calendar shoots on an elite TV channel with some of the world best models, sans clothes. Yet there I was, and in my hormonal daze, Fashion TV felt like heaven.

Yet that was just a slice of what was to come. If you got on the right side of your cable operator, you could get REN TV, Russia’s greatest export to a certain generation of Indians. And this is where I found my first love, a goddess named Krista Allen in the softcore film Emmanuelle in Space which came on REN TV and blew me to shreds. For the first time, you could see people having sex, on TV! Fuck! Friday to Sunday, every night, the holy channels would broadcast unholy stuff for bad boys.

Getting into paradise is never easy, and this was no different. That’s why you needed those bizarre excuses prepared in advance. Finding a time when the whole family would be out at a party, forgoing a delicious biryani and kebab meal, and staying home alone with the fear that someone would barge in was no mean task, but it felt even better for the sacrifices you had just made for those few minutes of pleasure. Doors would be bolted and curtains would be drawn. With just one TV placed in the living room, privacy was an alien concept in those days, necessitating the cloak-and-dagger routine.

I could now sense what Eve must have felt while devouring that apple. It would have felt like the tastiest fruit in all of Eden, by virtue of it being forbidden. For the rebellious soul, everything suddenly becomes much more pleasurable the moment it becomes taboo – be it a secret love affair, that piece of pork and alcohol for a Muslim, or that medium-rare steak and hamburger for a Hindu.

Having discovered a garden of hidden delights via cable TV, I needed more. And as if on cue, along came two revolutions, which forever changed the fapping habits of not just India, but the globe. The VCD followed by the DVD allowed you to watch high-quality porn anytime you wanted, so long as you had a CD player and privacy. Porn became a community event, as boys gathered every time a friend’s house was empty to view each other’s CD collections. It was, and still is, the most private community event I’ve ever been a part of. These clandestine events solidified the bonds of friendship with our brethren, holier than any religion, more loyal than the army, and more secretive than the Mossad.

The beginning of the end was the arrival of broadband internet. At first, we would save money and go to those particular cyber cafes that had private cabins. But as home connections became more affordable, watching porn stopped being an event and was reduced to a mere activity. It began with JPEGs that took forever to load in a browser window, to letting the imagination run wild reading the stories on literotica.com, to the time when finally, videos could be streamed.

And that is how we got to today, where your phone can give you a happy ending in under five minutes. (No one’s judging.)

As a veteran, I can safely say that we all consume much more porn than we ever did. The quality is much better, it’s safer, much more private than it ever was. And I can’t stress enough that even a little bit of regulation has made the pornography industry a little more equitable for women performers – or rather has made it equally exploitative for all performers. Porn has affected the world in many ways that are impossible to count.

It is ubiquitous – but that thrill is gone. It might sound crazy to long for the days when videos would play only after buffering a hundred times, and you lived with the anxiety of being caught despite bolting every door, but what those times also held were stolen kisses, chance encounters, and bonds of friendship that last to this day.

Now, porn has become a cut-and-dried activity, with no romance attached to it. At a time when your engagement with your adult entertainment only lasts from when you log on to the website to when you close the browser window, this entire screed is a wistful bit of nostalgia porn.

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