Pornography or porn is the portrayal of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement and erotic satisfaction.
Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, 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.
Pornography has often been subject to censorship and legal restraints on publication on grounds of obscenity. Such grounds and the very definition of what is or is not pornography have differed in different historical, cultural and national contexts.
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.
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."
Depictions of a sexual nature are as old as civilization (and possibly older, in the form of venus figurines and rock art), but the concept of pornography as understood today did not exist until the Victorian era. Nineteenth century legislation 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 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.
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:
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 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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Sex and the law|
|Rights · Ethics|
|Pornography · Censorship|
|Miscegenation (interracial relations)|
|Same-sex marriage · Homophobia|
|Age of consent · Essentialism|
|Objectification · Antisexualism|
|Violence · Slavery|
|Public morality · Norms|
|May vary according to Jurisdiction|
|Adultery · Incest|
|Sexting · Seduction|
|Deviant sexual intercourse|
|Sodomy · Buggery · Zoophilia|
|Criminal transmission of HIV|
|Circumcision · Female Genital Cutting|
|Sexual harassment · Public indecency|
|Extreme pornography · Child pornography|
|Sexual assault · Rape · Statutory rape|
|Sexual abuse (Child)|
|Child grooming · Prostitution of children|
|Prostitution and Pimping|
|Portals: Sexuality · Law · Criminal justice|
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pornography is the representation of the human body or sexual activity with the goal of sexual arousal.
Pictures, movies and writing about sex are sometimes called pornography (or porn). Pornography is a picture, movie or writing that is created to make people get sexually excited.
Works of art, movies or writing that show sex can be called by several different names. Pictures or movies showing naked people might be called "erotica" or might be "pornography", depending on the way the naked person is shown. Works of art, movies and writing about loving people acting in a sexual manner to each other are often called "erotica", rather than "pornography". It also depends on the judgment of the person who is looking at the picture.
In the law of most countries, showing naked people is not called "pornography" unless the people are doing something that is sexual. In the law of many countries, many types of pornography are legal. Some types of pornography are believed to harmful or disrespectful to the people taking part, or to the people who watch or read it. Harmful pornography is called "obscene". Most countries have laws against these types of pornography. One type of pornography that is against the law in most countries is child pornography. Some people have moral or religious views which are against the making and use of pornography.
Pornography can be shown in different ways. Some ways include photos, drawings, paintings, animations, and films. Live shows (like sex shows or striptease) are usually not considered pornography. Pornography is made to entertain adults. Many people are involved in making, selling or showing pornography. Those people who are shown in pornographic pictures or movies are called pornographic actors (or actresses), or "porn stars".
The word pornography is now used for photographs and other pictures, movies, and writing that are about sex. In pornography, sex is the most important thing. It is also called "porn" or "porno" for short.
There are different ideas about what is and what is not pornography. Diana Russell, a psychologist, says that there is a difference between pornography and erotica. The word "erotica" is often used for pictures, movies or stories that focus on the beauty of sexuality. There is not often a clear difference between "erotica" and "pornography." The dispute over what is or is not pornography can even go to the courts.
Some people believe that anything that shows a naked body is a type of pornography. The laws of the United States and many other countries do not support this. There can be all sorts of reasons for showing a naked or partly undressed body. Some of these reasons include art work or a medical diagram.
There are different kinds of pornography. The term "soft porn" is sometimes used for pictures that show people who may or may not be naked, but who are posed in a sexy manner. Pictures of women like this are sometimes called "cheesecake", and pictures of men are called "Beefcake". Pornographic pictures or movies which show people having sex are sometimes called "hard porn".
Another type of pornography is "child pornography." In the law of most countries, people are children until they reach a particular age. Any film or photo that show a person who is a child (by law) being used for a sexual act is considered pornography and is illegal. There are laws to protect children against people who use "or exploit" them in this way.
Businesses have been making pornography for many years. Until the 1970s, businesses making pornography were small because there were many laws against it. In the 1970s, pornographic magazines such as Penthouse became a huge and successful business. Pornography films also become popular at this time. In the 1980s, the creation of the video cassette recorder caused a rise in the pornography business. A number of companies began making pornographic videotapes in the United States. In the 1990s, as more people began using the Internet, businesses began selling pornographic pictures on the Internet. In the 2000s, the increased speed of computers allowed pornography companies to sell porn videos over the Internet.
There are many different kinds of businesses that make and sell pornography. There are magazines such as Playboy and Hustler. Movie companies such as Vivid Video hire pornography actors and produce videos. There are also thousands of Web sites that make and sell porn. Businesses that make pornography call themselves "adult entertainment" businesses.
In many countries, it is a serious crime to make pornographic photographs of children. This is called "child porn". In the United States, there are laws that say that anyone who takes pornographic photos must keep records that prove the ages of the people in the pictures are over 18.
In many countries, such as India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan, making or owning pornography is a crime. However, in some cultures, such as Western European nations and the US, making or owning pornography is legal. It is legal as long as all of the people in the pornography are older than a certain age. It must also be sold to people above a certain age. Often this age is 18 years. The Netherlands have very liberal laws about pornography. Many cities or towns have rules about where pornographic videos or magazines can be sold, and on how these videos or magazines can be displayed. For example, some towns in Canada require pornographic video packages to be kept out of sight of children.
Since the 1970s, many women's groups and feminist writers have criticized pornography, especially hardcore pornography. Women's groups and feminist writers have argued that hardcore pornography shows women in degrading or humiliating positions. Some psychologists who have talked with many people who are in jail for violent sex crimes, believe that pornography that shows violent sex often makes people less caring about the feelings of other people. This might make them more likely to commit rape and other sex crimes. Many pedophiles, who sexually assault children, also have collections of child pornography.
Pornography is often criticised by religious people and churches who believe that it is unholy. Many parents do not wish their children to see pornography. Special computer programs can be installed on computers to block access to some websites, including websites that have pornography.
In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, pornography is described as a tool that is secretly pushed by some evil governments. The governments believe it is a force that makes the public less likely to rebel, or even to care about injustice.
Many countries have laws against child pornography. These laws say that children may not be involved in making pornography. There are problems however: With the Internet it can be very hard to say if a person involved in pornography is really a child, or if they are an adult pretending to be one. Also, organized crime makes money from trafficking human beings; often girls and women who are trafficked are forced into prostitution. They are sometimes also forced to make pornography.
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