The word originates from ancient Greek and is a compound word from porne = prostitute and grapho = to write. Or perhaps to draw, but most certainly it was first expressed by words and then images, like the fresco from ancient Pompeii Italy below. Is it normal? Normal has no single definition, but what is perceived as the norm might not be the most common behaviour. Without getting into a hair-splitting argument about clinical normality, lets take a peek at the facts.

It is a significant business in the United States, with total sales estimated to be around $13 billion per year.

There is soon to be an academic journal dedicated to pornography called Porn Studies. One of the most popular and well known porn aggregator sites, (a Canadian enterprise), offers free porn, it has an enviable Alexa rank of 58, Google is number 1. The ‘hub’ has over a 100 billion page-views per year. Those who visit the site spend 7.5 minutes there. By comparison the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s online information source has just under 6 billion page-views per year, and the average time spent at the site is just over 3.5 minutes, with an Alexa rank of 1,247. Porn’s obviously popular.

For the actors involved in porn it’s a job, just like any other job, and it is a means to an end – which is getting the most amount of money in exchange for the use of their work. It helps if you like sex. One East European actress said, “When I told my dad what I was doing he wasn’t happy at first. But once he found out how much money I was making he was OK with it.” She added, “Mike [her husband and one of the camera men] is OK with it, and I only do lesbian stuff.” She said that, “It’s a better [job] than being a receptionist or secretary.”

There is a small but vocal minority in America which thinks that pornography is bad – very bad, worse than nuclear war bad. They’re typically adherents to one form of metaphysics or another, be it Catholicism, Islam or Judaism, arguably repressed individuals. Repression is an “attempt by an individual to repel one’s own desires and impulses towards pleasurable instincts by excluding the desire from one’s consciousness and holding or subduing it in the unconscious. Repression is a major factor in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of average people.” Alabama passed a law that criminalizes the sale of sex toys in 1998 and the Attorney General there is a devout Christian Baptist.

Steps are being taken in the United Kingdom to stop the free flow of porn into peoples homes. Internet Service Providers (ISP) will be forced to put porn filters on the signal. The resident will have to opt out of the ‘service’ rather than opting in. Conservative British MP Claire Perry believes that parents are too complacent about their kids being potentially able to view pornography. The average age of an American child’s exposure to porn varies between the age of 11 and 12.

Pornography has been around since the stone age as evidenced by the 2003 discovery of 7,000 year old clay figures in Germany. India also has a rich tradition of sexual imagery, think the Kama Sutra for instance, or the erotic, arguably pornographic depiction of some rather acrobatic sexual carvings on the magnificent 1000 year old Hindu Kandariya Mahadev Temple, see the image to the left.

Does pornography exploit? Is exploitation abuse? Who is being exploited? Neo Liberal, and Neo Classical economics is exploitative. Being forced against one’s will to do something is exploitative and potentially a crime. How many feel that they are being forced into work they don’t want to do? But if you want to eat, pay the mortgage/rent and have some semblance of a lifestyle that makes you satisfied then you may do work that you don’t like. Take for instance what Apple Computer co-founder said at a recent ‘Go Further With Ford’ conference, “We don’t have a lot of choice right now,” Wozniak said, “because the whole world has gone to pretty much operating on the cloud, where huge amounts of information are stored and huge amounts of processing ability to interrelate all different types of things.” We live it seems in an exploitative world.

A recent Gallup poll (June 2013) showed that 51% of Americans aged (18-34) thought pornography was morally wrong. Of those aged (35-54), 72% thought porn was morally wrong, and over 80% of those 55 and above believed porn was morally wrong. Yet, only 37%-43% thought the death penalty was morally wrong. Not to put too much value in polling which can be deliberately biased. It seems to show a great deal of repression in the American psyche…