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"Bearly Decent", from a hardcore photo shoot circa 1981

Hardcore pornography is a form of pornography that features explicit sexual acts. The term was coined in the second half of the 20th century to distinguish it from softcore pornography. It usually takes the form of photographs, often in magazines, or films but it may also appear as a cartoon. Since the 1990s it has been distributed widely over the Internet.


On the set of a pornographic film

Hardcore pornography was widely prohibited in many countries until the second half of the 20th century when many of the world's liberal democracies, experiencing a change in sexual norms, began to allow limited access. Supply is usually regulated by a combination of a classification system and regulation of points of sale, although today hardcore pornography can be easily downloaded from many Internet sites with little regulation. Public display and advertising is often prohibited. Supply to minors is usually prohibited.

Most of the world's liberal democracies have either taken steps to legalize pornography, or they fail increasingly to enforce legislation to prohibit it, resulting in de facto legalization. There is often vigorous opposition to legalization - see anti-pornography movement. In the U.S., legal interpretations of pornography in relation to the constitutional right to free speech differ from state to state and from city to city. Hardcore pornography was legalised in the UK in 2000.

Social effects of pornography

Danish criminologist Berl Kutchinsky's Studies on Pornography and sex crimes in Denmark (1970), a scientific report ordered by the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, found that the legalizing of pornography in Denmarkmarker had not (as had been expected) resulted in an increase of sex crimes. Since then, many other experiments have been conducted, either supporting or opposing the findings of Berl Kutchinsky.

A recent study conducted in Denmark by Martin Hald and Neil Malamuth, Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption(Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2007), found that men and women generally believe that hardcore pornography has a positive influence on their lives. The respondents credited porn with improving their sex lives, their sexual knowledge and attitudes toward the opposite sex, and even their general quality of life. Other studies have come to strikingly different conclusions than the Denmark study regarding porn's impact on individuals and families.

United Kingdom

The Independent reported in 2006 that Nielsen NetRatings found that more than nine million British male adults used Internet porn services. The study also reported a one-third rise in the number of women visiting X-rated sites, from 1.05 million to 1.38 million. A 2003 study found that one third of all British internet users accessed hardcore porn.

United States

A 2003 study by Eric Schlosser estimated that revenues from hardcore porn match Hollywood's domestic box office takings. According to that study, hardcore porn videos, internet sites, live sex acts and cable programming generate US$10 billion, roughly equal to US domestic box office receipts. Recently, several prominent people in the porn industry have said that due to internet and free competition, porn sales are far below those that are reported. Paul Fishbein of trade magazine Adult Video News said that due to free and amateur Internet competition that rental sales are off 10 percent to 15 percent.

Hardcore porn remains controversial in the United States, and is used as a campaign issue for politicians. Mitt Romney decried the "cesspool" of pornography, but came under fire from social conservatives, including Tony Perkins, because he sat on the board of Marriott International, whose hotels profit from porn movies. Pay-per-view pornography generates a lot of revenue for hotels. Anti-porn activist John L. Harmer, who served as California's lieutenant governor under Ronald Reagan, estimated up to $500 million is generated industrywide.

In particular, organizations with ties to the Christian right movement have concerned themselves with porn issues.

See also


Further reading

  • O'Toole, L. (1998), Pornocopia: Porn, Sex, Technology and Desire, London, Serpent's Tail. ISBN 1-85242-395-1

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