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Evolution of the Concept of Pornography

This paper is an analysis of The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture by Walter Kendrick, a study of the evolution of the concept of pornography. An absolutist on the question of free speech, Kendrick argues that pornography is a relatively recent concept that arose as an excuse to keep materials judged to be lascivious within the control of the limited groups that find them sexually arousing. He contends that no consensus exists or can exist on the precise meaning of what makes material pornographic, arousing, or obscene and that attempts to manufacture such a consensus are simply censorship and therefore unacceptable in a free society.

Fordham University English Professor Walter M. Kendrick supports complete freedom of speech, subscribing to the battle cry, "No censorship of any kind, any time, anywhere" (Gewen 15). He followed his 1987 volume, The Secret Museum, with an investigation of the horror genre, The Thrill of Fear: 250 Years of Scary Entertainment, which argues that horror fiction does not inspire violence any more than, for example, Don Quixote encourages readers to take up knighthood and tilt at windmills. Both books set forward his firm belief that attempts to legislate writing (or other forms of expression) are wholly unacceptable. In both, he tackles explosive subjects; The Secret Museum is especially volatile because its subject is sex, erotica, and pornography, as it has come to be defined.

"Pornography" is a surprisingly recent word whose definition, first given in an 1857 medical definition, was "a description of prostitutes or of prostitution, as a matter of public hygiene" (Kendrick 1). The term eventually evolved to the 1975 definition in the American Heritage Dictionary: "Written, graphic, or other forms of communication intended to excite lascivious feelings" (Kendrick 1). Kendrick observes, "Instead of starting out simple and turning complex with the passage of time, 'pornography' see...

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Evolution of the Concept of Pornography. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:08, August 08, 2020, from