This is a guest post by JYOTI SINGH
In May 2013, makers of the erotic comic strip came out with the Savita Bhabhi movie, where apart from Savita Bhabhi doing what she is best at, she also helps the two nerds, who mistakenly teleport her into their Orwellian India of 2070, take their revenge upon the notorious I&B Minister who bans all online porn but engages in all offline porn. With this, Savita Bhabhi was back in our ever-so-fickle public memory after 4 years of ban, but yet not quite. Her resurfacing was not as resounding as her going away. One could ascribe this to the spoken language of the movie being Hindi instead of English, which is the original language of the strip and also the official language of all modern day revolutions of the middle class on social media. Perhaps they misjudged the ‘maximum reach’ bit, which rendered her an orphan. Nevertheless, that aside, why isn’t Savita Bhabhi missed enough anyway?
Savita Bhabhi’s ban was a case of preventive morality; Internet censorship meeting patriarchy (and the likes). The hushed Indianism of the bhabhi suffix had finally got out of the bag into the mainstream and hurriedly needed to be put back in its rightful place i.e. next to saali. She worebindi, sari, and to top it, even a modern style sindhoor, and a mangalsutra rested on her bosom. In a society where all transgressions must be justified in the end, a character without any rationalization and unapologetic about her sexuality, couldn’t be redeemed. (She was not in love with her men and nor did she have a bad marriage.) A character like that is beyond redemption and is dangerous and must be eliminated from our cultural narrative, especially when it is a woman, who must be the cheerleader and mascot of morality at all times. After bequeathing her with this trophy, the other sex ingeniously excused itself to take care of the more important matters. Since she was given something to stand for, she wilfully stripped herself off her human character and became an all-sacrificing beast, inculcating super-human traits. But now she is reclaiming herself. In porn, this change was reflective in the way democratisation and mainstreaming of Savita Bhabhi happened, and its subsequent ban within a year of its online inception –while child pornography goes unchecked– was reflective of the bizarre parameters of social acceptability and unacceptability we operate with.
What if instead of the housewife Savita Bhabhi, we had a Shambhu Postman who would go door to door playing paramour to his female patrons in the afternoons? One would probably chuckle and even find the image comic, or Casanova-ish, depending on what a postman conjures up, but would hardly feel morally indignant, and this is true of both genders. Savita Bhabhi is an outlier of a woman, and as a result- for lack of any other understanding- she is closer to a man. She is a reminder of that “loose” girl whom all good boys would give themselves to before falling in love with the respectable virgins. She made men out of boys. To add to that, for the first time, a mainstream Indian porn was not looking west. Keeping true to the genre, she was graphically aspirational, yet Indian. Its consumers were all English speaking urbanites and she spoke to them in their language. The Indian mythic character from the urban legend of sorts had now become approachable. She was in our neighbourhood. She was no more the boss’ wife, but the colleague’s wife. She was a face of changing morality of bulging, rich middle class; her womanly virtues of multitasking and compartmentalising were now being used to assert her individuality, even if sexually. Changes in economics are slowly pushing changes in the moral landscape of this class, specifically the huge middle of the middle class. Therefore, it is in this class context that Savita Bhabhi debate must be had, where pushing the limits of second-wave feminism is finally becoming affordable. Thus, in that, Savita Bhabhi was doing (sic) us good when she was snatched away.
Same imagination that blames women for rape bans Savita Bhabhi while letting other creativity afloat. To say that porn encourages rape is not far from saying sex encourages rape. Maybe we should really be banning sex instead of porn, to nip it in the bud!
The only area where porn ban makes a case for itself is where children are concerned. However, instead of taking on the challenges of the medium to protect the vulnerable, the outward arbitrary banning of choice content only reveals the lack of intent and logic; but then again, less thinking is always preferred to more thinking.Doing a little bit of research on the Internet, will turn up the website where she is available for a subscription fee. Now she is not freely available to you, you have to buy her. Bizarre as it may sound, but your government won’t let you have her on its own territory yet you can buy her from a foreign territory, with a reassurance that you are paying to consume Savita Bhabhi, which subtly puts her ambiguous character in her place, and you, in yours. Money is a great distinguisher even in its role as penalty.
Savita Bhabhi strip is a serendipitous accident without any sociological intent by some porn enthusiasts, but one can’t take away from that fact that she does point out to herself. The intent here is not promotion of porn but the promotion of accepting a reality. Porn and Savita Bhabhi, in that sense, are interchangeable- they are both real and high time we accepted them both. The definition of what is acceptable gets revised with every generation, and that generational window is rapidly contracting. Banning could be myopia or limitation of governments; it cannot be the way of societies. Societies are evolutionary entities, transient. The Internet is here to stay, and it is no more just a medium but a philosophy that could be slowly carving out its own belief system, like any society. The real and the virtual worlds will have to coexist, and there is no denying that they’ll both expose each other from time to time.
In the end, however, what matters is no matter how nuanced truth is, it still is truth, truth that reveals itself with or without our approval, and Savita Bhabhi’s is one such case, where a well-kept secret is in fact a well-known secret.