The history of Pornography

Just to clarify this at the start. Yes this blog is about pornography. No it is not pornographic, although it will contain some nudity. As the title suggests it is about the history of pornography. I had intended to call it the history of erotic depiction, but I didn’t feel that would be the right title.

Not all sex is porn, but all porn is sex. There is a cultural difference as well. A German or a Dutch person have a different opinion then what an Irish, English or Italian person may have, regarding what pornography is.

The definition of “pornography” is famously subjective. After all, one man’s Venus de Milo is another man’s masturbation aid. But researchers generally define the genre as material designed solely for sexual arousal, without further artistic merit.

Pornography or porn, plays a part in many people’s lives. They may not admit it but it is a fact, and in my opinion there is nothing wrong in enjoying porn.

Ever since the introduction of the internet and search engines, porn has been the most searched subject. However pornography did not start with the start of sites like pornhub. Nor did it start with magazines like Playboy or Penthouse.

The word pornography was coined from the ancient Greek words πόρνη (pórnē “prostitute” and πορνεία porneía “prostitution”, and γράφειν (gráphein “to write or to record”, derived meaning “illustration”, as in “graph”), and the suffix -ία (-ia, meaning “state of”, “property of”, or “place of”), thus meaning “a written description or illustration of prostitutes or prostitution”. No date is known for the first use of the word in Greek; the earliest attested, most related word one could find in Greek, is πορνογράφος, pornográphos, i.e. “someone writing about harlots”, in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus.The Modern Greek word pornographia (πορνογραφία) is a reborrowing of the French pornographie.

Throughout different historical periods, pornography has manifested in many different forms for many different people and has been expressed through radically different mediums. From the enlarged breasts of tiny fertility statues to the quick flashes of images one might see on an advertisement while browsing a pornographic website, the goal of pornographic material has always been the same: to invoke sentiments and sensations that live deep within our psyche and our most inner carnal being, ideas which resonate with our base instincts which scream at us to seek mates and procreate. Pornography affects us somewhere within our innermost human parts, the parts of us that want to survive and carry on our genes — and pornography always solicits a response when we see it, whether we like it or not.

Depictions of a sexual nature have existed since prehistoric times, as seen in the Venus figurines and rock art. A vast number of artifacts have been discovered from ancient Mesopotamia depicting explicit heterosexual sex.[

So where did it all begin?

The Venus of Willendorf is believed to be that beginning. The approximately 28,000-year-old sculpture of a rather voluptuous woman is the earliest surviving erotic depiction we have. The Venus is an incredible piece of prehistoric porn, one that stands only 4.4 inches tall.

It has been suggested that she is a fertility figure, a good-luck totem, a mother goddess symbol, or an aphrodisiac made by men for the appreciation of men. Further, one researcher hypothesized that it was made by a woman and that what has been seen as evidence of obesity or adiposity is actually the foreshortening effect of self-inspection. Although much has been written about the Willendorf figurine, little other than the details given in the paragraph above can be stated as fact.

Glyptic art from the Sumerian Early Dynastic Period frequently shows scenes of frontal sex in the missionary position(a sex position in which, generally, a woman lies on her back and a man lies on top of her while they face each other and engage in vaginal intercourse)

In Mesopotamian votive plaques from the early second millennium BC, the man is usually shown entering the woman from behind while she bends over, drinking beer through a straw. Middle Assyrian lead votive figurines often represent the man standing and penetrating the woman as she rests on top of an altar. Scholars have traditionally interpreted all these depictions as scenes of ritual sex, but they are more likely to be associated with the cult of Inanna, the goddess of sex and prostitution. Many sexually explicit images were found in the temple of Inanna at Assur, which also contained models of male and female sexual organs.

Le Coucher de la Mariée (Bedtime for the Bride or The Bridegroom’s Dilemma in English) is widely considered the oldest existing porn movie in the world. It was one of the first erotic films ever made in the late 19th century. The film was directed by Albert Kirchner, produced by Eugène Pirou, and starred French actress Louise Willy.

By today’s standards this pornographic film is quite tame. It features a newlywed couple on the night of their wedding. The husband looks on as his new bride performs a striptease behind a folding screen. Although the film was considered risque at the time, actress was never fully nude. The original short film was about seven minutes long, but only the two minute undressing scene has survived.

The first ‘hardcore’ porn movie was the German movie “Am Abend”, which was made in 1910. A so called early 20th century German Stag film.

Like the other two films, Am Abend begins with a primitive narrative frame sequence, then it shows signs of a more conventional cinema for a short period of time, and it finally shows hard-core scenes in a fragmented manner. Film studies scholar Linda Williams, suggested that early pornographic films, such as Am Abend, like modern-day pornographic videos, showed close ups of genitals and medium shots of sex. Thus, there were structural similarities between early stag films and modern-day pornographic videos.

Over the decades the idea of pornography has changed. No one alive today would considered The Kiss to be a “pornographic” film, but at the time of its release it was considered shocking and obscene. As the the name implies, the movie depicted the very first kiss on film. It was a re-enactment of the kiss between stage actors May Irwin and John Rice from the final scene of the musical The Widow Jones.

Although the kissing scene was very chaste, just a short peck on the lips, it caused widespread uproar. The Roman Catholic Church even called for censorship and moral reform because kissing in public could lead to prosecution. Several newspapers published disapproving editorials and police presence was requested in many places were the film was screened. Today, The Kiss is preserved in the United States National Film Registry for its cultural significance.

Modern day porn has become more mainstream and sometimes there is a very thin line between porn movies and mainstream movies. There is an increasing amount of mainstream movies and even TV shows, where the actors engage in actual sexual acts in front of the camera.

For examples the 2004 romantic drama ‘9 Songs’

The film was controversial upon original release due to its sexual content, which included un-simulated sex footage of the two leads, Kieran O’Brien and Margo Stilley, having sexual intercourse and performing oral sex as well as a scene of ejaculation. The film was showcased at the Cannes Film Festival.

I do think that most people are not quite ready yet for real sex in mainstream movies. You know when you watch a porn movie, sex is what you expect to see. This is not the case in regular movies. The movies 9 Songs gets a very low rating on IMDB. 4.8 out of 10, it also flopped at the box office. However ‘9 Songs’ is not the only movie there are actually a few dozen. most of them get low ratings.

I suppose pornography will always be controversial. But this controversy does come partly through hypocrisy, like every one is watching it but so few will admit to it. I am not saying that literally everyone watches porn but more figuratively.

sources

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Venus-of-Willendorf

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0411705/

https://thefulcrum.ca/features/a-brief-history-of-pornography-until-1910/

https://www.livescience.com/8748-history-pornography-prudish-present.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_erotic_depictions

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