31 July 2013 09:15 | By Leo Daly
The Sex Trade Through The Ages


Roman Fresco, Pompeii (© get directly down/flickr)
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 'The Kiss'
  • Dirck van Barburen 'The Procuress' (1622)
  • Edwin Long, 'The Babylonian Marriage Market'
  • Greek Artefacts showing the practise of prostitution (© Marsyas@WikimediaCommons)
  • Pornographic depiction from the Lupanar, a Roman fresco in Pompeii.
  • Roman Fresco, Pompeii (© get directly down/flickr)
  • "The great epidemic of pornography". From 19th-century French illustration.
  • Film poster for Deep Throat,
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But if we are to talk about money and sex, there must be mention of the multibillion-dollar industry that is pornography.

Trying to find a start date on pornography is difficult as it calls into question our definitions of what it is and is not. There are depictions of sexual intercourse and representations of the nude body that predate all known civilizations – going back at least 35,000 years to Palaeolithic cave paintings and Venus figurines. But it's thought that these artefacts were either ceremonial or communicative. Here lies the crux: if the intention of the artist is anything other than sexually arousing the viewer, we can't consider the work to be wholly pornographic.

With this in mind, the jury is still out on the orgiastic vases of the Greeks, the winged bronze phalluses of the Romans, and the explicit graffiti of Pompeii. Were these intended to arouse, amuse, or advertise? Or were they lucky charms – a kind of libidinous rabbit foot? These questions cast doubt on their pornographic status. As they do today on magazines like Playboy and films like In the Realm of the Senses.


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