Exotica Erotica through the ages
Porn is born
In the 1800s, the idea of porn for porn's sake began to spread. Erotic novels had been in print since at least the mid-1600s in France (though being identified as the author of one meant a sure trip to jail), but the first full-length English-language…
Porn is born
In the 1800s, the idea of porn for porn's sake began to spread. Erotic novels had been in print since at least the mid-1600s in France (though being identified as the author of one meant a sure trip to jail), but the first full-length English-language pornographic novel, "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure," also known as "Fanny Hill" (Oxford University Press) wasn't published until 1748.
Despite the reserved public attitudes toward sex at the time, pornographic novels held little back. The author of "Fanny Hill" managed to cover bisexuality, voyeurism, group sex and masochism, among other topics. By 1888, the anonymous author of "My Secret Life" was writing about sex with words that would make a modern television censor squirm.
Technology drove innovation in the porn genre. In 1839, Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype, a primitive form of photography. Almost immediately, pornographers commandeered the new technology. The earliest surviving dirty daguerreotype — described by Slade in a 2006 paper as "depicting a rather solemn man gingerly inserting his penis into the vagina of an equally solemn and middle-aged woman" — is dated at 1846.
Video followed a similar path. By 1896, filmmakers in France were delving into the erotic with short, silent clips like "Le Coucher de la Marie," in which an actress performed a strip tease. Hard-core sex started showing up after 1900. These "stag films" were usually shown at all-male gatherings, and they were tame by today's standards, Slade said.
"They look like your grandparents having sex," he said. "They were quaint, but it was real intercourse.
Pornography gets popular
For a long time, stag films remained stagnant, both in content and in quality. Then, in the 1970s, changing social mores opened the door for public showing of explicit films. The Internet and the invention of the digital camera lowered the barriers to porn-making so low that entire websites are now devoted solely to non-professional videos.
The shift from publically viewed stag films to privately viewed rentals and internet downloads drove changes in the types of acts shown on-screen. Privacy, Slade said, made men more willing to watch fetish films depicting specific, sometimes odd, sexual behavior. A 1994 Carnegie Mellon study of early porn on computer Bulletin Board Systems (a precursor to the World Wide Web), found that 48 percent of downloads were far outside the sexual mainstream, depicting bestiality, incest and pedophilia. Less than 5 percent of downloads depicted vaginal sex. This could have been because magazines and pornographic films had traditional sex covered, and people went to their computers for images they couldn't find elsewhere, Slade suggested.
Today, porn is all over the internet, but the actual size of the industry is a mystery. No one keeps official records, and few studies have made a stab at the economics of porn. Adult Video News, a trade industry journal, made annual estimates of porn sales and rentals, along with sales of magazines and sex toys. In 2007, according to an AVN senior editor Mark Kernes, retail sales reached $6 billion a year. However, AVN's figures have been widely disputed. And even if they were reliable, the numbers wouldn't take into account all of the free amateur videos uploaded to sites like XTube or the photography site Flickr.
Regardless of how much money is being made, porn is attracting eyes. A 2008 study of 813 American university students found that 87 percent of men and 31 percent of women reported using pornography. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Research. And in 2009, University of Montreal researcher Simon Louis Lajeunesse made headlines when he announced that he had attempted a study on the impact of pornography on young men's sexuality, but he couldn't find a control group. In other words