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May 2017
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Pornography is a subject that creates interest but, at the same time, concern, even today. Excluding paedopornography, which is degrading and harmful for both humans and the healthy concept of pornography itself, it is important to outline the history of this subject during the various steps of evolution.
The following is a brief historical overview which will allow us to talk about the most delicate concept of sexual freedom along with the simpler concept of sexual education which, unfortunately, is delegated to the education institutes in society with no clear or precise rules.

A brief historical overview
Even if some very erotic images, which are linked to the simulation of sexual intercourse, are easy to see on frescos recovered during the excavations of Pompei and which belonged to the famous brothels, it is important to distinguish the common aspect of eroticism from the more complex and controversial one of pornography.
Eroticism is the most tolerated expression of nudity. When it refers to a sexual act, arousal occurs simply because the erotic content lets the imagination run wild. Pornography, on the other hand, is the explicit representation of a sexual act where the actors’ genitals are shown, leaving little room for the imagination. Thus, pornography shows what happens during sexual intercourse, therefore it is difficult for some to accept the public indecency of the sexual act itself and, above all, the male genital organ when fully erect.
The first photographic and cinematographic material dates back to 1969, when the sexual revolution happened. As well as the United States of America, which noticed peoples’ permissiveness during this period and so started to make legislative changes regarding pornography, many other European countries, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France, decriminalised the production and distribution of pornography, giving rise to hard cinema, sex shops and areas of cities known as the ‘red light districts’, which were dedicated to the pleasures of sex and where peepshows and live shows were the main attraction (for example, Pigalle in Paris, Soho in London and Tenderloin in San Francisco).
In the 1970s, the success of pornography was due to the epiphenomenon of the victory of permissiveness, and, even though various court decisions and possible legal regulations in the aforementioned countries tried to inhibit the proliferation of pornographic material, the perfect combination of pornographers, intellectuals, magazines and actors and actresses gave rise to the facade known as pornocrates. The porn industry then began to grow very big but, more than anything else, it began to make a lot of money, and this money-making industry is destined to increase for a very long time.
Porn directors accept the strangest of challenges and they try to not only represent the symbolic aspect of sex, but also introduce elements into their feature films that shake public opinion. The example of porno chic, which was the result of the very famous film with Linda Lovelace, ‘Deep Throat’, showed the artistic expression of the actress on one hand but, on the other, the beginning of a struggle which is normally undertaken by anti-porn feminists who want to prevent the exploitation of women.
The 1980s were marked by a big social movement: porn became huge. In fact, the production of hard feature films, shown in rooms in cinemas called ‘red light’ rooms, reduced, whilst porn on video cassette, which could be watched in the privacy of one’s own home, increased.
As well as the transformation of this cinematographic product, that is, the watchers’ attention was no longer focused on the plot and story, rather it was focused on the language used to described the sexual experience, actors and actresses themselves also changed because they no longer recited things, rather they became performers. In fact, as one author (Pietro Adamo) wrote, ‘in the world of video porn, the ability to recite is not as important as the aesthetic quality of the body [...] those who come from the acting world leave it up to models who are less professional, but aesthetically pleasing and able to express their sexuality in front of the camera.’ In other words, the rise of the video cassette meant that users and ‘supporters’ of pornography were able to help with the promotion of a new idea and help change the image of porn, and video cassettes also made pornography more user-friendly.
The 1990s brought with them a major transformation as far as the content of pornography is concerned when John Stagliano introduced the method of the hand held camera, thus, the viewer felt like he/she is completely involved in the action, which is highly erotic since the filming is seen from the protagonist’s point of view. Other new features were introduced too, like the gonzo approach, which has very low production costs, and the exaggerated realism of the shot also allows the watcher to ‘immerse’ him/herself in the experience that is being narrated and visualised. Amateur porn films also go along the same line, as do castings: the former represent hypothetical scenes shot by performers and they are meant to represent snapshots of life, whereas the latter are representations of what goes on behind the scenes and the content features the auditions of possible protagonists. As evidenced by Pietro Adamo in another book, amateur and casting pornography can be representative of a unique stylistic model: the all sex model. These shots are usually serial and they often show a bedroom as the set.
The new millennium brought further transformations with it, from both a stylistic and popular point of view. Videos became CDs and the internet was used instead of video rental stores. As far as the characteristics of modern pornography are concerned, extreme content is becoming popular once again, but this does not mean that the content is just more detailed and plots are like those from the 1970s. Today, extreme pornography often represents some kind of violation: films are related to certain forms of paraphilic pornography (urophilia, gerontophilia, incest, fetishism, ecetera) or more violent types of sexual acts (like group rape, for example). Furthermore, particular practices, like gang bangs, bukkake, suffocation blowjobs, double and triple penetration and so on, have also found an audience and acceptance in pornography. The realistic aspect is definitely what is sought after the most, and the idea of a few women who do not consent to a sex act, but are subjected to it by a large group of men (even up to 100 men), tends to foster a certain idea: that men are violent and overpowering.

Anti-porn and porn freedom feminism
It was precisely due to aforementioned idea of a violent and overpowering man that, in the second half of the 1970s, feminist associations were founded, like Women against Violence in Pornography and the Media (WAVPM), which demanded, above all, the right for women to be able to walk as safely on the street at night as they do in the day. Anti-porn feminists remarked that certain language used in pornographic films, which contained obvious violent and sadistic content, provided men with a model that tended to be ‘racist’. Criticism from feminists who revolted against porn was strictly aimed at men who got pleasure out of overpowering women because it was discriminating to women. What is more, pornography was seen as a contributing factor towards the popularisation of, and therefore the adoption of, certain sexual behaviour which originated from stereotypes and false beliefs, however, within a masculine culture and society, this was considered to be a concrete violation of women’s civil rights by feminists.
However, the revolutionary period of the feminist fight against pornography was suddenly and brilliantly  contrasted by a young French woman called Ovidie Becht who, in 2002, in a short essay called ‘Porn Manifest’, introduced a completely different feminist vision which she defined as pro-sex. Becht observed that the squalid and old-fashioned image of feminism, which was anchored and fossilised in the search for equality between the sexes, could enclose and scare women even more than pornography itself. Being a porn actress herself, Becht tried to shed some light and visibility on her choice and on the idea that porn actresses, or sex workers as they were known, deserved some status and should be considered differently from the sweltering and prohibited idea that accompanied pornography. ‘Porn Manifest’ was intended to be a sort of guide which, on the one hand and precisely because it was written by a ‘sex worker’, represented the liberation of women, in as much as they could be sexually demanding, whilst on the other hand, it was a thorn in side for many feminists who believe that the female body should not be used to make money. Within this short essay, Becht attempted to defend pornography by analysing all of the opinions that, stereotypically, attack and accuse the concept of pornography; some examples are that pornography=paedophilia, or that pornography=prostitution and even that pornography=degrading. The aim of ‘Porn Manifest’ was not to propose a complete overview of modern feminism, rather to propose a feminist analysis in favour of pornography and that the idea of sexual freedom is important and necessary but, at the same time, dangerous if it is not imposed in a phylogenetical educational way that is related to a social and cultural context.

Everyone is free to think and express their own opinions and learning to respect the freedom of others and not judging them or creating false beliefs, no matter what the stereotypes are, is the only true way to respect others and the humility of being a human being.
Sexuality and everything that goes with it is a fundamental and natural expression of one’s internal energy and, whether it is repressed or channelled in an unclear way, it will lead on to dysfunctional and/or disabling situations just the same.
Educating about sexuality is the only real glimmer of hope for the future!


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