The History of Pornography
By: Shane James O’Neill
3 min. read
Easy sex has been around since the dawn of humankind, and so has sex displayed through images. But modern pornography is an altogether new phenomenon.
I recall the first time I was exposed to pornography. I was visiting some older friends who had internet in their room. They pulled up porn then went and played video games. I can’t say I very interested in the video games, but that is only because I was captivated by the naked, intimate images and videos in front of me.
That was around my 9th birthday. For the next decade and half, I was always pursuing that kaleidoscopic experience of naked bodies arranged in various ways.
My own early exposure strikes me as an anomaly, a fluke outlier experience that happened only because I had older friends. Yet, the average age of exposure to pornography is getting rather close to nine years of age.
Perhaps your own experience is similar to my own, or perhaps it’s vastly different. Regardless, porn has become a cultural fixture, something assumed and watched by most everyone, though we may never admit it.
Our current porn reality makes me ask, why? Why is porn so alluring and how did we get here?
Here is a simple look at the history of pornography.
People (mostly men) would subscribe and get a monthly issue. Porn was delivered to people’s doorsteps.
Porn began to become a social norm when it was able to be delivered directly to us. Fathers would keep a magazine (or a stack of them) somewhere around the house, or at the office, and so children grew up with the possibility of early exposure. This is how porn began to be normalized.
Think, that row of concealed movies at the local Blockbuster (remember that place?).
The problem with magazines is that the porn was static erotica, or still-images. Magazines could capture a moment of nudity or sex, but not the entire scene. Also, you didn’t have to wait an entire month from fresh content. This increased the “novelty” and “arousal potential”. After all, you could only get aroused so many times to a static image. Videos offered dynamic erotica in a way that an image never could.
However, even a video can only entertain us for so long. The power of porn is novelty, and a single video can only stay novel for a short while. There’s also the contentious guild that accompanies being seen returning or purchasing a video from the X-rated section of some video distributor.
The porn industry needed to evolve, and they found that possibility at the advent of the internet, which shifted the history of pornography to an entirely new level.
The internet is a crazy thing. I’m a millennial so it’s actually rather difficult for me to imagine a world with the internet. Even so, defining how the internet how changed things is well beyond my abilities. It’s enough to say that there is no comparing a magazine and the internet.
At the internet’s advent, porn could be uploaded daily, which constantly increased the novelty and arousal potential.
People no longer needed to leave their homes, nor was there an issue with fresh content. Various sexual disorders started to develop an alarming rate because newer and different content was required for sexual stimulation.
Low-speed internet still had its issues, though. People had to wait awhile for things to download. People never knew exactly what they were downloading. And viruses were sprouting everywhere.
As an aside, note the flat irony that just because our sexual misconduct isn’t being performed with another person doesn’t insulate us from the risk of getting viruses.
However, as well know the history of pornography doesn’t stop there, because we all know all live in society with high-speed internet.
Did you know that most people today watch pornography with multiple videos playing at once? I didn’t know that. But maybe I’m just out of the loop.
High-speed internet gives us porn that is always novel. It allows us to have dynamic erotica, instead of the ancient magazine porn of thirty years ago.
Tube sites came into existence with high-speed internet, where thousands of videos are uploaded and downloaded every second. Porn sites only have one criterion, the videos need to be short – just a couple of minutes long. This is because they know the human body can’t get aroused and respond in just a few minutes and it forces us to watch video after video, with, again, many of us keeping multiple videos playing at once. This capitalizes on the need for novelty.
the future History of Pornography
Unfortunately, the list could go on to virtual porn technology, sex-bots, and other grandiose and debased mediums of maleficence. But stopping here proves the point well enough: Our desire for beauty is being weaponized against us. It’s a tragic thing. But often, knowing what’s wrong can go a long way in helping us to know the right way out.
The battle is real. Perhaps, it’s more of a war. And it seems that war is closer to a one-sided massacre. Our brain chemistry is being taken advantage of; our children are being targeted; families are falling by the wayside; and most of our youth view singleness as a time to hook instead of a time to serve with undivided attention.
The history of pornography is a nightmare unto itself. If I can’t imagine a world without the internet, then what kind of world will my children grow up that I currently cannot imagine? It’s a hard question to ask, mostly because I can’t see even a glimmer of the answer. But we can fight what we know.
Will you fight with us?
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.