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Jacques-Louis David : Eros and Psyche (1817)

As erotic - of "Eros" - refers to the sensual attraction of two or more people.

Concept history

In the 18th century, the adjective erotic was adopted as a foreign word from French ( érotique ) into German; the French word is derived from the ancient Greek adjective erotikos . The oldest evidence for the German adjective can be found in Johann Gottfried Herder (1769). Initially the word was used to denote erotic poetry, from the early 19th century onwards it was also used in a broader sense for everything related to sensual love . At the beginning of the 19th century, the noun erotic to denote sensual love, love and sex life was derived from the adjective (first evidence from Christoph Martin Wieland , who envisaged a future science of eroticism in 1801).

Cultural development of eroticism

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg : Nude from the back (morning toilet) , 1837

Since sexuality and partnership are basic human needs, questions arise about the organization of community life, the understanding of love and the specific characteristics of sexual acts at all times. While the zeitgeist of certain epochs sought to suppress eroticism more or less socially (for example in the Victorian Age ), eroticism had a boom at other times, for example in the Rococo era .

The general ideal was and is usually the harmonious connection of love, eroticism and sexuality, i.e. the union of emotional, spiritual and physical love. The philosophy in ancient Greece postulated the necessity of a unity of body , mind and soul so that people would be in harmony with themselves.

The history of erotic representation includes elements from painting , sculpture , literature , photography, and film that depict sexual scenes. These were made by almost all civilizations, in ancient times as well as in modern times. Early cultures considered the act to be an expression of supernatural influence and associated their religion with such representations. In Asian countries such as India , Nepal , Sri Lanka , Japan or China , sexual and erotic art has special spiritual meanings within the indigenous religions of Hinduism , Buddhism , Shinto and Daoism . The Greeks and Romans produced numerous works of art and decorations of an erotic nature, many of which were incorporated into religious views and cultural practices.

More recently, erotic representations have developed from a luxury good for a few, first into a means of propaganda and then into an everyday object or even a livelihood. The changes in communication technology led to the fact that new techniques such as printing , photography, film and computers were used for the presentation and dissemination of erotic images. With the advent of the Internet at the end of the 20th century, there was a sharp increase in the spread of erotic media. While this medium also originally served the commercial distribution of erotic photos and films, this area was also increasingly conquered by non-professional actors in the course of the development of Web 2.0 .

Features of eroticism

The strength of the "erotic charisma" and the "erotic signals" that other people " send " is by no means determined by the mere sight of the highest possible degree of nakedness of a human body; rather, certain pieces of clothing and objects (see fetish ) , the facial expressions and gestures of a person, speech melodies and colors, postures and actions of people or their images generate eroticism.

History of erotic representation

Prehistory and early history

The Venus von Willendorf is a prehistoric representation.

Human representations of sexual content can be found all over the world from prehistoric times. Sculptures such as the Venus of Willendorf and murals such as in the Lascaux caves are well-known testimonies. The anthropology assigns this mostly cultic fertility rites to.

The oldest extant erotic representations include paleolithic cave paintings and carvings. The pictures mostly show animals, hunting scenes and human genitals , which were probably understood as symbols of fertility. Naked people with exaggerated sexual features can be seen in artifacts such as the Venus figurines .

The only later discovered cave art in the British Creswell Crags , the age of which is estimated to be over 12,000 years, includes symbols that can be interpreted as stylized representations of the female genitalia. However, they were probably not used for erotic stimulation, but rather religious rituals. Archaeologists in Germany reported in 2005 that a 7,200-year-old scene was found showing a male figure bending over a female figure as if during intercourse. They referred to the male figure as " Adonis von Zschernitz ". However, it is not certain whether these artifacts were used for individual sexual arousal . The images could instead have a spiritual meaning and be associated with fertility rituals.

The Mochica pottery in Peru also showed sex scenes, but with a different purpose than other cultures. The Mochica believed that the world of the dead was the exact opposite of the world of the living. Therefore, they created vessels for funerals that showed sexual acts such as masturbation , fellatio, and anal intercourse that did not result in offspring. In the world of the dead they should take on the opposite meaning and result in fertility.

Antiquity and antiquity

Heterosexual scene on a Roman painting from Pompeii
Roman oil lamp depicting the doggy position

In the early days, however, eroticism had only minimal significance and was mostly limited to the mythological area (in the papyrus collection). The same applies to the incunabula and the occidental manuscripts. The ancient erotic already shows the whole spectrum of human eroticism, of hetero - about homosexual to sadomasochistic up. One of the oldest evidence of sadomasochistic practices comes from an Etruscan tomb in Tarquinia . In the Tomba della Fustigazione ( tomb of chastisement , late 6th century BC) two men are depicted beating a woman with a rod and with the hand while making love. Another testimony to flagellation can be found in the 6th book of satires by the ancient Roman poet Juvenal (1st and 2nd centuries AD), another testimony can be found in the Satyricon of Petronius , where whipping is used for the sexual arousal of a delinquent. Representations of both male and female bodies as objects of sexual desire and the sexual act are known from Roman antiquity . It was quite common to decorate the walls of the bedrooms with depictions of sexual content and to decorate everyday objects with corresponding images. A restriction of access to these images or a distinction between art and pornography has not been made according to the current state of research.

The Greeks often depicted sexual scenes on ceramic ware, many of which are known to be the earliest depictions of homosexuality and pederasty . Greek art often portrays sexual activity, but the Greeks were unfamiliar with the concept of pornography, making it impossible to assess which depictions were illegal or immoral. Her art reflects scenes from everyday life, some of which are sexual in nature. Carved phalluses are found in places of worship such as the Temple of Dionysus on Delos , while the herm , a statue consisting of a head on a square base with a prominent phallus on the front, was a common household item and talisman . The Greek masculine ideal had a small penis ; an aesthetic that the Romans later adopted. With Sappho's hymn to Aphrodite and other homoerotic works, the Greeks also created the first known examples of lesbian eroticism in the western world.

In the destroyed Roman buildings in Pompeii and Herculaneum you can find numerous sexually frank paintings and sculptures, the original purpose of which is different. In the Villa of the Mysteries there is a ritual flagellation scene clearly associated with a religious cult, the importance of which is seen as religious rather than sexual. On the other hand, drawings above every door of a brothel advertised sexual services. In Pompeii, phalluses and testicles engraved in the sidewalk served as general decoration, but also as signposts for visitors to guide them to the prostitution and entertainment district. The Romans considered sexual images to be tasteful ornaments, and indeed the images reflect the sexual morals and practices of their culture. Sexual acts that were taboo, such as those that violated the purity of the mouth, were shown to be comical in thermal baths . Large phalluses were thought to be good luck charms and were often found near entrances or carved in houses. One of the first objects unearthed after the site was discovered was a marble statue depicting the god Pan having sex with a goat, a detailed depiction of zoophilia which, due to its obscenity, is not on public display to this day and is in the Gabinetto Segreto in Naples remains.

middle Ages

Erotic representations from this period come mainly from the common people and testify to a very sensual, rural conception of eroticism, often associated with activities and events from everyday life (scenes from the bathing houses that were widespread at the time) and in the form of minnesang (as with Walther von der Vogelweide ).

Erotic scenes were also common in medieval book illumination , but were only intended for those who could afford the very expensive handcrafted books. Most of the drawings appeared on the margins of books of hours . Many medieval scholars believe that the representations combined the desire for erotic images and religion in one book, especially since it was often the only book someone owned. Other scholars consider the drawings in the margins to be a moral warning, but the depiction of priests and other high-ranking people engaged in sexual acts also suggests political motives.

It was only with the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg that sexual images could be distributed en masse in the western world. Until then, because of the necessary manual labor and the resulting high costs, they were only available to men from the upper class, who consciously kept the depictions away from the working class for fear of the animal lust of the uneducated. Even the British Museum had a Secretum which contained a collection of ancient erotica donated in 1865 by the doctor George Witt. The remnants of the collection, including his scrapbooks, are still in cupboard 55, while the vast majority has meanwhile been integrated into the other collections of the museum.

East asia

There is a long tradition of erotic painting in East Asia. Japan , China , India , Persia and other countries produced tons of art that celebrated the human ability to love. The works show the love between man and woman as well as same-sex love . In Japan, erotic art flourished, especially in wood panel printing . The style is known as Shunga (春 画, images of spring) and some classic artists such as Suzuki Harunobu or Utamaro created numerous works. Hand drawn scrolls were also very popular. Shunga originated in the 13th century and, despite some attempts to suppress it, it enjoyed increasing popularity. A first ban on erotic books ( kōshokubon , 好色 本) was pronounced by the Shōgun dynasty Tokugawa in Kyōhō 7 (1722). Shunga production didn't end until the 19th century with the invention of photography.

The Chinese tradition, which is also very extensive, goes back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and reached its peak in the last part of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

In both China and Japan, the erotic played an important role in the development of the novel. Genji Monogatari (源氏物語), the work of a Japanese noblewoman from the Heian period , often referred to as "the world's first novel", follows the hero's many affairs in discreet but physical language. The even more explicit novel Jin Ping Mei (金瓶梅) from the Ming Dynasty is considered one of the four great classical novels in Chinese literature. Genji Monogatari has been celebrated in Japan since its inception, while Jin Ping Mei has long been suppressed as pornography and replaced on the list of classics.

Renaissance and Baroque

François Boucher , Girl at Rest , 1752

As long as representations of sexual content as individual pieces were reserved for the gaze of the ruling classes, their content was not publicly discussed. It was only in the Renaissance and the "rediscovery of the physical" that the representation of sexuality began to gain importance. The spectrum of works published in the 15th century ranges from the visualization of biblical scenes to books of hours and calendars with erotic illustrations to Boccaccio's Decamerons . Other genres in which sexuality was discussed at the time were medical and instructive literature, syphilis tracts or Sebastian Brant's ship of fools .

The emergence of new printing techniques in the Renaissance enabled the comparatively inexpensive distribution of pictorial representations and led to the distinction between art and pornography, whereby the production and distribution of the latter was largely prevented. In 1529 the engraver Sebald Beham was persecuted in Nuremberg on charges of pornography. Around 1530, the circulation of a cycle that graphically illustrated various positions of the sexual act was banned and the engraver Marcantonio Raimondi was sentenced to prison (these were illustrations of sonnets by Pietro Aretino based on models by Giulio Romano ).

However, the mythological exaggeration of the sexual in original works of art was still considered a legitimate mode of representation, against which comparatively few attacks took place. Erotic art was scandalized only from an aesthetic point of view. A special fate befell the picture Leda with the swan by Antonio da Correggio , painted in 1530 , which in 1721 entered the collection of the regent of France , the Duke of Orléans . This was badly damaged by his son, Louis von Orléans , who cut out the head of Leda, who was enjoying herself in the form of a swan in a sexual game with Zeus, from the picture (now with the reconstructed head of Charles-Antoine Coypel in the Gemäldegalerie Berlin).

The demythologized representation of sexual content, especially the undressed woman as an object of sexual desire, was handled quite freely by court painters in France in the 18th century. The rump of Marie-Louise O'Murphy , a mistress of Louis XV , became famous . painted in oils by François Boucher ( Resting Girl ). The painter Jean Honoré Fragonard brought the lower view of the female body into the picture ( The Swing , 1767).

Modern times and beginning industrialization

At the beginning of the 19th century, moral issues were being examined by the Inquisition in Spain . In 1815 Goya was summoned to appear before the Spanish Inquisitions tribunal as the painter of the Naked Maya and the Clothed Maya , after the two pictures had been confiscated from the Godoy collection as obscenities the year before . However, the works were neither destroyed nor punished Goya.

In the early days, erotic representations were often indigenous or religious art and were considered common works. Less gallant were the realistic depictions of the erotic bodies of the common people by Gustave Courbet ( The Origin of the World , Sleep , both 1866) and by the Impressionists ( Édouard Manet , Olympia , 1863, Paris). This started what today generally refers to explicitly depicting images. While some sexual acts were regulated or prohibited by previous laws, merely viewing erotic images was not prohibited in any country until 1857. In some cases, possession of certain books, inscriptions, or collections of images was prohibited; however, those laws that generally prohibit the viewing of sexual content are all from the Victorian era. In the public libraries, the erotic and pornographic works were usually sorted out and only made accessible under special conditions. One of the most famous of these so-called Remota funds is the Enfer der Bibliothèque nationale de France, which was set up between 1836 and 1844 . Other libraries acted similarly. They labeled their holdings considered offensive with disguised symbols such as Private Case ("private matter ") in the British Museum , ***** in the New York Public Library , Δ (Greek Delta) in the Library of Congress and Φ (Greek Phi, onomatopoeic for "Pooh!") in the Bodleian Library . (However, the fact that the largest pornographic collection can be found in the Vatican Library is a widespread legend.)

When extensive excavations in Pompeii unearthed a large part of the erotic art of the Romans in the 1860s, the Victorian population of England, who believed themselves to be the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire, reacted with shock. The attempt was made to hide the frank images of sexuality from everyone but the scholars of the upper class. The Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Cabinet) in Naples served as a repository for the moving objects, while fixed displays were covered and cordoned off so as not to harm the feelings of women, children and workers. The world's first laws criminalizing pornography followed with the passage of the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. Despite temporary reprisals, images of erotic themes were still common for centuries.

20th century

Erotic representation in Art Nouveau style : graphic print by Franz von Bayros (1866–1924)

At the beginning of the 20th century, based on the research of Freud and Jung, the subject of sexuality was dealt with from a psychological perspective. Aspects such as pubertal sexual fears , masturbation , prostitution and “ perversions ” found their way into the pictorial and literary representations. In 1911 the artist Egon Schiele was sentenced to a short prison term of less than a month for “immoral drawings” by minors.

In the 1950s there was an idiosyncratic double standard with regard to eroticism . On the one hand, so-called " sex bombs " such as Jayne Mansfield , Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner appeared in film and television . During this time the pin-up was developed and the magazine Playboy was founded. On the other hand, Hildegard Knef was heavily criticized when she showed herself " topless" for a brief moment in the film The Sinner , and sex researcher AC Kinsey received death threats for his work.

It was not until the mid-1960s that pseudo-morality was abandoned; the sexual revolution also brought about a different relationship to eroticism. The effort to free eroticism from sloppiness led to a cool and puristic wave of eroticism in which models like Twiggy or actresses like Audrey Hepburn became stars. The newly founded women's associations wavered between the demand for a ban on all pornography and the open treatment of lived eroticism (" free love "). Artists like Valie Export rely on open confrontation. She created the “tap and touch cinema” by strapping a box covered with a cloth to her bare chest and letting people feel her breasts. The final liberation of eroticism and the confrontation with it as a recognized art form brought film and photo technology. The first exhibitions that specifically dealt with erotic art took place in Scandinavia in 1968 .

With the idea of ​​total sexual liberation and free love, there was a real boom in art porn and erotic films in the 1970s. Efforts were made to combine the cinematic plot and openly sexual scenes with one another. Demanding backdrops and expensive 35mm footage lifted the porn to a very high level for a short time. A genre developing in the late 1960s was the so-called educational film .

From 1982 onwards, most of the porn films were shot on the cheaper and more convenient medium of the video cassette . Many film directors resisted this change at first because of the different image quality, but those who took up the new medium soon received most of the industrial profit as consumers preferred the format. The technological change was quick and complete because the directors realized that production on film was no longer profitable. Now the films came from the cinema into the private apartments. This marked the end of big budget productions and the way pornography entered the mainstream. She returned to her roots and, given the low cost, served every fetish. The number of porn films produced each year rose from several hundred to thousands, including collections of sex scenes from various videos.

Erotic CD-ROMs were popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s because they enabled new interactivity and imagination. However, their poor quality was a major shortcoming, and as the Internet spread , their sales fell. At the same time as the video revolution, the internet became the preferred source for pornography because it offered privacy to view and the opportunity to interact. The recent impact of widely available technology such as digital cameras has blurred the lines between erotic films and photos, and between amateur and professional productions. It offers access to both formats and makes production easier for everyone. Much of today's pornography comes from amateurs. Digital media allow photographers and film producers to manipulate images in a variety of ways, thereby increasing the drama or eroticism of an image.

In the 1990s, new erotic impulses came from the gay and lesbian movement , which gained a whole new level of recognition in society. These influences continue to have an impact today: homosexuality is considered trendy in certain circles. Based on this, the lifestyle of " metrosexuality " was created, which is marketed as an ideal of beauty in the early 21st century and is propagated, for example, by David Beckham and his wife Victoria .

The strong growth of the internet has favored the upswing of erotic humor since the end of the 20th century . Satirical erotic texts and humorous erotic images or videos are distributed worldwide both on websites and in e-mails. The humor sections of the main web catalogs have "erotic" subcategories. In the print media, however, erotic humor is still relatively unimportant and is essentially limited to a few cartoons and comics.

21st century

At the beginning of the 21st century, developments in the new media , especially the Internet, resulted in both a strong increase in distribution and a qualitative change. The widespread use of broadband internet access made it possible to make high-resolution, digital photos and films immediately available. The concept of Web 2.0 and user-generated content was developed based on fast and inexpensive Internet connections . This, as well as the growing popularity of digital cameras at the same time , gave amateurs the opportunity to publish erotic media of themselves on the Internet. No commercial use is intended for the persons depicted. However, amateur eroticism is being used commercially by portal operators such as YouPorn .

The spread of mobile phones with integrated cameras and the technology of the multimedia messaging service led to the phenomenon of sexting (a suitcase word made up of sex and texting for SMS ), whereby - mainly adolescents and young adults - nude pictures or erotic recordings of themselves in the Send a circle of friends.

Another falling in this time development is that the sex-positive feminism declining porn Old . This genre of erotic photography tries to evade traditional clichés of the commercial erotic business.

Media of representation


Agostino Carracci: I modes

In the 16th century, an attempt to print erotic material caused a scandal. The Italians Pietro Aretino and Marcantonio Raimondi created I Modi , an illustrated book with 16 sex positions , in 1524 . Raimondi had previously published I Modi ; he had been arrested for this by Pope Clement VII , and all copies of the illustrations had been destroyed. Raimondi's engravings were based on a series of erotic images that Giulio Romano made for the Palazzo del Te in Mantua . Although the two illustrations were very similar, only Raimondi was persecuted because his engravings were available to the public. Romano didn't know about the engravings until Aretino came to see the originals while Romano was still working on them. Aretino then wrote sixteen explicit sonnets to the drawings ("in your pussy and your buttocks my cock will make me happy and you happy and blissful" - "both in your pussy and your behind, my cock will make me happy, and you happy and." blissful ”) and freed Raimondi from prison. I Modi was then republished, for the first time with erotic text and images. The Pope again had all copies secured. Raimondi escaped jail this time, but the censorship was so complete that an original was never found. The surviving text is just a copy of a copy found 400 years later.

In the 17th century some copies of pornographic or erotic literature came into circulation, mostly printed in Amsterdam and smuggled to other European countries. This included L'École des filles , a French work from 1655 considered to be the beginning of pornography in France. It consists of two dialogues between two women, a 16 year old and her more naive cousin, and their explicit discussions about sex. The author is still unknown to this day, although one of the editors served a light prison sentence. Samuel Pepys notes in his famous diary that he bought a copy for private reading and then burned it so that his wife would not discover it; "The idle roguish book, L'escholle de filles , which I bought in a single binding [...] because I plan to burn it as soon as I've read it." ("The idle roguish book, which I have bought in plain binding [...] because I resolve, as soon as I have read it, to burn it ")

In the Age of Enlightenment , many French free thinkers discovered pornography as a medium for social criticism and satire . Libertine pornography was a subversive social commentary and was often targeted against the Catholic Church and sexual repression. The bourgeoisie served as a market for the mass-produced, cheap pamphlets , whereupon the upper class feared, as in England, that the morality of the lower class and the poor of character could be spoiled because women, slaves and the uneducated were considered particularly vulnerable at this time. The story and illustrations (which were offered in the galleries of the Palais Royal along with the services of the prostitutes) were often anti-clerical and full of misbehaving priests, monks and nuns, a tradition that continued in French pornography into the 20th century continued. In the run-up to the French Revolution , pornography also served as a political commentary; Marie Antoinette was often attacked with fantasies involving orgies, lesbian activities and the paternity of her children, as well as rumors about the supposed sexual inadequacies of Louis XVI. included. The famous works of the Marquis de Sade were created during and after the revolution . They often contained illustrations and served the author as a political commentary.

The English answer was Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (later shortened and renamed Fanny Hill ), written by John Cleland in 1748 . While the text was a satire of the literary conventions and fashionable rules of 18th century England, the real scandal was the depiction of the narrator and a woman enjoying sexual acts without dire moral or physical consequences. The text is barely explicit, as Cleland used euphemisms for sexual acts and body parts throughout the book , including 50 different terms for the penis alone . The Bishop of London blamed the book for two small earthquakes and had Cleland temporarily arrested, but Fanny Hill continued to appear and is one of the top-selling books in the English language. However, possession of the book was banned in the US until 1963 and in the UK until 1970.

Theodor Fontane succeeds in imagining a highly erotic scene without actually describing it: Chess von Wuthenow seduces Victoire von Carayon. Oh, Lieutenant , she says. Then the curtain rustles.

Erotic content is also conveyed in the literary form of fairy tales .

Erotic literature

Numerous poems by the most diverse lyricists also deal with erotic aspects of love relationships in their works. Anthologies that deal with eroticism and incorporate illustrations by Gustav Klimt have been published. Love poems already had their place in literature in ancient times . Well-known authors were Homer , Archilochus , Sappho , Ibykos , Anacreon , Theocrit , Meleager of Gadara , Catullus , Sulpicia the Younger , Horace , Ovid and Titus Petronius . An anthology brings together a selection of the named authors.


19th century nude photo

In 1839, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre presented the first practical process of photography at the Académie des sciences . Unlike previous methods, his daguerreotypes were of impressive quality and detail and did not fade over time. The new technology did not escape the artists who were looking for new ways to depict the naked female form. Traditionally, the académie was a nude study by a painter to master the feminine (or masculine) form. Each had to be registered and approved by the French government or they could not be sold. Soon, nude photographs were registered as académie and marketed as an aid to painters. However, in contrast to the idealism of painting, the realism of photography actually made many of them appear erotic. In Nude photography, 1840–1920 , Peter Marshall observes: “In the current moral climate at the time photography was invented, the only officially approved photograph of the body was used for the production of artistic studies. Many surviving specimens of daguerreotypes clearly do not belong to this genre, but have a sensuality that clearly implies that they were created as erotic or pornographic images. ”(“ In the prevailing moral climate at the time of the invention of photography, the only officially sanctioned photography of the body was for the production of artist's studies. Many of the surviving examples of daguerreotypes are clearly not in this genre but have a sensuality that clearly implies they were designed as erotic or pornographic images. ")

However, the daguerreotype also had a few shortcomings. The central problem was that it could only be reproduced by photographing the original image, since every image was an original and the metallic process didn't use negatives. In addition, the earliest daguerreotypes had exposure times of three to fifteen minutes, making them impractical for portraits. In contrast to earlier drawings, it was not possible to depict movement. The models had to keep their poses very still for a long time. As a result, the standard pornographic image has shifted from having several people engaged in sexual acts to a single woman flaunting her genitals. Since a picture could cost a week's salary, the audience for such nude photos consisted mainly of artists and the upper class. In the 1840s, it was cheaper to hire a prostitute and experience the sex than to own a picture of it. In 1838 the stereoscope was invented, which was popular with daguerreotypes including erotic images. The technology enabled a three-dimensional view that went well with erotic images. Although thousands of erotic daguerreotypes were created, only around 800 copies survived. Given their uniqueness and cost, they were once the toys of rich men. Because they are so rare, they fetch prices in excess of £ 10,000  .

In 1841, William Henry Fox Talbot patented the calotype , the first negative-positive process that made multiple copies possible. This invention allowed an almost unlimited number of prints to be made from a glass negative. In addition, the lower exposure time helped create a mass market for pornographic images. The technology was immediately used to produce nude portraits. Paris became the center of this trade. In 1848 there were only thirteen photo studios in Paris; in 1860 there were already more than 400. Most of them profited from the illegal sale of pornography to the masses who could now afford it. The paintings were also sold near train stations, by traveling vendors, and by women in the streets who hid them under their clothes. They were often produced in series (four, eight or twelve pieces) and exported internationally, mainly to England and the USA. Both the models and the photographers were usually from the working class and the excuse of the artistic model was hardly usable anymore. In 1855, nude photographic images were no longer registered as académie and the business went underground to avoid persecution.

Eadweard Muybridge : Woman with a fishing rod (detail)

The Victorian pornography tradition in Britain consisted of three elements: French photographs, erotic prints (which were sold in shops on Holywell Street, a long-gone thoroughfare from London , now Aldwych) and printed literature. The possibility of mass production of photographs gave rise to a new type of business, the porn retailer. Many of these merchants took advantage of the postal service to deliver photographic cards in smooth envelopes to their customers. Thus, a reliable international postal system facilitated the start of the pornographic trade. Victorian pornography had several defining characteristics. It reflected a very mechanical way of looking at human anatomy and its functions. Science was used as a new passion to supposedly study the human body. In doing so, the viewer often depersonalized the sexuality of the subject, which showed no passion or tenderness. It was also around this time that it became increasingly popular to use the guise of science to depict nude photographs of women from exotic races. Such studies can be found in the work of Eadweard Muybridge . Although he photographed both men and women, the women were often equipped with props such as market baskets or fishing rods, which turned these pictures into thinly disguised erotica.


Yank, the Army Weekly was a US military magazine that published pin-up images
Cover of adult magazines on a newspaper kiosk, 1990s

In 1880, the halftone method was used to reproduce photographs cheaply for the first time. The invention of this technique took pornography and erotica in new directions at the beginning of the 20th century. It was now possible to easily reproduce photographic images in black and white, whereas previously printers were limited to engravings, woodcuts, and line cuts . It was the first format that mass marketed porn because it was more affordable and easier to acquire.

The new magazines, which will initially appear in France, presented naked and half-naked photographs on the cover and inside the magazine, with actresses from burlesque often being employed as models. While these magazines would be classified as soft porn today, they were shocking at the time. The publications often disguised themselves as “art magazines” or works that celebrated the new nudist culture , with titles such as Photo Bits , Body in Art , Figure Photography , Nude Living and Modern Art for Men. Health and Efficiency , which started in 1900, was a typical nudist Magazine in the UK.

Another early form of pornography was the comics known as the Tijuana Bible , which first appeared in the United States in the 1920s and continued until the advent of glossy color magazines for men. These were rough, hand-drawn scenes that often made use of popular characters from cartoons and culture.

In the 1940s, the term pin-up was coined to describe images that US soldiers tore from men's magazines and calendars and pinned on the wall during World War II. While the images from the 1940s mainly focused on the legs, attention switched to the breasts in the 1950s. Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe were two of the most popular pinup models. In the second half of the 20th century, pornography appeared in men's magazines such as Playboy or Modern Man from the 1950s. The beginning of the modern glossy magazines can be fixed for 1953, when Hugh Hefner bought a photo of Marilyn Monroe to use it as the center fold of his new magazine Playboy . Soon such magazines were the main medium for consuming pornography.

These magazines featured (semi) naked women who sometimes appeared to masturbate even when their genitals or pubic hair were not visible. Penthouse , founded in England in 1965 by Bob Guccione, took a different approach. The women looked indirectly into the camera, as if they were turning to their private idyll. This change had an impact on the erotic depiction of women. Penthouse was also the first magazine to publish photos with intimate hair and complete nudity, both of which were beyond eroticism in the field of pornography at the time. In the late 1960s, magazines featured more explicit images with an frequent focus on the buttocks as the standard of what was legal and wanted by readers. In the 1970s the focus was on the pubic area and in the 1990s penetration , lesbian love and homosexuality, group sex , masturbation and fetishism were presented in more hardcore magazines such as Hustler .

Given the low cost, magazines gradually emerged for all tastes and fetishes. Gay magazines flourished; the best known and one of the first was Physique Pictorial , which Bob Mizer started in 1951 after trying to hire male models; however, his photographs of the Athletic Model Guild failed. The magazine, which appeared in black and white for almost 50 years, celebrated the male form in a very clear photographic manner and used props and costumes in an innovative way to depict homosexual clichés such as cowboys, gladiators and sailors.


Anonymous erotic short film from 1905

The next technical advance that influenced the viewing of erotic images was the invention of film . William KL Dickson , an employee of Thomas Alva Edison , invented the first practical celluloid film and opted for a 35mm size , which is still the standard. He then developed the kinetoscope , a peep box that showed the film in an endless loop, illuminated by an Edison lamp. This was the precursor to the film projector .

Dickson separated from Edison and opened his own company that made the Mutoskop , a hand-cranked movie peep box. These machines produced moving pictures with the help of a rotating drum on which picture cards from a film were attached. They often stood in facilities on the coast showing sequences with women undressing or serving as an artist's model. In the UK, they came to be known as What the butler saw machines, named after one of the earliest and most famous soft porn roles.

In addition to the educational films in the 1960s, a number of sex films have been made since the 1970s such as schoolgirl reports , erotic films such as the Emmanuelle series or films with erotic elements such as ice lollies .

See also

Portal: Erotica and Pornography  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of erotica and pornography



  • Bilderlexikon der Erotik, Universal Lexikon der Sittengeschichte, und Sexualwissenschaft , based on the book edition of the Institute for Sexual Research, Vienna 1928–1932, DVD-ROM edition, Directmedia Publishing , Berlin 2003, Digital Library Volume 19, ISBN 3-89853-919-9 .



  • Institute for Sexual Research in Vienna (Hrsg.): Picture lexicon of eroticism. A reference work for the terms and phenomena in the field of cultural history, moral history, folklore, ethnography, etc. 4 vols. 1928–1931 (Reprint 1961).
  • Siegmar von Schultze-Galléra : Popular eroticism and flora. A representation of ancient and modern erotic and sexual customs, comparisons, terms, proverbs, idioms, riddles, folk songs of erotic magic and superstition, sexual medicine that relate to plants. 2 vols. Reprint of the edition from 1907 to 1910. Express-Edition, Berlin 1987 (ethnomedicine and consciousness research; historical materials vol. 7).

To erotic art

To erotic literature

  • Jakob Elias Poritzky : The erotic. Verlag Rösl, Munich 1921, online  - Internet Archive
  • Franz Bayer, Karl Ludwig Leonhardt: Rare and wanted. Bibliographies and selected reference works on erotic literature. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-7772-9301-6 , (Hiersemanns bibliographical handbooks vol. 10).
  • Mallanāga Vātsyāyana: The Kāmasūtra. Translated from Sanskrit into German and edited. by Klaus Mylius . Reclam, Leipzig 1986 (last at Reclam as: Reclams Universal-Bibliothek; No. 9781. Reclam, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-15-009781-9 , this translation was also published by the Gutenberg Book Guild , dtv, VMA and Otus -Publishing company).
  • Fifty erotic poems , selected by Harry Fröhlich, Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-15-018070-8 .
  • Hiltrud Gnüg: The erotic novel. From the renaissance to the present. Reclam, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-15-017634-4 .
  • Thomas Bein: Love and Eroticism in the Middle Ages. Academic Printing and Publishing Company, Graz 2003, ISBN 3-201-01806-6 , (Pictures of the Middle Ages, Vol. 4)
  • Heribert Becker (Ed.): Divided Nights - Erotiken des Surrealismus , Edition Nautilus, Verlag Lutz Schulenburg, 4th, modified edition. Hamburg March 2007, ISBN 978-3-89401-546-6 .
  • Jean Qui Rit: A book of fairy tales for adults - Erotic fairy tales , illustrated by Artuš Scheiner , reprint in the historical library, Melchior Verlag, Wolfenbüttel 2007, ISBN 978-3-939791-47-8 .
  • An erotic thought for every day , Ed. Emmanuel Pierrat. From the French by Stephanie Singh, uniform title: Une idée érotique par jour , Knesebeck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-86873-244-3 .


Web links

Commons : Erotica  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Erotic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Schulz, Otto Basler: German Foreign Dictionary . 2nd, completely revised edition. tape 5 . Berlin 2004, p. 221-231 . Detailed description of the conceptual history with numerous references.
  2. a b c Phillip S. Rawson: Erotic art of the east; the sexual theme in oriental painting and sculpture . Putnam, New York 1968.
  3. ^ A b John R. Clarke: Roman Sex: 100 BC to AD 250 . Harry N. Abrams, New York 2003.
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Marilyn Chambers, John Leslie, Seymore Butts. Pornography: The Secret History of Civilization ( Memento from August 22, 2010 on the Internet Archive ) (DVD). Koch Vision 2005. ISBN 1-4172-2885-7 .
  5. John Pickrell: Unprecedented Ice Age Cave Art Discovered in UK National Geographic . August 18, 2004.
  6. Krysia Driver: Archaeologist finds 'oldest porn statue' . Guardian Unlimited
  7. see the picture at
  8. ^ The Getty Museum: Herm of Dionysus .
  9. Cecil Adams: Why does so much ancient Greek art feature males with small genitalia? The straight dope . December 9, 2005.
  10. Margaret Williamson: Sappho's Immortal Daughters . Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA) 1995.
  11. ^ Seán Hemingway. Roman Erotic Art . Sculpture Review 53.4. Pp. 10-15.
  12. David Giamster: Sex and Sensibility at the British Museum . History Today - Sex and Sensibility at the British Museum ( October 30, 2006 memento in the Internet Archive ) 50.9. September 2000, pp. 10-15.
  13. Shunga . Japanese art net and architecture users system, 2001.
  14. ^ LCP Bertholet: Dreams of Spring: Erotic Art in China: From the Bertholet Collection. Pepin Press, October 1997, ISBN 90-5496-039-6 .
  15. William J. Puette: The Tale of Genji: A Reader's Guide. Tuttle Publishing 2004. ISBN 0-8048-3331-1 .
  16. ^ David Tod Roy: The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei: The Gathering, Volume I. Princeton University Press 1993, ISBN 0-691-06932-8 .
  17. ^ Marianna Beck: The Roots of Western Pornography: Victorian Obsessions and Fin-de-Siècle Predilections . Libido, The Journal of Sex and Sensibility . May 2003
  18. Richard Corliss. That Old Feeling: When Porno Was Chic . Time magazine ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). March 29, 2005
  19. Linda Williams (2004): Porn studies ; Duke University Press
  20. Facebook Is the Final Frontier in Amateur Porn , Gawker
  21. Stephen Yagielowicz: The New Face of Amateur Porn , XBiz
  22. ^ 'Sexting' normal: academics ( memento of March 8, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), The Canberra Times
  23. ^ Government warns teenagers about nude photos on Spiegel Online from May 6, 2009.
  24. Annie Tomlin: Sex, dreads and rock 'n' roll: suicide girls' live nude punks want to be your porn alternative ( Memento of November 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) , In: Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Winter , Issue 19, 2002
  25. Suicide Girls Gone AWOL , Wired
  26. a b Lynne Lawner (ed.). I Modi: The Sixteen Pleasures: An Erotic Album of the Italian Renaissance . Northwestern University Press 1989. ISBN 0-8101-0803-8
  27. Marianna Beck: The Roots of Western Pornography: The French Enlightenment Takes on Sex . Libido, The Journal of Sex and Sensibility. December 2003
  28. Robert Latham (ed.). The Shorter Pepys . University of California Press 1985. ISBN 0-520-03426-0
  29. ^ Marianna Beck: The Roots of Western Pornography: The French Revolution and the Spread of Politically-Motivated Pornography . Libido, The Journal of Sex and Sensibility. February 2003
  30. ^ Marianna Beck: The Roots of Western Pornography: The Marquis de Sade's Twisted Parody of Life . Libido, The Journal of Sex and Sensibility. March 2003.
  31. ^ Marianna Beck: The Roots of Western Pornography: England Bites Back With Fanny Hill . Libido, The Journal of Sex and Sensibility. January 2003.
  32. Jean Qui Rit. Ill. By Art. Scheiner: A book of fairy tales for adults: [erotic fairy tales] , edition: reprint of the original edition. 1908, Melchior-Verlag, Wolfenbüttel, 2007, ISBN 978-3-939791-47-8 .
  33. ^ Michelangelo Buonarotti : Liebesgedichte , Italian and German, selected by Boris von Brauchitsch . Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-458-34944-0 .
  34. Bertolt Brecht : Poems about love , selected by Werner Hecht . 1st edition. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 978-3-518-37501-3 .
  35. Johannes Thiele (Ed.): Come into my night - The most beautiful erotic poems , with drawings by Gustav Klimt. Thiele Verlag, Munich / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-85179-006-1 .
  36. Michael Schroeder (Ed.): The most beautiful love poems of antiquity. Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 2005, ISBN 3-458-34863-8 .
  37. a b J.M. Cross: Nineteenth-Century Photography: A Timeline . Victorian Web
  38. Peter Marshall. Nude photography, 1840-1920 .
  39. FAQ
  40. Larry Schaaf: The Calotype Process . Glasgow University Library 1999.
  41. ^ Kristen St. John & Lina Zimmerman: Guided Tour of Print Processes: Black and White Reproduction . Stanford Library . June 1997.
  42. About H&E . Health and Efficiency Naturist ( Memento of April 7, 2004 in the Internet Archive )
  43. Bob Adelmann & Richard Merkin: Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies, 1930s – 1950s . Simon & Schuster, New York 1997, ISBN 0-684-83461-8 .
  44. a b Mark Gabor: The Illustrated History of Girlie Magazines . Random House, New York 1984, ISBN 0-517-54997-2 .
  45. ^ David Bianco: Physique Magazines .
  46. Jack Carr: Adventures in motion pictures . The Scotsman magazine ( Memento October 15, 2007 on the Internet Archive ). March 2002
  47. ^ History . American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. 2006
  48. Let's Go to the Movies: The Mechanics of Moving Images . Museum of American Heritage . September 17, 2001