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Front cover of a video-format example of pornography


From French pornographie, from Ancient Greek πορνογράφος (pornográphos), from πορνεία (porneía, fornication, prostitution) + γράφω (gráphō, I depict).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /pɔː(ɹ)ˈnɒɡ.ɹə.fi/
  • (US) IPA(key): /pɔɹˈnɑ.ɡɹə.fi/
  • (file)


pornography (usually uncountable, plural pornographies)

  1. The explicit literary or visual depiction of sexual subject matter; any display of material of an erotic nature. [from mid-19th c.]
    Many sites, including Wikipedia block pornography from all articles
    • 1929, D. H. Lawrence, Pornography and Obscenity, pamphlet, republished in 1998, Michael Herbert (editor), D. H. Lawrence: Selected Critical Writings, Oxford University Press, page 294,
      What is pornography to one man is the laughter of genius to another.
    • 1984, K. K. Ruthven, Feminist Literary Studies: An Introduction[1], Cambridge University Press, published 1990, page 89:
      The same is true of her call for a discrimination of pornographies: 'various pornographies operate differently, cater to different audiences and elicit different sexual response'. [] Certainly, the pornographies which circulate among us include some directed specifically at women — not just the pornography of emotions on which Mills and Boon romances capitalise so successfully, nor even religious pornography like Colleen McCullough's The thorn birds (1977), which offers Roman Catholic women the vicarious thrills of sexual relations with a priest — but precisely the kind of pornography that in some feminist criticism is assumed to be for men only.
    • 1994, Susan Easton, The Problem of Pornography: Regulation and the Right to Free Speech[2], Routledge, page viii:
      The dispute over pornography and censorship has split both liberals and feminists.
    • 2004, Ethel Quayle, Max Taylor, Child Pornography: An Internet Crime[3], Taylor & Francis (Routledge), page 73:
      In Chapter 3 we reviewed the various views about sexual offending, and noted that there is a paucity of research on the role of child pornography in adult sexual interest in children.
  2. (by extension) The depiction of (non-sexual) subject matter so that it elicits feelings analogous to erotic pleasure; any such depiction.
    • 1973, Thomas Pynchon, chapter 19, in Gravity's Rainbow, 1st US edition, New York: Viking Press, →ISBN, part 1: Beyond the Zero, page 155:
      "It's true," Vanya now, "look at the forms of capitalist expression. Pornographies of love, erotic love, Christian love, boy-and-his-dog, pornographies of sunsets, pornographies of killing, and pornographies of deduction — ahh, that sigh when we guess the murderer — all these novels, these films and songs and they lull us with, they're approaches, more comfortable and less so, to that Absolute Comfort." A pause to allow Rudi a quick and sour grin, "The self-induced orgasm."
  3. (usually humorous) The graphic, detailed, often gratuitous depiction of something.
    • 2002 August 4, The Seattle Times,:
      In The Four Pillars of Wisdom, he devotes a well-deserved chapter to the financial press and its weakness for "financial pornography"—lurid coverage of star money managers.

Derived terms


See also