What is pornography?


Let us start our reflections with a few basic questions such as: What is pornography? Where does the word pornography come from? What does it mean?

The word ‘pornography’ comes from the Greek term pomographos which is composed of porni (“prostitute”) and graphein (“to write”) which means ‘whore-writing’ or writing about prostitutes. It was originally defined as any work of art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes.  The term was formulated in 1864.

However, for our times Oxford Dictionary defines pornography as printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement. All representation of sexual behaviour in books, pictures, statues, motion pictures, and other media that is intended to cause sexual excitement are considered to be pornographic.

However, discussing about pornography one needs to note that, all that which is sexually explicit is not necessarily pornographic. Similarly, everything which creates sexual arousal in the reader or viewer cannot necessarily be pornographic. The legitimate place for even sexually explicit material in the works of art and literature, in the fields of medicine and education etc. needs to be considered. So, what makes the material content of pornography objectionable and unacceptable is not the fact that it is sexual, but rather the manner in which sexual matters are treated and the motive behind such a treatment.  The pornographic content therefore is defined by the attitude with which one treats such matters rather than the mere content of it. It calls for a greater challenge to analyse, how one deal with materials of this sort, one’s attitude towards them?

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