When Sunidhi Chauhan sang kisi aur ki mujhko zaroorat kya, main toh khudse pyaar jataoon in the iconic Sheila ki Jawaani number, it caused a major controversy in our country. Of course, nothing was out in the open (is anything ever in India?) but the idea of masturbation was implied. With the nationwide lockdown in place, and New York City’s health department stating that the novel coronavirus can spread through saliva and faecal matter, kissing, fellatio and rimming are out of the question. So, unless you’re in self-isolation or in quarantine with a partner (or partners), your best bet to get off during these trying times is taking Ms Chauhan’s advice.

However, that can get boring. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention, or reinvention in this case, as adult cam sites that allow viewers to virtually interact with erotic performers in real time, are seeing a massive viewership spike. “Cam sex is definitely not the real deal. It’s boring actually because if I had to see a dick, I’d head over to Pornhub. Yeah, my partner is hot, but having him in bed with me and seeing him naked over the Internet are two different things. Nudes just don’t do it for me,” says Kunal Kapoor (name changed).

Saket Mehal used to indulge in cam sex with his boyfriend because he didn’t want to get physical yet. One day, he was scrolling through some porn accounts on Twitter, when he came across a recording of himself. “That freaked me out,” he says, “I went off social media, deactivated all my accounts and couldn’t trust anyone for months.” Despite knowing the risks, many individuals are indulging in cam sex due to the COVID-19 lockdown. In a Vox report, Gunner Taylor of Cams.com estimates his site and most others have “seen about a 30 per cent increase in traffic.” Purab Pavail says that static nudes and videos shared on Instagram or Snapchat are not as exciting as cyber sex. “The whole point of doing it with your lover over video call is that the both of you are enjoying stuff in real time. For me, the expressions are a huge deal while having sex so I know that it’s dangerous to get nude on camera with your face showing, but I trust my partner,” he says.

Does Pavail’s partner feel the same way? “Yes,” she says, “Besides, it’s 2020. There are laws in place and we have social media now. I am afraid of having my nudes leaked, but I also know that there are measures I can take.” What COVID-19 has also done is that what was essentially seen as a fetish or as existing on the fringes of society, has been pushed into the mainstream. Cam sex was always seen as a dirty little secret. Now, it is getting normalised. Earlier, when Pavail would ask his girlfriends to get dirty for him on cam, they’d ask a multitude of questions or look at him weirdly. Now, he doesn’t need to explain that it turns him on.

Speaking about normalisation of cam sex, people like Mehal are more comfortable with getting dirty online because they’re not ready for the physical act yet. “Earlier, when I used to ask people to come online for a good time, they’d think I was being prudish for not wanting to meet up. Now, I’m glad nobody questions me.” Shalini Chatterjee is a student of psychology and a huge fan of cam sex. She says that this is because she is still not comfortable in her body and doesn’t like being touched. However, the webcam in front of her acts like an armour, and helps her with her inhibitions. “I’ve always been the shy kind and doing something as kinky as indulging in cam sex always helped me feel a little more confident,” she says.

ADVOCATE RUTUJA SHINDE, LAWYER AT BOMBAY HIGH COURT, GIVES AN FAQ ON THE LEGALITIES INVOLVED

What does Indian law say about sharing nudes on the net?

Sending nudes is not an offense, but sending unsolicited nudes or sexually explicit pictures is an offence under s.354A of the IPC. Nudes that are published online (emphasis on the term “publication”) are actionable under s.67 of the IT Act. In case there has been a breach in privacy of the person who shares their nudes in private with another person, the same is an offence under s.66E of the IT Act.

What safeguards does our law have for the same?

S.66E along with IPC s.354C of the IT Act ensure that there is punishment for breach of privacy in case the pictures of a woman performing a private act are published online without her knowledge or consent.

What is the legal route one can take if their nudes are leaked?

Contact the cyber cell of the nearest police station.

What’s the success rate if the victim takes the legal route?

It can help in controlling further distribution of the pictures and stop further publication.