In this particular form of exploitation of sex, written, graphic or other forms of communication are aimed at arousing sexual desires of a particularly lewd nature. Obscenity is an intrinsic tendency of the work itself and not the reaction of a particular person to it, be he genius, moron, or pervert. Opinions vary on whether it is more harmful to suppress pornography, therefore adding the excitement of guilt and secrecy, or to allow it to be freely available, hence perhaps corrupting children or encouraging sexual deviation. Unbiased information is lacking on the effects of pornography. Definitions of pornography range from any depiction of uninhibited nakedness or sexual activity to depicting women as limited beings with restricted sexual presence subservient to apparently specific male desires.
Efforts are being made by radical feminists to broaden the definition of pornography to cover: material that is either sexually explicit and violent; sexually explicit and non-violent, but subordinating and dehumanizing; or sexually explicit and based on mutuality and equality. The latter group is often referred to as erotica, namely any image which is sexual in nature.
Pornography is first recorded in ancient Greece as the writings of prostitutes, but it was not until the 15th century that Pietro Aretino developed writings and drawings specifically intended to arouse. The word "pornography" first appeared in English in 1850, but was primarily limited to use among classical scholars until the growth of commercial publishing in the 20th century.
The current view of pornography gained currency in the 19th century. Prior to that it was not a separate and distinct genre created to arouse sexual feelings. Rather it was a vehicle through which to criticize political and religious authorities through the shock of sex. It was linked not only with freethinking and heresy but also with the animating ideas behind the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. Political pornography proliferated in the period prior to the French Revolution as a medium through which to criticize the aristocracy as debauched.
Pornography can be found in books, magazines, films, television and increasingly in live-shows. Since what is considered pornography reflects a society's and individual's degree of permissiveness in sexual matters, from one country to another and from one individual to another, nude pin-ups, sexual intercourse on stage, sexual suggestions in advertisements, or blue jokes, may be regarded as an enticement to sexual depravity, as a display of eroticism, or as completely innocuous. In the last 20 years many Western countries (for example, Denmark, Germany, USA, the Netherlands) have authorized the production and marketing of sex, although prostitution, also a sex-act for money, may still be banned. The consumers of commercial pornography are predominantly male often respectable. In the USA approximately 40% of video owners admit having rented at least one pornographic film, of which the largest proportion are gay.