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.
Because of technologies like camcorders and the Internet, porn is pretty much everywhere these days. "Especially among younger people, this subject is kind of cut and dry," says Jensen. "In other words, the pornographic culture has won out." Nudity is a common sight and finding a hidden Playboy is no longer the only way a young man can see a centerfold. The loss of some of the novelty of porn reflects a certain loss of innocence about sex in general in our society. "Now, those simple, almost sweet stories [like the Summer of '42] are more difficult to tell because your first thought is are they practicing safe sex or what if they get herpes?" says Beggan. The concerns about female objectification in porn and the potential consequences it has on behavior are still around but the fervor for these materials seems to be just as strong as the fight against them.
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