pornography

pornography

[pawr-nog-ruh-fee]

Depiction of erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement. The word originally signified any work of art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes. Though pornography is clearly ancient in origin, its early history is obscure because it was customarily not thought worthy of transmission or preservation. Nevertheless, in the artwork of many historic societies, including ancient India, ancient Greece, and Rome, erotic imagery was commonplace and often appeared in religious contexts. The Art of Love, by Ovid, is a treatise on seduction and sensual arousal. The invention of printing led to the production of ambitious works of pornographic writing intended to entertain as well as to arouse. In 18th-century Europe, pornography became a vehicle for social and political protest through its depiction of the misdeeds of royalty and other aristocrats, as well as those of clerics, a traditional target. The development of photography and motion pictures in the 19th and 20th centuries contributed greatly to the proliferation of pornography, as did the advent of the Internet in the late 20th century. During the 20th century, restrictions on pornography were relaxed throughout much of Europe and North America, though regulations remained strict in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Child pornography is almost universally prohibited.

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Pornography or porn is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer. It is to a certain extent similar to erotica, which is the use of sexually arousing imagery. Over the past few decades, an immense industry for the production and consumption of pornography has grown, due to emergence of the VCR, the DVD, and the Internet, as well as the emergence of social attitudes more tolerant of sexual portrayals. Performers in pornography are referred to as pornographic actors (or actresses), or the more commonly known title, "porn star", and are generally seen as qualitatively different from their non-pornographic counterparts.

Pornography may use any of a variety of media—printed literature, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, or video game. However, when sexual acts are performed for a live audience, by definition it is not pornography, as the term applies to the depiction of the act, rather than the act itself. Thus, portrayals such as sex shows and striptease are not pornography.

In most countries pornography is treated as a separate entity, both culturally and legally, from depictions of naked persons in art or photography. See "nudity" for more information.

Etymology

The word derives from the Greek πορνογραφία (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words πόρνη (pornē, "prostitute"), γράφω (graphō, "to write or record"), and the suffix -ία (-ia, meaning "state of", "property of", or "place of"), thus meaning "a place to record prostitutes".

History

The depiction of sexual acts is as old as civilization (and can be found painted on various ancient buildings), but the concept of pornography as understood today did not exist until the Victorian era. Previous to that time, though some sex acts were regulated or stipulated in laws, looking at objects or images depicting them was not. In some cases, specific books, engravings or image collections were censored or outlawed, but the trend to compose laws that restricted viewing of sexually explicit things in general was a Victorian construct. 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. The moveable objects were locked away in the Secret Museum in Naples, Italy and what could not be removed was covered and cordoned off as to not corrupt the sensibilities of women, children and the working class. Soon after, the world's first law criminalizing pornography was enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1857 in the Obscene Publications Act. 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." Despite the fact of their suppression, depictions of erotic imagery were common throughout history.

Sub-genres

In general, softcore refers to pornography that does not depict penetration (usually genitals are not shown), and hardcore refers to pornography that depicts penetration explicitly.

Pornography is of different forms depending on physical characteristics of the participants, fetish, sexual orientation etc. Reality and voyeur pornography, animated videos, legally prohibited acts also depicted. Some popular genres of pornography:

Economics

Revenues of the adult industry in the United States have been difficult to determine. In 1970, a Federal study estimated that the total retail value of all the hard-core porn in the United States was no more than $10 million

In 1998, Forrester Research published a report on the online "adult content" industry estimating $750 million to $1 billion in annual revenue. As an unsourced aside, the Forrester study speculated on an industry-wide aggregate figure of $8-10 billion, which was repeated out of context in many news stories, after being published in Eric Schlosser's book on the American underground economy. Studies in 2001 put the total (including video, pay-per-view, Internet and magazines) between $2.6 billion and $3.9 billion.

A significant amount of pornographic video is shot in the San Fernando Valley, which has been a pioneering region for producing adult films since the 1970s, and has since become home for various models, actors/actresses, production companies, and other assorted businesses involved in the production and distribution of pornography.

The porn industry has been considered influential in deciding format wars in media; including being a factor in VHS v. Betamax (the videotape format war) and a factor in the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD format war.

Non-commercial pornography

As well as the porn industry, there is a large amount of non-commercial pornography. This should be distinguished from commercial pornography falsely marketed as featuring "amateurs". The Alt Sex Stories Text Repository focuses on prose stories collected from Usenet. Various Usenet groups are focussed on non-commercial pornographic photographs.

Technology

Mass-distributed pornography is as old as the printing press. Almost as soon as photography was invented, it was being used to produce pornographic images. Some claim that pornography has been a driving force in the development of technologies from the printing press, through photography (still and motion), to video, satellite TV, DVD, and the Internet. With the invention of tiny cameras and wireless equipments voyeur pornography is gaining ground. Mobile cameras are used to capture pornographic photos or videos, and forwarded as MMS.

Computer-generated images and manipulations

Digital manipulation requires the use of source photographs, but some pornography is produced without human actors at all. The idea of completely computer-generated pornography was conceived very early as one of the most obvious areas of application for computer graphics and 3D rendering.

Until the late 1990s, digitally manipulated pornography could not be produced cost-effectively. In the early 2000s, it became a growing segment, as the modelling and animation software matured and the rendering capabilities of computers improved. As of 2004, computer-generated pornography depicting situations involving children and sex with fictional characters, such as Lara Croft, is already produced on a limited scale. The October 2004 issue of Playboy featured topless pictures of the title character from the BloodRayne video game.

Production and distribution by region

The production and distribution of pornography are economic activities of some importance. The exact size of the economy of pornography and the influence that it has in political circles are matters of controversy.

Pornography in Japan: Rates of pornography use in Japan have climbed in the 20th century. A correlation has been found between pornography use, rape and other sex crimes. From 1972 when pornography changed from totally prohibited to freely available with no age restrictions there has been a significant drop in sex crime and particularly in the number of victims aged under 13. Japan has the lowest levels of reported rape and the highest levels of arrests and convictions in any developed nation in the world.

Legal status

See List of pornography laws by region for detailed list
The legal status of pornography varies widely from country to country. Most countries allow at least some form of pornography. In some countries, softcore pornography is considered tame enough to be sold in general stores or to be shown on TV. Hardcore pornography, on the other hand, is usually regulated. The production and sale, and to a slightly lesser degree the possession, of child pornography is illegal in almost all countries, and most countries have restrictions on pornography involving violence or animals.

Most countries attempt to restrict minors' access to hardcore materials, limiting availability to adult bookstores, mail-order, via television channels that parents can restrict, among other means. There is usually an age minimum for entrance to pornographic stores, or the materials are displayed partly covered or not displayed at all. More generally, disseminating pornography to a minor is often illegal. Many of these efforts have been rendered practically irrelevant by widely available Internet pornography.

In the United States, a person receiving unwanted commercial mail he or she deems pornographic (or otherwise offensive) may obtain a Prohibitory Order, either against all mail from a particular sender, or against all sexually explicit mail, by applying to the United States Postal Service.

There are recurring urban legends of snuff movies, in which murders are filmed for pornographic purposes. Despite extensive work to ascertain the truth of these rumors, law enforcement officials have been unable to find any such works.

The Internet has also caused problems with the enforcement of age limits regarding performers and subjects. In most countries, males and females under the age of 18 are not allowed to appear in porn films, but in several European countries the age limit is 16, and in Denmark it is legal for women as young as 16 to appear topless in mainstream newspapers and magazines. This material often ends up on the Internet and can be viewed by people in countries where it constitutes child pornography, creating challenges for lawmakers wishing to restrict access to such material.

Some people, including pornography producer Larry Flynt and the writer Salman Rushdie, have argued that pornography is vital to freedom and that a free and civilized society should be judged by its willingness to accept pornography.

The UK Government has criminalised possession of what it terms "extreme pornography" following the highly publicised murder of Jane Longhurst.

Effect on sex crimes

A lower per capita crime rate and historically high availability of pornography in many developed European countries (e.g. Netherlands, Sweden) has led some researchers to conclude that there is an inverse relationship between the two, such that an increased availability of pornography in a society equates to a decrease in sexual crime. For example, there is some evidence that states within the U.S. that have lower rates of internet access have a greater incidence of rape, although general national trend and idiosyncratic factors relevant to these states were not controlled for, thus severely limiting the conclusions that can be drawn. It is speculated that wide availability of pornography may reduce crimes by giving potential offenders a socially accepted way of regulating their own sexuality.

Japan, which is noted for its large output of rape fantasy pornography, has the lowest reported sex crime rate in the industrialized world, but some attribute this to the emphasis on a woman's "honor" in Japanese culture, which makes victims of sex crime less likely to report it (e.g. chikan). However, a 1995 study comparing crime statistics since 1972 when pornography changed from totally prohibited to freely available with no age restrictions found that:

sex crimes in every category, from rape to public indecency, sexual offenses from both ends of the criminal spectrum, significantly decreased in incidence. Most significantly, despite the wide increase in availability of pornography to children, not only was there a decrease in sex crimes with juveniles as victims but the number of juvenile offenders also decreased significantly. We hypothesized that the increase in pornography, without age restriction and in comics, if it had any detrimental effect, would most negatively influence younger individuals. Just the opposite occurred. The number of victims decreased particularly among the females younger than 13. In 1972, 8.3% of the victims were younger than 13. In 1995 the percentage of victims younger than 13 years of age dropped to 4.0%; a reduction of greater than 50%. In 1972, 33.3 % of the offenders were between 14-19 years of age; by 1995 that percentage had decreased to 9.6%..

Yet, this and similar findings neglect the co-occurrence of feminist movements in the early 1970s that specifically targeted sexual attitudes and legal treatments of rape. Some researchers argue that it is likely that the emergence of cultural consciousness about rape and the first rape prevention and treatment centers can account for the decline in rape over this time period.

Furthermore, a review of controlled studies has found that extensive, extremely prolonged viewing of the type of pornographic material commonly sold at adult bookstores was positively correlated with leniency in the sentencing of a person convicted of rape in a mock trial setting, decreased satisfaction of participants with their sex lives and partners, and an increased self-reported willingness to commit rape or other forced sexual acts. Likewise, Ariely and Loewenstein conducted a laboratory study that demonstrated an increased willingness of men to engage in "dater rape" like behaviors (e.g., slip a woman a drug to increase the chance to have sex with her) while sexually aroused.

Anti-pornography movement

Opposition to pornography comes generally, though not exclusively, from several sources: law, religion and feminism. Some critics from the latter two camps have expressed belief in the existence of "pornography addiction."

Effect on sexual aggression

In the 1970s and 1980s, feminists such as Dr. Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin criticized pornography as essentially dehumanizing women and as likely to encourage violence against them. It has been suggested that there was an alliance, tacit or explicit, between anti-porn feminists and fundamentalist Christians to help censor the use of or production of pornography.

According to researchers N.M. Malamuth, T. Addison and M. Koss, "high pornography use is not necessarily indicative of high risk for sexual aggression," but go on to say, "if a person has relatively aggressive sexual inclinations resulting from various personal and/or cultural factors, some pornography exposure may activate and reinforce associated coercive tendencies and behaviors".

Feminist objections

Feminist critics of pornography, such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, generally consider it demeaning to women. They believe that most pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment, and contributes to the male-centered objectification of women. Some feminists distinguish between pornography and erotica, which they say does not have the same negative effects of pornography. However, many Third-wave feminists and postmodern feminists disagree with this critique of porn, claiming that appearing in or using pornography can be explained as each individual woman's choice, and is not guided by socialization in a capitalist patriarchy.

Pornography by and for women

Some recent pornography has been produced under the rubric of "by and for women". According to Tristan Taormino, "Feminist porn both responds to dominant images with alternative ones and creates its own iconography.

Legal objections

In the United States, distribution of "obscene" materials is a federal crime, The determination of what is obscene is up to a jury in a trial, which must apply the Miller test; however, due to the prominence of pornography in most communities most pornographic materials are not considered obscene by the Miller Test.

Partly because Denmark decriminalized pornography in 1967 with few adverse effects and partly because of the 1968 United States Supreme Court decision which held that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes, in 1968 Congress created the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography to investigate the effects of obscenity and pornography on the people of the United States with each member personally appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In what became the most detailed and comprehensive investigation into pornography to date, the commission in its final report found that pornography could not be shown to do harm to individuals or to society, and recommended the repeal of obscenity and pornography legislation as it related to adults. Released during the presidency of Richard Nixon the report generated a brief bout of controversy but was ultimately ignored by the administration.

Attorney General for Ronald Reagan, Edwin Meese, also courted controversy when he appointed the "Meese Commission" to investigate pornography in the United States; their report, released in July 1986, was highly critical of pornography and itself became a target of widespread criticism. That year, Meese Commission officials contacted convenience store chains and succeeded in demanding that widespread men's magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse be removed from shelves,a ban which spread nationally until being quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the D.C. Federal Court in Meese v. Playboy (639 F.Supp. 581).

In the United States in 2005, Attorney General Gonzales made obscenity and pornography a top prosecutorial priority of the Department of Justice.

The conservative religious organization Concerned Women for America polled every U.S. attorney’s office to find out what they planned to do about obscenity. Except for a handful of offices that didn’t return calls, not one said it had any inclination to pursue anything other than child obscenity cases.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., sponsored a grant in 2005 to Morality in Media to set up the website obscenitycrimes.org that would allow citizens to report obscene websites and materials. The site has generated tens of thousands of tips and complaints, and the organization has sent promising ones on to the Department of Justice, but the department has not followed up on a single one.

Religious objections

Some religious groups often discourage their members from viewing or reading pornography, and support legislation restricting its publication. These positions derive from broader religious views about sexuality. In some religious traditions, for example, sexual intercourse is limited to the express function of procreation. Thus, sexual pleasure or sex-oriented entertainment, as well as lack of modesty, are considered to be sexual immorality by some.

Other religions do not find sexual pleasure immoral, but see sex as a sacred, godly, highly-pleasurable activity. These traditions do not condemn sexual pleasure in and of itself, but they impose limitations on the circumstances under which sexual pleasure should be properly experienced. Pornography in this view is seen as the secularization of something sacred, and so, a violation of spouses' intimate relationship.

Though the Torah (Jewish written law) has a great many prohibitions of about sexual behaviors, pornography is not specifically mentioned. However, the Tzniut requires Jewish women to be covered from ankle to wrist (thereby forbidding pornographic modeling or acting for women). The halakhah states that sexually arousing images are to be avoided.

The Qur'an 24:31 states "And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and keep covered their private parts, and that they should not show-off their beauty except what is apparent, and let them cast their shawls over their cleavage. And let them not show-off their beauty except to their husbands...

There is no simple direct prohibition of pornographic media in the Bible. Extrapolation and generalization of Matthew 5:27,28 is required.

You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Paragraph 2354 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Pornography... offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each another. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants... since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.

In addition to expressing concerns about sexual immorality, some people take an anti-pornography stance claiming that viewing pornography can be addictive, leading to self-destructive behavior. Proponents of this view compare pornography addiction to alcoholism, both in asserting the seriousness of the problem and in developing treatment methods.

See also

Forms

Lists

People and groups

Other

References

Further reading

Advocacy

  • Susie Bright. "Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World and Susie Bright's Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader", San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press, 1990 and 1992. Challenges any easy equation between feminism and anti-pornography positions.
  • Betty Dodson. "Feminism and Free speech: Pornography." Feminists for Free Expression 1993. May 8, 2002
  • Kate Ellis. Caught Looking: Feminism, Pornography, and Censorship. New York: Caught Looking Incorporated, 1986.
  • Susan Griffin. Pornography and Silence: Culture's Revenge Against Nature. New York: Harper, 1981.
  • Matthew Gever. "Pornography Helps Women, Society, UCLA Bruin, 1998-12-03.
  • Jason Russell. "The Canadian Past-Time" "Stand Like A Rock"
  • Michele Gregory. "Pro-Sex Feminism: Redefining Pornography (or, a study in alliteration: the pro pornography position paper)
  • Andrea Juno and V. Vale. Angry Women, Re/Search # 12. San Francisco, CA: Re/Search Publications, 1991. Performance artists and literary theorists who challenge Dworkin and MacKinnon's claim to speak on behalf of all women.
  • Michael Kimmel. "Men Confront Pornography". New York: Meridian--Random House, 1990. A variety of essays that try to assess ways that pornography may take advantage of men.
  • Wendy McElroy defends the availability of pornography, and condemns feminist anti-pornography campaigns.
    • "A Feminist Overview of Pornography, Ending in a Defense Thereof
    • "A Feminist Defense of Pornography
  • Annalee Newitz. "Obscene Feminists: Why Women Are Leading the Battle Against Censorship" San Francisco Bay Guardian Online May 8, 2002. May 9, 2002
  • Nadine Strossen:
    • "Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights" (ISBN 0-8147-8149-7)
    • "Nadine Strossen: Pornography Must Be Tolerated
  • Scott Tucker. "Gender, Fucking, and Utopia: An Essay in Response to John Stoltenberg's Refusing to Be a Man in Social Text 27 (1991): 3-34. Critique of Stoltenberg and Dworkin's positions on pornography and power.
  • Carole Vance, Editor. "Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality". Boston: Routledge, 1984. Collection of papers from 1982 conference; visible and divisive split between anti-pornography activists and lesbian S&M theorists.

Porn studies

  • Linda Williams: Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the Frenzy of the Visible (University of California Press, 1989). Expanded Paperback Edition: Univ of California Press, 1999, ISBN 0520219430
  • Linda Williams (ed.): Porn Studies, B&T, 2004, ISBN 0822333120

External links

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