A brief overview of mass pornography exposure from World War II until the 21st Century, part 1

 

Early Superwife fantasy.

 

Something that goes very unremarked is how many generations we’ve had of pornography exposure being a significant male rite of passage in America.  And how government funding injected enough cash into the industry to industrialize its production.  You can start a timeline with World War II, in which pornography was distributed as an alternative to camp followers and the “gifts” they brought (mostly venereal disease, but also babies).  There were millions of young men exposed to pornography in a mostly or all-male environment.  Then, after seeing hundreds and thousands of pictures of women dressed even less discreetly than the picture opening this post and doing way more than what that lady is, they went home to wives and future wives.

That was the Greatest Generation.

Their sons got exposed a little earlier, magazines under the bed, late teens high school bonding.  But it was already normalized as something a young man might want to do.  It was acceptable fringe.  Not to mention their sons were coming of age in the middle of “free love”.  There was now some idea that it might be ok to try a few of those things in the magazines out before marriage, just not with the girl you planned to marry.

Well, we all have a pretty good idea how the Boomers and Silents handled the influences of mass pornography getting even more normalized and mainstream in their young adulthood.

They were the swingers and nudists and the earliest waves of  what is now called “polyamory” on the secular fringe.  On the Christian-inflected fringe side, they were Flirty Fishers and sisterwivers in the 1970s and 1980s.  There was also the acceptable fringe of taking your date to a pornographic theater, although now that is moving more into Generation X.

It’s hard to accept, but these were the parents of the Millennials and Generation X.  And this is just part one.  Part two is going to note what the consequences were to those Millennials and Gen X’ers.

Might also want to notice that this is an early example of managerialism and modern efficiency thinking, too.

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29 thoughts on “A brief overview of mass pornography exposure from World War II until the 21st Century, part 1

  1. I haven’t the main post yet, but the photo caption was very funny.

    As if a woman of the time didn’t guard her good stockings as if her life depended on it.

    I believe nudists were actually an older group, and not necessarily closely connected to pornography.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturism (WARNING: naked people)

    It looks like nudism really got going from about 1900-1920, and it was connected to a desire for hygiene, sunshine and clean living. It seemed to have had a strong connection to early 20th century radical political thought and utopianism:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home,_Washington

    “When Home was plotted in 1901 it had increased in size to 217 acres (0.88 km2) and had become home to anarchists, communists, food faddists, freethinkers, nudists, and others who did not fit in with mainstream society. Elbert Hubbard, anarchist Emma Goldman, and national communist leader William Z. Foster visited and gave lectures.”

    “The Association became divided into disagreeing factions called “nudes” and “prudes.””

    “In 1919 the Association was dissolved and the anarchist community, as it was, dissolved as well.”

    I had never heard of flirty fishing before. WOW.

    Autofocus is a really good movie, by the way, but LOTS of nudity, dealing with the midcentury dad with “issues”.

    http://old-oligarch.blogspot.com/2002_11_01_old-oligarch_archive.html

    Page down to the very bottom–the review of Autofocus is the last post. It’s very long and very good.

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  2. TPC, I think you hit the nail on the head where nobody else dares to hit it. Nothing irks me more than hearing my parents’ generation moan and groan about how well they were raised, and how much better they all were, et cetera ad nauseam. Pointing out how in the 1920’s the hemlines flew up, hair chopped off and Lord knows what all, which in my opinion there isn’t a hard and fast rule about how long your hair should be or how long your hemline is necessarily — there are variations within bounds that are modest and feminine, too — but you understand what I mean.

    And, of course, the “Greatest Generation” conveniently forgets the pinup girls they had in those days, too…..how do you think it got to the almost totally naked pinups we have now???!!!

    Now that I’ve lived a few more years, I have started to regard the majority of the members of the Greatest Generation as the Greatest Hypocrites. I ABSOLUTELY appreciate what you did in World War II, but then after you came home, you sure allowed one big huge mess to be created in its wake.

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      • Just listen to a few old 45 rpm records, and your eyebrows will raise, that’s for sure!!!! I didn’t really pay attention until I became a parent myself, and then told Mom I didn’t want her playing her records for my kids. She was pretty miffed; “you liked them”, etc. “Uh, Mom, have you really listened to those lyrics lately? What were Grandma and Grandpa thinking, letting you listen to that stuff?” And then she told me they didn’t know. Hmmm. Really. Which is why I say a lot of the Greatest Generation was either asleep at the wheel or had their priorities in ALL the wrong places.

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        • Funny you say that– my husband is a younger Gex-Xer and he’s noticed the same thing. We were at store playing the older music and he said he grew up listening to it–because his parents listened to it. He commented to me saying, “These songs are always about the same thing– cheating.” He told me to listen to the lyrics and yeah…

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  3. I read an article online once where they noted there were “nude bars” during the 1960’s. “Strip tease” is what we now know as strip clubs, and these started during the 1960’s. No, it’s not the same as pornography but it sure helped fuel the fire. The generation of men in attendance would’ve been the parents of Baby Boomers.

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  4. I saw a comment once from a traditionalist accusing Bill Clinton of inventing oral sex. LOL, as if it had never been done before that. Then the comment dove into the usual wistfulness of years gone by, how it was so good, so much better “back then”. Back in that greatest generation when people didn’t do things like that.
    That is the head in the sand breed of traditionalists, I can’t help but speak out about.

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      • Another thought– about the shame of not talking about certain things publicly.

        One of the criticisms my generation has toward the older is this hesitation of not talking about things. People see it as very puritanical– such as with sex. I’ve had many of my peers say they’d rather have the older generations talk candidly about topics so they could know what was or wasn’t normal. Whether it’s sex, marriage, etc.

        When I asked why people couldn’t ask their parents, I got laughed at. I know why I was laughed at, too, and can’t really say I blame them for it. Like I could talk to my own parents about anything…

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        • Oh, yes, on that I completely agree with you. My point is that at least they didn’t publicly go around talking the way those ‘spherians talk — a COMPLETE lack of manners and propriety. I think on another blog someone mentioned a certain commenter that we all know (moniker withheld to protect the guilty) who sounds like a disgrunted teenage boy spouting off like he’s some expert, which he most clearly is not. He is just an egotistical little boy — perhaps a chronological adult, but emotionally still a immature little boy. And for that matter, 99% of the ‘spherians may be chronological and legal adults, but emotionally they are juveniles. Their writing proves this.

          But another colossal failure of the “greatest” generation was their lack of frankly and appropriately educating their youth. Their failure in this regard is truly appalling. And we remnants of Gen X (at least the few who managed to survive the moral holocaust we’ve grown up in) are the ones who get to reap the rewards of our grandparents’ failure — because it started with them and their inability to do their duty correctly.

          OK, I can’t wait for the fallout from any mature adults reading this — I’m sure I’ll get lambasted about being respectful. But I’m not allowed to say this frankly to my parents’ faces, or aunts, or uncles, or any relatives/friends in this age group, along with giving my reasons why I think so, because, even though I’m forty years old now, I’ll still get “figuratively” put across someone’s knee to be punished for “disrespecting my elders”. Don’t get me started on that one. *Sigh* You can’t criticize them for ANYTHING.

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          • I don’t disagree with you at all.

            One of my concerns personally, if we’re talking about generational differences, is the mode by which the younger are expected to learn and be taught. I was lucky enough to experience a more “natural” and direct-teaching style. I learned to cook by being directly taught and through oral tradition for many of the traditional ethnic meals. My mom sat me down and taught me how to sew. My maternal patriarch directly sat us kids down and had a talk with us about respect, virtues, values, etc. My grandmother taught me a lot of things, too. In elementary school and middle school, I learned this kind of education was uncommon, if not rare. Many of my peers had to wing it and figure it out, or they learned through street smarts, or they never learned at all. Case in point– why are there so many young women out there with little to no domestic skills? No one can convince me it’s because they all refuse to be open to learning. Education is a two-way street.

            Nowadays, does this happen? Do people expect teaching/learning to be a one-on-one thing from an elder to a younger? If so, why isn’t it happening? Is it not happening because the mode younger people are expected to learn by falling in the generational “gap”? This is definitely an issue that falls under the umbrella of “no one talks about it.”

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  5. There really is nothing new under the sun, to quote King Solomon. The difference between yesterday and today is the perfect merging of technology, removal of social consequences, and wholesale exchange of religious devotion for a more individualistic, “spiritual” brand of the faith.

    People often forget that the “greatest generation” are the very people who produced and raised the spoiled, entitled cultural revolutionaries we refer to as the baby boomers. But the boomers weren’t produced in a vacuum.

    I saw a comment once from a traditionalist accusing Bill Clinton of inventing oral sex.

    That is one of the funniest things I have read in a very long time, LOL

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    • We’ve lost any sense of propriety and public discretion. I’m sure there were times where it was appropriate in certain company to discuss such things— but once again, it was context.

      People often forget that the “greatest generation” are the very people who produced and raised the spoiled, entitled cultural revolutionaries we refer to as the baby boomers.

      I thought my generation were the spoiled and entitled revolutionaries…and our parents the baby boomers were perfect.

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    • Come to think of it, a rationale I’ve heard justifying why the Boomers were spoiled is because their parents lived through the depression. I once read on an online discussion, “If you had lived through the depression, of course you’d spoil your kids.”

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      • I thought if you lived through the Depression, you would have a better perspective on what was important and what wasn’t. I can see giving your children things like music lessons and athletics, but those, to me, fall into the category of training and skills, not “stuff”.

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        • I don’t know if the Boomers experienced things like athletics and music lessons. Those things were significant for my generation, and they along with a multitude of things called “stuff,” are also pertinent to Gen-Z (or whatever the name is called these days).

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          • Piano lessons for girls were a middle class American norm when Boomers were kids. My mom had them and my dad’s sister had them (at best middle middle class families), but I don’t know that any of the boys in that generation had music lessons. But in the next generation, there were definitely a lot of middle class Gen X boys getting music lessons.

            For my dad, pre-high school, “athletics” was going across the street to the park to play baseball. In high school, it was high school track. In our area at the time, girls only ran up to 1/2 a mile in competition.

            I think what has really ramped up since the Baby Boom is pre-high school athletics (especially for girls) and the transportation role for parents.

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      • Yes. My grandpa lived through the Depression and spoiled my dad rotten, which (in his memoirs) he said he later regretted. But if you grew up with NOTHING (and my gpa was a sharecropper’s kid, so I think we can say that fairly certainly), physical things are NOT to be taken for granted. In the US now, we don’t have that understanding of poverty. The homeless have better food security than my great-grandparents had.

        It must have seemed like an impossible dream, the prosperity of the 50s after the Depression and deprivations of the war years. Access to extramarital sex was always a luxury good, has always been a luxury good. Looking at scantily clad women likewise. Making a choice to avoid that (especially with the sexual revolution, which started in the 20s) would only have been something that extremely religious people would do.

        We conflate people-who-go-to-church with committed Christians, which isn’t true now, and was EXTREMELY untrue back in the day. Not being a church-goer in the fifties was equal to social suicide. Why should we expect non-Christians to act like Christians? Porn, or its equivalent, had always been on the edges of society (part of military service especially), and they thought it would stay there forever. All most of them cared about was propriety, not purity.

        And then, it didn’t stay on the edges, and their kids called them hypocritical prudes… and we, in subsequent generations, live with sexuality practically piped in the air we breathe. And we see the consequences. But it’s only really us, guys… only us Christians… we’re the only ones who care. The World is cheerfully running towards the excesses of Rome.

        Prosperity and luxury and wealth breed this particular brand of nasty. When crisis comes, as it always does, this foolishness will decrease. Until then? Well, I invite you to open up your history books and read about OTHER prosperous and peaceful eras…

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        • I think you’re spot-on. On a non-related note, what you said here:

          Not being a church-goer in the fifties was equal to social suicide. Why should we expect non-Christians to act like Christians?

          Reminds me of why Vatican II (for Catholics, anyway) was just an event bringing to light the problems already going on in the Church. But going back to your point about why should we expect non-Christians to act like Christians– IOW, why should we expect ungodly people to act like godly people?

          The problem there lies in the expectations Christians back then set up for Christians today as acceptable behavior. Many Christians still believe it’s okay for a young man to “sow his wild oats” before marriage, but still marry a virgin, as they did back then. I once read stats on sexual behavior from 1940-1950, and people weren’t all that chaste. It all goes back to the lack of chastity in the first place. Porn use is one facet of this lack of chastity.

          When more Christians accept the idea that chastity isn’t just a physical thing, a lot of these problems can be addressed properly.

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          • Well, going all Pentecostal on you… there are carnally minded Christians and spiritually minded Christians. Folks who are saved but focused on this world, and folks who are so in love with Jesus that walking away from Him is inconceivable.

            Insofar as I’m concerned, we need to get the insides right and the outsides will follow. So, how do we induce our fellow Christians to come closer to Jesus?

            IMHO – it’s not yelling louder about the rules. Passing out buckets of whitewash in the cemetery isn’t my thing.

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            • I think people have to want to get closer to Jesus. Sometimes no amount of revealing the truth or being encouraging will be enough. They refuse to see it–because they have to want it first. I’m a big rules person and I firmly believe if people aren’t willing to respect what God’s laid out for us– which are rules, IMO– no amount of getting their insides right will work.

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              • I’m a wiggle-around-the-rules person … so if you don’t get my heart, you can forget the rest of me. My heart is why I obey. My obedience… for years I obeyed “just enough” to stay out of conflict (aka disobeyed and thought about how to disobey constantly).

                It’s NICER to live with people who all follow the same rules – we do need rules in society, agreed – but how do you propose to make rules stick? Do you think that conservative Christians are going to be back in power sometime in our lifetimes?

                I figure we’re doing well to disciple the converts… and make converts. I’d like us to focus on evangelism and discipling – that’s where the war is being fought. Making rules for Worldlings is a waste of energy. It just riles ’em up to no point.

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                • I think the bigger problem is when Christians don’t follow the rules. I don’t expect Worldlings to follow. It’s not appropriate for us to apply Christian standards to those who don’t even believe Jesus existed. But Christians know better.

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  6. The Boomers are products of the U.S. public school system that grew increasingly socialist/progressive throughout the 20th century. Social consciousness was drilled into them from kindergarten onward and it spilled out in the 60s as a cultural revolution that turned out to be entirely self-serving and hedonistic.

    Porn didn’t begin with the Boomers but they latched onto it, normalized it, and made billions of dollars off of it all under the guise of “freedom of expression” and “freedom of expression” supposedly serves the so-called greater good. But in fact, it was all in their own self-interest.

    I think the Greatest Generation overall trusted authority. They trusted the school system, the media, the entertainment industry, their churches, and the government. They did not see that their values were being undermined until it was too late. The compromises were small and seemingly harmless. And really, many of the Greatest Gen approved of the decline in morality and found ways to profit from it both monetarily and personally.

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      • Yeah. Also–the mental images involved in “how much did she flash getting into that position?” and “how much is she going to flash getting out again”?

        Back in real life, the neighbors would be calling her husband and urging whatever was the mid-century version of a 3-day psychiatric hold.

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