From Vintage Porn to 4K: The History of the Beloved Pastime No One Talks About

    Sure, you may love watching porn– but do you ever wonder how we went from old times black and white porn cinemas to the internet playground we have today?

    As good little consumers, we like to be aware of the origin of the things that we spend our time and money on; its process, its fundamental function, its history. Among the world’s population– consumers of pornography definitely enjoy the big slice of the pie chart of consumption. While frequented by those over 18, there are definitely people well into their Golden Years that still enjoy a bit of streamed porn now and again, fondly remembering what it was like before the internet made it accessible to all. The war stories of talking the kid at the blockbuster counter into rummaging through the back room stash, how you’d have to snatch up your mother’s lingerie catalogues at just the precise moment, or that epic time that your friend got a VHS from his older brother, and you all crowded into a moldering basement. Sure, getting a hold of porn was half the fun, but how much do we really know about the actual history of porn?

    Outside of larger than life sideburns, and Farrah hair so big it threatened to overtake the fuzzy screen altogether– there is a whole lot more to the history of humble pornography. In fact, if we really want to talk about the history of porn, we’d have to go back to the Paleolithic age and start poking around cave drawings and weird etchings with impressively large breasts. Although the pornography’s recognize today– the stuff present in cinema, art, animation and comics– began much later. “The modern concept of pornography was actually started in the Victorian era, with black and white porn, depicted in silent films and photography.” Porndoe.com, a site dedicated to all things internet porn, tells us that modern pornography didn’t start until the 1800’s, but once it did– it really took off.

    History of Porn: Vintage Porn Movies and Public Cinema

    In the 1930’s, an era that we could easily consider the golden age of vintage porn movies, nudity and eroticism in art were completely normalized. It was during this period that even highly reputable publications were smattered with hand drawn sexual scenes, depicting characters of political life, celebrities and even our favorite cartoons, like Walt Disney characters and popular comic strip icons– in rather compromising positions. Animated sexuality was the first wave of media present pornography, taking the open eroticism of the 1920’s and bringing it to life in print.

    By the 1940s, films began to be produced clandestinely by amateurs at home enthusiasts. But processing film required a great deal of time and resources, leading some people to use their own bathtubs to wash negatives, during a time when developing facilities were not available to the common man. Mostly because they were usually owned by the mob. The bathtub made films were then circulated privately or through street vendors, as puritan belief systems had caught up with social structure and sexuality quickly became lewd. During this time, being caught viewing, distributing, or just being in possession of filmed erotica carried with it the risk of ending up in prison.

    Due to these difficulties, caused by the new found prohibitions and censorship, it wasn’t really until the 1970s, after pornography was legalized in Denmark, that the US was able to make any professional quality pornography. By 1973, the US had finally come around again and lobbied to end pornography bans. Bringing with it a rush to create feature length films dedicated to ridiculous storylines and a whole lot of skin. Many of these movies were shown to large audiences in public cinemas. Which for many was a testament to their new found enlightenment, shrugging off the shackles of conformity. For others, it was just a little bit weird, and not exactly sanitary.

    So came the technological push to find a way to produce these films in such a format that they could be enjoyed in the privacy of our own homes. The technological change happened quickly and near completely, as directors realized that continuing to shoot on film was no longer a profitable option– partly because production values often overtook box office returns, and partly because people began to gravitate toward more private showings of skin flicks.

    Bringing it Back Home

    This change took movies out of the theatres and into the home, marking the end of the era of big budget productions and the glamour of pornography. As porn went to home video, the scenes became rawer, the stories became shorter, and the fetishes got much more prolific. Mostly because standard VHS recordings could only hold so many hours of footage and it was quickly realized that few people watched to watch a 2-hour porno.

    Up until the late 1990s, vintage porn movies and amateur video were widely disseminated across the US, coming to a close once DVDs and the internet really took hold of the industry. It was from then on, that the internet became the preferred source of pornography for many people, offering privacy, ease of accessibility, a wide range of available footage, as well as a new foundsocial component. The advent of digital cameras quickly blurred the boundaries between film, photography, professional, and amateur productions. Further democratizing the industry, as access to technology also became more widely distributed. Meaning that anyone with a webcam could easily become the pornstar of someone’s dreams.

    The digital format allows photographers and filmmakers to manipulate images in ways previously impossible, creating fantastic new scenarios and environments, all without the need for a Hollywood budget. But this progress is not at odds with history; on the contrary, new found technologies have been used to preserve the now rarified and coveted vintage and black and white porn. Allowing us to indulge in the film that many risked imprisonments to make, or those that chanced going to a packed theatre to view.

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