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Hardcore pornography or hardcore is still photography or video footage that contains explicit and intensive forms of pornography, most commonly including depictions of sexual acts such as vaginal, anal, and/or oral intercourse, cunnilingus, anilingus, ejaculation, and/or fetish play. Hardcore pornography usually takes the form of photographs, often displayed in magazines or on the Internet, or films. It can also appear as a cartoon. Since the 1990s it has been distributed widely over the Internet.
The term was coined in the second half of the 20th century to distinguish it from softcore pornography, which may use simulated sex and limits the range and intensity of depictions of sexual activities.
The distribution of hardcore pornography has been widely prohibited in many countries until the second half of the 20th century when many countries began to allow some dissemination of softcore material. Supply is now usually regulated by a motion picture rating system as well as by direct regulation of points of sale. Restrictions, as applicable, apply to the screening, or rental, sale, or giving of a movie, in the form of a DVD, video, computer file, etc. Public display and advertising of hardcore pornography is often prohibited, as is its supply to minors.
Most countries have eased the restrictions on the distribution of pornography, either by general or restricted legalization or by failure to enforce prohibitive legislation. Most easing of restrictions has been by way of changes to the criteria of a country's movie classification system. The anti-pornography movement often vigorously opposes legalization. In 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography. 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 legalized in the UK in 2000.
The availability of all types of pornography on the Internet has made regulation difficult.
Berl Kutchinsky's Studies on Pornography and Sex Crimes in Denmark (1970), a scientific report commissioned by the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, found that the legalizing of pornography in Denmark had not (as had been expected) resulted in an increase of sex crimes. Since then, many other experiments have been conducted, either confirming or rebutting the findings of Kutchinsky.
A study conducted in Denmark in 2003 and later published in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that men and women generally believe that hardcore pornography has a positive influence on their lives. The respondents attributed 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 Danish study regarding porn's impact on individuals and families.
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.
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 TV programming generate US$10 billion, roughly equal to US domestic box office receipts.