Pornography is often portrayed as one of the evils of today’s society, as proof of the moral decadence of our times … In fact, pornography has existed long before photography or video : in history, human beings have always been interested in looking at images relating to sex, albeit using very different means in various eras.

And here is a brief history of pornography , with some other consequent reflections.

  • Prehistory

German hunter-gatherers carved the statue of a man and woman having sexual intercourse many thousands of years ago.

In 2005, German archaeologist Harald Stauble discovered a sculpture of what he described as the “oldest ever representation of a pornographic scene”.

The sculpture is dated around 7200 BC and depicts two characters, a man and a woman, having sexual relations. The sculpture also stands out because it clearly shows the genitals of the male figure.

There are many statues from the prehistoric period displaying the genitals, which were probably used as religious icons or symbols of fertility.

  • 79 AD Pompeii

In 79 AD the eruption of Vesuvius destroyed the city of Pompeii, leaving it under layers and layers of lava and ash. When excavations began in the 18th century and the ancient Roman city re-emerged, intellectuals and archaeologists were shocked by the hundreds of sexually explicit sculptures and frescoes found near Vesuvius.

The ancient Greeks and Romans made many public sculptures and frescoes depicting homosexuality, threesomes, fellatio and cunnilingus.

  • 950 circa Templi a Khajuraho nel Madhya Pradesh, in India

Chandravarman began construction of the first of 85 temples at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India, in 950. The temples are known for the extremely intricate and often sexually explicit carvings that cover their outer walls .

The sculptures later led Western scholars to the erroneous conclusion that Hinduism was a sexually uninhibited religion. In reality, in the East, sexuality was considered sacred, as it was capable of leading to a sort of spiritual trance . It is for this reason that it was represented on the facades of religious buildings.

In India, moreover, the Kama Sutra was already known during the second century : a manual that established the rules of both the emotional relationship and sexual intercourse.

  • 1557 The Catholic Church bans books with sexual images

Pope Paul IV prepared the first index of the banned books of the Roman Catholic Church in 1557. Although most of the 550 titles on the list were banned for theological reasons, some were explicitly sexual.

The Vatican continued to publish various versions of the list of Forbidden Books, until the practice was finally eliminated by Pope Paul VI in December 1965 following the institutional reforms carried out by the Second Vatican Council.

  • 1748 Mindful of a woman of pleasure

John Cleland began distributing a sexually explicit novel called Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasur and in 1748. The book was later published as The Life and Adventures of Miss Fanny Hill.

The author of “Fanny Hill” managed to talk about bisexuality, voyeurism, group sex and masochism , among other topics, in one book. Confiscated by the British authorities a year later and promptly “pirated” and redistributed, the book was banned in both Great Britain and the United States until the 1960s.

  • XVIII Century Libertine literature

Although Diderot had also devoted himself to this literary genre, the best known of the libertine writers is the Marquis de Sade. The stories of him give a particularly dark and cruel version of his view of sexuality (up to the murder of men, women and children).

  • 1857 The term “pornography” is born

Robley Dunglison, for a dictionary of medical science, I coined the term “pornography”, defining the term as a “description of prostitutes and prostitution in a framework concerning public hygiene”. The word spread rapidly, with another meaning, to mean sexually explicit material.

  • 1865 Olympia

Edouard Manet paints Olympia , a portrait in which Victorine Meurent plays a prostitute. This painting scandalized the Paris Salon in 1865. The scandal was not due to the nudity itself, but rather to the earthly and ungainly frankness of the protagonist. Olympia was seen simply as a naked woman, not as an idealized goddess.

Emile Zola, a contemporary of Manet, explains: “ When our artists paint Venus, they correct nature, they lie. Manet wondered why he should lie. Why not tell the truth? He introduced us to Olympia, a girl of our times, whom we met on the streets of her while she pulled a thin faded wool shawl over her shoulders ”.

  • 1873 New York Society for the Suppression of Vice

Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1873, beginning his career as an American national censor. The war on pornography in the United States officially began with him.

  • 1888 My Secret Life

In 1888 ” My Secret Life ” was published semi-secretly, a book in which the erotic experiences of a young man of the Victorian era are described. The book has undergone several censorships and was published, for the first time completely free of any censorship, only in 1995.

  • 1899 Sunset of the Mary 

Eugene Pirou’s Coucher de la Mariee was the first erotic softcore film. Louise Willy, who starred in eight burlesque plays from 1896 to 1913, performed a striptease and bathed in front of the camera.

  • 1908 The Golden Shield or the Good Inn

L’Ecu d’Or ou la Bonne Auberge, the first surviving hardcore pornographic film, was first released in 1908. Censors and owners then destroyed most of the other films in the genre, which were typically shown in brothels.

  • Period following the First World War

After the First World War, in the climate of freedom of the Roaring Twenties, authors such as Apollinaire, Henry Miller, Anais Nin ventured into the genre. With the development of photography and cinema, pornographic images become more realistic than ever.

  • 1969 Denmark legalizes pornography

Denmark legalized pornography in 1969, becoming the first country to officially do so. The Danish government established that, from 1 July of that year, all laws relating to pornography distributed to adults were officially abolished.

  • The seventies and the sexual revolution

The first porn genre films were released in Sweden under the pretext of sex education. In the 1960s and 1970s, a wind of freedom was blowing that also included sexuality. The slogan was: “It is forbidden to ban”. Pornographic films come out, but they are forbidden to minors.

  • From the sexual revolution to the age of the Internet

Starting from the sexual revolution of the seventies, thanks to the change of social mores, the way was opened for the public screening of explicit sex films.

The Internet and the invention of the digital camera have further lowered the barriers to porno-making, making it so easy to produce, consume and exchange pornographic scenes that entire websites have devoted themselves exclusively to pornography, even non-professional ones.

What has produced this huge spread of pornography?

The transition from the erotic film of yesteryear to today’s pornographic scenes, viewable and downloadable from the Internet, has also changed sexual behavior.

A 1994 study by Carnegie Mellon of the first computer porn that appeared in Bulletin Board Systems (a precursor to the World Wide Web), found that 48 percent of the very first downloads were far outside the usual pornographic cliche and depicted acts . with animals, incest and pedophilia .

Less than 5 percent of the downloads featured “normal” vaginal sex.

This could have been due to the fact that pornographic magazines and films offered very soft sex, so fans of the genre started looking in the computer for images that they could not find elsewhere.

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