Tuesday, February 1, 2011
"Vice Pioneers" : Pornography
Fanny Hill: first novel form porn
Eugène Pirou's "Le Coucher de la Marie" : first porn film
Denmark: first country to legalize porn
Sometimes vice subjects are so obvious that it is easy to overlook them when you are looking to focus on one. It dawned on me that pornography has never been looked at for "Vice Pioneers" even though it is the most frowned upon, albeit successful business venture in America. Objections to the subject include feminism claims of objectifying women, religious claims of sin, and legal claims of what is allowed by law in the first place. Here's the history of the all so complicated art of fucking on film (and for other mediums):
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.
Fanny Hill is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel." It is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England in 1748. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The authors were charged with "corrupting the King's subjects."
The world's first law criminalizing pornography was the United Kingdom Obscene Publications Act 1857 enacted at the urging of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. The Act, which applied to the United Kingdom and Ireland, made the sale of obscene material a statutory offence, giving the courts power to seize and destroy offending material. The Act did not apply to Scotland, where the common law continued to apply. However, the Act did not define "obscene", leaving this for the courts to determine. Prior to this Act, the publication of obscene material was treated as a common law misdemeanour and effectively prosecuting authors and publishers was difficult even in cases where the material was clearly intended as pornography.
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.
Pornographic film production commenced almost immediately after the invention of the motion picture in 1895. Two of the earliest pioneers were Eugène Pirou and Albert Kirchner. Kirchner directed the earliest surviving pornographic film for Pirou under the trade name "Léar". The 1896 film, Le Coucher de la Marie showed Louise Willy performing a striptease. Pirou's film inspired a genre of risqué French films showing women disrobing and other filmmakers realised profits could be made from such films.
Sexually explicit films were soon characterised as obscene and rendered illegal. Those that were produced were produced underground by amateurs starting in the 1940s. Processing the film by commercial means was risky as was their distribution. Distribution was strictly private.
Denmark was the first country to legalize pornography in 1969, which led to an explosion of commercially produced pornography. It continued to be banned in other countries, and had to be smuggled in, where it was sold "under the counter" or (sometimes) shown in "members only" cinema clubs.
Revenues of the adult industry in the United States is difficult to determine. In 1970, a Federal study estimated that the total retail value of hardcore pornography 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 pornography 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)."