The Evolution of Pornography – How our Perception of Adult Content Changed Over Time

The Evolution of Pornography – How our Perception of Adult Content Changed Over Time - Hectic Magazine
fot. Still from movie Pleasure (2022)/Sundance Film Festival/Facebook

From silent films through full-length screenings to artistic forms. That’s how the shape of pornographic films has changed over time. But how has their reception changed?

Pornographic films have been present in social life for more than 100 years. One of their precursors is considered to be movie The Kiss by William Heise depicting simply … a kiss. However, created in 1896, the film which violated the customs of the time, was criticized by the Catholic Church, which called for the censorship of such images.

The next step in the development of “bold cinema” was created around 1915. A Free Ride was one of the first movies that broke the taboo by showing explicit scenes of sexual intercourse. That is why it’s considered to be the first American pornographic film. The film’s creators and actors are unknown. The names given on the sets were all made up, and the mustaches and wigs worn by the characters made it impossible to identify them. In the years of the film’s creation, it was not particularly popular but it achieved fame a little later.

Each subsequent production could only get bolder, showing even more. Until the 80’s and the works of Teresa Orlowski, who reformed the pornographic film industry and introduced new standards in this genre. She created a gigantic enterprise that employed more than 100 people, built a production hall, and introduced decoders that allowed people to watch films signed with her name.

Lack of guidance

From then on, pornography never showed less again. It has grown at a record pace, which is why it has always faced considerable criticism, especially from conservative circles.

Today, the flagship argument for limiting pornography is child development. Exposure to the genre too early can build false beliefs about sex life in young people. Such content is still considered a taboo which stops any genuine conversation or guidance. A similar opinion was expressed recently by Billie Eilish, who said that watching pornography from a very young age “destroyed her brain”.

As a woman, I think porn is a disgrace. I used to watch a lot of porn, to be honest. I started watching porn when I was like 11. – Eilish told Howard Stern on the “Howard Stern Show.” I think it really destroyed my brain and I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn. The first few times I, you know, had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.

Although saying that “porn is a disgrace” is an exaggeration, mainstream pornography definitely creates a lot of misconception about the way we can or should have sex. It creates harmful beauty stereotypes and often replicates violent and misogynistic schemes.

Postpornography to the rescue

One answer to these legitimate objections is postporn. Postpornography represents the new understanding of the body image and human sexuality. It has become a symbol of criticism of the mainstream pornography.

The term itself emerged in the 1990s as an intersectional art movement opposing the image of pornography at the time. Criticizing the dominant socio-cultural order, testing new artistic narratives filtered through the language of contemporary and ethical pornography understood as one of the fields of visual art.

The genre of postpornography is seeing rapid growth in recent years. Creators transcend the concept of violent, male-driven and misogynistic pornography. On the other hand they draw from the origins of postporn, which drew largely from sex-positive, queer and feminist concepts. Their works should stimulate the audience not only sexually but also artistically and emotionally.

Both the value and the role of postporn, especially in countries like Poland, were recognized by the organizers of Post Pxrn Film Festival in Warsaw.

Our main goal is to enjoy sexuality together, to look at the diverse languages with which it is told without shame and without prudery. The key is diversity: the richness of narratives, themes and modes of presentation has the power not only to understand others, but also to help us better understand ourselves – both in terms of fantasies and our own needs. – organizers comment on the website of the festival.