When most of us talk about porn today, it's about the taboo – and, often, its relation to violence, feminism, or sex addiction. It hasn't always been this way. Society-level reactions to sexually explicit images have varied widely over the course of history, from considering them humorous to fearing they would make people go insane. "The existence of pornography and the strong emotional reactions people have – either pro or con – tells us something about our culture," says James Beggan, professor of sociology at the University of Louisville. Over time pornography has been revered, reviled, and accepted, and each reaction reveals something about the society that fosters it.
The 1970s saw a very different kind of worry develop with regards to pornography. In the peak of the feminist movement, people began voicing concerns about the objectification of women in porn. While some may argue that not all porn objectifies women, there is a pretty straightforward reason why most does. "You have a heterosexual male consumer base which is raised in a male-dominant society…what would you predict would be the development of the pornography industry given those two facts?" says Robert Jenson, professor in the school of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Women also consume porn, but the biggest customer base was (and still is) men. So, porn catered to that demographic by creating products that often subjugated the women involved.
Credit: Library of Congress