So, porn’s nothing new, folks. I hate to break it to the Moral Majority types and abstinence-only advocates and all the rest, but humans have been looking at dirty pictures and telling erotic tales for a very long time. Long before the Old Testament prophets. Long before Sodom and Gomorrah were on Yahweh’s hit list. Long before even the decadence of Rome. And certainly well, well before the reign of Ron Jeremy in the heyday of porn movies and the glory days of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines.
One thing that changed a lot between those early cave-art-porn days and recent history, though, was that porn got a bit harder to get your hands on—or your eyes, I suppose, to be more accurate. With the early humans and maybe even proto-humans drawing smut on the walls of caves, kids and adults alike no doubt got a generous helping of carnal eye candy and non-stop sex-ed.
After that, once civilization reared its head—and an often judgmental head it is at times—the access to porn went down noticeably at many points.
Not that it died out completely.
After all, the ancient Greeks and Romans had sculptures and frescoes in public areas showing things like oral sex and sometimes threesomes, foursomes and moresomes. Plus, they weren't necessarily shy about showing homosexual sex as well as heterosexual sex. The Japanese had erotic woodblock prints, drawings, paintings and other media with sexual imagery going back to at least the 11th century and even having a lot of popularity from the 16th to 18th centuries, when the art was often referred to as “Shunga,” despite a ban on such materials that was laid down in the mid-1600s. India is famous form having made the Kama Sutra available in the second century, and that’s a book that’s as much erotica as it is a sex-ed and relationship manual.
But certainly, unlike the cave-folk, it wasn’t there in the home or just down the cavern tunnel a bit.
And by the time we got to more prudish times and cultures, like the Victorian times, people had to act like sex was all icky and find ways to discourage young men and women from masturbating and all that. Uptight though they could be, though, especially in many parts of Europe at various times—what with chastity belts and the like—there were erotic novels in print in the 17th century in France. Primitive forms of photography in the 1800s quickly led to porno images and motion photography quickly led to dirty movies. Tame photoset and films by the standards of many other eras and areas—our own modern times among them—but erotica nonetheless.
There is a history of men and women even in prudish times getting their visual imagery in private through postcard-sized drawings of sexual situations, through novels, from photos, via paintings, from sculptures and more. The early- and mid-1900s saw the rise of “stag films” that men would gather to watch. In the 1960s and 1970s, we started to see the ability of people to see such movies in theaters instead of cramming into someone’s smoke-filled and booze-scented living room or basement.
In my own coming-of-age in the 1980s, there were strip clubs, porno theaters, adult films on VHS tapes, novels and skin magazines. Porn that was readily accessible if you were old enough, could fake being old enough, or were savvy enough to find other ways of getting it.
You know, I think that’s when we really turned a corner on the accessibility of porn again—sometime shortly after the middle of the 20th century but most notable in the ‘80s when we had not only magazines aplenty but also videos we could play at home. Even if you weren't old enough to buy it or rent it yourself, chances were that you found your parents’ or siblings’ stashes at some point and raided those collections when you were home alone.
Certainly, that was my own experience. My mom almost always had copies of Playboy and Penthouse in a cabinet in her bedroom, as well as a small bookshelf full of books like Emmanuelle and The Story of O—all of which I perused, got excited to and often jacked off to. When I hit 16 or 17, I would buy my own copies of nudie magazines at times, though after a few successful early attempts to do that at bookstores, I finally got asked for ID once and I panicked. I stammered something about having left it at home, fled the store and didn't try that again until I was 18 and really was legally able to purchase it. That was also a point at which I could go to the adult section of the local video rental stores and stock up on stuff to watch when I had the house to myself.
Then came the 1990s and the early Internet. A time when one could spend hours on a dial-up connection just to download a couple small erotic photosets. When you could find video online to download, the clips were tiny, had poor resolution and were very short—and they took ages to download. It was painful.
Now, of course, porn is everywhere. When it comes to magazines, books and videos, the access is still limited by age or whether or not someone else has some in your home when you’re under-aged, but the Internet makes porn easily and widely accessible. Sure, parents can put on filters and blocks, but between cable television and the Internet, it’s pretty hard to keep a youth with sex on the mind from finding both the softcore and hardcore porn. Plenty of it is free, too, whether the original creators of it want it to be or not.
Many folks say this is the beginning of the end for civilization as we know it and a sign that our morals are completely in the toilet. I say history says differently, since erotic imagery (sometimes very graphic) has existed in public and to the eyes of people of all ages in the past, and we’re still around to complain that our morals are shot. If its existence in the past hasn't stopped us from continuing forward and being about as good or evil as we’ve always been on average, porn in any amount online isn't likely to make any bigger or different-shaped dent now.
If anything, I might argue that it’s better this way, with the Internet making it almost impossible to hide the smut.
I know that there are some who would argue—though probably not many who regularly read SexIs here at EdenFantasys—that porn is bad. Particularly for women because porn turns men into horrid ravaging beasts. Which is, when you think about it, kind of hard to say with a straight face. Access to porn has steadily gone up since the 1960s, and it really went up when the Internet hit the scene in the 1990s. But sexual assault rates actually went down between 1995 and 2010. Also, a recent porn study had to be shut down because the researchers couldn’t find any men in their 20s who hadn't viewed porn, so they had no control group. If almost all men see porn to some degree, many of them regularly, and sexual assault rates go down, it’s kind of hard to argue it’s poisoning their minds.
Like I said, I think it’s better now that it’s easy to find. That doesn't mean I want my 7-year-old child viewing it, but when her time comes to begin maturing, I’m glad she won’t have to sneak around and go through huge hoops to see what she wants or needs to.
For me, porn was a great educator. Not just a primal release valve but a true educator. I was not a successful guy with the gals in high school. I was a virgin still into my mid-20s. But I learned a lot from porn. I learned what the parts were. I learned the many ways they could be stimulated. I realized that sex was more than just sticking a dick in a pussy.
My mom wasn't a prude. I mean, obviously…she owned erotica herself. But she wasn't shy about telling me what sex was. She didn't leave me ignorant. In fact, she gave me a great book written for teens to explain sexual maturation and sexual issues, as well as giving me “The Talk” a couple times to make sure I understood both the pleasures and risks of sex.
But to learn what sex was really about and what it could be potentially—well, I got that from hardcore porn and tamer erotica. Yes, porn movies were often outlandish (and still are) but I still got a good idea for the basics. Pictorials in the magazines and erotic stories in them gave me a sense of what sex would feel like and what I could do with a sexual partner.
It is thanks to porn, in fact, that despite being a virgin so long, I wasn't a terrible lover my first few times out. I wasn't fantastic, either, but I was competent, and I knew to use more than my cock.
If anything, having fairly ready access to porn as a youth and being able as a young man to go to strip clubs gave me more respect for women. As people in general and as sexual beings. As objects not just of satisfaction but also objects to encourage me to give pleasure. As beings with power over me that could be wielded benevolently or otherwise.
There can be a dark side to porn; no doubt of that. And with so much available now, some of it very, very kinky, I can understand why people might worry. But young folks are mostly going to gravitate toward what they are naturally inclined to like anyway. Generally speaking, no amount of watching furry porn is going to make someone want to dress up like a cartoon character and fuck unless they’re already wired that way.
If anything, I like to think that coming back around to an environment in which we can see the erotic images whenever we want will turn sex from some troubling and dangerous mystery into what it should have been all along and what many people through the millennia already knew what it was: A process to be enjoyed and a skill to nurture.
Now let’s see if we can resist the urge to force porn underground again. It’s a mistake repeated too often in history, and we’re supposed to learn from history, not repeat its errors.