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Pornography is the representation of the human body or human sexual behaviour with the goal of sexual arousal, similar to, but (according to some) distinct from, erotica.

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Legal situation
3 Anti-pornography movement
4 Is there a link between pornography and sex crimes?
5 History
6 Pornographic conventions
7 Pornography around the globe
8 Magazines
9 Publishers
10 Studios
11 Erotic authors
12 Famous pornographic movies
13 Personalities
14 Specialized forms of pornography
15 See also
16 External links and references


Pornography may use any of a variety of media — written and spoken text, photos, drawings, moving images (including animation), and sound such as heavy breathing. Pornographic films combine moving images, spoken erotic text and/or other erotic sounds, while magazines often combine photos and written text. And novels and short stories provide written text, sometimes with illustrations. In addition to media, a live performance may be called pornographic.

In its original meaning, pornography was literally "writing about prostitutes", from the classical roots πορνη and γραφειν. It was, however, a made-up word coined in England about 1850 that had a spurious air of age and scholarship about it. There is no evidence that anyone at that time, or earlier, was writing about prostitutes per se except as they figured as characters in written erotica of that epoch. It quickly came to mean writing about anything sexual, especially in a base manner, when the creation, presentation, or consumption of the material was for sexual stimulation. The term now refers to sexually related material of all kinds, both written and graphical. The term "pornography" often has negative connotations of low artistic merit, as compared to the more esteemed erotica. Euphemisms such as adult film, adult video and adult bookstore are generally preferred within the industry producing these works (namely the adult industry). Pornography can also be contrasted with ribaldry, which uses sexual titillation in the service of comedy.

Sometimes a distinction is made between softcore pornography and hardcore pornography. The former generally refers to materials which feature nudity and some sexually suggestive scenes, while hardcore or X-rated pornography contains close-ups of genitalia and sexual activities. Within the industry itself, classification breaks down even further. The distinctions might be lost on most people, but the precarious legal defintion and differing standards at different outlets (pay cable channels like Cinemax versus the Playboy Channel versus domestic home video versus foreign markets) cause producers to shoot and edit different cuts of films and screen those cuts first for their legal teams. Primarily the internal rating decision is made by looking at exposure of an erect penis, inclusion and duration of close up shots of genitals and penetration, types of penetration, and presense or lack of an external ejaculation.

It is sometimes argued that the display of urination or defecation contributes to the conclusion that an image is pornography (see e.g. Arizona Criminal Code [1], 9f, 11), in combination with [1], A2, and for Utah [1], 8h).

Legal situation

The legal status of pornography varies widely. While child pornography is illegal almost everywhere, most countries allow at least some form of pornography. Soft core pornography is usually tame enough to be sold in general stores and (in some countries) to be shown on TV.

Most countries attempt to restrict minors' access to hard core materials, so that it is only available in adult bookstores, via mail-order, in some countries over special satellite TV channels, and sometimes in gas stations. Many of these efforts have been rendered moot by the wide availability of internet pornography. Most western countries have some restrictions on pornography involving violence or animals.

There are recurring urban legends of snuff movies, in which murders are filmed for pornographic purposes. Extensive work by law enforcement officials to ascertain the truth of these rumours have been unable to find any such works.

Anti-pornography movement

Criticisms of pornography come from two directions: conservative and religious forces, and
feminism. Religious conservatives, exemplified by US Rev. Jerry Falwell, decry pornography because they see it as immoral; sex is reserved for married couples, and pornography is thought to lead to an overall increase in what they consider to be immoral behavior in society.

In the United States, a 1968 Supreme Court decision which held that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes caused Congress to fund and President Lyndon Johnson to appoint a commission to study pornography. The commission's report recommended sex education, funding of research into the effects of pornography, restriction of children's access to pornography, and recommended against any restrictions for adults. The report was widely criticized and rejected by Congress.

In 1983, prosecutors in California tried to use pandering and prostitution state statutes against a producer of and actors in a pornographic movie; the California Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that these statutes do not apply to the production of pornography (People v. Freeman (1988) 46 Cal.3d 41). Some speculate that this decision implictly condones pornography and was one of the reasons most modern American porn is produced in California.

"Evidence of the harm of exposure to sexually explicit images or words in childhood is inconclusive, even nonexistent. The 1970 U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, the 'Lockhart' commission, uncovered no link between adult exposure to pornography and bad behavior and called for the dismantling of legal restrictions on Erotica." - Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan appointed another commission to study pornography issues, specifically to overturn the findings of the Lockhart commission. It was headed by Attorney General Edwin Meese and is generally known as the Meese commission. The commission's report, released in 1986, found that pornography is harmful and can lead to violent acts. This report has been criticised for allegedly producing findings that were politically expedient rather than reflecting the empirical evidence; among those criticising it were some of the scientists who gathered that evidence and reported a conclusion to the Meese commission much different from the conclusion the commission later announced.

The feminist position on pornography is divided. Sex-positive feminists view pornography as a crucial part of the sexual revolution which led to women's liberation, and see conservative views of morality as designed to fortify an oppressive status quo. Other feminists, most vocally Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, see pornography as degradation of women which leads to violence against women. They have attempted to create laws which allow sexually abused and otherwise affected women to sue pornographers in civil court. One such attempt in Indianapolis was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1986. In a 1992 decision, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the Canadian obscenity law, accepting the feminist argument that the law is intended to create gender equality and prohibits materials that harm women, rather than "immoral" materials. Dworkin herself favors a civil law approach and opposes all criminal pornography prohibitions.

The criticisms of Linda Boreman, who herself worked as a porn actor under the name Linda Lovelace, focus on the exploitative practices of the porn industry, rather than on pornography's societal effects.

Is there a link between pornography and sex crimes?

It has long been theorized that there may be a link between pornography, particularly violent pornography, and an increase in sex crime. This theory has relatively little empirical support and indeed Japan, which is noted for violent pornography, has the lowest reported sex crime rate in the industrialized world, which has led some researchers to speculate that an opposite relationship may in fact exist, namely, that wide availability of pornography may reduce crimes by giving potential offenders a socially accepted way of regulating their own sexuality.

Study: Japanese pornography and sex crimes

Milton Diamond and Ayako Uchiyama write in "Pornography, Rape and Sex Crimes in Japan" (International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 22(1): 1-22. 1999) [1]:

Our findings regarding sex crimes, murder and assault are in keeping with what is also known about general crime rates in Japan regarding burglary, theft and such. Japan has the lowest number of reported rape cases and the highest percentage of arrests and convictions in reported cases of any developed nation. Indeed Japan is known as one of the safest developed countries for women in the world (Clifford, 1980). (...)

Despite the absence of evidence, the myth persists that an abundance of sexual explicit material invariably leads to an abundance of sexual activity and eventually rape (e.g., Liebert, Neale, & Davison, 1973). Indeed, the data we report and review suggests the opposite. Christensen (1990) argues that to prove that available pornography leads to sex crimes one must at least find a positive temporal correlation between the two. The absence of any positive correlation in our findings, and from results elsewhere, between an increase in available pornography and the incidence of rape or other sex crime, is prima facie evidence that no link exists. But objectivity requires that an additional question be asked: "Does pornography use and availability prevent or reduce sex crime?" Both questions lead to hypotheses that have, over prolonged periods, been tested in Denmark, Sweden, West Germany and now in Japan. Indeed it appears from our data from Japan, as it was evident to Kutchinsky (1994), from research in Europe and Scandinavia, that a large increase in available sexually explicit materials, over many years, has not been correlated with an increase in rape or other sexual crimes. Instead, in Japan a marked decrease in sexual crimes has occurred.

That hypothesis is challenged by a recent increase in sex crimes in Japan which, however, parallels an increase in all crimes. Also, there have been substantial movements to support victims of rape through laws and public educations. Nevertheless, some in Japan have blamed the increase on violent pornography and indeed, some sex offenders report having been inspired by themes in commonly available pornography. The counter argument is, of course, that some sex offenders will likely use any defense they can to lower their culpability.


Pornography has possibly a very long history. Specific evidence suggests that depictions of sexuality and human progress go hand in hand and that pornographers today remain on the cutting edge. Sexual artwork is among the oldest known to exist; explict photographs date to the begining of photography and among the earliest films are works depicting nudity and explicit sex. But does depiction imply intent to arouse?

Nude human beings and sexual activities are depicted in some paleolithic art (i.e. Venus Figurines), however it is not certain that the purpose was sexual arousal, the images may have had instead a spiritual significance. There are numerous pornographic paintings on the walls of ruined Roman buildings in Pompeii. One notable example is a brothel in which the various sexual services are advertised in murals above each door. In Pompeii you can also see phalluses (an erect penis) and testicles engraved in the sidewalks, pointing the way to the prostitution and entertainment district, to aid visitors in finding their way (see Erotic art in Pompeii).

Pornographic comic books known as Tijuana bibles began appearing in the US in the 1920s.

In the second half of the 20th century, pornography evolved from the so-called "men's magazines" such as Playboy and Modern Man of the 1950s. These magazines featured nude or semi-nude women, sometimes apparently engaging in the act of masturbation, although their genitals or pubic hair were not actually displayed. By the late 1960s, however, these magazines, which now included Penthouse, began to evolve into more explicit displays, eventually, by the 1990s, featuring sexual penetration, lesbianism and homosexuality, group sex, and fetishes.

The movie camera has been used for pornography throughout its history, and with the arrival of the home video cassette recorder the pornographic movie industry grew massively, people being able not only to view pornography in the privacy of their own home without having to go out to a theater, but also to make their own pornography.

Pornographic computer games have also existed almost since the start of the industry - some of the earliest were Mystique's Atari 2600 video games, including Custer's Revenge, Beat 'Em And Eat 'Em and Gigolo. The Japanese company Hacker International, which also published games under the name Super PIG, produced several pornographic titles for the Nintendo Famicom - three of these, renamed to Bubble Bath Babes, Hot Slots and Peek-A-Boo Poker, were distributed in the USA by Panesian. However, such games are no longer produced for current consoles, largely due to the increased costs and potential legal problems associated with developing a game without the approval of the console manufacturer - most pornographic titles are now released only for home computers and are most often simple puzzle games or Japanese hentai adventure games.

With the arrival of the Internet, the availability of pornography increased greatly. Many of the most successful internet entrepreneurs are those who operate pornographic internet sites. As well as conventional photographic or video pornography, some sites offer "interactive" video-game-like entertainment. Due to the international character of the Internet, it provides an easy means for consumers of pornography that is illegal in their country to simply acquire such material from sources in another country where it is legal or not prosecuted. See internet pornography.

The almost-zero cost of copying and shipping of digital data boosted the formation of private circles of people swapping pornography. In leet speak, it is usually referred to as pr0n.

This type of exchange is especially popular for material that is illegal, most notably child pornography.

With the advent of peer to peer file sharing applications such as Kazaa, pornography swapping has reached new heights. Free pornography is available en masse from other users and is no longer restricted to private groups.

Pornographic conventions

Pornographic work contains a number of conventions. Although pornography targeted at heterosexual males often includes interaction between females, interaction between males is taboo. In hardcore materials, a male generally ejaculates outside his partner's body, in full view. Penises are almost always shown fully erect. Women tend to be unrealistically vocal and loud during hardcore scenes.

In the cheaper magazines the copy accompanying the text is often derogatory to the female subjects: references to sluts, slags and whores abound.

Pornography around the globe

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 plays in political circles are matter of controversy.

Pornography in the United States

Main article: Pornography in the United States

A few large companies operating out of Southern California's San Fernando Valley are responsible for much of the pornography produced in the United States. The distribution of pornography changed radically after the 1980s, with videotape and cable television largely displacing X-rated theaters. Video distribution in turn is in the process of being replaced by DVD (and Internet distribution for niche markets). Distribution of pornography is a large industry which involves major entertainment companies such as Time Warner (which profits from pornography through its cable channels, and in-room movies provided by hotel chains).

Mainstream pornography in the United States tends to feature mostly women in high heels with hair dyed blonde, heavy makeup, large breasts and buttocks, a dark suntan (with visible tan lines, ie a change in skin coloration where underwear or a bathing suit was worn whilst tanning) and often with small tattoos or body piercings. Men in heterosexual pornography tend to be older and heavily muscled, whereas men in gay pornography are on average younger. American pornography movies often attempt to promote pornographic stars, and the boxes for video tapes tend to be extremely gaudy. Plot in pornographic movies is often minimal.

Pornography in Europe

European hardcore pornography is dominated by a few pan-European producers and distributors, the most notable of which is the Private organization. Most European countries also have local pornography producers. Both of these compete with imported American pornography. Hungary is a haven for European pornography producers with an ample supply of beautiful and young female performers and liberal pornography laws. Women in European pornography typically have a so-called "more natural" look than in American pornography, with less emphasis on breast implants. The once very flourishing currents of Euro-chic and stylish pornography represented by directors such as Lasse Braun, Joe d'Amato, Jean Rollin have lost much ground and Pierre Woodman style video shoots attract more audience. Few directors like Luca Damiano and Alain Payet resist to keep on with the cinematographic and dramatic aspects, which distinguish European pornography from others.

In the UK, British-made pornography tends to focus on a rough-and-ready semi-amateur look rather than the more stylized look of mainland European pornography. Producers such as Ben Dover concentrate on producing "girl-next-door" or "candid" material. Some British pornography concentrates on sexual fetishism, particularly erotic spanking and rubber fetishism.

Pornography in Asia

The three main producers of pornography in Asia are Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Japan has a large pornography industry (see Pornography in Japan) which features more natural looking women usually wearing little makeup servicing multiple men who tend to be anonymous. In Japan, fetish pornography has a great variety, ranging from well-known bukkake to tamakeri. Hong Kong and Thailand produces much print pornography but less video. The men in Thai pornography tend to be younger than in Japanese or American pornography.

Pornography in Turkey

In the Islamic World, production of pornography seems to be limited due to social pressure rather than legal regulations. Turkey, with its deeply-rooted secular attitudes towards Islam, is an exception. After a long period of producing Italian-inspired softcore comedies in 1970s, the first hardcore film Öyle Bir Kadin Ki (She is Such a Woman) was legally distributed in 1979, followed by many more until the 1980 coup d'état, which strictly prohibited graphic sex in cinema. In the late 1990s, Turkish pornography lived a relatively humble revival, producing material of much lower quality. Contemporary producers of Turkish porn (e.g. Trimax) are centred in Germany, although they still recruit their performers from Turkey.


see also: List of men's magazines



Erotic authors

See also the main list at List of erotic authors

Famous pornographic movies


Specialized forms of pornography

See also

External links and references