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The Origins of Porn

(Last Updated On: April 23, 2022)

Last Updated on April 23, 2022 by Admin

Porn is quite a hot topic in the sex industry. Some people are all for it, while for others, it’s not their thing. Porn also often comes with many ethical questions and issues, many of which have been dampened through the rise of ethical porn. This is where the actors are sourced ethically, paid fairly, and the acts are consensual and typically female-focused. 

They do say that prostitution is one of the oldest professions, and while porn might not be quite as old, sex work and sex content have been around long before the internet, VHS’ and modern cinematography.  But just when and where did porn start, and how did it turn into what it is today? Let’s learn all about it!

The Origins of Porn

The word pornography has Greek roots and can be broken down into its roots “porni” meaning prostitute, and “graphein” meaning to write. Which essentially means documenting the work of sex workers through different mediums. In order to talk about the beginnings of porn, you have to first decide what qualifies as “porn”. If you take a peek back at some of the oldest art pieces available, many of them are of an erotic nature. According to Brittanica, pornography is any “representation of sexual behavior in books, pictures, films, statues, and other forms of media”. That’s a pretty broad range and just goes to show how much art and sexuality are intertwined. 

While much of the modern porn world is filled with fairly raunchy material (explicit sexual activity), historical erotica and modern ethical porn are very much rooted in artistic expression, connection, and genuine pleasure. That being said, even the most revered erotic artists still received much criticism. Erotica is subjective, and what one person considers art, another may consider profane. 

Some of the first examples you can see of pornography are images of orgies and phallic-shaped (penis-shaped) objects. Japan’s art history is also flooded with erotica, although many of these images were considered mainstream, and not necessarily pornographic. 

The Hands of The People

One of the things that makes modern porn what it is, is the fact that people can access it from the comfort of their own home, while they are…left to their own devices. Porn industry started being passed to the hands of the people thanks to the invention of the printing press. One of the first examples of this was a European publication in the 1500s called The Heptameron

By the eighteenth century, printing press technology had advanced enough to make pornographic material more readily available to distribute to the public, especially in England and France. It was around this time that pornographic shops began to grow in popularity, spreading throughout the streets. Besides giving people good masturbation material or creative inspiration, porn was also a powerful tool for social and political movements. You can see that mirrored in today’s world in the fights for reproductive justice and sex workers’ rights.

As technology developed in the nineteenth century, so did people’s access to porn. The creation of photography and motion pictures (early video cameras) laid the foundation for what porn is today. Short and silent pornographic films, called “stag films” began to be available in the 1920s, while feature-length films started to be created in the 1970s, which is also the time when peepshow booths began to pop up – a version of live pornography. 

The creation of VCRs (remember those?) allowed people to not only watch porn but record it and bring it home. This happened at the same time that late-night cable television began to debut pornographic material. What really brought porn to what it is now is the creation of the internet and the installment of it in most homes.

At Your Fingertips

The world of porn sure has come a long way and is now easier than ever to not just watch, but create. With the majority of people walking around with a super internet machine in their pockets (hello smartphones!), they have the ability to watch thousands, if not millions, of videos within seconds.

But with great power comes great responsibility. This rapid access has also led to a rise in porn addictions and arousal dysfunction, as well as normalizing toxic behaviors that are often seen in porn – which we won’t get into for sensitivity reasons but you can imagine. That’s why it’s so important to source your porn ethically, like from women-owned production companies or small content creators that you would find on sites like OnlyFans. 

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