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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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".
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.
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.