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Marianna Beck

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Excerpts from Libidomag article by Marianna Beck

The Roots of Western Pornography

Sex has been depicted in many forms and in many cultures over thousands of years. The idea of fusing images with explicit text with the intention of either arousing or enraging the viewer -- not to mention intentionally violating social boundaries -- is a largely Western construct. The invention of the printing press, the emergence of the novel, the creation of an entrepreneurial middle class along with the enormous changes wrought by the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, all contributed to its development.

The balance between the political and sexual components of pornography has fluctuated over time. In 16th-century Italy, politics played a far greater role in its formation that it did in 19th-century England, when its major function was to arouse the reader. In its earliest incarnation in 16th- and 17th-century European literature, pornography’s primary goal was subversion, developing largely out of a need for artists and writers to push political boundaries. What better way to draw attention to a corrupt church official or politician than to show him in an erect state, about to have sex with a nun? During the French Revolution, a pamphlet depicting Queen Marie-Antoinette in the midst of an orgy was a powerful, if not misogynistic, way to incite a starving mob already enraged over aristocratic excess. --http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/europorn01.html [Jan 2006]

The French Revolution and the Spread of Politically-Motivated Pornography
By Marianna Beck, Ph.D.

During the French Revolution, pornography acquired a wide, new audience — large numbers of working class people. By undermining the old regime, politically-motivated pornography helped bring about the revolution. By the way, the dildo the woman is holding is inscribed with the words: "The Rights of Man."

In the years leading up to the French Revolution, politically motivated pornography increased steadily, reaching a fevered pitch in both volume and vitriol after the presses were freed in 1789. The prime targets were the aristocracy and the clergy, and both groups were frequently depicted as impotent, disease-ridden and morally corrupt. Paradoxically, sexually oriented materials, which had once been the sole domain of the upper classes, now became the weapon used by the lower classes against the despised aristocrats. --http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/europorn04.html [Jan 2006]

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