Welcome

Omnium rerum principia parva sunt. (The beginnings of all things are small.)

Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, V. 21.

Truth! stark naked truth, is the word, and I will not so much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze-wrapper on it.

John Cleland, Fanny Hill

This site was created by Brian M. Watson to serve as a starting place for students, teachers, and researchers interested in the history of sexuality, erotica, obscenity and pornography. It is, esentially, a fancy Libguide.

If you are not familiar with Libguide, Pitt's Libguide on Libguides is a great... libguide. Essentially, Libguides are documents created by librarians as starting places for looking to research a specific topic. This libguide's topic is sexual representation--the internet was made for it.

However it is a lot more than that—various subsections of this site provide:

  1. A list of relevant research archives from around the world.
  2. A list of digital archives or projects focused on the history of sexuality.
  3. A timeline of various events in the history of sexuality.
  4. A bibliography, organized by tags to aid in searching and research by discipline [forthcoming].  
  5. Scanned digital materials of adult content – partially connected to the Adult Film History Project, and provided by David Ryan Church

The Title:

The title of this site is Obscena: Resources [Ob/On/Off]scene. This title is a combination of the topics I eventually hope to cover here: 

[Ob]scenity, by which I mean history of the sexual book, print, photo, lithograph, engraving, etc.; 

1590s, "offensive to the senses, or to taste and refinement," from Middle French obscène (16c.), from Latin obscenus "offensive," especially to modesty, originally "boding ill, inauspicious," of unknown origin; perhaps from ob "in front of" (see ob-) + caenum "filth." Meaning "offensive to modesty or decency" is attested from 1590s. Legally, in U.S., it hinged on "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest."

[On/Off]scenity, my spin on Linda Williams' Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible,"  on/scene-- if you are a pornstudies student, this is (probably) the foundational text on 'modern' porn studies:

The word I like to use to talk about the pervasiveness of hard-core pornography is “on/scenity” — as opposed to “obscenity,” which signifies something really taboo, something rigidly kept off (ob) the scene of public representation. On/scenity, on the other hand, refers to all the discussions and representations of sex that used to be hidden away but that now insistently appear in the new public/private realms of home video and the Internet. What interests me is not the story of the scandal of pornography but really the story of — for better or worse — the democratization of it and the criticism that becomes possible with this democratization. (Linda Williams)
That's all I have. Why don't you get started by browsing the  resources, an exhibit on the Dr. David Church Collection, or some material I've digitized?

The Author:

If you're bored, you can read about me (they/them) here: https://brimwats.com/