Softcore pornography  

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Pornography, as we have observed, is usually classified into "hardcore" and "softcore". This utilises a HARD-SOFT image-schema. Hardness is generally associated with activity and forcefulness, probably because muscles in action become hard, and hard objects can penetrate soft objects. In the case of "hard porn", the particularly apposite nature of this image-schema needs no comment. From this HARD IS ACTIVE, we can derive ACTIVE IS MORE (since activity produces more results than inactivity) therefore HARDER PORNOGRAPHY IS MORE PORNOGRAPHIC. This combines with MORE IS BETTER (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980:22) to give us HARDER PORNOGRAPHY IS BETTER PORNOGRAPHY (at least for those who enjoy pornography). --"Debating Pornography: Categories and Metaphors" by Robin Turner, 1999

In the realm of erotica the differences between hardcore and softcore can be described along the axes simulated/unsimulated, explicit/suggestive. --JWG [Aug 2006]

"The timing of the Harlequins' prodigious success [in the 1970s] has coincided exactly with the appearance and spread of the women's movement, and much of its increasingly anti-feminist content reflects this symbiotic relationship."--"Soft-Porn Culture" (1980) by Ann Douglas

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Softcore (or soft porn) is a form of pornography, either video or nude glamour photography, that is less explicit than hardcore material in depicting or describing sexual behaviour. Softcore does not depict explicit sexual contact, but ranges from nudity to simulated intercourse. While both softcore and hardcore feature sexual situations with the intention of arousing the viewer, the key difference is that softcore does not clearly show aroused genitalia (including masturbation), ejaculation, or penetration (vaginal, anal and/or oral). Some softcore porn, especially recently, is more explicit in that penises or vulvae are shown as well as contact in those areas. In milder forms of softcore porn, much of the nudity is implied, such as the handbra technique, with only limited nipple exposure.


Originally, softcore pornography was presented mainly in the form of "men's magazines", when it was barely acceptable to show a glimpse of nipple in the 1950s. By the 1970s, in such mainstream magazines as Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, no region of the body was considered off limits.

After the formation of the MPAA rating system in the United States and prior to the 1980s, numerous softcore films, with a wide range of production costs, were released to mainstream movie theatres, especially drive-ins. Some, such as Emmanuelle and Alice in Wonderland, received positive reviews from noted critics such as Roger Ebert.

From the 2000s, relaxed standards for cable television has allowed for the production of a number of television series with sexually explicit and/or violent content to air that would have been restricted to the softcore movie market in the past.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Softcore pornography" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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