Pornography (from Greek πόρνη (porne) "prostitute" and γραφή (grafe) "writing"), more informally referred to as porn or porno, is the explicit representation of the human body or sexual activity with the goal of sexual arousal. It is similar to, but distinct from erotica. Over the past few decades, the pornographic industry has skyrocketed due to the technological convenience of VHS and DVD, and in particular the rise of the Internet.
In general, "erotica" refers to portrayals of sexually arousing material that hold or aspire to artistic or historical merit, whereas "pornography" often connotes the prurient depiction of sexual acts, with little or no artistic value. The line between "erotica" and the term "pornography" (which is frequently considered a pejorative term) is often highly subjective. In practice, pornography can be defined merely as erotica that certain people perceive as "obscene." The definition of what one considers obscene can differ between persons, cultures and eras. This leaves legal actions by those who oppose pornography open to wide interpretation. It also provides lucrative employment for armies of lawyers, on several "sides."
Pornography may use any of a variety of media — printed literature, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, or video game, and may even be performed in a live venue, possibly in front of a live audience.
Cultural historians have suggested that every art medium and publishing medium first was used for pornography: handwriting, painting, sculpture, the printing press, printed sheet music, motion pictures, videotapes, DVD's. The World Wide Web.[Citation needed] This may not be true throughout history, but it does seem to be true for recent history. The videotape and DVD media might have flourished without porn, but they have certainly flourished very well with it: the porn industry produces more titles per year than Hollywood; it even compares to Bollywood. Curiously, porn plays in few theaters, and in many countries it is difficult to rent porn videos, because Blockbuster and other large video-rental firms avoid porn; most distribution is by sale.
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. Indeed 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.[Citation needed] Calls to regulate or prohibit these technologies have often cited pornography as a concern.[Citation needed]
Photo manipulation and computer-generated images
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.
The creation of highly realistic computer-generated images creates new ethical dilemmas. If illusionistic images of torture or rape become widely distributed, law enforcement faces additional difficulties prosecuting authentic images of criminal acts, due to the possibility that they are synthetic. The existence of faked pornographic photos of celebrities shows the possibility of using fake images to blackmail or humiliate any individual who has been photographed or filmed, although as such cases become more common, this effect will likely diminish. Finally, the generation of entirely synthetic images, which do not record actual events, challenges some of the conventional criticism of pornography. It also challenges the traditional notion of evidence, where at present, in the United States it is possible to prosecute producers of child pornography without violating the First Amendment, because the film is evidence that an adult has had sex with a child. However, it may be possible to film things that were imagined but never done: the film would not be evidence of a crime. Perhaps it wouldn't be a crime to make such a film.
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.
Mainstream movies containing CGI and other realistic special effects show that if a director can imagine something in sufficient detail, combined with sufficient resources, it can be put on a screen. Pasolini created some gruesome images in Salo, without using computers, but some of them are not really seen by the viewer. De Sade described even more gruesome images in 120 Days of Sodom, the book on which Salo is based: perhaps a truly fiendish director with a roomful of up-to-date computers—costing less than $1 million total—could realize de Sade's worst visions without actually torturing a person to death in front of a camera. The recent Lord of the Rings films by director Peter Jackson show what is technically possible in filmmaking: this technology has yet to be applied to pornography. Clearly, more can be done than already has been done.
Template:Main article Some internet entrepreneurs operate pornographic internet sites. As well as conventional photographic or video pornography, some sites offer an "interactive" video game-like entertainment. Due to the international character of the Internet, it provides an easy means whereby consumers residing in countries where pornography is either taboo or entirely illegal can easily acquire such material from sources in another country where it is legal or remains unprosecuted.
The low cost of copying and delivering digital data boosted the formation of private circles of people swapping pornography. With the advent of peer-to-peer file sharing applications such as Kazaa, pornography swapping has reached new heights. Prior to this, the Usenet news service was a popular place for pornography swapping. Free pornography became available en masse from other users and is no longer restricted to private groups. Large amounts of free pornography on the Internet are also distributed for marketing purposes to encourage subscriptions to paid content.
Since the late 1990s, "porn from the masses for the masses" seems to have become another new trend. Inexpensive digital cameras, increasingly powerful and user-friendly software, and easy access to pornographic source material have made it possible for individuals to produce and share home-made or home-altered porn for next to no cost. Such home-made pornographers are able to cater more closely to the desires of the viewers, sometimes actually playing out scenarios suggested by a particular viewer for fulfillment of their fantasy.
Despite adult filters and settings on most Internet search engines, porn sites are easily found on the Internet with Adult industry webmasters being the first and most active to optimize their pages for search engine queries. As a result, many porn-related search returns are overwhelming and often somewhat irrelevant. This has led to development of porn-specific search engines, like Booble, which started as a parody of porn on the web and the business of porn for search engine giants like Google, which quickly sought to shut the parody down.
Pornography is as old as civilization but the concept of pornography as understood today did not exist until the Victorian era. Previous to that time, though some sex acts were regulated or stipulated in laws, looking at objects or images depicting them was not. In some cases, certain books, engravings or image collections were outlawed, but the trend to compose laws that restricted viewing of sexually explicit things in general was a Victorian construct. 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 movable objects were locked away in the Secret Museum in Naples, Italy and what couldn't be removed was covered and cordoned off as to not corrupt the sensibilities of women, children and the working class. Soon after, England’s and the world's first law criminalizing pornography was enacted in the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. 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 their suppression, depictions of erotic imagery are common throughout history, and remain so.
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, via 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 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. 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 the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and 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.
Opposition to pornography comes generally, though not exclusively, from several sources: law, religion and feminism. Some critics from the latter two camps have expressed belief in the existence of "pornography addiction."
Distribution of obscenity is a Federal crime in the United States, and also under most laws of the 50 states. There is no right to distribute obscene materials. Child pornography is illegal. The determination of what is obscene is up to a jury in a trial, which must apply the Miller test.
In explaining its decision to reject claims that obscenity should be treated as speech protected by the First Amendment, in MILLER v. CALIFORNIA, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)the US Supreme Court found that
- The dissenting Justices sound the alarm of repression. But, in our view, to equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a "misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and free press . . . ." Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S., at 645 .
- In particular, we hold that there are legitimate state interests at stake in stemming the tide of commercialized obscenity, even assuming it is feasible to enforce effective safeguards against exposure to juveniles and to passersby. 7 [413 U.S. 49, 58] Rights and interests "other than those of the advocates are involved." Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 642 (1951). These include the interest of the public in the quality of life and the total community environment, the tone of commerce in the great city centers, and, possibly, the public safety itself... As Mr. Chief Justice Warren stated, there is a "right of the Nation and of the States to maintain a decent society . . .," [413 U.S. 49, 60] Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 199 (1964) (dissenting opinion)... The sum of experience, including that of the past two decades, affords an ample basis for legislatures to conclude that a sensitive, key relationship of human existence, central to family life, community welfare, and the development of human personality, can be debased and distorted by crass commercial exploitation of sex.
Attorney General for Ronald Reagan, Edwin Meese, also courted controversy when he appointed the "Meese Commission" to investigate pornography in the United States; their report, released in July 1986, was highly critical of pornography and itself became a target of widespread criticism. That year, Meese Commission officials contacted convenience store chains and succeeded in demanding that widespread men's magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse be removed from shelves, until being quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the D.C. Federal Court in Meese v. Playboy (639 F.Supp. 581).
In the United States in 2005, Attorney General Gonzales made obscenity and pornography a top prosecutorial priority of the Department of Justice - "Attorney General Gonzales' priority: porn, not terrorists", Daily Business Review, 8-2005
Some religious groups often discourage their members from viewing or reading pornography, and support legislation restricting its publication. These positions derive from broader religious views about sexuality. In some religious traditions, for example, sexual intercourse is limited to the express function of procreation. Thus, sexual pleasure or sex-oriented entertainment, as well as lack of modesty, are considered immoral. Other religions do not find sexual pleasure immoral, but see sex as a sacred, godly, highly-pleasurable activity that is only to be enjoyed with one's spouse. These traditions do not condemn sexual pleasure in and of itself, but they impose limitations on the circumstances under which sexual pleasure may be properly experienced. Pornography in this view is seen as the secularization of something sacred, and a violation of spouses' intimate relationship.
In addition to expressing concerns about violating sexual morality, some religions take an anti-pornography stance claiming that viewing pornography is addictive, leading to self-destructive behavior. Proponents of this view compare pornography addiction to alcoholism, both in asserting the seriousness of the problem and in developing treatment methods.
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 male-centered objectification of women. Some feminists distinguish between pornography and erotica, which they say does not have the same negative effects of pornography. However, many Third-wave feminists and postmodern feminists disagree with this critique of porn, claiming that appearing in or using pornography can be explained as each individual woman's choice, and is not guided by socialization in a capitalist patriarchy.
Effect on sex crimes
A lower per capita crime rate and historically high availability of pornography in many developed European countries (e.g. Netherlands, Sweden) has led a growing majority to conclude that there is an inverse relationship between the two, such that an increased availability of pornography in a society equates to a decrease in sexual crime.  Moreover, there is some evidence that states within the U.S. that have lower rates of internet access have a greater incidence of rape.
Effect on sexual aggression
In the 70's and 80's, feminists such as Dr. Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin criticized pornography as essentially dehumanizing women and as likely to encourage violence against them. It has been suggested that there was an alliance, tacit or explicit, between anti-porn feminists and fundamentalist Christians to help censor the use of or production of pornography.
Some researchers have found that "high pornography use is not necessarily indicative of high risk for sexual aggression," but go on to say, "if a person has relatively aggressive sexual inclinations resulting from various personal and/or cultural factors, some pornography exposure may activate and reinforce associated coercive tendencies and behaviors."
Pornography production and violence against women
According to Dr. Diana Russell, "When addressing the question of whether or not pornography causes rape, as well as other forms of sexual assault and violence, many people fail to acknowledge that the actual making of pornography sometimes involves, or even requires, violence and sexual assault."
In 1979, Andrea Dworkin published Pornography: Men Possessing Women, which analyzes (and extensively cites examples drawn from) contemporary and historical pornography as an industry of woman-hating dehumanization. Dworkin argues that it is implicated in violence against women, both in its production (through the abuse of the women used to star in it), and in the social consequences of its consumption (by encouraging men to eroticize the domination, humiliation, and abuse of women).
U.S. Government Commissions
The then available evidence as to the influence of pornography was assessed by two major Commissions established in 1970 and 1986, respectively.
In 1970, the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography concluded that "there was insufficient evidence that exposure to explicit sexual materials played a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior."
In general, with regard to adults, the Commission recommended that legislation "should not seek to interfere with the right of adults who wish to do so to read, obtain, or view explicit sexual materials." Regarding the view that these materials should be restricted for adults in order to protect young people from exposure to them, the Commission found that it is "inappropriate to adjust the level of adult communication to that considered suitable for children." The Supreme Court supported this view.
A large portion of the Commission's budget was applied to funding original research on the effects of sexually explicit materials. One experiment is described in which repeated exposure of male college students to pornography "caused decreased interest in it, less response to it and no lasting effect," although it appears that the satiation effect does wear off eventually ("Once more"). William B. Lockhart, Dean of the University of Minnesota Law School and chairman of the commission, said that before his work with the commission he had favored control of obscenity for both children and adults, but had changed his mind as a result of scientific studies done by commission researchers. In reference to dissenting commission members Keating and Rev. Morton Hill, Lockhart said, "When these men have been forgotten, the research developed by the commission will provide a factual basis for informed, intelligent policymaking by the legislators of tomorrow." President Reagan announced his intention to set up a commission to study pornography. The result was the appointment by Attorney General Edwin Meese in the spring of 1985 of a panel comprised of 11 members, the majority of whom had established records as anti-pornography crusaders.
In 1986, the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, reached the opposite conclusion, advising that pornography was in varying degrees harmful. A workshop headed by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop provided essentially the only original research done by the Meese Commission. Given very little time and money to "develop something of substance" to include in the Meese Commission's report, it was decided to conduct a closed, weekend workshop of "recognized authorities" in the field. All but one of the invited participants attended. At the end of the workshop, the participants expressed consensus in five areas:
- "Children and adolescents who participate in the production of pornography experience adverse, enduring effects,"
- "Prolonged use of pornography increases beliefs that less common sexual practices are more common,"
- "Pornography that portrays sexual aggression as pleasurable for the victim increases the acceptance of the use of coercion in sexual relations,"
- "Acceptance of coercive sexuality appears to be related to sexual aggression,"
- "In laboratory studies measuring short-term effects, exposure to violent pornography increases punitive behavior toward women" According to Surgeon General Koop, "Although the evidence may be slim, we nevertheless know enough to conclude that pornography does present a clear and present danger to American public health"
Japan, which is noted for its large output of rape fantasy 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—that wide availability of pornography may reduce crimes by giving potential offenders a socially accepted way of regulating their own sexuality. Conversely, some argue that reported sex crime rates are low in Japan because the culture (a culture that greatly emphasizes a woman's "honor") is such that victims of sex crime are less likely to report it (e.g. chikan
A case study: Japan
- 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 sexually 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 suggest 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, Germany and now in Japan. Indeed, it appears from our data from Japan, as it was evident to Kutchinsky (1994), from research in Europe, 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.
There has also been a recent increase in sex crimes in Japan which parallels an increase in all crimes. 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 that some sex offenders will likely use any defense they can to lower their culpability.
Pornographic work contains a number of stereotypes. Although pornography targeted at heterosexual males often includes interaction between females, interaction between males is rarely seen. In hardcore materials, a male generally ejaculates outside his partner's body, in full view: the so-called "cum shot". Penises are almost always shown fully erect (except where prohibited). In heterosexual pornography, the choice of position is naturally geared to giving the viewer the fullest view of the woman, making the reverse cowgirl position and the man holding the woman in a "dog-and-lamp-post" position among the most popular. Fellatio scenes usually involve the woman looking into the camera or at the man, for similar reasons. Especially in American and Japanese porn, women tend to be vocal and loud during hardcore scenes.
Racial stereotypes are often played up in American pornography involving ethnic minorities.
Pornography by and for women
"We came up with the idea for the Feminist Porn Awards because people don't know they have a choice when it comes to porn," said Chanelle Gallant, manager of Good for Her and the event's organizer. "Yes, there's a lot of bad porn out there. But there is also some great porn being made by and for women. We wanted to recognize and celebrate the good porn makers as well as direct people to their work."
Some recent pornography has been produced under the rubric of "by and for women". According to Tristan Taormino, "Feminist porn both responds to dominant images with alternative ones and creates its own iconography."
Production and distribution by region
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.
United States: 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 Although the revenues of the adult industry are difficult to determine, by 2003, Americans were estimated to spend as much as $8 to $10 billion on pornography.  The majority of pornographic video is shot in the San Fernando Valley[Citation needed], which acts as a center for various models, actors/actresses, production companies, and other assorted businesses involved in the production and distribution of porn.
In 1998, Forrester Research published a report on the online 'adult content' industry, which estimated at $750 million to $1 billion in annual revenue. A $10 billion aggregate figure had been estimated, and repeated in many news stories, but this was unsourced and not accurate.
Some popular genres of pornography:
- Amateur pornography
- Fetish pornography
- Homosexual pornography (gay pornography; lesbian pornography)
- Orgy pornography
- Race-oriented pornography (e.g. Asian, black, Latino, interracial)
- Voyeur pornography (e.g. hidden camera pornography, "upskirt" pornography)