Inquiry: The Death of “Pornography”  

Credit: Roberto Ferri, Artist

by LJ Frank

Humans invent language. Meanings of words evolve. And words are affected in part by culture, beliefs, politics and money.

The etymology of the word pornography is rooted in French and Greek from pornographie and pornographos in the mid 1800s and further back it’s rooted in the use or conveyance of obscene writings, pictures and drawings. It has further roots in economic, political and religious values as determined by people with agendas.  

From its beginnings pornography was viewed as a tool of marketing for or against from an ecclesiastical, political, economic and cultural perspective. The word had moral and monetary value.

Today the word has reached the juncture of overkill. What is the reality? Early on pornography as noted, was viewed as a source of income along with other titillations. And titillation sells. There’s always a buyer. Is it worse than a bank and a country that deals in arms shipments to warlords fighting skirmishes and battles around the world and killing thousands of people? Indeed what is pornography? What is the obscenity upon which pornography is based? Upon whose blood?

The information on the subject whether scholarly articles, books, digital format, video and internet and the interviews are voluminous. Pornography and it’s alleged addiction is not listed in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

I vividly recall decades ago a Hindu woman I met near Bombay, India who suggested that poverty was the worse form of obscenity and was violence to the human spirit. It was pornography in suffocating detail. Every day she was being faced with the obscenity of living in filth from which she was unable to extract herself. Pornography was not about consensual sex. It was in the original roots of its meaning an obscenity to human well-being. Things get twisted very quickly depending how much money is involved.

It has been pointed out that today anything can be viewed as pornographic from shoes, feet, breasts, vaginas, penises to ice cream and squash porn. It’s a long list. If anything can be viewed as potential porn what is the purpose of it as a marketing tool? Is it simply money? Or is a need being or not being filled – especially applicable during a pandemic or the purpose of eschewing disease?

We see pictures on the television and internet every day focusing on what humans are capable of doing to other humans that could be classified as forms of insanity and certainly not safe or consensual.  Violence against another human has an ancient history. And violence is an obscenity.

Sex and its related sensual explorations such as BDSM and different lifestyles and explicit sex, are not pornographic, if safe, sane and consensual. On the other hand, I question whether national politics is safe, sane and consensual, especially under an autocracy or dictatorship.

In the tumultuous world we live where the potential for upheaval and revolution exists is it time we pronounce the death of pornography as the word has entered an existential void?

The violence associated with poverty, war, concentration camps, border camps for migrants to police brutality, pandemics, rising unemployment, racism and human greed – are these not obscenities to the integrity of humanity? Are these not the real obscenities in which billions of dollars are being made off the plight of the impoverished and the shrinking middle-class?

The future? Could it be in our merging human/humanoid future where perhaps our skin is all variations in tones and pigmentation or perhaps transparent will we try to find ways to secure new prejudices? Who will decide? How will we define citizen in any given country? Who will make the rules and rituals? What will we be faced with assuming humans are still around? Or will the remaining humans merely be the wealthiest of voyeurs titillated watching the humanoids explore their hardware on a different level with multi-colored attachments unimagined today?

The definition of pornography has outlived its usefulness! Perhaps a musical piece needs to be composed to commemorate its passing.