Strong women rulers have always suffered violent attacks on their sexuality. To the Romans, Cleopatra was the lascivious “harlot queen,” a woman “whom her own slaves would grind.” In the Middle Ages, Isabel of England got the same treatment from her enemies, as did Catherine of Medici and Anne of Austria. Even Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen who masterfully remained above the male fantasy mill, could not stem all rumors of her “uncontrollable female desires” and was thought to have been behind the riding-accident death of her longtime friend Robert Dudley’s wife.

 

But perhaps the most tragic victim was Marie Antoinette. From early in her rule, the Austrian-born queen inspired in her French subjects the most virulent misogyny. The market was flooded with whole libraries of violent pornography that depicted her as a wasteful and treacherous… More…

Pornography has served as a spur to the development of every new technology from the Gutenberg press to the Internet, but it was the Lumière brothers’ first commercial cinema display in 1895 Paris that inspired creative smut on an international scale. The first “blue movies” were staid – like pictures of a couple embracing in Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) – or static, women simply staring at the camera in various states of undress. But soon some anonymous geniuses recognized the narrative potential of the art form. In 1907, directors in France, Germany, and the United States began making one-reel films that included live sex acts with prostitutes, to be shown at bachelor parties. This struck a popular chord, particularly in cutting-edge New York. The oldest surviving American stag movie is A Free Ride (1915), also known as A Grass Sandwich, which was shot in New Jersey and played for… More…