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A Brief History of Porn

by Chris Dee 3 months ago in nsfw

From Ancient Artifacts to Virtual Reality

Humans love sex. Historians and others often point out that sex work is one of the oldest professions, perhaps even the oldest. Likewise, sex has played a major role in mythology, art, literature, and these days, film. While modern porn mostly means videos and photographs, porn is older than both the camera and cinema.

The evolution of porn is fascinating for history buffs and porn connoisseurs alike. That’s why we’re going to take a moment to cover the history of porn, from the ancient past, to the present, and into the immediate future. Technologies like virtual reality could soon reshape the porno industry once again.

First, let’s take a look at ancient porn.

Ancient and Classical Porn

Humans have been drawing in caves for tens of thousands of years and have been making statues for many thousands of years as well. The oldest known pornographic depiction is a statue dating from roughly 7,200 BC in ancient Germany. The statue depicts two people, a man and woman, having intercourse.

Archeologists have also found ancient papyrus originating in Egypt depicting intercourse. The ancient Greeks also frequently depicted sex in their pottery and other forms of art. So too did the Moche in ancient Peru.

The city of Pompei was buried in ash around 79 AD. When Europeans later excavated the site in the 1700s, they found countless depictions of sex scenes. Europe, at the time, was filled with prudes so this set off quite the scandal.

Around 950AD in Khajuraho, India, Chandravarman began constructing temples. Many of them contained sexually explicit scenes. As you can see, interest in porn crossed continents and cultures long before the Internet and VR porn brain scans became a thing.

Medieval Period a Dark Ages for European Porn

By the 16th century, mass printed books were a thing. Unsurprisingly, early printers printed up sexually explicit materials, leading to the Catholic Church to ban such books in 1557 AD. Some printers may have continued to print books under the radar, but the Catholic Church wouldn’t lift the book ban until 1965.

In 1748, John Cleland started distributing “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure”, the oldest known sexually explicit novel. Smutty books are all the rage these days, you can pick up many of these books at your local bookseller, but in the 18th century it was quite scandalous.

Fast forward to 1857 and “pornography”, the word, entered our vocabulary. “The Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science of 1857” mentioned pornography as “a description of prostitutes or of prostitution as a matter of public hygiene.” The word quickly evolved to describe any sexually explicit material.

Throughout the 19th century, porn remained largely suppressed. Pornographic paintings and other media emerged from time to time, often causing an uproar. A big technological advancement, however, was emerging that would reshape pornography forever.

Enter the Camera and Video Camera

Early cameras starting emerging in the early 1800s, however, they didn’t come into widespread use until the second half of the century. We can’t say for sure who took the first pornographic photo, but nude photos started to appear in the 1830s. Initially, these were treated as art and some painters used them as guides.

By the late 18th century, some pornographic magazines started appearing, including “The Pearl.” Moving pictures, later known as movies, were invented. By the 1880s, movies showing women stripping started appearing, including “Le Coucher de la Mariée” in 1896. Movies also turned up showing people kissing. By and large, however, most early pornographic movies weren’t X rated.

The Roaring Twenties and Censorship

By the 1920s, silent movies were widespread. So too were hardcore pornographic movies, with such films often being shown in brothels. However, during this time-period, some governments started cracking down on “sins”, including alcohol, brothels, and yes, porn. Pornography remained largely outlawed in the US and around the world. Even simply viewing porn could result in a jail sentence.

Following World War II, the United States enjoyed a sort of golden age, which in turn helped spur the growth of Hollywood and the film industry. As filming technology proliferated, so too did porn. At the same time magazines, including ones with high-definition photographs, became more widespread. While the US often acted as the initial engine of growth, these trends spread throughout the world.

Foundations of the Modern Porn Industry

Porn remained a largely underground, gray market, and was illegal in many locales. Regardless, in the 1960s and early 70s, some porn films made their way into mainstream theaters and even became box office hits. Famed artist Andy Warhol directed the erotic film “Blue Movie”, while “Deep Throat”, another adult film, became a box office hit.

Some communities banned these films for violating obscenity laws, but the popular porn movies of the era set the stage for some important legal clashes.

In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned convictions against a movie theater owner who was charged for showing “obscene” films in the important Jacobellis v. Ohio case. The Supreme Court ruled that the convictions violated Jacobellis’s right to free speech.

The in Stanley v. Georgia (1969), the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not persecute people for the personal possession and use of obscene materials (obviously, some things, like child porn, are still illegal).

Denmark became the first country to explicitly legalize pictorial and audio-visual pornography in 1969 (nice). Around the world, other governments began to lift restrictions on porn.

In 1973, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Marvin Miller for distributing obscene materials. The court also created the three prong “Miller Test” to determine what exactly counts as obscene material. While Miller’s conviction was upheld, the simplified Miller Test prevented many future obscenity prosecutions.

Reform led to a golden age of porn from 1969 into 1984. As home videos became popular in the 80s, it fueled the growth of home porno viewing. However, the biggest changes were still on the horizon.

The Internet and the Porn Explosion

Misguided attempts to censor porn still crop up from time to time. Despite the fact that porn is widely enjoyed and has potential positive benefits, some prudes are still trying to censor our tastes and consumption.

In early years of the Internet, Jim Exon, an elderly Democrat from Nebraska, introduced the Communications Decency Act, which cracked down on Internet porn and other things online considered “obscene.” Mr. Exon invoked God on the senate floor to “guide” his fellow Senators.

The act passed in 1996 and for a time, the future of porn and the Internet seemed in doubt, at least for Americans. In the Supreme Court case Reno v. ACLU, however, key portions of the CDA were struck down for infringing on free speech. This helped further fuel the already booming Internet pornography industry.

It’s believed that 35% of downloads now are porn related and at least 40 million Americans alone regularly consume adult video. And as widespread as porn is currently, the future is even brighter with technologies like virtual reality set to disrupt the industry.

The Future: VR Pornography

So where does pornography go from here? As technology has advanced, so too has the porn industry. Now, virtual reality is ushering in the age of VR sex. The VR industry has been steadily growing, with virtual reality movies and video games becoming increasingly popular. So far, porn has emerged as one of the fastest growing and most profitable VR segments.

Just as the video camera ushered in a new era of porn, virtual reality is creating a new, interactive way to enjoy adult content.

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Chris Dee
Chris Dee
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Chris Dee
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