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The Erotic Guide

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What People Did Before Internet Porn

What was life like before porn?

OK, let’s be fair. In one way or another, depictions of sex have existed since humans could first depict things, period — but, in this case, the word “porn” refers to the sexy moving pictures we all grew up with (and will most likely die with). Smut films. Porno movies. XXX streaming video

So how did the world get along and achieve any sort of satisfaction without the aid of these movies on their screens — movie theaters, home televisions, and laptop computers? It’s an excellent question that has myriad interesting answers — answers that only a small number of people still living will even remember.

Smutty Etymology
The definition of “pornography” didn’t make it into the dictionary until the nineteenth century and was defined "a description of prostitutes or of prostitution, as a matter of public hygiene” in 1857.

What spurred this definition to be hastily added? The uncovering of the Roman city Pompeii, which had been buried under volcanic ash, perfectly preserved. The discovery unearthed the erotic, filthy art of the Romans (because who else?), spurring the world to dirty up the lens they’d viewed the past with for so many years.

Sexy Cave Art
One of the oldest erotic depictions comes from Paleolithic cave paintings and drawings, which depicted graphic images of genitalia, as well as exaggerated sexual depictions.

X-Rated Pottery
Pottery may seem like a pretty inconvenient place to showcase horned-up people committing sinful acts, but that’s exactly what happened somewhere between 28,000 B.C. and 25,000 B.C., as shown on the "Venus of Willendorf,” uncovered in Austria. While the rendering of this “nude model” seems fairly amateur, it still stands as a nude nonetheless.

Ancient Peruvians followed this trend of nude and erotic pottery by sculpting explicit scenes of sex into their pottery as an offering to The Moche of Peru, who believed that the world of the dead was the exact opposite of the world of the living. This meant that sex acts such as masturbation, fellatio, and sodomy were shown. Hot stuff!

The World’s First Men’s Magazine
When it comes to forms of pornography the world is familiar with, the Egyptians seemed to lead the way with a dirty piece of papyrus from 1150 B.C.E. called The Turin Erotic Papyrus — an 8-foot-long scroll depicting various sexual positions between men and women. It’s worth mentioning that there was a section in the papyrus that was dedicated to showcasing animals doing human tasks. One could surmise that reading this part could be considered the equivalent to “reading Playboy for the articles.”

Steamy Greek Dishes
As we move forward, we come to Greece during 500 B.C.E. where parties would drink wine out of kylixes — shallow cups with erotic depictions between men and teenage boys (though it’s worth noting that the sex acts would typically revolve around fellatio).

Dirty Words
In the 11th century came The Tale of Genji, a Japanese creation that’s been described as the “world’s first novel.” In this book, strong and “carnal” language is used, a choice of words that came into play again with China’s The Plum in the Golden Vase.

Pornographic books and manuscripts finally began to hit their stride in the 16th century with the invention of the printing press. Engravings by Giovanni Battista Palumba depicted “a young couple having sex, with the woman's legs high in the air, at one end of a bench, while at the other end a huge penis, with legs and wings and a bell tied around the bottom of the glans, is climbing onto the bench.” Such an act can certainly be described as pornographic in nature, even without the description of the “ball tied around the bottom on the glans.”

In 1524, Marcantonio Raimondi published I Modi, which featured sixteen “postures” or sexual postions, an act that would get Raimondi imprisoned by Pope Clement VII and the copies destroyed. But unbeknownst to the Pope, Pietro Aretino had already seen the engravings and had written sixteen explicit sonnets to go along with them. Here’s an example of one:

"...both in your cunt and your behind, my prick will make me happy, and you happy and blissful..."

Scandalous Paintings
The Enlightenment brought a sense of sexual freedom to places like France, where books like L'Ecole Des Filles were published in 1655, featuring adult themes and dialogue revolving around sex. Stories of this kind — as well as anti-clerical works — were featured in the galleries of the Palais Royal, and included dirty illustrations, including the sexy fan fiction of Marie Antoinette.

Shuga in Japan (ladies and squids), galante literature in France, and painting were the main source of stimulation for hundreds of years until photography became a thing.

Salacious Photography
You can thank Louis Daguerre, inventor of the Daguerreotype, for bringing erotic photography to fruition. Early cameras meant that nude models would have to sit perfectly still for up to 15 minutes for exposure. Not until 56K modems would people again have to wait so long for just a tiny little hit of some relatively underwhelming porn.

During the Victorian age, porn dealers took advantage of the postal system to send erotic photographs through the mail to paid subscribers — especially with postcards, which would eventually be known as “French postcards.”

Lascivious Magazines
This all leads us to the dirty magazine — long considered the gold standard in porno. Billed as “naturalistic” or “art” books, these prints would feature nude models in a softcore setting, so as not to upset the buyers — or the spouses of said buyers.

From the 1920s to the 1960s in the United States, we had “Tijuana bibles,” featuring hand-drawn pornographic comics that spoofed popular comics like Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie by putting their characters in compromising positions.

Blue Films
It certainly didn’t take long after the invention of the motion picture camera for filmmakers to jump from shooting footage of a train to shooting footage of a threesome. Two Frenchmen, Eugène Pirou andAlbert Kirchner, created what is thought to be the first pornographic film —  Le coucher de la mariée — which shows a woman doing a striptease.

Hundreds followed after Le Coucher de la Mariee, and would be known as “stag films” or “blue films.”

Pornography was officially legalized in 1969 in Denmark, leading to the rise of the porno company, whose sole purpose was to make tons of porn for horny young ladies and gents to watch in cinemas.

After that, we had Betamax, which was quickly trumped by VHS, which was quickly trumped by DVD — all of which was trumped by the internet. Now you can view porn as easily and as frequently as you’d like, since it’s possible to download hundreds of hours of smut with the click of a button. Lucky you!

Name of author: 
Brian Keaper

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