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Pornography or porn is the depiction of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement.

Over the past few decades, an immense industry for the production and consumption of pornography has grown, with the increasing use 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 mainstream counterparts. Amateur pornography has become widely popular and generally distributed via the Internet for free.

Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from 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 classified as pornography.

From country to country pornography is considered and treated differently, both culturally and legally, whether depictions of nudity in art or photography.

Etymology

The word derives from the Greek πορνογραφία (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words πόρνη (pornē, "prostitute" and pornea, "prostitution"), and γράφω (graphō, "I write or record," derived meaning "illustration," cf. "graph"), and the suffix -ία (-ia, meaning "state of," "property of," or "place of"), thus meaning "a written description or illustration of prostitutes or prostitution."

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 Pompeiimarker were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Roman 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 Museummarker in Naplesmarker 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 right on camera), and hardcore refers to pornography that depicts penetration explicitly.

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



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 Valleymarker, 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 the VHS vs. Betamax format war (the videotape format war) and in the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD format war (the high-def 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 focused 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.

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, and 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 sexual crime

Research concerning the effects of pornography is inconclusive. Some studies support the contention that the viewing of pornographic material may increase rates of sexual crimes, while others have shown no effects, or a decrease in the rates of such crimes. Moreover, all these studies focus on various correlations, but correlation does not imply causation.

Anti-pornography movement



Opposition to pornography comes generally, though not exclusively, from several sources: law, religion and feminism.

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 androcentric objectification of women.

Legal objections

Religious objections

Some religious groups discourage members from viewing pornography, and support legislation restricting its publication. These positions derive from broader religious beliefs about human sexuality. They believe that God created human beings and created sexual intercourse for them in the context of marriage. Thus, sex-oriented entertainment, as well as lack of modesty, are considered to cheapen human sexuality and be a misuse of it.

See also









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

Commentary


Government


History


Sociology


References

  1. President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Report of The Commission on Obscenity and Pornography 1970, Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office.
  2. Schlosser's book repeats the $10 billion figure without additional evidence
  3. Ron Wagner, Director of IT at a California porn studio: "If you look at the VHS vs. Beta standards, you see the much higher-quality standard dying because of [the porn industry's support of VHS] ... The mass volume of tapes in the porn market at the time went out on VHS."
  4. Feminism and Free speech: Pornography
  5. Pornography Helps Women, Society
  6. Pro-Sex Feminism: Redefining Pornography
  7. You Are What You Read?
  8. A Feminist Overview of Pornography, Ending in a Defense Thereof
  9. A Feminist Defense of Pornography
  10. Obscene Feminists: Why Women Are Leading the Battle Against Censorship
  11. Nadine Strossen: Pornography Must Be Tolerated
  12. Gender, Fucking, and Utopia: An Essay in Response to John Stoltenberg's Refusing to Be a Man



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