rotten > Library > Culture > Pornography
Throughout history, humanity's eternal fascination with watching people fuck has manifested itself in every available medium. We have graphic depictions of sex acts on paintings, pottery, wood carvings, statuary, papyri, scrimshaw, sketchbooks, plays, novels, tapestries, poetry, song, comic books, etc. Not to mention photography, audio recordings, motion pictures, digital images, and interactive computer games. There's even an erotic book in the Bible, for Christ's sake.
But if we have always had pornography, then there also have always been those pushing for its eradication. Porn has been the subject of restrictions otherwise applied only to heretical and treasonous works. Which is only to be expected, given the nearly ubiquitous taboos against nudity. So most societies throughout history have classified pornographic works as contraband, subject to confiscation and criminal penalties.
There are exceptions. The Roman Empire did not merely tolerate erotic works—they were embraced as part of mainstream culture. That is, until the Christians took over.
For decades, and as recently as twenty years ago, the most popular porn medium was the stroke mag. Hugh Hefner began mass-marketing photographs of naked chicks in 1953 when he launched Playboy magazine (the first issue had a Marilyn Monroe centerfold). But even before then, there were hundreds of small-scale periodicals trying to keep a low profile.
With the advent of the videocassette recorder in 1975 came video rental stores, whose primary source of income was initially adult videos.
cable TV, SpectraVision, VCRs, DVDs.
The advent of computer technology ushered in the era of interactive porn. Mac Playmate. Virtual Valerie.
pornographic Atari 2600 carts (progenitor of interactive erotica)
indulge fetishes (impractical, illegal ones)
Vatican's index of prohibited books
as catalyst for adoption of new technologies
rise of the printing press, camera, movies, ViewMaster,
dead porn stars
|The sexual farce Sodom; or the Quintessence of Debauchery is published posthumously, penned by the second Earl of Rochester John Wilmot.
|John Cleland publishes Memoirs of Fanny Hill.
|The Marquis de Sade writes The 120 Days of Sodom.
|Roth v. United States—works cannot be obscene unless they are "utterly without redeeming social importance."
|Penthouse magazine (London Edition).
|Al Goldstein launches Screw magazine, with $150 funding.
|Penthouse magazine (U.S. Edition).
|30 Sep 1970
|The Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography issues a 646 page report concluding that all sexually explicit films, books and magazines aimed at adults should be legalized. One publisher, William Hamling, sold 100,000 copies of the report with 546 additional "illustrations", for which he received four years prison time.
|Ivory Snow model Marilyn Chambers stars in Behind the Green Door.
|11 Jun 1972
|The film Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace, debuts at the New Mature World Theater on 49th Street in New York.
|Burt Reynolds inexplicably appears naked in Cosmopolitan.
|Debbie Does Dallas
|The Playboy Channel launches.
|Videogame producer Mystique releases Custer's Revenge, an Atari 2600 cartridge whose object is navigating a palefaced cowboy through a hail of arrows so he can rape an Indian maiden.
|9 Jul 1986
|After spending one year and half a million dollars, the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography releases their two-volume, 1960-page final report. In contrast to the 1970 Presidential Commission on Pornography, the report finds that porn causes violent sex crimes and other antisocial activities. Afterwards, one impartial commission member admits: "I, for one, have no hesitation in condemning nearly every specimen of pornography that we have examined in the course of our deliberations as tasteless, offensive, lewd and indecent. According to my values, these materials are themselves immoral, and to the extent that they encourage immoral behavior they exert a corrupting influence on the family and the moral fabric of society."
|Sierra Games releases Leisure Suit Larry. It sells for $40 and comes on two 360K floppy disks.
|The Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and curator Dennis Barrie charged with obscenity over a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit of 175 photographs.
|27 Nov 1990
|The MPAA deploys its new NC-17 rating to replace X.
|19 Jan 1995
|Over ten hours in Los Angeles, Annabel Chong has sex 251 times (with 70 men), breaking the world gangbang record.
|3 Jul 1995
|The cover story in Time magazine is an exclusive article on Carnegie-Mellon University electrical engineering undergraduate Marty Rimm's forthcoming cyberporn study, "Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway." The article proposes that the Internet is a cesspool of antifeminism and pornography, even though the study itself actually examined only the text descriptions of just 2,830 porn images from six adult BBSes (not Internet sites). Nevertheless, Time declares a state of emergency.
|Volume 83, issue 5 of the (non-peer reviewed) Georgetown Law Journal includes Martin Rimm's cyberporn study "Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway: A Survey of 917,410 Images, Description, Short Stories and Animations Downloaded 8.5 Million Times by Consumers in Over 2000 Cities in Forty Countries, Provinces and Territories."
|12 Oct 1997
|Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights premieres, roughly based on the life of John Holmes.
|26 Oct 2003
|George W Bush proclaims the start of National Protection from Pornography Week.
Faces of Death |