It doesn’t take the opening of Lovelace, the biopic of a porn star known for her role in the notorious 1970s porn flick Deep Throat, to stir up a conversation about pornography. The debate over porn—allegations of its contempt for women (evidenced by women’s subordination and abuse), countered by assertions of its innocuousness—hasn’t been so heated in years.
What we call porn has thrived as long as humans have enjoyed sex, but the concept of pornography as we know it is a modern one. Most pre-Christian cultures were much more relaxed about sex than we are, and fertility and reproduction were integral to many religions. There was no scandal in the display of works of art like this Roman statue, Indian sculpture, and Greek plate.