The Old Days of Pornography

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Pompeii’s Erotic Artworks that Shattered Victorian Society

It’s pointless to pretend that “Pornography” is something people have never heard of. It got wings with the advent of the internet. According to “some,” it seems pornography has a long stretch over history. The term “according to some” was used here for an apparent reason.

Some pornographic expressions today were not strange to the society who created them. Creations that were considered very ordinary by some cultures were considered by others to be sinful, obscene creations. Besides, these attitudes change over time.

Cities Hidden Under Ashes

The current acceptance of pornographic expressions is varied. Some believe that they are to be enjoyed secretly, while others believe that they are sinful creations. However, an event that directly influenced the current worldview of these publications took place 2000 years ago in Italy. It is generally believed that in the 79th century AD Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum, two Roman cities. Though they were destroyed, cities arguably were safer than any other Roman cities. It was the sake of good as a vast collection of murals and other antiquities left found safely preserved there. Systematic excavations in the vicinity of Pompeii and Herculaneum began in the mid-18thcentury. When King of Nepals’, Charles VII visited excavating sites in 1952, a found statue gave rise to a great deal of controversy. The marble statue from Herculaneum depicts Greek and Roman god “Pan” semi-human – goat figure having sex with a nanny goat. King Charles decided to hide it from the public and ordered stop excavations.

The Church, Victorian Society, and Historic Rome

Adherence to the moral denominations defined by the Catholic Church became the norm in Italy during the period. It is questionable though the Church’s powers diminished over the next century due to political scenario, how the measure of morality changed.

A tradition of drawing and sculpture sponsored by the Church or high-ranking Italian families originated in Italy around the 15th century. It later spread to other areas recognize as the Renaissance. Nude human figures were often seen here, but such models, especially those sponsored by the Church, were not generally regarded as erotic expressions. They often contained tales of the divine, and it was hoped that the viewer would look at them in that holy sense. These showed full nude paintings or sculptures of men but covered the female genitalia. Such expressions were not generally accepted for common men and women, except in the divine form. If there were such paintings, were only in a private collection and not in public exhibitions.

The paintings by Michel Angelo at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican were nude, typically not a style in the pope’s domain. Although themed religious, the arts were considered vulgar to some and distorted in some cases. 

The Renaissance of Venus – Walter T. Crane – 1877

Although there were instances during the Middle Ages or the Renaissance where pornographic expressions were portrayed in various books or other media, they were not popular with the general public. The ruling class generally controlled the distribution of them to the public, considering though not an issue to them, the ordinary community would be corrupted. As part of this process, Pope Paul IV first published a catalog of "forbidden books" in 1559, which included books on moral and religious issues.
 

Victorian Morality

19th-century world power source, Great Britain spread its traditions throughout the world. The traditional value systems they adopted are still consciously or unconsciously rooted in many societies were named after Victoria, Queen of England for most of the 19th century, refer to as Victorian morality. Archaeological artifacts and paintings in the Pompeii and Herculaneum were not only incompatible with Catholic and Victorian morality and also opposed. It’s reasonable if the restriction is only for the Pan and Nanny Goat cause the extreme here, but all other paintings and antiquities found in these cities were also controversial. These included not only couples who had sex, but also homo-sexual, men – women oral sex with anal intercourse between men and women, and sexual intercourse involving more than two.

Pompeii Roman Fresco from Casa dei Casti Amanti

Pompeii and Herculaneum’s findings reveal that such paintings were found in many homes, brothels, and Roman bath places.  Having a massive collection of such paintings at home was also a reflection of the person’s economic strength and can conclude that prosperous Roman society considered those arts as ordinary. 

Introduction of pornography

The findings came as a shock to Victorian society, which considered it a moral issue even to see a woman’s naked ankle. Sex was a topic of public discussion in Roman society, but in Victorian society, such things discussed secretly. Thus, with the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the cultural conflict between ancient Roman civilization and Victorian culture in the 19th century gave rise to the concept of erotic expression.

Some scholars state that pornography is not a natural classification but a legacy of the Victorian concept. That it is a concept of modern culture, before Victorian society, there was no need to classify such.

The word pornography was added to the English vocabulary in 1857. In the same year, the British Parliament passed the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. It banned the sale of pornographic material and gave the judiciary the power to destroy them. The judiciary was also empowered to decide whether something as “obscene.” 

Art historian Allison Smith points out that Victorian society thought that exposing people to pornography would lead to excessive masturbation. It was also believed that males could become infertile. It was also suggested that civilizations could be destroyed by engaging in obscene acts, citing the Roman Empire as one historical example.

While the discussion of sexuality in English society was classified as “erotic expressions,” a different kind of change was taking place in European culture. 

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