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Pornography In The 20th Century Essay

2262 words - 9 pages

Laura Kipnis has described pornography as “an archive of data about...our history as a culture”. Therefore if, she described it as such, what can it tell us about the sexual history of the 20th century? Examining the history of the forms of archive from pornographic playing cards to blu-ray discs and the internet, this shows the ever changing form of how as a society we view pornography. From the forms of archive come the social implications of pornography. This will be examined through the 1986 Meese Commission in the United States of America into the pornographic industry. Finally, this exposition will also examine the differing views of Gay and Straight pornography and the changes that have taken over the 20th century. Overall, the 20th century was a fundamental shift in sexual attitudes towards pornography.
In order to examine the sexual history of the 20th century, it is crucial to understand the context of what Kipnis meant in her quote about pornography. Her idea is no matter what your opinion about pornography; it entices and interests the viewer. It is intriguing to think about it from a cultural standpoint in her view and even from a personal view because society in general, tends to think about the data itself, but not about the people who are against pornography being drawn in as such as someone who thinks as of pornography as a positive. This point will be discussed in the Meese Commission. In her opinion, Kipnis states that there are no boundaries between private and public pornography because they are constantly shifting and therefore it is too difficult to tell where they are. Because of the idea of public versus private domain is a common theme throughout pornography and will be examined further, especially with the gay community – who have a very liberal public domain to pornography.
If we are to think of pornography as an archive of data, then two questions need to be answered. What exactly is the data? As well as how is it stored? Firstly the data contain all that is pornography – any form of sexual activity which is put forward in some visual medium to stimulate erotic feelings in a person. With this simple, broad definition which encompasses an extremely wide range of all which is pornography, it must be examined on how it is stored. In order to understand this, we must look further back than the 20th century. As Lisa Sigel states, initially pornography was a thing for the wealthy because they were the literate and the ones who could afford such documents. It was in the Victorian times, in particularly the 1880s when the working classes were able to access “Pornographic Postcards”. They were popular because they were egalitarian and affordable to all. However, the postcards were illegal if they portrayed a white female form that could offend someone. On the other hand, it was perfectly acceptable to portray a ‘colonial’ or ‘foreign’ type as this was not seen as offensive at the time given the context of Victorian...

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