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Pornography - The Secret History of Civilisation

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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(Mar 07, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ten years in the making, PORNOGRAPHY: THE SECRET HISTORY OF CIVILISATION is a six-part series, which tells for the first time on British television the history of pornography. This landmark series charts the changes in sexual imagery prompted by the advent of new technologies over thousands of years: from ancient times to print, photography, film, video and the Internet. With unprecedented access to the modern porn industry, interviews with pornography experts and historians and an unparalleled collection of archival material, it is also the story of how these technological mediums influenced the development of pornography, who used it, how it was distributed and how it was censored.

But the real story of pornography is also a secret history of civilization. Pornography puts aside the usual moral arguments that have clouded the issue for decades and takes an objective historical perspective. Pornography, far from being some smutty sideshow on the margins of society, has in fact played a vital and central role in civilization and our cultural evolution.

Each program focuses on a different technology and how that new technology revolutionized pornography and made it available to new groups of people, however hard the authorities tried to control it.

THE ROAD TO RUIN opens with the science of archaeology. Sexual imagery has been at the heart of culture all over the world, from the Cerne Abbas man to the painted walls of Pompeii, from the carvings of Bourges Cathedral to the obscene pamphlets of the French Revolution.

THE SACRED AND PROFANE shows how printing was seen as something that turned hitherto acceptable sexual explicit expression into something far more dangerous. Indeed pornography was instrumental in fermenting the French Revolution, with shockingly explicit sexual satire directed at the monarchy. Photography was the greatest leap forward ever in the history of pornography. In the nineteenth century, to ask where pornographic photographs were sold is like asking where you can buy drugs today.

THE MECHANICAL EYE examines the appeal of photographs, their development and their consumers, as well as the evolution of the porn magazine. This film also covers the birth of the mail order porn dealer; heralding arguments which have parallels today with debates on internet pornography.

TWENTIETH CENTURY FOXY covers the rise of the porn film industry. But porn on film, and the porn cinema was an interstitial time. At the end of the 70s the new vehicle for porn was video.

SEX LIVES ON VIDEOTAPE shows how the advent of video ended pornography's crossover dreams. Video re-made pornography in its own image, replacing the glamour and fantasy of the movies with a real documentary style. The most significant contribution of video was that it turned consumers into producers; the audience picked up cameras and started recording their sex lives on videotape!

FUTURE SCHLOCK looks at the new era of digital manipulation and asks how digital technology has affected the pornography that we produce, and the way we consume it. We talk to people who say that the Internet has dealt the biggest blow yet to the establishment. Pornography in physical forms - books, magazines, and videos - could always be seized and destroyed, but on the Net, pornography has shed its physical form and gone digital.

After taking in the fast-paced anthropology lesson of this engaging six-part series produced for British television in 1999, it would seem that for most of civilization, pornography hasn't been such a secret after all. The six lively episodes take playful account of that which is on more people's minds than will easily admit, and which has been an important, if often vilified part of world culture since humans could think about such things. This two-disc set is a stylish and tidy chronological account of erotic imagery that the episodes categorize from earliest recorded history to the latest (as of the end of the 20th century) prospects afforded by the Internet and virtual technology. An array of interview subjects from scholars to porn stars talk about everything from the graphic images discovered amongst the ruins of Pompeii and the one-of-a-kind erotica traded among high-class Europeans, to what it's like for individuals to make and distribute their own adult encounters through the facility of their own bedroom camcorders. Before it was demonized and censored when the printing press brought porn to the masses, it seems erotic drawings were a lot of jolly good fun that was not at all stigmatized. (One of the most amusing sequences is an interview with a prestigious, septuagenarian and erotic art historian who is interviewed about his specialty while reclining nude under the gaze of a woman sketching his portrait.) Once the church became involved, deeming the depictions of man, woman, and beast doing what came naturally as obscene--a relatively modern classification--it moved into the shadows of sociological study. The episodes on photography, including still and moving pictures and the impact "modern" technology had in creating a porn industry are interesting, but not entirely enlightening for most people who have even a passing knowledge of the development of erotica from French postcards to adult home video. There's nothing too outrageous for the prurient-minded to go ga-ga over, although there is a fair amount of explicit imagery (this is British TV, after all). By and large, as the five-plus hours go by, the episodes become a witty chamber piece for the open-minded who will find themselves well entertained by the precision and depth of this secret history's artful telling. There are no special features included, just a lot of old-fashioned lessons about our lengthy fascination with looking at birds and bees that are not our own. --Ted Fry

Special Features

  • 6 episodes on 2 discs

Product Details

  • Actors: Marilyn Milgrom, Linda Williams
  • Producers: Harry Knapp, Sam Bickley
  • Format: Color, Content/Copy-Protected CD, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Koch Vision
  • DVD Release Date: March 7, 2006
  • Run Time: 312 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CSUNU2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,489 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Pornography - The Secret History of Civilisation" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
If you're curious as to how sexual imagery has followed technological advancement, or moreso in many cases, led to technological advancement(s), this comprehensive doc is delves deep into the notion that 'porn' has been around for ages, changing cultures all along the way. Broken into six parts, the expose travels back to Pompeii, through Victorian secret museums and on to the development of magazines, videos and the internet, where amateurs became producers and pornogrpahy became as widespread as fast food.

Production value is superb and is led by the directors who brought us all Inside Deep Throat and Party Monster.

Is this a porn title in an of itself? Not at all. But is certainly contains graphic elements (how could it not and still address the subject matter).

A great watch for anyone interested in either the subject matter OR the development of cultures and how the subject matter penatrated every single one (pun intended) :)
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This was a fascinating and riveting look at pornography and how technological advances in media through the ages enhanced its presentation and opened up new vistas in sexual enjoyment. The conflict between Victorian Era and Modern Conservative efforts to suppress sex was thoroughly discussed. Also shown was how the industry developed through the last 150 years, and continues to pursue new avenues of future sexual enjoyment.

The video was full of nudity and sexual activity of every kind imaginable and different types of pornographic videos that are available. One segment showed how police are attempting to track down internet predators, and the entire presentation emphasized the importance of keeping pornography away from children.

For a complete picture of the history, technology and philosophy of pornography, this is the perfect video.
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I used this series quite a bit in a college class I taught on pornography. I was a little worried it would focus too much on a British perspective, but I found most of it helpful and relevant to discussions about American society and pornography. It's a little dated, so the section about the future of pornography really isn't too useful at all. I found the historical perspective particularly useful.
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Disc is perfect, no quarrel with that - if only it had been in blu-ray, but I guess DVD is the medium on sale at that time.
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