Last December, I found myself in a huge used bookstore outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I wandered, as I often do, to the Psychology section mostly because right next to the Psychology section is where the good stuff is at. That is to say, Sexuality. There, I happened upon a thin, blue and silver book with an Art Deco design on the cover. It was classy looking, something you wouldn’t worry about if another book enthusiast glanced your way as you skimmed the pages. The book was 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, which is essentially a long essay about the history of pornography by Alan Moore. Yes, that Alan Moore. British. Scraggly Beard. One of the most successful and widely known graphic novelists of all time. Apparently, he knows about porn. I was intrigued.
Throughout the 89 pages of glossy text (and pictures, by the way), Moore lays out a historical and conceptual perspective of our relationship with pornography over the last 25,000 years. He begins with the Venus of Willendorf (c. 24,000- 22,000 BC) which if you haven’t seen it is basically a limestone carving of an absurdly chesty and bottom-heavy women. While a symbol of fertility, Moore conjectures that she is also an object of arousal, at least to her creator. The first sex doll, if you will. He goes on to describe the pre-Christian cultures of Greece and Rome, places where murals of explicit sex acts could be found on your living room wall.
The point that he continues to make within the book is that throughout history, cultural progress and sexual openness are in direct correlation with one another. Conversely, with the introduction of Christian values such as purity, chastity, bodily shame, etc., the need to control individual’s sexuality stifles that progress. For example, the fall of the Roman Empire is often linked with its decadence. However, it had been an orgiastic, sexually permissive culture since its inception. Only after Constantine enforced Christianity upon the culture did it begin to crumple.
Moore goes on to describe attitudes toward porn/sex in the Victorian age in fascinating and infuriating detail. There is also an interesting passage linking sexually oppression to Adolf Hitler. Seems reasonable. He says, “sexually progressive cultures gave us mathematics, literature, philosophy, civilization, and the rest, while sexually restrictive cultures gave us the Dark Ages and the Holocaust. Not that I’m trying to load my argument, of course.”
But of course, he is. That’s something to be mindful of while reading this book. Moore is trying to convince you of something. Unfortunately, there are no footnotes with source material for his historical anecdotes which kind of leaves you to take his word for it. Also, most of his findings focus on Western culture from a distinctly male perspective. Moore writes in a humorous and compelling tone that makes this often taboo topic to be quite matter-of-fact. Personally, I found a lot of his points to be reasonable and plausible. At the very least, reading this book will leave you more informed about pornography and sex practices throughout history and hopefully, spur you on to reflect on your own values.