Erotic engraving supposedly after Agostino Carracci (1557–1602)

From the dawn of human history there have been erotic art – art with depictions of sexual congress or the equipment involved . As communications evolved so to have the means for the articulation of this most human of needs. Today in the US it is an approximately 13 Billion dollar a year industry. But before pornography became a means to climb through the ranks into the tepid back water of supserstardom as in the case of Kim Kardashian, it was something more, a lot more.

What happened to porn, when did porn fall off and become the flaccid time and tube sock filler that it is today?

The Enlightenment and the French revolution


During the Enlightenment, many of the French free-thinkers began to exploit pornography as a medium of social criticism and satire. Libertine pornography was a subversive social commentary and often targeted the Catholic Church and general attitudes of sexual repression. The market for the mass-produced, inexpensive pamphlets soon became popular among  the bourgeoisie, making the upper class worry, as in England, that the morals of the lower class and weak-minded would be corrupted since women, slaves and the uneducated were seen as especially vulnerable during that time.

 In the period leading up to the French Revolution, pornography was also used as political commentary; Marie Antoinette was often targeted with fantasies involving orgies, lesbian activities and the paternity of her children, and rumours circulated about the supposed sexual inadequacies of Louis XVI. During and after the Revolution, the famous works of the Marquis de Sade were printed. They were often accompanied by illustrations and served as political commentary for their author.

Somehow over the span of about 200 years porn no longer was a vehicle of social commentary, rather it was a product that could be bought and sold. Pornographic film production commenced almost immediately after the invention of the motion picture in 1895 and soon many filmmakers realised profits could be made from such films.

 

Porn as Social Commentary

Reading that passage above brought some things to light

  1. It seems Class Warfare didn’t start during the Obama and or Bush Administration. (giggles)
  2. There is a contempt the classes seem to have for each other. The upper class looks down on the  middle class and lower classes with a hypocritical contempt  at least in in France during the enlightenment and French Revolution.
  3. I am historically justified in using vulgarity and profanity to give voice to the many social and global issues that weigh on my thoughts
  4. At the time no one would have imagined the saying attributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them Eat Cake” could be so funny and perverted.
While Pornography in our time may not be a vehicle for subversive social commentary however much can be learned about our society from how we view, talk about and depict pornography. In part 2 I will reprise my role of drunken armchair anthropologist to share with you all my findings.
 
Stay Tuned
 
 
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