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Pornography (often abbreviated as "porn" or "porno" in informal usage) is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games. The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease. The primary subjects of pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors or porn stars, who perform in pornographic films. If dramatic skills are not involved, a performer in a porn film may also be called a model.
Commercialized pornography accounts for a nearly 100 billion dollar worldwide industry for the production of various media and associated products and services. This industry employs thousands of performers along with support and production staff. It is also followed by dedicated industry publications and trade groups as well as the mainstream press, private organizations (watchdog groups), government agencies, and political organizations.
Various groups within society have considered depictions of a sexual nature immoral, labeling them pornographic, and attempting to have them suppressed under obscenity and other laws, with varying degrees of success. Such works have also often been subject to censorship and other legal restraints to publication, display or possession. Such grounds and even the definition of pornography have differed in various historical, cultural, and national contexts. With the emergence of social attitudes more tolerant of discussion and presentation of sexuality and more limited legal definitions of obscenity, an industry for the production and consumption of pornography arose in the latter half of the 20th century. The introduction of the home video and Internet saw a boom in the worldwide porn industry that generates billions of dollars annually.
The word is similar to the modern Greek πορνογραφία (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words πόρνη (pornē "prostitute" and πορνεία porneia "prostitution"), and γράφειν (graphein "to write or to 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". No date is known for the first use of the word in Greek; the earliest attested, most related word one could find in Greek, is πορνογράφος, pornographos, i.e. "someone writing of harlots", in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus.
"Pornographie" was in use in the French language during the 1800s. The word did not enter the English language as the familiar conjunction until 1857 or as a French import in New Orleans in 1842.
Depictions of a sexual nature are older than civilization as depictions such as the venus figurines and rock art have existed since prehistoric times. However the concept of pornography as understood today did not exist until the Victorian era. For example the French Impressionism painting by Édouard Manet titled Olympia was a nude picture of a French courtesan, literally a "prostitute picture". It was controversial at the time.
Nineteenth-century legislation eventually outlawed the publication, retail, and trafficking of certain writings and images regarded as pornographic and would order the destruction of shop and warehouse stock meant for sale; however, the private possession of and viewing of (some forms of) pornography was not made an offence until recent times.
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 and what could not be removed was covered and cordoned off as to not corrupt the sensibilities of women, children, and the working classes.
Fanny Hill (1748) is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel." It is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The authors were charged with "corrupting the King's subjects."
The world's first law criminalizing pornography was the English Obscene Publications Act 1857 enacted at the urging of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. The Act, which applied to the United Kingdom and Ireland, made the sale of obscene material a statutory offence, giving the courts power to seize and destroy offending material. The American equivalent was the Comstock Act of 1873 which made it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail. The English Act did not apply to Scotland, where the common law continued to apply. However, neither the English nor the United States Act defined what constituted "obscene", leaving this for the courts to determine. Prior to the English Act, the publication of obscene material was treated as a common law misdemeanour and effectively prosecuting authors and publishers was difficult even in cases where the material was clearly intended as pornography.
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.
Pornographic film production commenced almost immediately after the invention of the motion picture in 1895. Two of the earliest pioneers were Eugène Pirou and Albert Kirchner. Kirchner directed the earliest surviving pornographic film for Pirou under the trade name "Léar". The 1896 film, Le Coucher de la Mariée showed Louise Willy performing a striptease. Pirou's film inspired a genre of risqué French films showing women disrobing and other filmmakers realised profits could be made from such films.
Sexually explicit films opened producers and distributors to prosecution. Those that were made were produced illicitly by amateurs starting in the 1920s, primarily in France and the United States. Processing the film was risky as was their distribution. Distribution was strictly private. In 1969, Denmark became the first country to abolish censorship, thereby decriminalizing pornography, which led to an explosion in investment and of commercially produced pornography. However, it continued to be banned in other countries, and had to be smuggled in, where it was sold "under the counter" or (sometimes) shown in "members only" cinema clubs.
The scholarly study of pornography, notably in cultural studies, is limited, perhaps due to the controversy about the topic in feminism. The first peer-reviewed academic journal about the study of pornography, Porn Studies, was published in 2014.
Pornography is often distinguished from erotica, which consists of the portrayal of sexuality with high-art aspirations, focusing also on feelings and emotions, while pornography involves the depiction of acts in a sensational manner, with the entire focus on the physical act, so as to arouse quick intense reactions.
Pornography is generally classified as either softcore or hardcore pornography. A pornographic work is characterized as hardcore if it has any hardcore content, no matter how small. Both forms of pornography generally contains nudity. Softcore pornography generally contains nudity or partial nudity in sexually suggestive situations, but without explicit sexual activity, sexual penetration or "extreme" fetishism, while hardcore pornography may contain graphic sexual activity and visible penetration, including unsimulated sex scenes.
Pornography can be classified according to the physical characteristics of the participants, fetish, sexual orientation, etc., as well as the types of sexual activity featured. Reality and voyeur pornography, animated videos, and legally prohibited acts also influence the classification of pornography. The genres of pornography are based on the type of activity featured and the category of participants, for example:
Revenues of the adult industry in the United States are difficult to determine. In 1970, a Federal study estimated that the total retail value of hardcore pornography 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 black market. 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 pornography 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).
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.
Pornographers have taken advantage of each technological advance in the production and distribution of pornography. They have used lithographs, the printing press, and photography. Pornography is considerd a driving force in the development of technologies from the printing press, through photography (still and motion), to satellite TV, other forms of video, 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, a practice known as sexting.
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.
Due to the popularity of 3D blockbusters in theaters such as Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon, companies are now looking to shoot pornography movies in 3D. The first case of this occurred in Hong Kong, when a group of filmmakers filmed 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy released in April 2011.
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.
Research concerning the effects of pornography is concerned with multiple outcomes. Such research includes potential influences on rape, domestic violence, sexual dysfunction, difficulties with sexual relationships, and child sexual abuse. Viewers of novel and extreme pornographic images may become tolerant to such images, which may impact sexual response. Currently, there is no evidence that visual images and films are addictive. Some studies support the contention that the viewing of pornographic material may increase rates of sexual crimes, whereas others are either inconclusive, suggest no effect, or conclude the liberalization of porn in society may be associated with decreased rape and sexual violence rates.
More than 70% of male internet users from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that Utah was the largest consumer of paid internet pornography per capita in the United States.
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Adultery · Bestiality · Buggery
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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 some countries have restrictions on pornography depicting violence (see, for example, rape pornography) or pornography depicting sex of a human with an animal, or both.
Most countries attempt to restrict minors' access to hardcore materials, limiting availability to sex shops, 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. A failed US law would have made these same restrictions apply to the internet.
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.
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.
Child pornography is illegal in most countries, with a person most commonly being a child until the age of 18 (though the age does vary). In those countries, any film or photo with a child subject in a sexual act is considered pornography and illegal.
In the United States, some courts have applied US copyright protection to pornographic materials. Although the first US copyright law specifically did not cover obscene materials, the provision was removed subsequently.[when?] Most pornographic works are theoretically work for hire meaning pornographic models do not receive statutory royalties for their performances. Of particular difficulty is the changing community attitudes of what is considered obscene, meaning that works could slip into and out of copyright protection based upon the prevailing standards of decency. This was not an issue with the copyright law up until 1972 when copyright protection required registration. When the law was changed to make copyright protection automatic, and for the life of the author.
Some courts have held that copyright protection effectively applies to works, whether it is obscene or not, but not all courts have ruled the same way. The copyright protection rights of pornography in the United States has again been challenged as late as February 2012.
Feminists, including Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, argue that pornography is demeaning to women and/or that it contributes to violence against women, both in its production and in its consumption. The production of pornography, they argue, entails the physical, psychological, or economic coercion of the women who perform in it, and where they argue that the abuse and exploitation of women is rampant; in its consumption, they charge that pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment. They charge that pornography presents a severely distorted image of sexual relations, and reinforces sex myths; that it always shows women as readily available and desiring to engage in sex at any time, with any man, on men's terms, always responding positively to any advances men make. They argue that because pornography often shows women enjoying and desiring to be violently attacked by men, saying "no" when they actually want sex, fighting back but then ending up enjoying the act – this can affect the public understanding of legal issues such as consent to sexual relations.
Religious organizations have been important in bringing about political action against pornography. In the United States, religious beliefs affect the formation of political beliefs which concern pornography.
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