The primary subjects of present-day pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors or porn stars, who perform in pornographic films.

No date is known for the first use of the word in Greek; the earliest attested, most related word one could find in Greek, is When large-scale excavations of Pompeii were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Romans came to light, shocking the Victorians who saw themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire.

They did not know what to do with the frank depictions of sexuality and endeavored to hide them away from everyone but upper-class scholars.

Irrespective of the legal or social view of pornography, it has been used in a number of contexts.

It is used, for example, at fertility clinics to stimulate sperm donors.

Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photographs, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, writing, film, video, and video games.

The term applies to the depiction of the act rather than the act itself, and so does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease.

However, neither the English nor the United States Act defined what constituted "obscene", leaving this for the courts to determine.

Before the English Act, the publication of obscene material was treated as a common law misdemeanour and effectively prosecuting authors and publishers was difficult even in cases where the material was clearly intended as pornography.

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