The evolution of pornography has evolved society itself as a result. Erotic frescoes adorn not only the walls of ancient Greek and Roman brothels but the estates of senators and the temples of the gods. The world knows Johannes Guttenberg’s first book printed on his then revolutionary printing-press was the Holy Bible, yet Donatien Alphonse François de Sade would not have the renown of his debased erotica without this very invention. The Pope could not have permitted Michelangelo to paint the fresco in the Sistine Chapel, which included numerous nude images, if the artist had not found fame with the nude marble David, an agalmatophilic expression of his homosexual tendencies.
How many American boys over the course of our history have desired elicit daguerreotypes (and eventually photographs) of bushy, naked French women? The growing popularity of comic strip cartoons found in newspapers during the Depression inspired the erotic Tijuana bibles, pornographic comic books, featuring “Blondie”, “Barney Google”, “Moon Mullins”, “Popeye”, “Tillie and Mac”, “Boots”, “Dick Tracy”, “L’il Orphan Annie”, “Betty Boop”, “Dixie Dugan”, “Flash Gordon”, and “Mutt and Jeff”. These bibles were sold “under the counter” or peddled on school yards and street corners not unlike modern drug dealers; even teenage boys in the Depression needed their pornographic “fix”.
When Thomas Edison invented his own motion-picture camera and filmed his assistant Fred Ott attempting to sneeze, can there any doubt that that very night, Edison’s assistants stole the camera from his laboratory and smuggled it to a brothel to film sexual intercourse with a prostitute? Could the second film in history have been a pornographic film?
The technological war between Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s Video Cassette Recorder formats was won the moment the conservative Japanese executives at Sony refused to allow the American adult-film industry to produce pornographic films on the Betamax videotape format. The battle may have continued for a couple of years, but Sony had been defeated the moment they made this critical error. But how could Sony have known America had this secret and insatiable appetite for viewing pornography in the privacy of their homes? No longer did men have to go to elicit “newsstands” to view pornographic movies, they could simply purchase movies on VCR cassettes and watch them, in their own living room, to their cock’s content.
The birth of internet pornography spurred numerous technological inventions. Why should pornographers shoot their pornographic photographs on 35mm color film, spend the time, money, and effort to develop the negatives, print photographs, scan said photographs into the computer, only to upload the photographs onto the internet, when they could take digital photos with digital cameras and eliminate most, if not all, of these steps? When there was a demand for higher quality pornographic images, the megapixels of the digital cameras had to increase. How long could men sit at their computers masturbating with their left hand while mouse-clicking still photographs with their right hand trying desperately to cycle through the photographs fast enough to create a modern zoetrope? Connoisseurs of pornography desired film quality pornography in the privacy of their homes, yet the bandwidth of the world-wide-web available to most internet users could not handle even the shortest clips and downloading clips of sufficient length to successfully masturbate could take all night. So the internet providers had to make broadband-speed internet connections available to the masses. The quality of web-cams was enhanced by the desire to see women (and homosexual men) naked live on the internet. Would there be a Facebook or eHarmony if there wasn’t Adult Friend Finder to pioneer the way? The phenomenons of YouTube, Netflix, and World of Warcraft would not have been possible without America’s unquenchable desire for internet pornography.
With the Marquis de Sade’s A Midsummer Night’s Wet Dream (Free Kindle eBook here), I return to the origins of pornography by writing an erotic book of an erotic play in Shakespearean verse. Pornography may advance technology, but literature is nothing if not cyclical.