Pornography is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games. The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease.
The primary subjects of pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors or porn stars, who perform in pornographic films. If dramatic skills are not involved, a performer in a porn film may also be called a model.
Let’s see some intriguing facts about it!
1. The word is similar to the Modern Greek πορνογραφία (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words πόρνη (pornē “prostitute” and πορνεία porneia “prostitution”), and γράφειν (graphein “to write or to record”, derived meaning “illustration”, cf. “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”.
2. No date is known for the first use of the word in Greek.
3. The earliest attested, most related word one could find in Greek, is πορνογράφος, pornographos, i.e. “someone writing of harlots”, in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus. The Modern Greek word pornographia is a translation of the French pornographie.
4. “Pornographie” was in use in the French language during the 1800s. The word did not enter the English language as the familiar word until 1857 or as a French import in New Orleans in 1842.
5. Various groups within society have considered depictions of a sexual nature immoral, addictive, and noxious, labeling them pornographic, and attempting to have them suppressed under obscenity and other laws, with varying degrees of success.
6. Such works have also often been subject to censorship and other legal restraints to publication, display, or possession.
7. Such grounds, and even the definition of pornography, have differed in various historical, cultural, and national contexts.
8. Social attitudes towards the discussion and presentation of sexuality have become more tolerant and legal definitions of obscenity have become more limited, notably beginning in 1969 with Blue Movie by Andy Warhol, the first adult erotic film depicting explicit sex to receive wide theatrical release in the United States, and the subsequent Golden Age of Porn, leading to an industry for the production and consumption of pornography in the latter half of the 20th century.
9. The introduction of home video and the Internet saw a boom in the worldwide porn industry that generates billions of dollars annually. Commercialized pornography accounts for over US$2.5 billion in the United States alone, including the production of various media and associated products and services.
10. This industry employs thousands of performers along with support and production staff. It is also followed by dedicated industry publications and trade groups as well as the mainstream press, private organizations (watchdog groups), government agencies, and political organizations.
11. More recently, sites such as Pornhub, RedTube, and YouPorn have served as repositories for home-made or semi-professional pornography, made available free by its creators (who could be called exhibitionists). It has presented a significant challenge to the commercial pornographic film industry.
12. Irrespective of the legal or social view of pornography, it has been used in a number of contexts. It is used, for example, at fertility clinics to stimulate sperm donors. Some couples use pornography at times for variety and to create a sexual interest or as part of foreplay. There is also some evidence that pornography can be used to treat voyeurism.
13. Depictions of a sexual nature are older than civilization as depictions such as the venus figurines and rock art have existed since prehistoric times.
14. When large-scale excavations of Pompeii were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Romans came to light, shocking the Victorians who saw themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire. They did not know what to do with the frank depictions of sexuality and endeavored to hide them away from everyone but upper-class scholars.
15. The moveable objects were locked away in the Secret Museum in Naples and what could not be removed was covered and cordoned off as to not corrupt the sensibilities of women, children, and the working classes.
16. Fanny Hill (1748) is considered “the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel.” It is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The authors were charged with “corrupting the King’s subjects.”
17. The world’s first law criminalizing pornography was the English Obscene Publications Act 1857 enacted at the urging of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
18. The Act, which applied to the United Kingdom and Ireland, made the sale of obscene material a statutory offence, giving the courts power to seize and destroy offending material. The American equivalent was the Comstock Act of 1873 which made it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail.
19. The English Act did not apply to Scotland, where the common law continued to apply. However, neither the English nor the United States Act defined what constituted “obscene”, leaving this for the courts to determine. Prior to the English Act, the publication of obscene material was treated as a common law misdemeanour and effectively prosecuting authors and publishers was difficult even in cases where the material was clearly intended as pornography.
20. Although nineteenth-century legislation eventually outlawed the publication, retail, and trafficking of certain writings and images regarded as pornographic and would order the destruction of shop and warehouse stock meant for sale, the private possession of and viewing of (some forms of) pornography was not made an offence until the twentieth century.
21. The Victorian attitude that pornography was for a select few can be seen in the wording of the Hicklin test stemming from a court case in 1868 where it asks, “whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences.”
22. Despite the fact of their suppression, depictions of erotic imagery were common throughout history.
23. Pornographic film production commenced almost immediately after the invention of the motion picture in 1895. Two of the earliest pioneers were Eugène Pirou and Albert Kirchner. Kirchner directed the earliest surviving pornographic film for Pirou under the trade name “Léar”.
24. The 1896 film Le Coucher de la Mariée showed Louise Willy performing a striptease. Pirou’s film inspired a genre of risqué French films showing women disrobing and other filmmakers realised profits could be made from such films.
25. Sexually explicit films opened producers and distributors to prosecution. Those that were made were produced illicitly by amateurs starting in the 1920s, primarily in France and the United States. Processing the film was risky as was their distribution. Distribution was strictly private.
26. In 1969, Denmark became the first country to abolish censorship, thereby decriminalizing pornography, which led to an explosion in investment and of commercially produced pornography.
27. However, it continued to be banned in other countries, and had to be smuggled in, where it was sold “under the counter” or (sometimes) shown in “members only” cinema clubs.
28. Nonetheless, and also in 1969, Blue Movie by Andy Warhol, was the first adult erotic film depicting explicit sex to receive wide theatrical release in the United States.
29. The film was a seminal film in the Golden Age of Porn and, according to Warhol, a major influence in the making of Last Tango in Paris, an internationally controversial erotic drama film, starring Marlon Brando, and released a few years after Blue Movie was made.
30. The scholarly study of pornography, notably in cultural studies, is limited, perhaps due to the controversy about the topic in feminism. The first peer-reviewed academic journal about the study of pornography, Porn Studies, was published in 2014.
31. Pornography is often distinguished from erotica, which consists of the portrayal of sexuality with high-art aspirations, focusing also on feelings and emotions, while pornography involves the depiction of acts in a sensational manner, with the entire focus on the physical act, so as to arouse quick intense reactions.
32. Pornography is generally classified as either softcore or hardcore. A pornographic work is characterized as hardcore if it has any hardcore content, no matter how small. Both forms of pornography generally contain nudity. Softcore pornography generally contains nudity or partial nudity in sexually suggestive situation.
33. The sex industry is the largest and most profitable industry in the world. This includes street prostitution, strip clubs, phone sex, and pornography.
34. The porn industry also makes more money than The National Football League, The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball combined and more than NBC, CBS, and ABC combined.
35. At any second of the day there are as much as 30,000,000 unique visitors are viewing porn. This means that there are about 30,000,000 unique visitors viewing porn right now, and now, and now.
36. The most searched porn related word in America is Creampie according to a recent Pornhub analysis. Teen is also very popular.
37. 13,000 adult videos are produced annually, amassing over $13 billion dollars in profit. By comparison, Hollywood released 507 movies and made only 8.8 billion.