With all the passions, positive and negative, roused by pornography it can be hard to view it objectively or historically. This task is handled admirably in Pornography: The Secret History of Cilivisation which looks at pornography from the ancient past to what it may become in the future.

This documentary, originally a British television series, is divided into six parts: The Road to Ruin looks at how the excavation of Pompeii's ruins led to the origin of the idea of pornography; The Sacred and Profane examines how the printing press affected pornography; The Mechanical Eye explores how photogaphy led to the porn magazine; Twentieth Century Foxy shows porn and the motion picture came together; Sex Lives on Videotape takes on the effect of video on adult theaters and consumers; and Pornotopia tackles the Internet and porn. Each segment is very focused and includes interviews with historians, art experts, and members of the adult industry.

Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation does an excellent job of providing a detailed historical overview of the forms and impact of erotic materials throughout history. This series avoids titillation or sensationalism, instead providing a fascinating look at pornography -- and, by extension, human sexuality -- from ancient times to the upcoming future. There are a few dramatic sound effects or visual effects thrown in, but these don't distract from an intelligent and fascinating treatment of the erotic side of humanity.

I do have two small complaints with this documentary. First, while Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation strives for objectively, there is a noticable lack of anyone or anything suggesting a negative side of pornography. (For example, the documentary described Linda Lovelace becoming the first porn superstar after Deep Throat; but it doesn't mention that she spent the rest of her life crusading against porn and telling people that watching Deep Throat is watching her get raped on film.) Second, when discussing home viewing of pornography this documentary implies the viewing audience is composed of single men, ignoring the expansion of erotica to include women and couples.

Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation is a wonderful history lesson about what humans enjoyed, enjoy, and will enjoy in the realm of sex and sexuality. I highly recommend viewing this great documentary -- especially with a loved one!

Overall grade: A

Reviewed by James Lynch

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