Pornography: Dirty Pastime Or Evolution's Tool?

A look back at pornography's ancient history.

ancient pornography sex history

The next time you have to endure a lecture about the booming porn industry and society's consequent moral decline, you might want to bring up something that people always seem to forget: pornography is ancient. In other words, there has never been a golden age of porn-free sexual integrity. In between digging for lost civilizations and ancient relics, archaeologists have also found plenty of (potentially) suggestive depictions. 5 Excuses A Man Will Give For Watching Porn


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While it's next to impossible to tell whether a naked woman on a cave wall was a symbol of fertility, a simple slice-of-life rendering or ancient erotica—there's plenty of blatantly erotic sculpture, paintings and literature from centuries past, and many of the depictions were often just as racy as what you can find online. For example:

  • Cave paintings from the Paleolithic period depict naked men and women with stylized genitals.
  • Ancient Greek art showcases same-sex activity, fellatio, cunnilingus, threesomes, and relations between older men and young boys (eg. The Warren Cup, likely created in the first century AD). Of course, since the Greeks held beliefs about sex that differ from ours, it's impossible to know whether any of these sex acts were taboo.
  • Inhabitants of Pomepeii used images of phalli and testicles on sidewalks for directions. The Romans, who thought that publicly displayed sex was in good taste, created a marble sculpture of the god Pan having relations with a goat. Erotic depictions like this were found in the original excavation of Pompeii, but were kept secret for centuries due to their racy nature.
  • The Moche of Peru produced erotic pottery depicting various sex acts like anal sex, masturbation, and fellatio for funerals. As their concept of an afterlife was the exact opposite of this world, sex acts that couldn't produce children here would enable fertility over there.
  • And who can forget the Kama Sutra or the Bible's sexually charged "Song of Solomon"? Porn Use Around The World

What all of these sex-related displays have in common is, simply, sex. Archaeologists believe that visual stimuli evolved as a means of reproduction over the years. Modern society knows how many "tries" it can take for a woman to become pregnant, and sometimes one or both partners needs an extra boost to help him or her get in the mood.


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So when did porn-without-plot, or porn undisguised as art, debut? Although novels like Fanny Hill, the first full-length porn novel written in English, made its rounds in the 1700s, the porn industry really began to take off after the invention of photography and film. Viewers at male-only parties would watch films showing stripteases and sexual intercourse. Years later, the privacy that home videos afford encouraged people to try out different fetish-based films. Of course, we all know what happened after the Internet came along. What Does His Porn Collection Say About Him?

Thousands of years from now, what conclusions do you think people draw about our culture based on our pornography?