Its current definition was added in the 1860s, replacing the older one meaning writings about prostitutes.By 1864, the first version of the modern definition had appeared in Webster's Dictionary: "licentious painting employed to decorate the walls of rooms sacred to bacchanalian orgies, examples of which exist in Pompeii." This was the beginning of what today refers to explicit pictures in general.When large-scale excavations of Pompeii were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Romans came to light, shocking the Victorians who saw themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire.
Early cultures often associated the sexual act with supernatural forces and thus their religion is intertwined with such depictions.
In Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan and China, representations of sex and erotic art have specific spiritual meanings within native religions.
In the 1970s in the United States, attempts were made to shut down the pornography industry by prosecuting individuals on prostitution charges. Freeman, the California Supreme Court ruled to distinguish prostitution as an individual taking part in sexual activities in exchange for money versus an individual who is portraying a sexual act on-screen as part of their acting performance.
Among the oldest surviving examples of erotic depictions are Paleolithic cave paintings and carvings.
Obscenity is the judicially recognized exception to the first amendment.