Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation

Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation

1999, Sexuality  -   26 Comments
Ratings: 6.51/10 from 47 users.

Pornography: The Secret History of CivilisationAfter taking in the fast-paced anthropology lesson of this engaging six-part series produced for British television in 1999, it would seem that for most of civilization, pornography hasn't been such a secret after all.

The six lively episodes take playful account of that which is on more people's minds than will easily admit, and which has been an important, if often vilified part of world culture since humans could think about such things. This documentary is a stylish and tidy chronological account of erotic imagery that the episodes categorize from earliest recorded history to the latest (as of the end of the 20th century) prospects afforded by the Internet and virtual technology.

An array of interview subjects from scholars to porn stars talk about everything from the graphic images discovered amongst the ruins of Pompeii and the one-of-a-kind erotica traded among high-class Europeans, to what it's like for individuals to make and distribute their own adult encounters through the facility of their own bedroom camcorders.

Before it was demonized and censored when the printing press brought porn to the masses, it seems erotic drawings were a lot of jolly good fun that was not at all stigmatized. (One of the most amusing sequences is an interview with a prestigious, septuagenarian and erotic art historian who is interviewed about his specialty while reclining nude under the gaze of a woman sketching his portrait.)

Once the church became involved, deeming the depictions of man, woman, and beast doing what came naturally as obscene--a relatively modern classification - it moved into the shadows of sociological study. The episodes on photography, including still and moving pictures and the impact modern technology had in creating a porn industry are interesting, but not entirely enlightening for most people who have even a passing knowledge of the development of erotica from French postcards to adult home video.

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26 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Rocky Racoon

    Jimmy Swagart and his Protestant Capitalists are still on the air and raking it in. America doesn't like Rome's power. Some of those priests were actually Marxist you know-in fact some of them were murdered in South America standing up for the domestic population and participating in revolution. We sent in death squads. It all needs to go as far as I am concerned we need to revolutionize all of our social relations.

  2. Isabella

    Very good, but i wanted to hear the french part, it should have been subtitles. I also think they should have payed some attention to kama sutra and japaneese ukiyou-e.

  3. zaroon zafar

    m a muslim n my religion tells me that there is like bad sexual approach n 4 which there is punishment in hell n a gud sexual approach 4 which u get reward in heaven .... the bad includes these pornography,rape,adultery,anal sex etc n the gud one includes marriage or marriages n havin sex with ones spouse .... i think there is satanic elements involved in human sexuality thats y we get punishment 4 following them...

    1. Bruce Wilson

      Zaroon , Afghanistan is a muslin country where woman are seldom seen as they are basically slaves to male domination . Because woman are hidden away and dressed in black bags there is an element called bacha boys who are 13 - 15 years old , dress and dance like woman and in the end sodomized by older men . Call it what you like . I call it an example of the consequences of male dominated religion and the hypocrisy that goes hand in hand with archaic rules in religion . They are all cults and responsible for most of the unnecessary deaths in the world . Catholics have a similar problem with priests . Mohamed married a 6 year old . Justify that . All cults .

  4. morehame

    what the f is up with all the french parts

  5. TheRealMax

    I'm happy to hear that it dragged. That's progress.

  6. Maha Deva

    ok well i really liked the episodes on ancient porn....but the last few episodes dragged on a lot. found it ironic that something could make porn feel boring lol

  7. Jack1952

    @ eos

    The Catholic church has a centuries old tradition of confessing of sins to a priest. A person could do so knowing that they had complete anonymity and the priest was obliged to respect the confidentiality of the confessing church member. Those rogue priests took advantage of this church law. Modern thinking has come to understand that pedophilia is more than a sin. It is a compulsion that the pedophile cannot resist. This is something that the church has to realize. The pedophile will abuse again and should never be allowed to take advantage of church law to allow him access to victims and a haven when he is caught.
    I am not Catholic. As a matter of fact, I'm an atheist. Every organization has its corrupt members be it government, business, social group or school. It is unfair to point at an individual priest and call him a pedophile just because he is a priest. When clergy sex abuse was brought to light many priests were as shocked as the rest of us. Prosecute the guilty party and force the church leaders to quit protecting their own reputations. Pedophiles and those who protect them should face a court of law. Guilt by association is not guilt; its persecution.

    1. StillRV

      @eos; In addition to what @Jack explains here. The assumption of anonymity and secrecy involved in the confessional is quite similar to that of doctor patient confidentiality and attorney client privileged. By your reasoning then neither psychiatrists nor defense lawyers should "be allowed to exist". Many of those professionals are informed of similar abhorrent proclivities in those they work with and are equally silent on the matter. Just like the US in matters of political opinion the Catholics are a modern "soft target" for slander and negative critique. People like you feel you are fighting the corrupt system when really you are flocking to the media heard.

  8. Paul Glaspie

    There is a troublesome omission of three chapters of this documentary. From EP 2, 1/4; it jumps to EP 3, 2/4. Judging by the general high quality of the other (many) documentaries that I've viewed here, I would bet that this is an accidental transposition of the person or persons charged with uploading the videos. I do hope that it is corrected very soon because it is, in my opinion, a very important doc on a vital topic.

  9. Johnny Armageddon

    I find it so amusing that the church, which to this day still believes they have a right to rape small boys, deemed porn obscene. Its like Bob Marley or Charlie Sheen doing a "Say no to drugs" commercial.

    1. StillRV

      weak propagandized mindless argument. Their is no "belief" like you claim ya dolt. there are just as many politicians, teachers and lawn mowing professionals who do wrong like that. The difference is that reporting priests doing so sells more Coke Zero. grow up,

    2. Bruce Spart Ludlow

      Really? Just as many? You know, that sounds like a random thought that you just cooked up. If it isn't, please show where the League of Lawn Mowing Professionals supported legislation that prevented molested people from coming forward about their experiences?

      The Catholic Church did just that... Also, please cite your figures. Over the past 50 years, tens of thousands of counts of molestation have been served against Catholic priests (many of whom are STILL ACTIVE within the church). The Church is the scum of the earth. Please, get your head out of your ass. Or your Priest's ass, whichever it is.

    3. StillRV

      You are not worth the effort. Go troll your impotent rage on youtube or 4chan. Maybe go look up nambla contact them and see if you can get a list of its members and their professions. You are sad really.

    4. Bruce Spart Ludlow

      Priests should be more easily trusted than politicians! If you honestly disagree, then I apologize for arguing in the first place, since you are obviously retarded.

    5. StillRV

      Bruce, I am sorry but you are just another mindless bleating sheep who grabs onto a controversy such as what took place within the catholic church in regards to molestation. Sensationalized media drones like you have little to nothing to contribute to any discussion so my response to you will remain on a level you may understand. Yes some priests abused children. No not all of them. Yes some plumbers, carpenters, politicians, and pastry chefs abuse children, again not all of them. The fact that the priest is in a position of trust and influence makes it easier for them to do such things. Perhaps you should look more into causes and spend less time being a mindless reactionary tool. Some men with a proclivity toward such behavior may indeed seek a position such as priesthood in order to facilitate their goals. It is not the church that causes the action but the position which facilitates it. There have been abuses of children in schools, daycare facilities and camps in the past. By your (non retarded) reasoning all teachers, baby sitters, nannies, and camp counselors are pederasts.

    6. Jack1952

      Unfair. The church was caught up in internal politics. Most Catholic clergy abhors child sexual abuse. It became a complicated situation because the abusers took advantage of confession rules. Many priests were horrified by the situation those rogue priests placed the church in.

    7. EOS

      yeah right... buddy, not 2 weeks ago there was a case about some priest abusing little girls and guess what? the church covered everything. many priests were horrified? and many more decided to cover everything up and stay silent on that occasion. and many more still stay silent b/c knows how many similar stories are out there. this...obscene gathering of money mongering cultists called catholic church SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO EXIST. YOUR child could be next. Better prevent than cure.

  10. StillRV

    A little bit misleading here. Equating modern day pornography to those ancient forms is a stretch. No there is nothing morally wrong with the naked human body or even human sexual activity. There is something wrong with taking teenage girls with daddy issues, hooking them on drugs, promising them they will be a big movie star, and exploiting them sexually for profit until they fall apart. So many people will come to the defense of modern porn industry citing facts like these and the "free to do with your own body" argument but few of those advocates would ever wish to see their own loved ones involved. Paint on a roman wall is different than a teen under a donkey people.

    1. adilrye

      You are completely right, man. For example, when you watch porn (and let's be honest, we all have) and they go harder, girl always acts as if she likes it. In reality, she probably doesn't. In reality, she knows that if she doesn't do anal or do something of her personal comfort zone, she will fall because everyone else is doing hardcore stuff. It isn't an industry populated by nymphomaniacs who totally love hard sex with random people. In a lot of cases, it's just girls who get in hoping to make it big in Hollywood and are stuck doing it.

    2. disease bag

      I think you've taken this documentary the wrong way. They are not equating modern day pornography to ancient forms the way you think. I'm not saying that you are wrong on your statement about the porn industry, but today's industry is not what this film is about. It's about the evolution of images of sex by the Victorian society into what is classified as pornography. From the day's of when it was displayed freely in homes to when such images were first deemed obscene by Victorian's, making it porn by way of hiding it away.
      I do agree that today's porn industry is not a sex filled fantasy like they want you to think. It's a job and they do painful things for the shot and their pay.

    3. His Forever

      Crude, but true. Well said. I can't believe people would actually argue that there is no "evil" in porn. Common sense and any God-given conscience should do that! I won't waste my time on this one.

  11. alans

    Fresh for 1999.

  12. Maha Deva

    this was sort of a revelatory viewing for me. always nice to see "underground" culture in its varying forms. especially in a revolutionary context

  13. zefreespirit

    this should be shown to all the kids at some point...everyone would benefit

  14. NaoCat

    I never knew this stuff! All this madness about porn because of some uptight victorian scumbags? Outrageous!

    Good documentary, anyone who has an opinion about porn be it on the internet or TV should watch it. It's a lost chapter from our history books.