The word Pornography is Greek, meaning "writing of harlots", probably deriving originally from the signs hung outside ancient greek brothels.

Pornography in general can be divided into erotica, which centers on "normal" heterosexual love, describing it in detail, and exotica, centering on so-called abnormal sex, including sadism, masochism, and fetishism.

Pornography is a very old interest of the human race, and examples of it can be found in elements of the Old Testament as well as in the plays of Aristophanes among other places, although its historical origin undoubtably goes back much further than that.

The first masterpiece of English pornography is most likely John Cleland's 1749 Memoirs of the Life of Fanny Hill.

See also: de Sade, Masoch, Twain, Reade, Porneius

In modern English pornography is a collective noun for suppressed material with sexual content i.e. pornographic material. Pornography can be novels, poetry, short stories, film, painting, sculpture, audio-visual or even performance art. There is, however, a deep ambiguity in meaning in the word pornography. As Webster 1913 points out the second part of the word is derived from the Greek word meaning to draw and the first half indicates woman when in a sensual or sexual aspect. It is not, however, clear that whether pornography originally meant drawing on women (lipstick, eye-liner etc) or drawing of women (the modern sense of pornography).

Material is labeled pornographic for several reasons:

The permissiveness and definitions of pornography varies from culture to culture. Some cultures such as the Japanese have tried to construct applicative rules to define pornography, thus banning pubic hair and images of penises, leading to the tentacle porn industry. Determining whether tentacle porn is any better or worse than any other kind of porn is left as an exercise for the reader. Many countries consider nudity to be perfectly normal in warm weather.

pornography: material or media produced commercially and consisting of a wide variety of sexually suggestive to explict representations as in writings and visually graphic depictions (especially pictures, motion pictures and videos). Pornography may have sexuoerotically facilitating or arousing effects, offensive, disgusting, inhibitory and sexuoerotically disarousing effects, or a neutral effect sexuoerotically on the perceiver dependent upon the materials' congruence, dyscongruence, or non-congruence with the specifications of one's lovemap. The term is inaccurately used to describe sexually explicit materials of a nature that are legally or by custom classified as forbidden. See also erotic;erotography, obscenity.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

Pornography, The Cure's 1982 release, is probably the one that goes furthest from their usual path. While nearly all of The Cure's music could be described as melancholy or depressing, there are always one or two songs per album which approach manic in their happiness, and even the saddest of their songs seem to have a hint of hope in them. But not here; the primary emotion expressed in these 8 songs is complete despair. The final, and title, track is full of dissonant noise, metallic screams, a steady drumbeat, and over it all, Robert Smith singing lyrics like "One more day like today and I'll kill you". The other tracks are much easier to listen to, but all of them, at least to me, bring up the images of terrible pain and loneliness.

A lot of the later work by The Cure can be seen in this album, especially in "The Figurehead" and "A Strange Day". The pop feel you get from Boys Don't Cry is not here at all. I'll be honest, I'm terrible at describing any kind of music or art in a way that makes any kind of sense, but Pornography feels like a turning point for Robert Smith, with later works seeming significantly more mature than the earlier Cure albums.

I first picked this album up in high school, from some little shop in Corvallis that was boarded up a month later. Being an angst filled 15 year old, it affected me a lot, not to mention turning me into a Cure fan. Personally, I can't imagine listening to this unless I'm alone, and in fact I don't listen to it too often these days. These are the songs for when I'm feeling so down that Portishead and Depeche Mode feel like sugarcoated pop. Which hasn't been often since I hit my 20s; I'm super, thanks for asking. This is a fantastic thing to have around for those times when you are feeling your worst; your wonderful SO has cruelly dumped you, a friend stabs you in the back, or you just feel so alone you don't know what to do. It won't make you feel better, but at least it will help remind you that other people have felt just as awful about their lives, which isn't much of a consolation, but every little thing helps.

Track listing:

  1. One Hundred Years (6:40)
  2. Short Term Effect (4:22)
  3. Hanging Garden (4:33)
  4. Siamese Twins (5:29)
  5. The Figurehead (6:15)
  6. A Strange Day (5:04)
  7. Cold (4:26)
  8. Pornography (6:27)

Stop tittering in the back of the class, there.

It's often said that a huge amount of traffic on the internet is caused by pornography, and I've no reason to doubt it. This means that, not yet fifty years after the sexual revolution, access to pornography is pretty much ubiquitous in our society. Views on this are divergent and shadowy because the issue isn't much talked about; consumers of pornography aren't very willing to stand up and defend it, and its critics are formed of a bizarre alliance of feminists and conservatives, i.e. people who are in favour of traditional family roles that the feminists are not.

A huge shift has occurred in the way women relate to men and society over the last one hundred years, and it hit in essentially two ways. The first was the sexual revolution, which finally gave women control over their own reproductive process through the advent of the birth control pill, and involved a lot of changing social mores about female sexuality. The other was feminism, which sought to systematically remove inequalities between men and women in society. One was about liberty, the other equality: uneasy bedfellows.

Pornography really started to spread in the 1960s as a result of the sexual revolution, and it was initially welcomed by many feminists. We have to remember just how repressive mores concerning female sexuality have been for most of recorded history, not least in the 1950s; for a lot of feminists during the first flush of the sexual revolution, it was seen as wrong to oppose any expression of female sexuality. That included pornography. And pornography, of course, was opposed by exactly the people that the advocates of the sexual revolution were fighting against - the "family values" conservatives - and this helped it get seen as a good thing.

But then gradually, as feminism developed, a big disagreement broke out. Pornography is produced and consumed almost exclusively by men, and there's a very strong argument which says that it really amounts to the exploitation of female sexuality for male purposes - just another facet of domination. Even worse, it eroticizes this domination. And so the anti-pornography movement was born, and even Germaine Greer - who had touted promiscuity as a route to liberation - pointed out that clearly not all expressions of female sexuality are automatically liberating, and some could reinforce the unequal position of women in society.

In the 1970s and 1980s this led to a rather large rift in the feminist movement that is sometimes known as the "Porn Wars". Feminists like Andrea Dworkin began to press for ordinances against pornography in cities in the U.S. and in Canada and clothed themselves in the rhetoric of traditional conservatives, whereas their opponents claimed to be standing up for free speech and a woman's right to dispose of her sexuality as she wished. And so, though it is hardly possible to imagine an organized group of men shameless enough to lobby for their right to consume pornography, a group of feminists essentially did the job for them by lobbying for the right for women to participate in pornography if they so wished.

And it is in this vacuum between liberty and equality that pornography continues to exist today. The biggest publication in the feminist world in the last few years has been Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs, which claims that many women are complicit in the project of objectifying themselves and so reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes. Levy says there is a "raunch culture" in America, encouraged by icons like Paris Hilton, who encourage women to demean themselves for male purposes; and she reserves criticism for so-called "lipstick feminists" who she alleges equate empowerment with leveraging their sexuality to control men. Little need to explain where pornography lies in her view.

Indeed, the general terms of the debate about pornography remain the same. Arguments abound about the impact of pornography on people's behaviour, or "family values", or on people's ability to form healthy sexual relationships. But an attempt to censor pornography on the basis of the fact it is grotesque and demeaning to women will never succeed, however true it may be, because this would reek of legislating morality and "modesty"; and isn't that what decades of female empowerment have been trying to overthrow?

Meanwhile, a generation of young men and women are growing up in a culture saturated with pornography and the values and view of sex that it encourages.

Por*nog"ra*phy (?), n. [Gr. a harlot + -graphy.]


Licentious painting or literature; especially, the painting anciently employed to decorate the walls of rooms devoted to bacchanalian orgies.

2. Med.

A treatise on prostitutes, or prostitution.


© Webster 1913.

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