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Artsy Porn

 

[Music]
[Applause]
from the dawn of civilization mankind
has found ways to record sexual
experience from the paintbrush to the
printing press through the birth of
photography and film to videotape and
the infinite possibilities of the
computer humanity has used every
technological step forward to portray
the sexual act
each new medium has created new
pornographic forms bringing it to an
ever broader audience in turn
technological advances have frequently
been propelled by the powerful urge to
see image or subsets in this series we
trace the tangled relationship between
pornography and technology and uncover
the secret history of civilization
pornography hasn’t always existed it’s
not a natural idea is an invention of
Victorian science and most other
cultures don’t have a concept of
pornography
we begin with a tale of two
civilizations the ancient Romans and the
Victorians the first has been dead and
buried for nearly two millennia the
second are our nearest ancestors whose
values and concerns we inherit in the
collision of these two powerful cultures
we find the origins of what we now know
as pornography pornography is the
inheritance of Victorian
conceptualizations we like to think that
pornography is natural it’s not natural
it’s a modern cultural invention and the
discovery of Pompeii was profoundly
important in the history of the term
[Music]
in the mid 18th century an Italian
peasant stumbled upon the remains of the
ancient Roman city of Pompeii buried by
the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 17
centuries earlier
as excavators dug they revealed an
untouched record of ancient Roman life
the frozen city immediately gripped the
public imagination
[Music]
but as the excavators uncovered more of
this petrified town they experienced the
first tremors of unease as each new
Villa was revealed this unease turned to
anxiety and anxiety to panic the noble
ancient world that they were exposing
was one which in their eyes was
contaminated at every term by the
obscene
[Music]
among the first objects they unearthed
was a marble statue it depicted the
Roman god Pan in explicit sexual
intercourse with a goat
provoking both horror and fascination
the excavators panicked response to this
image began a process which would
culminate in the legal prohibition of
sexually explicit material which today
we describe as pornography the removing
of the pen and the goat from the culture
that it was embedded in and putting it
away started a process that still
continues today
that is cordoning off sexual
representation from the rest of life for
the Romans it was part of continuum for
us it’s still a very scary thing we
believe in the power of images of sex to
create disturbance
[Music]
[Music]
what happened when we discovered Pompeii
was that for the first time it became
impossible to avoid the fact that you
could see pictures of people copulating
all over rooms all over painted walls
this caused immense trouble for the
people who discovered all this imagery
the whole of Europe traced its own roots
in different ways back to classical
culture so the discovery of Pompeii and
its obscenity was a threat not just to
people’s idea of the ancient world but
to their very idea of who they were
so what did you do with it what they’ve
tried to do first of all was deny it and
then when it became quite impossible to
deny it had to be somehow locked away
it couldn’t be destroyed because of the
fascination with it’s great new
classical source and it couldn’t be put
on display so people discovered the idea
of classifying it but classifying it
away hiding it in a museum
the rooms containing the obscene
paintings were barred and bolted and all
movable objects like the pan and the
goat were transported to a secret room
within the Museo de Beauvoir Nikko at
nearby Naples and placed under lock and
key
this woman became known as the secret
museum
[Music]
well here we have it what remains of the
secret Museum in Naples
anything that came in that was regarded
as obscene was shoved in here and this
piece here extraordinary piece of work
is in a sense the beginning of the
collection and because here on the face
of it we have one of the most
unacceptable scenes you could ask for
explicit best eality but for the Romans
this could be nothing but a source of
amusement and admiration at its wit and
its skill every detail is worked out
lovingly so that if you look at the face
of pan you see he has a nose that’s
partly human but it’s turning into a
goat’s nose and you have the nanny goat
with these little dewlaps hanging from
her and so on that detailing is applied
to the sexual congress – normally with a
statue the bits that you can’t easily
see are only roughed out but with this
if you peer down and look in detail you
find that the genitals both of pan and
the nanny goat are fully visible
and this was in its original context
displayed an absolutely full public view
[Music]
there is absolutely no way to deal with
it except lock it up and only let
gentlemen see it down to another certain
culture and keep it away from people who
are ignorant and of course that includes
the poor women and children remember
just to see you know a woman’s pain
court was considered erotic to find all
these different kinds of sexual
representation blow their lives
[Music]
here we have for instance a painting
that has suffered from probably a
prudish digger
the woman is guiding the man’s penis
into a vagina and that whole area has
been two-faced it makes it harder to
figure out what the meaning of this
particular image is and why the man’s
hand is up like this in the air he’s
wearing a banquet wreath which means
that he’s in a party mood and she has
her hair all done up as well she’s quite
pretty and she’s straddling him and it’s
obviously um time to go to the next
stage this particular picture I think
was the ps2 high C stocks of this
particular room now this dates to
probably about 10 years before Vesuvius
erupted maybe the 60s ad she has her
right knee drawn up behind his torso and
he’s lifted her her left leg up so that
he can get better entrance these were
proper pictures to have in their house
if you have a proper picture collection
you must have some really good pictures
of people doing it and if you don’t well
you just don’t have any taste you don’t
understand the proper values of your
society and what we do by cordoning it
all off and putting it into a secret
room is to create pornography
essentially we created by putting this
stuff out of Romans lives
until the mid 19th century the modern
concept of pornography did not exist
there was no word to describe images on
the basis of their sexual content
because one had not been needed the word
pornography itself is an arcane Greek
term and it first appears in an English
medical dictionary in 1857 initially the
word was neutral used to describe social
and medical texts on the rapidly
accelerating problem of prostitution but
within the space of five years a second
morally pejorative definition appears in
Webster’s dictionary this is the word as
we now understand it pornography was
invented by the Victorians as a term in
at least the sense that we think about
pornography today it’s a way in which
culture was trying to police itself the
Victorians really a wide that if people
were exposed privately to sexually
explicit home imagery this would
actually disturb the person who was
consuming these images and I suppose the
ultimate fear was that they would resort
to masturbation and I’m hang resorted to
this they would come addicted they would
want to consume more or more more and
more and therefore they would becomes of
constant masturbators the ultimate fear
being that um in losing this of sacred
seed men would become enfeebled they
will become a feminized and they would
degenerate and the Victorians did draw
equations with other cultures the Roman
Empire was seen to decline throughs of
new must mate reform of behavior
the last thing in the world that would
have occurred to her Roman looking at
one of these pictures in one of these
rooms would be to masturbate that was a
waste of a good thing one would actually
want to have some sort of sex that was a
lot more stimulating more fun these are
really images that are meant to give you
a sense of life’s pleasures and you know
excavators found them everywhere they
found them in plain view in the public
areas of a house they found them
sometimes in rooms like this which are
off the main room of the house sometimes
they found them off of dining suites
what it shows is that people were proud
of them they wanted to show them to the
people who came to see them in their
houses the Victorians assumed that these
images were must debated over in private
but the Roman house was an open public
space they did not even have a word for
privacy without the notion of privacy
the concept of pornography would have
been incomprehensible once privacy
exists pornography becomes possible for
the Victorians privacy is a central
element you read in private you have
these secret places and they lead to
secret acts and a lot of Victorian
regulation is to do with trying to
control those elements of secrecy in
Rome to talk very generally we talk
about the public sense of the self a
Romans sexuality was talked about in the
public light of day and there wasn’t
that sense of a secret private hidden
realm where pornography took place
[Music]
in 1857 just as the word first appeared
in the dictionary the Victorians were
launching an official campaign against
obscenity
the obscene publications Act which
banned the sale of pornographic works
was passed by Parliament the
intervention of the state in the arena
of sexual imagery was one of the most
dramatic and far-reaching undertakings
of the century it shifted the focus from
sex itself and created a legal structure
around the act of looking at sex that
still exists today
pornography starts when you want to have
state regulation when you want to draw
up a set of laws that are going to try
and control the images in ancient Rome
there were images of sexuality all
around sexuality was a normal part of
life you could see erect phalluses you
could see images of people copulating
you could see bawdy Roman comedies but
there were ways of regulating sexual
behavior through just general forms of
social regulation the trouble comes when
you start to say that the problem is in
the object in the image itself and not
in the person who’s looking because you
can’t regulate the internal feelings of
a person you can’t say there is a law
against being sexually stimulated the
Victorians had to try and draw up a list
of things that were likely to as they
put it
depraved and corrupt and all the
problems of legislation come from this
tension that in the ancient world it was
a problem for self control as opposed to
in the modern world where we try and
regulate images by state law pictures
never hurt anybody and the Romans said
this over and over again particularly
pictures of sex if you were to say to me
an ancient Roman living in this house
you can’t look at this picture it’s bad
I would laugh at you and say well what
do you know that I don’t
no there’s nothing bad about this in
fact it’s quite beautiful I guess I
would ask you you mean it’s badly
painted what they were concerned with
was regulating class and regulating who
did what to whom and that’s an entirely
different matter
[Applause]
while the Romans did not repress any
sexual images sexual behavior was
subject to strict social control if
you’re a male you must penetrate only
that is you insert your penis into the
mouths anus or vagina of another person
you never allow yourself to be
penetrated and here we have a woman who
is kneeling by the side of a bed and
fellating a man any self-respecting
woman including even a poor woman would
never admit to ever doing this because
it was the province of prostitutes
something would have to pay a prostitute
to do they have this fixation on the
purity of the mouth the various
discourses about the pure mouth relate
immediately – and this is quite
interesting – oratory the mouth is the
organ of speech and it’s the way that
you end up communicating in the
political commonweal it’s the way you
make yourself a true citizen now this is
yet another sexual role turned upside
down the Romans thought of Connie Lingus
not as the man’s tongue invading the
woman’s vagina but rather as her vagina
penetrating his mouth she was forcing
her vagina unto the mouth of a man and
imagine what this means in terms of oral
purity for the man it’s just as bad if
not worse then
performing fellatio on a male the only
reaction that a roman could have looking
at these paintings less outrageous
laughter it’s not that they’re explicit
it’s that they’re showing activities
that are specifically taboo in very
specific ways and they’re put here in
the suburban bath for a very specific
purpose when you come in to bathe what
you do is you take your clothes off of
course in the dressing room and the
Romans believed rather superstitiously
that if someone looked at you and you
were particularly beautiful they could
emanate particles from their eyes known
as the evil eye that would harm you or
even make you sick and kill you
so the antidote for that in many places
not just here is to get people to laugh
because you can’t be their grudging your
envying putting your evil eye into
somebody if everybody is cackling and
giggling and having a great time and
it’s by breaking these rules in visual
imagery that the artist got people to
laugh here he takes all of the
stereotypical proper things that we’re
supposed to do
and turns them upside down the
transgressive images of Pompeii were
locked away from view and the idea that
sexual images would harm was now
enshrined in law nineteenth-century
culture had succeeded in creating two
secret museums the literal one in Naples
and a metaphorical one which now existed
in a legal document and in the minds of
an entire culture
one of the ideas integral to pornography
is that it has an aggressive power
particularly on the vulnerable of
Victorian society that’s to save the
Victorian society women children and the
working classes what the secret museum
did was to segregate this material as
the word pornography tries to segregate
a set of ideas and make the material
unavailable to precisely those people so
in a sense the secret museum does two
objects what pornography is doing two
ideas it’s trying to create a special
space where we can keep the obscene but
keep it away from the people we don’t
want to have contact with it
[Music]
[Music]
by the mid 19th century the secret
museum had been accepted as a means of
covertly limiting access to the
pornography of the past just as the
obscene publications Act was regulating
the pornography of the present across
Europe public institutions formed their
own secret cabinets in 1865 her museum
secretin was established at the British
Museum in London
the secretin housed the collection of
the erotic connoisseur George wit wit
was elected to the Royal College of
Surgeons at the early age of 29 but
later abandoned his medical career and
sailed to Australia he transferred his
energies to banking and began
consolidating his collection
which returned to London a wealthy man
bringing his collection with him but in
1865 he fell seriously ill when he
recovered he wrote to the board of the
British Museum donating his entire
collection within the secretin is an
object that links which to the network
of gentlemen connoisseurs who had
penetrated the secret Museum of Naples a
terracotta copy of the infamous pan and
the goat one of the first hostages to
the secret museum pointing to a
clandestine network have connoisseurs
and scholars public museums and covert
private collections those persons
wishing to see the collections within
the secretin would have written to the
director of the museum or to the head
keeper and there were they would have
gone through a very very stringent
cross-examination if you like it was
carefully calculated to weed out all but
the most scholarly and the most honest
so no one would be allowed to see this
collection unless basically that they
were men they were middle class and they
were scholars and these are his his own
scrapbooks and these are all wits
original notes and collected drawings
photographs and representations of
material which he was interested in
which he collected himself which had
seen other museums and probably also in
other private collections and you can
see whit’s own copy of the catalogue of
the secret Museum in Naples here
with his own bookmark so we have a link
here between the secret Museum in Naples
and collectors living in London in the
middle of the nineteenth century
the scrapbooks the collections
themselves tell us something about a
very private world of collecting that
was a very exclusive
activity generally conducted by
gentlemen scholars well-educated people
and it’s quite clear from many of the
scrapbooks that a lot of this until was
being exchanged between collectors that
somebody who’d seen something in a
museum in another country had drawn item
and sent an illustration to it and
basically was looking at the Proceedings
of a very small club of people through
these scrapbooks there were gentlemen of
taste arbiters of taste who felt that
they could actually identify the fine
line between obscenity or not themselves
this was this was up to them and nobody
else the learning and social standing of
erotic connoisseurs like wit and his
associates placed them beyond the reach
of the obscene publications act these
were men who could be trusted to
maintain an icy objectivity towards
material which might inflame those with
weaker constitutions these were the
possessive guardians of the secret
Museum a connoisseur has to be someone
who’s wealthy usually a gentleman of
property and of money in order to travel
a connoisseur also has to be a person of
knowledge they have to have the time and
the leisure to accumulate information
and to digest it analyze it and publish
it thirdly the connoisseur has to be
someone who seemed to be office of state
of mind or has the aesthetic sensibility
to actually some look upon a whole
variety of sexually explicit images and
analyze them the idea being for that for
a man and respectable man the mind on
the moral sense had to win over the
baser instincts which was still there
but they had to be soft locked away
sealed away from the public face the
leisured Network of 19th century
scholars and amateur explorers did not
confine themselves to the pornographic
spoils of Pompeii
they expanded their inquiries even
beyond the limits of the British Empire
as they scoured the globe for erotic
imagery one by one ancient cultures
revealed their erotic secrets from the
rock carvings of prehistory to the
funeral offerings of the Moche of
ancient Peru in parts of South America
it is still believed that the world of
the dead is an inversion of the world of
the living an exact opposite of reality
the Moche therefore offered images of
non fertile sex to their ancestors in
the hope that these would be reversed in
the world of the dead and sent back to
the living in the form of fertility
these scenes are in fact scenes that are
the reverse of real fertility scenes so
instead instead of seeing scenes of
vaginal copulation you see in great
majority scenes that do not lead to poor
creation such as masturbation fellatio
Annelle copulation and so forth this
scene is a very rare scene and it shows
a woman performing a fellatio on an
important individual sitting on the
throne we often see an expression of
disgust almost in the face of the woman
or she’s trying to back up from the
fellatio itself and it’s possibly
because the the Moche want to represent
the fact that this is not a scene of
pleasure this is not just to please the
man but indeed to perform of religious
act the muche sexual imagery though
explicit has little to do with
stimulating desire indeed many of the
images make a direct and ominous
connection between sex and death this is
a representation of a skeleton
masturbating and we see very clearly
this at this point the relation between
death and sexual scenes of sexual
rituals we often see with this sexual
representation people having their face
already with the nose cut out and
the lips completely excised or
completely removed and indeed you may
have had people who were mutilated like
that in order to look like like
literally living dead
[Music]
the cryptic sexual symbolism of ancient
cultures fed the 19th century obsession
with classification new sciences were
bringing the chaos of the world under
the control of human knowledge
the instinct was to name to define and
contain through the regulation of the
present and the classification of the
past all this material is being
excavated from the past therefore the
data has to be classified it has to be
am cataloged and in doing so on the
scholars or the antiquarians are
actually making sense of the past also
by implication are making some sense of
their own era the way in which they
actually approach on the past so on the
idea of classification is a means of
disseminating knowledge but at the same
time it’s a way of trying to exert
control over that knowledge faced with
ambiguity our instinct is to sort and to
categorize and to and to name and the
the 19th century is a period when for
instance all the animals and all the
plants were all identified species and
the range and the diversity of human
sexuality gets chopped up into a a
series of of categories and then it’s
quite hard to deal with ambiguous
evidence if perhaps the society didn’t
work by those categories
as the archaeologists of the 19th
century chipped away at the past they
exposed barely readable sexual symbols
images which defied and still defy easy
analysis a lot of this stuff is quite
ambiguous even at the most basic level
between male and female and you can find
all kinds of sexual elements but not in
a not in a in the sort of absolutely
straightforward way you can say this is
what’s going on this is a little carving
from prehistoric Malta and it shows a
woman with the hands between her legs
it’s the kind of ambiguous imagery
nearly all the prehistoric stuff is and
what’s she doing is she giving birth is
she masturbating is she’s just sitting
there with their hands on the on the top
of the thighs
[Music]
this one is another beautiful carving
and it seems to show a lion and the
world lives
I said Europe licking an erect penis
goodness knows what that means and
whether it’s real or or fantasy I don’t
know
the Victorian erotic scholar approached
his material with the aim of removing
ambiguity of fixing and controlling it
but he was caught in a cultural paradox
in order to classify and control sexual
material he needed to discuss it for it
to be discussed it needed to be
published but once published the
information would become public where
xanthium secret museum the objects can
be kept under lock and key the problem
is when you start cataloging that
material classify it and make it
available in the form of books and of
course we have to bear in mind this in
an era of increasing technology this
knowledge can become promiscuous and the
obscene publications Act was passed in
response to a perceived increase instead
of new mass forms of literature and some
new visual on forms which have seen thee
proliferating throughout the various
classes in society and contaminating on
them so the question therefore is how
far should this knowledge become
available to other people in society if
it falls into their hands what use are
they going to make of it and I think
this anxiety can be seen in these
catalogs of the secret museum
we have taken all the Prudential
measures applicable to such a collection
of engravings and text we have
endeavored to make its reading
inaccessible so to speak too poorly
educated persons as well as to those
whose sex and age forbid any exception
to the laws of decency and modesty the
way of confining access to that material
is to impose these of safeguards within
the text itself one famous example of
that I suppose are the illustrations for
Barry’s catalogue of the secret Museum
in Naples published in the 1870s the
engravers of these objects are actually
instructed to diminish the scale of the
genitals so the eye is not drawn and
Julie to them and where there are scenes
of copulation on those of areas are
actually emitted altogether and have
covered with these fog patches the truly
erotic nude at any of these rare
subjects has they have I been stripped
of the excessively crude and impertinent
features that marked the originals they
have lost their importance sometimes
without detriment
they have utterly vanished now this
obviously reveals some sort of anxiety
doesn’t it really you do get these of
them justifications these continual
justifications is oscillation between
describing works in a way that it seems
to be some rousing desire and yet
immediately having to some shut down
those responses and quite a few times
this guard of self-control or neutrality
breaks down in sessions of flashes of
fantasy or imagination the marble seems
to palpitate in contemplating it modesty
takes alarm desire begins to awake and
imagination to kill all
and we are obliged to hurry away in
order to restore her agitated senses to
the original tranquility it’s one of the
myths of the 20th century the Victorians
were very repressed about sexuality it’s
not true what they were was passionate
about repressing and the way to repress
it was constantly to say you mustn’t
talk about it of course by saying you
mustn’t talk about it precisely what
you’re doing is talking about it
once Parag Rafi was defined was it came
into being the debate is set up and the
only way on from there with knowledge
being disseminated images being
disseminated is that the debate is going
to spread out and it’s going to
proliferate and it’s basically it’s
going to generate and regenerate itself
there’s no way it can be brought back
and contained
[Music]
you
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[Music]
in Dorset a chalk figure probably Roman
stands guard over the village of Cerne
Abbas without doubt his most
distinguishing feature is a large erect
phallus which measures over eight feet
in length the ceramist giant is a really
telling example of how the erect penis
became hugely problematic in the 19th
century we have records of what the
figure was like from 1764 with his big
club and with his erect penis and his
big balls already by 1774 the the 19th
century anxiety is beginning to show
itself he’s just the same except his
cock and balls have now disappeared by
1842 we’re into the Victorian era and at
that point the details of their air down
to his ribs and then everything below
that just was just the outline he’s got
no parts he’s got their navel he’s got
no anything down there at all
[Music]
for the entire 19th century the CERN
giant’s palace was excised without the
weapon that he had brandished he was now
no more than a hollow threat and though
his phallus was eventually replaced in
the early years of this century his
symbolic emasculation indicates a huge
shift in attitude while modern culture
hides the phallus many ancient cultures
displayed it everywhere this is a statue
of Krampus he punishes those who steal
from the garden and the way he punishes
them is with this with his phallus and
he stuffs anybody on the boy/girl man
woman who dares to steal from the garden
so this is his weapon but he’s a comic
God as well and people are supposed to
laugh at the Priapus because the Romans
followed the Greeks and believing that
the proper aesthetic penis for the male
is a small one no one would ever want to
admit having a big remember there’s a
wonderful quote in a comedy by
Aristophanes and he says now if you
follow the right philosophy you’re going
to end up with broad shoulders a big
butt in a small dick and if you don’t
you’ll end up with hunched shoulders a
slack bud and a big one
the glance at the contents of the secret
museum is ample demonstration of the
Victorians reaction to the phallus but
in Roman culture the symbol was used
both as decoration and as a good-luck
charm
wherever there’s danger a liminal space
a threshold a transition zone is in
virtually all culture a point of danger
as you go from one thing to another as
you go from public space to private
space at that point you use the potent
symbol for protection the phallus
therefore belongs at the front door this
object here is a home or a Priapus and
he’s pouring an offering from a little
oil bottle here onto his own palace just
as the householders would presumably
make little offerings to the phallus at
the door so it’s a self offering phallus
and again that this is simply to ward
off evil spirits
to bring good luck to the house but it’s
also done with humor with artistic style
with charm I think it’s incredibly hard
to explain the strength of our taboo
about the phallus it’s not clear that
there’s anything in the Bible or any
other text that completely makes it
unacceptable but historically the erect
penis has become the unknowable object
and that is the common theme of
virtually everything in this
pornographic collection that the penis
is there visible
despite graters of liberal legislation
in the 20th century you could say that
those are those rules more anxiety
attached to that area the effect on on
penis in fact I think the one thing you
cannot actually show in math circulated
literature or performance is an erect
penis or the penis in the process of
transformation even in the 20th century
so-called liberated society that’s still
the taboo image well for who who is
being protected and from what one can’t
help wondering whether it isn’t
something to do with phallic r attic
power that men need now to keep the
penis the phallus veiled in some way
hidden after all who is being protected
from this image who is threatened by its
being seen at CERN Abbess the threat was
to the social order itself the local
gentry were alarmed by the corrupting
effect of this defiant symbol on the
labouring classes of the village it
would have been full of of poor and
laboring people in the 19th century and
there is this great hilfiger way above
it and one can imagine how upsetting and
uncomfortable it would have been for
Victorian proprietor and the order of
things if that hill figure had a huge
erect penis as a kind of emblem above
the village which needed a kind of moral
order to it this fear of the effect of
sexual imagery on the class structure
was at the very heart of the debate
about pornography the new middle class
felt that their interests were best
served by locking the doors of the
secret museum and transforming images of
sex into pornography controllable by law
with the rise of the bourgeoisie a
considerable degree of social regulation
goes into controlling working class
elements from above central to the
economic success of the British Empire
is a controlled work
in class at home working and one of the
most specific threats that came about
from the desirable ideal of universal
education was that through access to the
sorts of material of pompei the working
classes might become corrupted away from
their social role as defined within
Victorian society and culture they’re
really worried about the animal nature
of human beings and they feel of course
they don’t say this that the lower
classes are more animal and since the
more animal you don’t want to fire that
up with images like all these
protections are essentially we’re
preserving power and keeping people in
their place you don’t want to let them
know that the Romans were quite relaxed
with it and quite relaxed with it at
every class level in fact it was one of
the ways in which the classes were quite
similar in ancient Rome although you
were nothing you were a thing if you
were a slave you still were expected to
enjoy the pleasures of sex and to have
objects if you could afford them and
they would be very cheap all that would
have images of sexual pleasure run a
good example of course is this room
which is a cook’s room of the house of
the Vettii oh it’s right off the kitchen
and the Vettii I were two brothers who
were former slaves this painting
although not the finest in the house is
a way of showing that I even gift my
slaves in this very wonderful
magnanimous way showing the most
beautiful kind of lovemaking they can
have here she’s wearing a breast band a
lot of time she has benefits and so on
the idea is this is a luxury product
this is something that you aspire to
it’s something you want and you really
prize
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the 20th century still feels profoundly
ambivalent towards images of sex while
we would find it hard to embrace Roman
attitudes to sexual representation we
are equally unwilling to define
ourselves in terms of Victorian values
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the secrete um at the British Museum no
longer exists
at least not in its original form many
of the best artifacts have been absorbed
into the museum proper placed in context
with other objects from their respective
periods but the remnants of whit’s
collection still lie in cupboard 55 a
reminder of an updated morality the
Terracotta copy of Pern penetrating the
she-goat is not on public display
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the pornographic collection in the
secret Museum at Naples has been moved
from its locked room within the museum
proper but has not on the whole been
displayed to the public it is kept in a
storeroom in an off-limits area of the
museum to visit it a written application
is still required the original marble of
Pern and the goat is not on public
display
despite the lurid images that are
available in modern culture we’re much
closer to the Victorians than we would
care to be we don’t like to think of
ourselves as the new Victorians because
everybody needs to cut themselves away
from their immediate past to reconstruct
themselves but there are more
inheritances in our present culture from
Victorian regulations than there are
from Roman culture one of the enduring
legacies of the Victorian era is the
firm grip which pornography has on our
collective psyche pornography has
penetrated our culture in exactly the
way that the Victorians most feared
aided by the debate that they began in
1857 with the first legislation against
looking once you start trying to define
what pornography is I put it into words
and that’s going to lead to
reinterpretation we revision
redefinition and so the debate
perpetuates itself and so it spreads and
becomes more prolific um this has been
so perpetuated for this continuing zuv
discourse
really a bounce of pornography and its
effect on audiences so the big paradox
of pornography is in trying to define
and contain it it has the actually
reverse effect it actually is of
disseminates itself
wherever we stand in the pornographic
debate the vehement swith which we
discuss it reveals that we believe that
images of sex have enormous power either
for good or for bad
these images of sex are framed in an
alien culture and we think that’s okay
but as soon as we turn to our own
culture or our own cultures and start to
examine our attitudes towards sexual
representation we go crazy
we have palenik going right and left and
every which way it gives an enormous
amount of power to the images and this
is the same kind of power that the
Victorians gave to images of sex
inescapably we are the heirs of our
Victorian ancestors the moment you set
up the category of the pornographic the
moment you say that area is separate
from a different from you can change the
rules the internal rules that define the
pornography as much as you like but it
will still remain separate separate in a
way that wasn’t true of the Roman world
when are Fe as here to stay as an idea
and it’s something that no matter what
the forms are that we tack this name
onto we have a cultural construction
that we can’t wriggle out of it is
something that’s going to continue we’ve
named it and it’s become part of our
culture and it’s not going to go away
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we have also inherited from the last
century our awareness and our fear that
technology and pornography go hand in
hand and that technology has the
potential to break the boundaries of the
secret museum with technology the way of
controlling pornography becomes more and
more difficult and nowadays images are
everywhere so what hands they did fall
into this becomes the big question and
how do you regulate on that the threat
of the Internet is that the walls of the
secret museum will come tumbling down
and unregulated images will circulate
freely throughout society and that is
seen as a threat the image of poison
that we’ve familiar from Victorian
society returns again we may sometimes
want to break down the walls and see the
end of the secret museum but without
walls we have no security so we’re still
struggling with what sort of a
construction we want to build
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