In August, movie goers will get the chance to see Lovelace, which tells the story of Linda Lovelace, regarded as one of the first big stars of the mainstream porn world. The release of the movie Deep Throat in 1970 kicked off what is sometimes called “The Golden Age of Porn.” The film was so successful that many celebrities were openly admitting to having seen it, something entirely unprecedented. Although he gave it zero stars, even Roger Ebert reviewed the film. But where did porn come from? If this was its golden age, when was its bronze age, or even its stone age?
It started with the Venus of Willendorf
As it turns out, the stone age for porn was actually during the Stone Age. Sexually explicit images have been around for millennia, predating any written history. In fact, they’re almost as old as recorded images in general. Many depictions of nude women, called Venus Figurines, have been found and dated to the Palaeolithic period. The oldest, the Venus of Hohle Fels, has been dated to at least 35,000 B.C.E.
Although the sexually explicit image continued to evolve around the world, the invention of printing press had a huge impact, for it was really the first time that erotic depictions could be distributed widely. During the Renaissance, certain classical stories, such as Leda and the Swan, were thinly veiled ways of printing or painting sexual imagery. Moving into the 18th century, French printmakers began using these images for social satire. Although it first focused on criticizing the clergy, these prints eventually played a role in the French revolution by depicting Marie Antoinette in a variety of compromising scenes, perpetuating rumours about the illegitimacy of her children and the impotency of the king. The 18th century also saw the publication of the first pornographic novel, The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. More commonly known as Fanny Hill, it is the most banned book in history.
The Invention of Photography
In 1839, Louis Daguerre invented the first practical form of photography with his creation of the daguerreotype, and subsequently changed pornography forever. For the first time people could have a lifelike image of a nude. The invention of collotypes in 1941, a negative based photographic method, allowed for photographic reproduction, which couldn’t be done with daguerreotypes. This made photographic nudes, which had previously been prohibitively expensive, available to the masses. The invention of halftone printing in 1880 allowed for the true mass marketing of pornography.
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Still images from works by Austrian Johann Schwarzer
Shortly after halftone printing came celluloid film. The flexibility of this film type led to the invention of the motion picture in 1895. A year later, in 1986, the first pornographic film was made: Le Coucher de la Marie. Originally seven minutes long, only two minutes have survived, consisting of actress Louis Willy performing a strip tease. This quickly led to an abundance of erotic and pornographic films. While pornographic photographs had been created almost entirely in France, pornographic filmmaking spread around the world. Like everything else that had come before it, the explicit nature of these films drew much ire from censors, and the industry quickly moved underground, with films only shown among private cinema clubs.
Lovelace and the Golden Age of Porn Deep Throat
Loosening of regulations in the United States meant that, for the first time in centuries pornographic images faced limited censorship. In 1970, Mona and the Virgin Nymph became the first pornographic film to receive a general release. Boys in the Sand was released a year later, becoming both the first gay pornographic film and the first to be reviewed by The New York Times. It was 1972 though when things really changed. That June, Deep Throat was released to the public, becoming an instant phenomenon. Celebrities from Johnny Carson and Truman Capote to Martin Scorsese and Jack Nicholson admitted having seen the film. It was so influential that Howard Simmons, managing editor at the Washington Post, used the film title as the codename of the Watergate scandal informant. Some estimates place the film’s box-office revenue at $600,000,000, which would make it the highest grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation. And at the very centre of it all was Linda Lovelace and her husband Chuck Traynor.
Lovelace opens in theatres 23rd August