Hardcore pornography

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Jupiter and Juno by Agostino Carracci. The engraving shows a detailed depiction of a sexual act, including genitals, as is common in hardcore porn. Carracci Jupiter et Junon.jpg
Jupiter and Juno by Agostino Carracci. The engraving shows a detailed depiction of a sexual act, including genitals, as is common in hardcore porn.

Hardcore pornography or hardcore porn is pornography that features detailed depictions of sexual organs or sexual acts such as vaginal, anal, oral or manual intercourse, ejaculation, and fetish play. The term is in contrast with less-explicit softcore pornography. Hardcore pornography usually takes the form of photographs, films, and cartoons. Since the mid-1990s, hardcore pornography has become widely available on the internet, making it more accessible than ever before.



A distinction between "hardcore pornography" and "borderline pornography" (or "borderline obscenity") was made in the 1950s and 1960s by American jurists discussing obscenity laws. "Borderline pornography" appealed to sexual prurience, but had other positive qualities, such as literary or artistic merit, and so was arguably permitted by obscenity laws; "hardcore pornography" lacked such merits and was definitely prohibited. [1] In Roth v. United States (1957), the government brief distinguished three classes of sexual material: "novels of apparently serious literary intent"; "borderline entertainment ... magazines, cartoons, nudist publications, etc."; and "hard core pornography, which no one would suggest had literary merit". [2] Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen in 1959 distinguished "erotic realism" from "pornography"; in the latter "the main purpose is to stimulate erotic response in the reader. And that is all." [3] Most famously, in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), Potter Stewart wrote:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case [ The Lovers ] is not that.[ citation needed ]

In Jacobellis v. Ohio and other cases, the United States Supreme Court ruled that only "hardcore" pornography could be prohibited by obscenity laws, with the rest protected by the First Amendment. The category of "borderline obscenity" thus became obsolete. The 1970 report of the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography said: [4]

[M]ailers dealing in sexually oriented materials define "hard-core pornography" as "photographic depictions of actual sexual intercourse with camera focus on the genitals and no accompanying text to provide a legal defense". This, of course, is not a legal definition.... Some judges have employed the term "hard-core pornography" as a synonym for "material which can be legally suppressed". In this Report, the term is used as a synonym for "under-the-counter" or covertly sold materials. This is, in effect, the definition of hard-core applied in the marketplace. It can be argued that because of the confusion about the meaning of the term, which stems primarily from an undefined legal concept, it would be well to avoid the use of the term altogether.... There is one genre of sexually oriented material which is almost universally sold under-the-counter in the United States: wholly photographic reproductions of actual sexual intercourse graphically depicting vaginal and/or oral penetration.... A[t] present, distinctions between materials sold openly and those sold covertly have become extremely unclear.

From the 1970s, the salient distinction was between hardcore pornography and softcore pornography, which may use simulated sex and limits the range and intensity of depictions of sexual activities. For example, William Rotsler's 1973 classification subdivided the X rating for erotic films: "The XXX-rating means hard-core, the XX-rating is for simulation, and an X-rating is for comparatively cool films." [5]


The prehistory of modern pornography is the classical American stag film, also known as blue movies, a body of clandestine short pornographic films produced during the first two-thirds of the 20th century. While the exact corpus of the distinctive stag film remains unknown, scholars at the Kinsey Institute believe there are approximately 2000 films produced between 1915 and 1968. [6] Stag cinema is a form of hardcore film and is characterized as silent, usually filling a single reel or less, and was illegally made and exhibited because of censorship laws in America. Women were excluded from these private screenings that were shown in American "smoker" houses such as fraternities or other exclusive institutions. In Europe, films of the same kind were screened in brothels. The mode of reception of the all-male audience of stag films was raucous, collective sexual banter [7] and sexual arousal. Film historians describe stag films as a primitive form of cinema because they were produced by anonymous and amateur male artists who failed to achieve narrative coherence and continuity. Today, many of these films have been archived by the Kinsey Institute, but most are in a state of decay and have no copyright, real credits, or acknowledged authorship. The stag film era inevitably ended with the beginnings of the sexual revolution in the fifties in combination with the new technologies of the post-war era, such as 16 mm, 8 mm, and the Super 8. American stag cinema in general received scholarly attention first in the mid-seventies by heterosexual males, e.g. Di Lauro and Gerald Rabkin's Dirty Movies (1976) and more recently by feminist and queer cultural historians, e.g. Linda M. Williams' Hard Core: Power Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (1989) and Thomas Waugh's Homosociality in the Classical American Stag Film: Off-Screen, On-screen (2001).


On the set of a pornographic film Porn Set 5.jpg
On the set of a pornographic film

The distribution of hardcore pornography had been widely prohibited in many countries until the second half of the 20th century, when many countries began to allow some dissemination of softcore material. Supply is now usually regulated by a motion picture rating system as well as by direct regulation of points of sale. Restrictions, as applicable, apply to the screening, or rental, sale, or giving of a movie, in the form of a DVD, video, computer file, etc. Public display and advertising of hardcore pornography is often prohibited, as is its supply to minors.

Most countries have eased the restrictions on the distribution of pornography, either by general or restricted legalization or by failure to enforce prohibitive legislation. Most easing of restrictions has been by way of changes to the criteria of a country's movie classification system. The anti-pornography movement often vigorously opposes legalization. In 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography. [8] In the U.S., legal interpretations of pornography in relation to the constitutional right to free speech differ from state to state and from city to city. Hardcore pornography was legalized in the UK in May 2000. [9]

United Kingdom

The Independent reported in 2006 that Nielsen NetRatings found that more than nine million British male adults used Internet porn services. [10] The study also reported a one-third rise in the number of women visiting X-rated sites, from 1.05 million to 1.38 million. A 2003 study found that one third of all British Internet users accessed hardcore porn. [11]

United States

American Hardcore pornographic actress Anna Bell Peaks at the XBIZ Awards, January 2018 Anna Bell Peaks 2018.jpg
American Hardcore pornographic actress Anna Bell Peaks at the XBIZ Awards, January 2018

A 2005 study by Eric Schlosser estimated that revenues from hardcore porn matched Hollywood's domestic box office takings. Hardcore porn videos, Internet sites, live sex acts and cable TV programming generated US$10 billion, roughly equal to U.S. domestic box office receipts. [12]

Impact on society

Berl Kutchinsky's Studies on Pornography and Sex Crimes in Denmark (1970), a scientific report commissioned by the United States' Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, found that the legalizing of pornography in Denmark had not (as had been expected) resulted in an increase of sex crimes. [13]

A study conducted in Denmark in 2003 and later published in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that Danish men and women generally believe that hardcore pornography has a positive influence on their lives. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornographic film</span> Films that present sexually explicit subject matter in order to arouse and satisfy the viewer

Pornographic films (pornos), erotic films, sex films, 18+ films, or also known as blue movie or blue film, are films that present sexually explicit subject matter in order to arouse, fascinate, or satisfy the viewer. Pornographic films present sexual fantasies and usually include erotically stimulating material such as nudity (softcore) and sexual intercourse (hardcore). A distinction is sometimes made between "erotic" and "pornographic" films on the basis that the latter category contains more explicit sexuality, and focuses more on arousal than storytelling; the distinction is highly subjective.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography in the United States</span>

Pornography has existed since the origins of the United States, and has become more readily accessible in the 21st century. Advanced by technological development, it has gone from a hard-to-find "back alley" item, beginning in 1969 with Blue Movie by Andy Warhol, the Golden Age of Porn (1969–1984) and home video, to being more available in the country and later, starting in the 1990s, readily accessible to nearly anyone with a computer or other device connected to the Internet. The U.S. has no current plans to block explicit content from children and adolescents, as many other countries have planned or proceeded to do.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Softcore pornography</span> Erotic still photography or film that is not sexually explicit

Softcore pornography or softcore porn is commercial still photography, film, or art that has a pornographic or erotic component but is less sexually graphic and intrusive than hardcore pornography, defined by a lack of visual sexual penetration. It typically contains nude or semi-nude actors involved in love scenes and is intended to be sexually arousing and aesthetically beautiful. The distinction between softcore pornography and erotic photography or art, such as Vargas girl pin-ups, is largely a matter of debate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography laws by region</span> Legality of pornography

Pornography laws by region vary throughout the world. The production and distribution of pornographic films are both activities that are legal in some but not all countries, as long as the pornography features performers aged above a certain age, usually 18 years. Further restrictions are often placed on such material.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornographic magazine</span> Magazines that contain content of an explicitly sexual nature

Pornographic magazines or erotic magazines, sometimes known as adult magazines or sex magazines, are magazines that contain content of an explicitly sexual nature. Publications of this kind may contain images of attractive naked subjects, as is the case in softcore pornography, and, in the usual case of hardcore pornography, depictions of masturbation, oral, manual, vaginal, or anal sex.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stag film</span> Silent pornographic film genre

A stag film is a type of pornographic film produced secretly in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Typically, stag films had certain traits. They were brief in duration, were silent, depicted hardcore pornography and were produced clandestinely due to censorship laws. Stag films were screened for all-male audiences in fraternities or similar locations; observers offered a raucous collective response to the film, exchanging sexual banter and achieving sexual arousal. Stag films were often screened in brothels.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography in Europe</span>

Pornography has been dominated by a few pan-European producers and distributors, the most notable of which is the Private Media Group that successfully claimed the position previously held by Color Climax Corporation in the early 1990s. Most European countries also have local pornography producers, from Portugal to Serbia, who face varying levels of competition with international producers. The legal status of pornography varies widely in Europe; its production and distribution are illegal in countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and Bulgaria, while Hungary has liberal pornography laws.

Cartoon pornography, or animated pornography, is the portrayal of illustrated or animated fictional cartoon characters in erotic or sexual situations. Animated cartoon pornography, or erotic animation, is a subset of the larger field of adult animation, not all of which is sexually explicit.

In 1969, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Stanley v. Georgia that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes. In response, the United States Congress funded the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson to study pornography.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography</span> Portrayal of sexual subject matter

Pornography has been defined as sexual subject material "such as a picture, video, or text" that is intended for sexual arousal. Made for the consumption by adults, pornography depictions have evolved from cave paintings, some forty millennia ago, to virtual reality presentations. A general distinction of adult content is made classifying it as pornography or erotica.

Color Climax Corporation ApS (CCC) is a Danish pornography producer headquartered in Copenhagen founded by the Theander brothers. It had been one of the leading producers of European pornography up until the 1990s. Since then, CCC has recessed most of its assets, but because its earlier works attract admirers of classic pornography, CCC still functions today via the Internet. Color Climax Corporation (CCC) began in 1967 with the publication of the porn magazine ColorClimax, despite pornography being illegal in Denmark until 1969.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Golden Age of Porn</span> Era of mainstream success for sexually explicit films (1969–1984)

The term "Golden Age of Porn", or "porno chic", refers to a 15-year period (1969–1984) in commercial American pornography, in which sexually explicit films experienced positive attention from mainstream cinemas, movie critics, and the general public. This American period, which had subsequently spread internationally, and that began before the legalization of pornography in Denmark on July 1, 1969, started on June 12, 1969, with the theatrical release of the film Blue Movie directed by Andy Warhol, and, somewhat later, with the release of the 1970 film Mona produced by Bill Osco. These films were the first adult erotic films depicting explicit sex to receive wide theatrical release in the United States. Both influenced the making of films such as 1972's Deep Throat starring Linda Lovelace and directed by Gerard Damiano, Behind the Green Door starring Marilyn Chambers and directed by the Mitchell brothers, 1973's The Devil in Miss Jones also by Damiano, and 1976's The Opening of Misty Beethoven by Radley Metzger, the "crown jewel" of the Golden Age, according to award-winning author Toni Bentley. According to Andy Warhol, his Blue Movie film was a major influence in the making of Last Tango in Paris, an internationally controversial erotic drama film, starring Marlon Brando, and released a few years after Blue Movie was shown in theaters.

In the United Kingdom, pornography is regulated by a variety of laws, regulations, judicial processes, and voluntary schemes. Pornographic material generally has to be assessed by regulators or courts to determine its legality. British censorship laws with regard to pornography have often been some of the most restrictive in Western Europe.

An obscenity is any utterance or act that strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time. It is derived from the Latin obscēnus, obscaenus, "boding ill; disgusting; indecent", of uncertain etymology. Generally, the term can be used to indicate strong moral repugnance and outrage in expressions such as "obscene profits" and "the obscenity of war". As a legal term, it usually refers to descriptions and depictions of people engaged in sexual and excretory activity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography in Turkey</span> Overview of pornography in Turkey

Pornography in Turkey has been produced since the 1970s. In fact, Turkey remains just one of two Middle Eastern countries where porn is not banned outright, including Israel. According to a presentation on the "conscious use of the Internet and secure Internet service," made by the Telecommunications Department (TIB) of the Turkish Parliament, 2 million online users watch pornographic films each minute in Turkey.

The first country in the world to legitimize pornography was Denmark in 1967. That year, the country legalized pornographic literature. Subsequently, on July 1, 1969, Denmark became the first nation in the world to legalize pictorial and audiovisual pornography, which helped further promote the Golden Age of Porn (1969–1984) in modern American culture, and later, in many other countries throughout the world.

In the Philippines, pornography is not specifically defined in Philippine law, but the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines considers certain acts to be obscene or indecent and these are prohibited as immoral doctrines, obscene publications, indecent shows, or other similar material or portrayals that advocate human immorality, obscenity, and indecency. Philippine legislation penalizes participation in these unlawful activities, and Republic Act No. 7610 extends punishment to those involved in child abuse, child exploitation, child prostitution and discrimination of children.

<i>A Free Ride</i> Stag film (ca. 1915)

A Free Ride, also known as A Grass Sandwich, is a stag film of the silent era, considered the earliest extant American hardcore pornographic movie. It depicts a motorist who picks up two women from the roadside and later engages in several sex acts with them. Although most scholars consider A Free Ride a 1915 film, some sources claim that it was produced later. The film's director used a pseudonym and the cast remained anonymous. The filming location is not known, although it may have been produced in New Jersey. Two contradictory theories have emerged regarding the identities of the cast: some sources suggest they were people with low social status, but others assert the opposite. The Kinsey Institute has a print of the film in its collection. A Free Ride was screened at the inauguration of the Museum of Sex. In 2004, Lisa Oppenheim, a New York–based artist, remade the film.

United States obscenity law deals with the regulation or suppression of what is considered obscenity and therefore not protected speech or expression under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the United States, discussion of obscenity typically relates to defining what pornography is obscene, as well as to issues of freedom of speech and of the press, otherwise protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Issues of obscenity arise at federal and state levels. State laws operate only within the jurisdiction of each state, and there are differences among such laws. Federal statutes ban obscenity and child pornography produced with real children. Federal law also bans broadcasting of "indecent" material during specified hours.

Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen were a husband-and-wife team of American sexologists, mainly active in the 1960s and 1970s. They wrote a number of books on sexuality and eroticism, and they also amassed a collection of erotic art, which traveled around Europe in 1968 as the "First International Exhibition of Erotic Art" and then found a home in San Francisco as the Museum of Erotic Art (1970-1973).


  1. Mulroy, Thomas R. (September 1963). "Obscenity, Pornography and Censorship". ABA Journal. 49 (9): 869–875. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  2. "345 Mass. 11 Attorney General vs. Book Named "Tropic of Cancer.", 345 Mass. 11". Massachusetts SJC Cases. July 17, 1962. pp. 15, fn.5. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  3. Kronhausen, Eberhard; Kronhausen, Phyllis (1959). Pornography and the Law: The Psychology of Erotic Realism and Pornography (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine.; cited in Mulroy p. 874
  4. President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (September 1970). Report. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 112, 113, fn.10, 114. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
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  8. Francoeur, Robert T.; Noonan, Raymond J. (2004-01-01). The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. A&C Black. p. 330. ISBN   978-0-8264-1488-5.
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Further reading