What is Porn?

Pornography (often abbreviated as porn) is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, phone calls, writing, film, video, and video games. The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease. The primary subjects of present-day pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors or “porn stars”, who perform in pornographic films. If dramatic skills are not involved, a performer in pornographic media may also be called a model.

Another way of describing porn is television programmes, magazines, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a non-sexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience.

Looks like today I am in the mood to write definitions and sayings rather than writing a blog! So here is a common saying. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” which means beauty doesn’t exist on its own but is created by observers. That famous quote can help you remember that a beholder is someone who sees or otherwise experiences things, becoming aware of them.  Similalarly, “Porn is also in the eye of the beholder”!

All this was essential as I am writing on a so-called controversial subject of Porn! To me the eyes of the person that looks at a painting, photos decide if it is  porn. All these thoughts came to my mind as I saw one lovely painting by my dear friend and classmate Sudhakar Sonavane from Nashik. Sudhakar is a painter who also happens to be a civil engineer and builder.

On the same day, I attended a speech by Manasi Sagar also, coincidentally from Nashik. The venue for the speech was bang in the middle of very orthodox Shaniwar Peth in Pune city.


I had written about Manasi in a blog in June this year.


Manasi spoke for more than an hour on the subject “Self-Restoration- A journey. The talk was about how she grew up in even more orthodox Nashik in a middle-class family. Her father is a retired art teacher from a school. Manasi from a young age felt that she should become an artist and her father supported her wholeheartedly.

I will write about her a little later in the blog. But when Sudhakar sent the painting on our WhatsApp group, there was a bit of discussion and to me more of a banter. Another friend Shrikant felt that it was soft porn! Come on Shrikant even 2018 is ending and we all are entering the seventh decade of our life. Our group has 140 plus friends all engineers from 1971 COEP batch. Most have done reasonably well, are well travelled. Friends like Shrikant have lived in foreign countries for a few years. It is said that travel makes a man. So, how come this sudden comment to call the painting a soft porn! Sudhakar has been sharing his lovely paintings on the group for some time now, and at least a few more could fit the definition of porn made by Shrikant.

All those who think that this painting is porn should have attended Manasi’s speech today. From the tender age of 20 plus, just after her education, she started getting a bit disillusioned with portraits and landscapes etc. She felt that nude painting is an area she should venture into. Now she must be 32/33 of age. The calm way in which she was explaining the nuances of this art, why she got interested in human nude paintings, how she evolved as an artist who painted nudes, was remarkable. There was an audience of about 70 to 80 people and some of the audience were my age too! Since she could not get models, she decided to use herself as a model. She was very much at ease about discussing human anatomy, as a doctor discusses with us when we go for a check-up. Doctors are trained in anatomy whereas artists do not learn anatomy as a subject in their curriculum, to my knowledge. But Manasi was very comfortable discussing the human body.

We humans have started wearing clothes since time immemorial. But with no technology around, the clothes were generally worn around the loin areas. Adam and Eve typically wore fig leaf for modesty. Britishers were shocked to find when they came in India, that women kept their breasts open like men. They enforced the blouse. In 1820 a big social turmoil took place in Kerala when a large group of women said that they wanted to wear blouses after they became Christians. Till then blouses were allowed only for Nairs, the so-called high caste!

Manasi had displayed some of her nude paintings; these were of a very high quality. There were some paintings where her own sister had agreed to model for nude paintings. She was at ease to inform that the model in some paintings was she herself  and the other painting was  her sister. At the end of the speech, she got a standing ovation.


We have Khajuharo temples built about a thousand years back. These temples are dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism. The relative layout of temples integrates masculine and feminine deities and symbols highlight the interdependence. The artwork symbolically highlights the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha and moksha.

When we have such traditions, where does the thought of porn come up? Yes, there is a huge porn industry where people can access free or by paying some fees. These sites show humans in the act of intercourse or masturbation or whatever comes to the mind of the owner/director of that site. These pictures and videos are meant to purposely titillate humans. Like liquor, drugs and prostitution no power in this world is able to stop such sites. I do not know the statistics but I am told an unbelievable number of men and women (yes women too, after all, they are also humans) watch these pictures and videos day in and day out. That to me is porn and not what Sudhakar and Manasi are doing.

We see hundreds of advertisements of products which have no relevance to the bikini-clad models used in them. During international car shows, around the new cars being displayed, scantily dressed women are dancing. That to me is porn! Let us all grow up and be mature! Porn definition will change from person to person, and time to time but let us not become moral police!