Although the portrayal of sexuality is as old as art itself, pornography and censorship are more modern concepts, products of the mass production of erotic art in society. Throughout Western history, reactionary forces (usually the clergy) often censored nu­dity in public art, especially when it featured religious figures. For example, on the walls of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, clerics painted over the genitals of nudes with loin­cloths and wisps of fabric. Still, because there was no way to mass produce these kinds of art, the Church’s reactions varied on a case-by-case basis.

Pornography in the modern sense began to appear when printing became sophisti­cated enough to allow fairly large runs of popular books, beginning in the 16th century. Intellectuals and clergy were often against this mass production of books. They worried that if everybody had books and could learn about things for themselves, why would any­one need teachers, scholars, or theologians? Religious and secular intellectuals quickly issued dire warnings about the corrupting effects of allowing people direct access to knowledge and established censorship mechanisms. By the 17 th century, the Church was pressuring civic governments to allow them to inspect bookstores, and soon forbid­den books, including erotica, were being removed; such books then became rarer and more valuable, and a clandestine business arose in selling them. It was this struggle be­tween the illicit market in sexual art and literature and the forces of censorship that started what might be called a pornographic subculture, one that still thrives today.

Today, erotic literature of almost any kind is readily available. The sexual scenes de­scribed in the average romance novel today would have branded it as pornographic only a few decades ago. One would think that such books would be the main targets of peo­ple trying to censor sexually explicit materials. Yet most censorship battles over sexually explicit material involve images rather than written word.

Подпись: ReviewQuestion Identify the early reactionary forces that began a censorship of erotic literature. Although the early court cases that established the American legal attitudes toward pornography in the United States were often about books (especially about sending them through the mail), modern debates about pornography tend to focus more on ex­plicit pictures and movies. Still, it was the erotic novel that first established porno­graphic production as a business in the Western world and provoked a response from re­ligious and governmental authorities.