A Brief History of Porn

Marie Claire’s Cape Town Intern, Michelle Hattingh shares some light on the history of pornography.

Most historians agree that the term ‘porn’ is subjective, because porn can be defined as any media with sexual activity or nudity that stimulates erotic as opposed to aesthetic feelings in a community. These feelings change over time and are different between individuals. So, where did it all start?

Since the Dawn of Time
Most historians agree that pornography has been a part of human society since the dawn of storytelling. There are erotic pornography images that date as far back as ancient rock carvings. This prehistoric petroglyph of a vulva might not look like much to us, but to our ancestors it had a very definite connotation.

Kama Sutra
The first documented porn pictures were printed in Oriental manuals of sex, and Kama Sutra was among the most popular of them. It is estimated that it was composed about 400 BC, but the Hindu feared that the paper would not survive and decorated the temples of Kajuharo with numerous figurines of people having sex.

13th to 16th Century
During this time, pornographic images were hidden away in the margins of religious texts. Books were expensive, so displaying both pleasure and prayer in one text was not unusual. Christianity prohibited depicting anything but religious figures, such as saints.

Sixteenth Century
The word ‘pornography’ meaning ‘indecent pictures’ or ‘depiction of whores’ came from the Greeks, who painted frescoes on the walls of brothels during this time.

The Renaissance in Rome was the birthplace of what we know as modern pornography. At the time, it was highly controversial and even frowned upon by the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, Guilio Romano created a collection of 16 engravings showing women copulating and was thrown in jail for almost a year by Pope Clement VII.

Political Porn
The French revolution (1789-1799) marked a major turning point in the history of modern pornography. Prior to the revolution, porn was the domain of the upper class but with the introduction of the pamphlet and free press, porn was democratised. It was used to attack the authority of the Church-run state. Unpopular aristocratic figures, particularly Queen Marie Antoinette, were depicted in gross sexual caricatures.

Nineteenth Century
The growth of photography in the 1820s changed porn because, like print, photos made it easy to distribute en masse. In addition to photography, halftone printing and film made their debut as a medium of pornography in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 19th century, though, driven by Victorian prudishness, porn became illegal.

Twentieth Century
Widely considered to be the first pornographic motion picture, A L’Ecu d’Or ou la bonne auberge was released in France in 1908. The relationship between the silver screen and erotica was firmly established, and the rest, as they say, is history. Men’s magazines that depicted nude women, erotic stories and comics were created. It began with publications such as Le Frisson. This led to the creation another popular form of pornography: Playboy magazine created by Hugh Hefner in 1953. As technology such as film, the computer, the internet and the cellphone was developed, it was all used to advance the porn industry.

This article was originally posted on www.marieclairvoyant.com