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The Evolution of Porn: Where It Started, and How It Became So Normalized

By January 25, 2017 February 20th, 2020 No Comments

If we told you there was something that considered “normal” in society, but it could mess with your sexual health, harm your relationships, fuel feelings of depression and anxiety, and it’s connected to human trafficking, would you want to be involved with it?

No? Neither would we.

When described that way, porn seems way less sexy and glamorous, right? By honestly examining the scientifically proven and research-backed harmful effects, it is clear that porn isn’t exactly the healthy sexual outlet or harmless “entertainment” its marketed to be.

Peer-reviewed scientific research tells us that porn can change how consumers’ brains are wired. Other research shows that it can seriously damage your sex life and your relationship with your significant other as well as your friends, family, and yourself. If all this information about porn’s negative effects is out there, then why do we constantly hear society insist that porn is a healthy, natural, and liberating pursuit with plenty of benefits?

Where did this perspective come from?

How it began

The beginning of society’s most recent view of sexuality and porn can be partially attributed to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

A zoologist, Kinsey published his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953. At the time, some considered this to be part of the most triumphant and significant scientific publications of the 20th century, stating that they proved that most people engaged in the sexual practices that society labeled as “taboo” and “deviant.” However, we now know the truth behind how his book was produced.

How these experiments were conducted were questionable, to say the least. Along with interviewing pedophiles, Dr. Kinsey’s research was overpopulated with prostituted people and prisoners as well. Dr. Kinsey’s controversial investigation on sex went beyond interviewing, too—he observed, encouraged, and even filmed coworkers participating in sexual activity in the attic of his house. And what’s more, Kinsey’s documents have reports with over 300 children between the ages of five months and 14 years old.

How it spread

Kinsey’s research helped to normalize some of our society’s misinformed attitudes about sexuality and paved the way for the booming business of pornography. In December of 1953, the same year that Dr. Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe was featured in the first issue of what became the world’s most recognized porn brand: Playboy­. This porn magazine founded by Hugh Hefner had the stage set for his booming business by Dr. Kinsey’s warped research.

Related: 4 People Who Made Porn What It Is Today

Hefner capitalized on the trend with his magazine. However, to maximize sales, he had to change porn’s image; instead of being thought of as something your friend’s creepy uncle might have, porn needed to look like a gentleman’s pursuit. To do that, Hefner put pornographic photos next to essays and articles written by respected authors. In Playboy, porn looked like legit, classy even.

The next big shift happened in the 1980s, when VCRs made it possible for people to watch movies at home. For porn viewers, that meant that instead of having to go to sketchy adult theaters on the wrong side of town, all they had to do was go to the back room at their local movie rental place. Sure, they still had to go out to find it, but porn was suddenly a lot more accessible.

And then the internet changed everything. [1]

Suddenly there was nothing but a few keystrokes between anyone with an internet connection and the most graphic sexual material imaginable and unimaginable. The online porn industry boomed. Between 1998 and 2007, the number of pornographic websites grew by 1,800%. [2] According to a 2004 study of Internet traffic in May of that year, porn sites were visited three times more often than Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Search combined. [3]

Related: 11 Mind-Blowing Porn Stats That You Won’t Believe

And porn hasn’t stayed behind the computer screen. Now that porn is more available, affordable, and anonymous than ever before, more people are becoming addicted [4] and its influence has soaked into every aspect of our lives. [5] Popular video games feature full nudity. [6] Snowboards marketed to teens are plastered with images of porn stars. [7] Even little girls’ dolls have become more sexualized. [8]

How it’s getting worse

The more our society becomes sexually saturated, the more porn producers pump out harder and harder material to make sure they stay on the cutting edge. [9] It’s all about shock and novelty, which means that each new production is increasingly hardcore.

“Thirty years ago ‘hardcore’ pornography usually meant the explicit depiction of sexual intercourse,” wrote Dr. Norman Doidge, in his book on neuroscience, The Brain That Changes Itself. “Now hardcore has evolved and is increasingly dominated by the sadomasochistic themes … all involving scripts fusing sex with hatred and humiliation. Hardcore pornography now explores the world of perversion, while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago …. The comparatively tame softcore pictures of yesteryear … now show up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.” [10]

And not only is there more porn to watch, but also there are more ways than ever to watch it. [11] Today, not only do we have high-speed internet and HD videos, we’ve got it on devices that fit into our pockets. Families have gone from having one shared computer to often having multiple personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

As porn’s availability has risen, so have its devastating effects on its viewers, their relationships, and society at large. [12] As therapist John Woods recently wrote, pornography addiction “is no longer just a private problem. It is a public health problem.” [13]

Where we are today

Society’s opinion on pornography didn’t happen all at once. It was supported by the faulty scientific research of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, which attempted to normalize all forms of sexual activity, including pornography. It was brought into the mainstream by the marketing techniques of Hugh Hefner, who created the facade that porn is a refined, macho product. Then, technology made pornography affordable, accessible, and anonymous. All of these factors have led to the formation of a public opinion that states that pornography is a normal and healthy pursuit. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and the world needs to know it.

Related: 40 Reasons You Should Quit Watching Porn Today

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Citations

 [1] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 3; McCarthy, B. W. (2002). The Wife’s Role in Facilitating Recovery from Male Compulsive Sexual Behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 9, 4: 275–84; Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 7, 1 and 2: 31–58.
[2] Websense Research Shows Online Pornography Sites Continue Strong Growth. (2004). PRNewswire.com, April 4.
[3] Porn More Popular than Search. (2004). InternetWeek.com, June 4.
[4] Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 7, 1 and 2: 31–58.
[5] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 102; Caro, M. (2004). The New Skin Trade. Chicago Tribune, September 19.
[6] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.
[7] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.
[8] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.
[9] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 105.
[10] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 102.
[11] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 3; McCarthy, B. W. (2002). The Wife’s Role in Facilitating Recovery from Male Compulsive Sexual Behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 9, 4: 275–84.
[12] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 3, 19.
[13] Woods, J. (2012). Jamie Is 13 and Hasn’t Even Kissed a Girl. But He’s Now On the Sex Offender Register after Online Porn Warped His Mind. Daily Mail (U.K.), April 25.

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