Sunny Leone interview: A classic case of a man silencing the woman by hijacking her story

Our society’s discomfort with sexuality and especially with women’s sexuality has meant that it has always tried to view sexual pleasure with guilt and shame.

Written by Swati Saxena | Updated: January 21, 2016 4:03 pm
Sunny leone, sunny leone interview, bhupendra chaubey, sunny leone cnn ibn, sunny leone news Chaubey’s problem was not just with Sunny and her choices but also with her guilt-free and unabashed celebration of sexuality.

The widespread ridicule and condemnation that the Sunny Leone- Bhupendra Chaubey interview met with, was perhaps the only good thing to come out of it. The interaction was seen as judgmental and misogynistic, even hostile, with the host repeatedly shaming the actor to try and elicit a reaction he wanted, that of guilt and shame. Sunny refused to be bullied, stood up for her life choices, and came out like a trooper that she is.

While the interaction was a train wreck even before it started, with a smug Chaubey standing before the studio, alluding to Sunny’s past and her being most ‘googled’- something that he went on to repeat several times, the main conflict arose because Chaubey had already decided on the narrative that he was trying to construct even before talking to the actor. The interview can be largely seen within three themes of judgement: First, trying to elicit guilt and attempts to get an apology; second, the idea of seeing sexuality both as a threat and a thing of shame; and third, the idea of moral corruption, of purity and pollution. I explore these in turn.

The interview was a classic case of a man silencing the woman by the act of hijacking her story and trying to substitute his own. His own voice was informed by the conventions of narrow moralities; he had decided to judge her from what he assumed was the locus standi of the middle class (it’s another matter that the same class was united in support for Sunny). He wanted her to subscribe to his idea of a woman (he alludes to an average house wife at one point), where any deviation from the normal (like the actor’s choice to act in porn movies) was expected to be accompanied by guilt and apology.

As Sunny refused to apologise for her choices and stood her ground, Chaubey became desperate. His questions became pointed and he asked her not once but twice if she regretted anything in life. She spoke about not being home fast enough when her mother passed away. She also said that she has no professional regrets, only few mistakes like everyone else (he asked ‘what kind of mistakes’). She spoke of the cultural shock she experienced initially in Bollywood – alluding to method in its madness. This could have been an interesting line to explore but Chaubey was not interested, he ignored that and asked of other regrets, to the extent of giving her the choice to turn back time and do over.

Sunny answered that since her past actions have made her what she is today (a person that she is happy with and proud of) she would not take that option.

Chaubey, despairing for the answer he wanted; the narrative that he was looking for, tried scare tactics, he used the word ‘haunt’ and ‘holding back’ for her past- she pointed out these were media terms and not hers. He alluded to her past as a ‘porn star’ (using air quotes) and said that given her history no ‘good’ actor like Aamir Khan would want to work with her. He questioned whether her ‘body’ will take her everywhere, she pointed out that applied for most people in the entertainment industry.

Chaubey’s problem was not just with Sunny and her choices but also with her guilt-free and unabashed celebration of sexuality. Since he viewed sex as taboo (unless perhaps within conjugality) and a threat (he tries to paint her as the temptress, trying to disrupt the domesticity by ‘stealing’ husbands), he just could not fathom her actions as her choice. Clutching at straws, he even asked her to narrate how she became a porn actor, trying to fit her into narratives of being an unwitting ‘victim’ of loss of ‘innocence’. Here Sunny was perhaps best in her interview; she said that she didn’t have any ‘horror stories’, she wasn’t abused or beaten or molested. She went to the extent of inverting the narrative and said that when she saw the pictures of the women she found them to be free, sexy and beautiful, women who are doing what they want to do.

Anxious and taken aback, Chaubey was at his most ridiculous when he said that she is facing criticism from ‘even politicians’! Indian politicians are not exactly paragons of ‘high standards of decency’ which the host was expecting from the actor and certainly they are no guardians of morality. In a country where victim blaming, boys will be boys narrative, and ‘slut’ shaming is the norm and political discourse ranges from blaming noodles to jeans (anything but patriarchy and rape culture) for crimes against women, surely politicians will judge any woman not confining to their narrow norms. Then he answers his own questions, saying that they hold her responsible to the moral corruption in the society and gives us a peek into his own psyche and discomfort; he wonders if he is being ‘morally corrupted’ speaking with her. He tried to substantiate by giving her some data on Indian porn consumption, and attributed its rise as being Sunny’s sole doing.

 

Our society’s discomfort with sexuality and especially with women’s sexuality has meant that it has always tried to view sexual pleasure with guilt and shame. Instead of trying to locate this discomfort within one’s own narrow definitions of morality and hypocritical acceptable standards of an Indian woman, the society looks outside, and tries to point blame on some externality. This they can do when they hold someone else responsible for ‘corruption’. Sunny Leone in this interview seemed like a fair game to Chaubey. He said at one point that if she was becoming ‘brand ambassador of New India’, then it was a ‘very dangerous trend to have’.

So entrenched he was within his ideas of purity (his idea of housewife) and pollution (the actor who he held responsible for polluting him and his country) that he just couldn’t reconcile to the idea that she could have a happy married life (she alluded to her smart, kind, sexy husband at one point) and be an uninhibited, successful movie star at the same time. He took it upon himself to speak of the wives whose domesticity he believed was threatened by the sexuality of the ‘other woman’. There was remarkably no judgement of the husband, a consumer of her movies and perhaps in Chaubey’s view someone at the centre of the tension between comfortable domesticity of a housewife and temptations of a seductress. He tried to project Sunny as Eve before and after her fall, and loss of presumed ‘innocence’, asking her about her ‘old life’ and whether she was still called Karanjit.

He has now come up with a half-hearted and poor defence of his tasteless interview in his blog, completely missing the criticism and again referring to her as ‘Karanjit, as she used to be called earlier’: a past he is obsessed with and the one he feels existed before the ‘fall’. A ‘past’ which he pompously claims was the only reason she ‘qualified to be on my show’ and the past which is informed by the narrative he wants to impose on the actor. He reiterates that people are not going to watch her because of her status as a star and chooses to define her by her past and past alone (remarkably something which Sunny has never shied away from and, in fact, celebrated her choice). However, the worst is his odious attempt at another hijack of her amazing courage and conviction: he takes the credit for making her look good, like a test she passed he gives her grace marks, ‘So Sunny you did well’. But most importantly by writing this blog he ensures that this interview almost functioned as a microcosm of the society, where the woman’s narrative was prologued and epilogued by the narrow, hegemonic judgement of the patriarchal values.

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First Published on: January 21, 2016 3:37 pm
  1. R
    Romik
    Jan 21, 2016 at 12:05 pm
    Indian people's sense of morality has been turned upside down by its recent masters( ie Mughals and British and thier religions). True morality is in the human mind. Our ancestors are the ones who are educating us via the carvings in Khajuraho Jagganath Puri temples on the improtance of basic human need. There was no immorality in those carvings. Indians , open your minds, learn from our ancestors enjoy and embrace all biologic human needs. Above all stop promoting the "morality" of your former masters..You are not slaves anymore.
    Reply
    1. A
      anu
      Jan 21, 2016 at 2:40 pm
      such a biased interviewer..seems already anno by sunny...stupid.and hats off to sunny i dint know she is so intelligent.and mrterviewer being a house wife i myself like her and don't mind if my husband likes her too..if sunny is wrong then every single person who has watched her videos or earned money coz of her is wrong.
      Reply
      1. B
        babita khute
        Jan 21, 2016 at 10:53 pm
        Sunny Leone is going to rock in Bollywood. Just wait for few years. She is very smart and capable woman and don't under estimate her. Respect her irrespective of past history. No one is perfect in this world
        Reply
        1. B
          Balgit
          Jan 21, 2016 at 11:11 am
          This is the best article written on this subject. So Congrats, Swati Saxena!Personally, I wish there is a restraining order against this journalist coming close to any female interviewee. I also wish, this Ambani channel fires this misogynistic guy. Else, I will just flip this channel which I am already hesitant to watch after Rajdeep's exit.
          Reply
          1. R
            Rajesh
            Jan 21, 2016 at 10:51 am
            Never understood why people are so upset with this woman. She is not a criminal. We have people proudly declaring that they elected a criminal in Bihar, but apparently an actor is bad. Besides, if you are watching Sunny Leone's movies, then how can you possibly have the moral right to criticize her?
            Reply
            1. P
              Pawan Gupta
              Jan 21, 2016 at 2:41 pm
              Next time you watch her films, imagine it is your mother doing the same. Quite sure you would change your opinion
              Reply
              1. P
                Pawan Gupta
                Jan 21, 2016 at 2:32 pm
                Seems that you did not have any inhibitions while airing this stupid article. Just a small twist from my side and you turn coy. Ha ha
                Reply
                1. P
                  Pawan Gupta
                  Jan 21, 2016 at 2:33 pm
                  Well well well. Why not also post the earlier two posts. Wonder what you found wrong with them
                  Reply
                  1. P
                    Pawan Gupta
                    Jan 21, 2016 at 2:39 pm
                    What if it were your mother and not Sunny in those films. Would you still say the same.
                    Reply
                    1. P
                      Pawan Gupta
                      Jan 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm
                      What is objectionable in my comments. Quote the provisions in Law under which what I said could be construed as objectionable. Stupid newspaper
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Pawan Gupta
                        Jan 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm
                        Your censorship is uncalled for. Seems that you have illiterates in your organisation. ...,.. how come what is good for Sunny is not good for Swati???
                        Reply
                        1. J
                          Jeanette Soans
                          Jan 21, 2016 at 7:23 pm
                          Pawan you are mentally sick and should be given a life ban from giving your sick comments here.
                          Reply
                          1. J
                            Jeanette Soans
                            Jan 21, 2016 at 7:19 pm
                            Well said Anu. My sentiments the same
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Shridhar Shettigar
                              Jan 21, 2016 at 4:20 pm
                              If you don't like someone's comment counter them with your own but don't bring in mothers in the discussion. By commenting on his mother you made shame for your mother for giving birth to you.
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                Shridhar Shettigar
                                Jan 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm
                                Did you ever watched Sunney Leone videos...??
                                Reply
                                1. K
                                  Kayaka Sharana
                                  Jan 21, 2016 at 4:56 pm
                                  Amir Khan of course wants to work with Sunny Leone, because will all the boycotts planned, Sunny might be his best hope :) The interview was of really low taste.
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    kris kumar
                                    Jan 21, 2016 at 4:24 pm
                                    This interviewer called Chaubey is shameless and ignorant man who had the cheeks to interrogate this young lady to fulfil his own instincts. There was no need for this useless and shameless interviewer to go into this young lady private life. Sunny Leone responded in a very admire able way and I congratulate her being strong and did not tell Chaubey to mind his own business. Well done Sunny Leone in your new career. Like you said your past is past and you had no regrets and you want to move a head. You can not stop people from talking or commenting.
                                    Reply
                                    1. A
                                      ashok
                                      Jan 21, 2016 at 3:09 pm
                                      Beauty and the beast.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        Arjun .
                                        Jan 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm
                                        It is increasingly obvious that Swati Ji indeed likes Sunny's past career. Good for India!
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mesquiteice
                                          Jan 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm
                                          No. You cant have a liberty of shaming people publicly and being respected for it. In the FTII case so many people spoke cheaply of Gajendra chauhan but people welcomed it. Now because it is sunny leone they are feeling bad for her. If she had praised BJP or Modi's work she would have been heckeld and abused like gajendra chauhan In fact in an interview, a journalist called Anna Vetticad, talk so cheaply of chauhans work that she was nauseating. but no one pulled her up. The end of the story is that if gajendra chauhan was not a BJP or Modi backed person, people would have endeared him. The FTII students are the icing on the cake, that they shamed him for his work. What is the FTII stand on Sunny Leone
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            A Mukerjee
                                            Feb 9, 2016 at 2:50 am
                                            Excellent thoughts. Gajendra Chauhan worked in all his movies for earning his bread and butter. Being abused by star kids like Ranbir Kapoor was downright hypocritical. The media needs to open their eyes since Indians are not going to be fooled by their sham anymore.
                                            Reply
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