The Erotic Engine

Paperback $19.00

Jun 21, 2011 | 320 Pages

Ebook $13.99

Sep 07, 2010 | 320 Pages

  • Paperback $19.00

    Jun 21, 2011 | 320 Pages

  • Ebook $13.99

    Sep 07, 2010 | 320 Pages


“From the first cave drawings to how ‘jiggle physics’ advanced computer graphics to the ‘twitterdildonics’ of the future, a thorough, accessible, smart and insightful look at how pornography has driven communication technology throughout history.”
– Josey Vogels, sex and relationships columnist and author of Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy

“With an argument rich in fascinating stories and compelling characters, Patchen Barss proves this page-turner’s startling thesis: pornography inspires advanced forms of communication. The Erotic Engine is enlightening, entertaining, and intellectually titillating.”
–Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks

Table Of Contents

Part One: Drawing, Painting, Carving, Writing
One The Oldest Impression
Two The “Hottentot Venus” and the History of Civilization
Three The Virgin and the Naughty Monkey
Four Fleshing the Press
Part Two: Mechanical Reproduction
Five Exposure Time
Six Stag Nation
Seven The Format War
Eight “U” Tube
Nine Erotica Online
Ten Virtual World FAQ
Eleven The Games People Play
Part Three: The Modern Pornography Industry
Twelve The Commercialization of the Internet
Thirteen Pornography Outstrips the Mainstream
Part Four: The Strange Future of Mass Communication
Fourteen Words Get in the Way
Fifteen Out of the MUD
Sixteen Emergent Sex and Non-emergent Technology
Seventeen The Law of Unintended Consequences
Eighteen Down but Not Out
Nineteen A Touchy Subject
For Further Reading

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Essay

In the second half of the nineteenth century, it cost more to buy an erotic photograph than it did to hire a prostitute. Partly this was because you get to keep a photograph for repeated viewing, while an actual sexual encounter is more fleeting. Unlike a prostitute, a picture could be stared at by its purchaser indefinitely, or put aside for another time. But there was an even greater draw. The products of this new technology, these images of real naked human beings, unmediated and raw, were like nothing that had ever existed before. They commanded a kind of fascination that fetched very generous fees.
The technology improved, with daguerreotypes swiftly being replaced by negative-positive processes that allowed for the mass production that could meet what seemed to be an insatiable market. Paris quickly became a global hub of photography in general, and erotic photography in particular. Pragmatically, it would have been impossible for it to be one without being the other.
In 1848, there were thirteen photography studios in Paris. Twenty years later, there were more than 350. Most survived by selling erotic images, though they were not officially labelled as such. Photographers took advantage of the cultural divide that had sprung up by that point, which separated nudity into either the acceptable category of art or the tawdry and taboo category of erotica. Tens of thousands of dirty pictures were sold as “art studies,” supposedly meant to be the basis for the great paintings of aspiring artists. (The practice extended into the twentieth century in forms such as gay erotica thinly disguised as athletic photography, and “documentary” portrayals of nudists.)

From the Hardcover edition.

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