The Origins Of Pornography
on 5/14/2006 (1)
Recent media attention is being given to addiction to pornography, primarily Internet based, simply because of the ease of obtaining adult media online, Google it, pick your thing, and you're there.
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But what is the attraction to porn? How is it linked so implicitly to the human condition?
The answer, as is often the case, lies in Man's hominid ancestor past. Before early proto-men could even fashion a jagged rock into a cutting tool, pornography existed, in the form of voyeurism. Keep in mind that mortality rates were certainly impossibly high in ancient times, perhaps 50 percent or even higher, so propagation was almost as important an enterprise to the survival of a species as eating. Once a member of any species reaches sexual maturity, hormones take over, and sexual behavior ensues as a healthy matter of course. But what about porn?
Perhaps a glimpse can be gained from the behavior of elephants. When elephants mate, the entire tribe often congregate in agitated excitement around copulating partners, including juveniles, and trumpet and roar in frenzy to the mating ritual. Simian species, such as gorillas, chimps and several other species of monkey are equally gregarious and snooping when members of the clan mate. Could this overt voyeurism be the earliest form of porn? Certainly, witnessing others have sex is the quintessence of pornographic media, so these early quasi-orgies had the same affect; to arouse the libido, and prompt others in the clan to mate as well, ensuring its survival and continuance.
Once early Homo Sapiens developed enough brain capacity to think abstractly, early forms of pornography were scrawled on walls inside of caves, perhaps as fertility icons, or just perhaps simply to arouse one's sexuality.
Substitute a glossy photo in a Penthouse magazine, or a brief adult video trailer downloaded online, the effect is precisely the same. Voyeurism is voyeurism, regardless if it involves observing a 'live' sex act, or one on paper, or even on a video monitor. Its obviously pleasurable appeal is to arouse the libido, and prompt mating behavior. It makes perfect sense, in a species-centric context, for "digital voyeurism", if I may, to be "addictive"; any value judgements levied by our modern gray-matter cortex are irrelevant and strictly subjective.
So where does guilt enter the equation?
As Man's brain evolved even further, highly specialized emotions evolved along with it, emotions our early ancestors lacked, and all animal species seem to lack as well. An excess of sexual behavior somewhere became tagged as promiscuity, new found feelings of guilt and remorse emerged, often accompanied by a sense of being hijacked by one's innate incorrigible bestial nature. In short, the higher 'thinking' brain suddenly found itself at odds with the primitive bestial 'Id', as described by Sigmund Freud, concealed deep within.
In the course of any given day, we struggle mightily with the Id. It never rests, never lets go, booming in primeval thunder, like a Jurassic Tyrannosaurus in abject carnal desire, but yet we can manage it well enough to build civilizations, invent science, and explore the stars beyond our world. A small miracle indeed.