Skip to content

By Patchen Barss

“From the first cave drawings to how ‘jiggle physics’ advanced computer graphics to the ‘twitterdildonics’ of the future, a thorough, accessible, smart and insightful look at how pornography has driven communication technology throughout history.”
-Josey Vogels, sex and relationships columnist and author of Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy


Barss_Erotic Engine

For 40 millennia, pornography and sexual depiction have consistently been a powerful source of creative and technological innovation. From the earliest known examples of human beings using a medium to express themselves, sexual representation has been at the heart of advances in human communication. Media that have been influenced by sexuality include 40,000-year-old cave drawings, 6,000-year-old Mesopotamian reliefs, traditional Japanese woodblock prints, Hindu temple carvings, Medieval European music, the output of the Gutenberg Press, oil paintings, water colours, daguerreotypes, photography, cinema, videos, DVDs, cable television, videogames and every nook and cranny of the Internet.

In the past half century, this influence has become so pronounced that there is a clear argument that any business model for a new communications technology should consider appealing to the pornography market. Pornographers are “early adopters” who will see a new medium through its rough early stages until it is ready for mainstream markets.

It is clear that the privacy, convenience and anonymity afforded by modern media have made them pornography’s natural bedfellows. But the most surprising aspect of the story is how people’s desire to express themselves sexually, passionately and intimately to and with other people has proven a staggeringly powerful force driving creativity and innovation in mass communication.

With a sharp intelligence, a dry wit, and virtuosic grasp of the interweaving stories of science, art, commerce and the taboo, Patchen Barss breaks the embarrassed silence to tell the history of what’s really been driving communications technology – and where it will drive it next.

“I am convinced that erotica and also passionate love had a progressive influence on communication means throughout history.”
-Gaetan Brulotte

“With an argument rich in fascinating stories and compelling characters, Patchen Barss proves this page-turner’s startling thesis: pornography inspires advanced forms of communication. The Erotic Engine is enlightening, entertaining, and intellectually titillating.”
-Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks


Doubleday Canada, September 2010

University of Queensland Press, ANZ, fall 2010