Soft-core pornography (antedating to May 1964) - response the Gareth Branwyn

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Nov 29 23:35:06 UTC 2009

I'm not sure you can make an objective definition that is not time-stamped,
as the standards of what is acceptable in soft-core porn markets change.

Tom Dalzell's _The Slang of Sin_ (Merriam-Webster, 1998) says "soft-core
[...] will show simulated sex; or will show sex without showing genitals,
penetration, or ejaculation."

Ten years on, I don't think this is quite right, as the stuff broadcast on
Showtime has lots of full-frontal nudity. I'd update it to "without showing
mouth-to-genital contact, penetration, or ejaculation." Some definitions of
"soft-core" exclude erect male genitalia as well.

Allegedly, the British Board of Film Classification used the "Mull of
Kintyre test" to determine exactly how tumescent a man must be before being
banned. See for a good

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Wilson Gray
Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 2:46 PM
Subject: Re: Soft-core pornography (antedating to May 1964) - response the
Gareth Branwyn

Has anyone come across a more objective, non-circular definition than

"less obscene than hard-core pornography"

from which it follows that hard-core pornography is

"more obscene than soft-core pornography"?

One definition that I came across somewhere about fifty years ago is
that a pornographic representation, in order to be regarded as
hard-core, must contain a photograph or other representation of at
least one ithyphallic male figure.

I just threw that in FWIW. I'm not looking for an argument or even a
discussion. If, for some reason, someone should ask me to distinguish
between the two forms of pornography, that is the answer that I would
give. So far, no one has asked me to make such a judgment. But, of
course, you never know.


On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 12:55 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:
>              4=29_=96_r?= =?windows-1252?Q?esponse_the_Gareth_Branwyn?=
> On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 12:01 AM, Gareth Branwyn
> <garethbranwyn at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Gareth Branwyn <garethbranwyn at COMCAST.NET>
>> Subject:      Origins of "soft core," "Yippies," "Twinkie defense"
>> I am currently editing an article by Paul Krassner (of "The Realist"
>> fame) in which he claims to have coined the terms "soft core
>> porn" (1958), "Yippies" (1967) and "the Twinkie defense" (which he
>> says he made up in 1979 during the trial of Dan White for the double
>> execution of SF Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk).
>> Does anyone here know more about the origins of these terms? I assume
>> he made up Yippies, or was at least involved in the coinage, since he
>> was a co-founder of the Youth International Party. His telling of it
>> in this article makes it sound like he came up with both Youth
>> International Party and Yippies (in that order), but I've read other
>> accounts that say Anita Hoffman came up with Youth International Party
>> after Yippies was coined, so that the group would have a more formal
>> name for mainstream press purposes.
>> Any other information folks here might have would be greatly
>> appreciated.
>> Gareth
> Gareth Branwyn,
>   Hi. Thanks for your interesting questions. I claim no expertise but
> I am willing to perform some searches for you if you wish.
> The Oxford English Dictionary does have some etymological information
> about the term soft-core pornography. The earliest citation currently
> is in the year 1966.
> (OED SECOND EDITION 1989) soft-core attrib. [after hard-core
> (pornography): see hard core (b) s.v. HARD a. 23b], (of pornography)
> less obscene than hard-core pornography;
> 1966 N.Y. Times 25 Sept. D 15/4 The *soft-core pornography of
> advertisements like 'Have you had any lately?'
> The online archive of The Realist contains an earlier instance of the
> term in an issue dated May 1964.
> "Soft-Core Pornography of the Month" (comic strip title), Page 13, The
> Realist editor Paul Krassner, Num. 50, May 1964.
> There are also matches to the collection of issues of The Realist that
> have been scanned for the Google Books Archive, but this collection is
> incomplete and the issues appear to be dated 1968 and after.
> Can Paul Krassner supply you with a citation to a written document for
> his claim of the 1958 origination of the term "soft-core porn" or
> "soft-core pornography"? If the citation is to a 1958 issue of the
> Realist then it should be checkable because the issues are available
> at the archive.
> When did Krassner first claim to have originated each of these terms?
> Is there a citation to an interview where he claimed that he created
> these terms?
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"--a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list