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"someone writing about harlots", in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus.[13][14] The Modern Greek word pornographia (πορνογραφία) is a reborrowing of the French pornographie.[15] "Pornographie" was in use in the French language during the 1800s.The word did not enter the English language as the familiar word until 1857[16] or as a French import in New Orleans in 1842.[17] The word was originally introduced by classical scholars as "a bookish, and therefore nonoffensive, term for writing about prostitutes",[18] but its meaning was quickly expanded to include all forms of "objectionable or obscene material in art and literature".[18] As early as 1864, Webster's Dictionary defined the word bluntly as "a licentious painting".[18] The more inclusive word erotica, sometimes used as a synonym for "pornography", is derived from the feminine form of the ancient Greek adjective ἐρωτικός (erōtikós), derived from ἔρως (érōs), which refers to lust and sexual love.[18] Pornography is often abbreviated to porn or porno in informal language. Depictions of a sexual nature have existed since prehistoric times, as seen in the Venus figurines and rock art.[19] A vast number of artifacts have been discovered from ancient Mesopotamia depicting explicit heterosexual sex.[20][21] Glyptic art from the Sumerian Early Dynastic Period frequently shows scenes of frontal sex in the missionary position.[20] In Mesopotamian votive plagues from the early second millennium BC, the man is usually shown entering the woman from behind while she bends over, drinking beer through a straw.[20] Middle Assyrian lead votive figurines often represent the man standing and penetrating the woman as she rests on top of an altar.[20] Scholars have traditionally interpreted all these depictions as scenes of ritual sex,[20] but they are more likely to be associated with the cult of Inanna, the goddess of sex and prostitution.[20] Many sexually explicit images were found in the temple of Inanna at Assur,[20] which also contained models of male and female sexual organs.[20] Depictions of sexual intercourse were not part of the general repertory of ancient Egyptian formal art,[22] but rudimentary sketches of heterosexual intercourse have been found on pottery fragments and in graffiti.[22] The final two thirds of the Turin Erotic Papyrus (Papyrus 55001), an Egyptian papyrus scroll discovered at Deir el-Medina,[23][22] consist of a series of twelve vignettes showing men and women in various sexual positions.[23] The scroll was probably painted in the Ramesside period (1292-1075 BC)[23] and its high artistic quality indicates that was produced for a wealthy audience.[23] No other similar scrolls have yet been discovered.[22] Oil lamp artifact depicting coitus more ferarum Fanny Hill (1748) is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel."[24] It is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.[25][26] It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history.[27] The authors were charged with "corrupting the King's subjects." When large-scale excavations of Pompeii were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Romans came to light, shocking the Victorians who saw themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire. For non-pornographic sexually explicit media, see Erotica.The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease.

Circular icon with the letters "xxx" "XXX" is often used to designate pornographic material.

The parisian demimonde included Napoleon III's minister, Charles de Morny, who was an early patron that displayed photos at large gatherings.[29] The world's first law criminalizing pornography was the English Obscene Publications Act 1857 enacted at the urging of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.[30] The Act, which applied to the United Kingdom and Ireland, made the sale of obscene material a statutory offence, giving the courts power to seize and destroy offending material.

The American equivalent was the Comstock Act of 1873[31][32] which made it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail.

Two of the earliest pioneers were Eugène Pirou and Albert Kirchner.

Kirchner directed the earliest surviving pornographic film for Pirou under the trade name "Léar".

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