Let’s talk about porn, obscenity laws, and free speech.

What is it about porn that makes it so exciting? If you look at it objectively, there really shouldn’t be anything exciting about watching other people get sweaty, sticky, and make funny faces at each other. We literally make fun of what we call “o faces” or “porn face”. There’s a character on a show called Pornstache (or there was. I don’t know if he’s still there. I never watched it but my bride is in love with it). If you look on social media, the average porn star has upwards of ten thousand followers and legendary porn stars, such as my friend Nick, have almost seventy-thousand on Twitter alone. Combine with Facebook and you are looking at an average of forty thousand individuals following a single porn star; but to admit that is to be a social pariah?`

Where did porn come from?

Since the earliest recorded histories, porn has been part of the human thread. Venus figurines dating back to the stone age as well as rock paintings that depicted sexual acts were discovered all across Europe and the United States. In the third century, those darlings of dialect known as the Greeks invented a new word by combining pornē (prostitute) and graphein (to record) to give us ‘pornographia‘. The literal translation is “a written description of prostitution” and the modern dictionary includes illustration mediums such as film and still images. It was translated into French and then to English, coming to the United States through the French around 1842. It wasn’t until more than one hundred years later, around 1952, it was shortened to ‘porno’ and then another decade to become ‘porn’. From there, the word (and the industry that has surrounded it) has become as much a part of our culture as coffee. 

The Legality of Porn

In 1748, Fanny Hill, historically accepted as the first porn book, was published in two installments in The Strand under the penname G. Fenton. This work was the first prose pornography in existence and was the first to use the novel format. It was a year after publication that the two men responsible for publishing it were arrested for “corrupting the King’s subjects”. When the trial came, the actual author, John Cleland (who had written the book while in debtor’s prison) renounced the book in open court and the charges were dropped.

Obscenity Laws in the UK

A little more than one hundred years later, the first obscenity laws were passed with the English Obscene Publications Act of 1857. Lord Chief Justice, Lord John Campbell presided over a case regarding the sale of pornography and he famously compared the sale of porn in London as, “a sale of poison more deadly than prussic acid, strychnine or arsenic”. Despite arguments against the law in both Houses of Parliament, it passed with the assurance that it was “… intended to apply exclusively to works written for the single purpose of corrupting the morals of youth and of a nature calculated to shock the common feelings of decency in any well-regulated mind.” Of course, the House of Commons at the time amended the final law so as to not apply to Scotland (apparently they were already strict enough on their porn. I’m sure the sheep were very happy to hear that) (yes I’m kidding. I love sheep and want them happy)

Obscenity Laws in the US

Not to be outdone, the Comstock Laws were rapidly passed by Congress in 1873 in reaction to the scandalous amount of porn available during the Civil War. (Yeah, I had trouble with that one as well but the read itself is quite interesting. Who knew it had inadvertently created the first brothel in the United States!) Comstock laws were targeted at what amounted to the Civil War version of the Adam & Eve catalogue. Back in the day, apparently your boys in grey and blue had themselves quite the issue with VD, prostitutes, and circulars that featured “fancy” stories and illustrations (apparently “fancy’ is their way of saying dirty). And the laws were so restrictive that the United States Postal Service once refused to deliver anatomy textbooks to medical students. Lucky for us, however, the Comstock Laws came to an eventual end by 1957. (Yeah, I wish that was a typo as well).

The Modern Take

Thankfully, we live in a far more modern age. Gone are the days of the government watching over your shoulder to make sure you are the right ki … oh. Wait. Sorry. Ahem, well this is awkward. It’s okay though. We’re okay. Let’s try this again, just after I affix this red sash about my waist. Yes? Let’s.

Sadly, while the porn industry has made massive strides forward in the fight for the First Amendment, and despite the industry itself being a multi-million (if not billion) dollar enterprise, you would think that porn alternately doesn’t exist but is also responsible for every awful thing ever. And gay porn? Oh forget it. Gay porn is responsible for famine, drought, the collapse of Donald Trump’s second marr … no, I’m kidding. His third marriage was responsible for the collapse of his second. And yet … Billion$ of dollar$ are $pent on porn every day. All around the world. Between films, clips, phone sex, cam sites, and written erotica, you can barely browse the internet without stumbling over something someone is going to find lascivious and lewd.

Wait … sorry … that’s me. I’m the one who stumbles into that. Primarily because I’m morally overdrawn. And I really like saying dirty things. See … ‘dirty things’ … got a little tickle there. Hang on, I’m going to need a minute. Make that two … possibly three if you want to hear me saying ‘dirty things’. You can, you know. Take a peek over at my twitter page and you’ll probably find some contact information somewhere. Or google “Mistress Ryan” and see what comes up.

I’m working more during the day lately and I honestly have no idea how you daytime people do this. It’s exhausting. I miss working overnight and chatting up a pervert or two in the middle of the night. Soon, I hope, I’ll be back to my normal.

Until then … watch some porn and tell me what your favourites are.

 

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