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Afghanistan Porn Consumption Norms, Strategic Implications

Kabul: openly sold porn
 

What a difference a year makes. This time last year the DVD stalls were selling Bollywood movies, warlord showreels and the odd action flick. Today porn is openly being sold in Kabul with a vengence – being browsed and bought by males on the open street. Whilst the packaging doesn’t (yet) reveal any nipples/genetalia the content is similar to what you’d find in London or Helsinki.

It’s worth bearing in mind the 180 degree turn of events – under the Taliban the female form was removed from public view with hair shampoo packaging had female faces scratched out lest it drive the hot-blooded male to distraction.

Kabul: porn openly sold

For many local males their primary/only contact with western foreign women will be through their experiences with pornography and other media. Ditto males and their experiences with action movies. How does this shift affect their view of the occupying/liberateing/stabilising forces currently in their country? Their attitudes to the work of the NGO or UN staff? The idle chatter of compound security guards often returns to the assumption that unmarried men and women left alone are going to be having sex. Are considered stupid if they don’t.

Is the emergence an open marketplace for Afghanistan pirate DVD porn industry a sign of a healthier more mainstream society? What would be the implications of a home-grown porn industry? Indeed, would the nuances of locally produced content find an audience overseas? To what extent does a market for female-consumed porn already exist? Or gay and lesbian porn? And how is it distributed? What does it mean when the pornography shifts from the ad-hoc marketplace to more establised infrastructure – for example a fixed location sex shop? To what extent could it implicitly/explicitly cater to both male and female tastes?

And taking more of a strategic slant: how does the presence of pornography in the marketplace strengthen the hand of the Taliban and the religious right? Given the demand pull for pornographic content, especially amongst the key demographic of younger males – how might US/ISAF leverage the format to include messages aligned to their own strategies? And, regardless of the motivations for technology adoption – what are the media-consumption implications for increased penetration of the DVD player?