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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Sultan of smut

Update : 06 Aug 2017, 06:24 PM
The news was possibly a surprise for many though I am sure there are those who are keen social observers and notice the murky sides of life cleverly concealed by a layer of pseudo modesty. I am, of course, talking about the arrest of the local Sultan of porn. The man in question left a conventional career and decided to delve into the world of the forbidden to make a fast buck. As far as we know, he ran an escort service -- providing women willing to be intimate to clients for a price -- and also used his flat to offer discreet meeting spots for such trysts.One act leads to anotherIt seems that the man in question, reportedly the son of a retired police officer, had been running the operation of providing female companionship in exchange for a fee for some time. In the West, this business, though not discussed at public forums too often, is a legitimate way of earning since the women involved are believed to have entered the work willingly. A few years ago, an international news channel ran a story about recession-time students earning to pay for their tuition working as part-time escorts. Many of the women later went on to enter perfectly acceptable professional positions, leaving that small bit of their lives behind. In recession time, there have been incidents when women, for a short while, have been seen to work as escorts to pass through a hard patch. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. There’s always the chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. Our man in question, who conveniently has Sultan in his name, began his business providing escorts, but later, possibly driven by greed, decided to film the intimate moments and then use the clips to blackmail the client and also the women involved. Obviously, with the secret filming, the whole affair took a very diabolic turn. One should not endorse escort services from a puritanical point of view, but we need to look at this social phenomenon not with the blinkered view of a purist but with that of a rationalist. Driven by moralist zeal, many denounce brothels on the grounds that they undermine traditional values and then force sex workers on the street into a world of brutal exploitation, disease, and depravity. No matter how conservative we try to portray ourselves to be, the fact is we have registered brothels where thousands live and play a vital role in maintaining social civility.The crime is the secret filmingWhether someone wants to be a discreet special companion for livelihood is that person’s choice but making secret films and then using that for blackmail takes us into darker territory. Obviously, in this downward slope, the yaba tablet, known for its inhibition-busting powers, plays a central role. In fact, if we meticulously look at all current-day social anomalies, from rising brutality to savage behaviour to the rise of divorce rates in urban areas, a link to the drug can eventually be found. I hear from my media friends that the common line in all current day crime related investigations is: “What is the baba (a euphemism for yaba) connection?” The latest case is no exception; yaba was found in the man’s flat where he allegedly drugged both men and women and then led them to indulge in unrestrained acts, filmed by hidden cameras. The most perturbing aspect of this whole sordid affair is that the person in question is not unrefined or boorish but someone who is educated and comes from a respectable background.
An educated man without scruples filming others in intimate moments to make money and create torment is the ultimate debasement of social ethos
Values wither when the profit is quickWe are not wrong in guessing that in the face of fast profit, all social inhibitions of the so called “porn king” dissipated. Whether he has a university degree or not becomes irrelevant since society now knows him as a blackmailer. Reminiscent of the soft-spoken but thoroughly vile Sherlock Holmes master blackmailer, Charles Augustus Milverton, who made a handsome livelihood by selling the secrets of others. An educated man without scruples filming others in intimate moments to make money and create torment is the ultimate debasement of social ethos. A few years ago, another such person, a photographer, was arrested by police when he lured children from underprivileged backgrounds with cash to pose for photos which were later sold to pedophiles abroad.Is it time for legitimate adult entertainment?Some say we should bring down the vacuous brouhaha over the cliched lines of conservative values and lifestyle according to impractical social restrictions -- and try to come to terms with the metamorphosis which has happened behind the curtain of puritanism. Stands to reason, adult entertainment is a global trend; we may not admit it in public but, in Bangladesh, the hits into over 18 sites are staggering. And, if we go back in time, we recall (even in the 80s) the roaring business of the makeshift VCR theatres in Thataribazar, Begumbazar which mainly showed adult movies. Society has ingrained within us that anything to do with physical pleasure is a taboo topic and cannot be discussed openly. Interestingly, way back in the 70s, during a brief period of enlightened thinking, a film for adults (possibly called Gopon Kotha), featuring top movie stars of the time, openly talked about puberty, family planning, and other issues topped with a balanced dose of tantalising thrill. The recent case of Sultan is another incident which asks us not to hide under a make-believe blanket of prudery and address several social proclivities with a healthy dose of liberalism. Such sultans of smut will proliferate unless we talk about areas of life which have been blocked out irrationally.Towheed Feroze is a journalist working in the development sector. 
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