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Pornography in Europe

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Pornography in Europe

Pornography in Europe has been dominated by a few pan-European producers and distributors, the most notable of which is the Private Media Group that successfully claimed the position previously held by Color Climax Corporation in the early 1990s. Most European countries also have local pornography producers, from Portugal (e.g. Naturalvideo) to Serbia (e.g. Hexor), who face varying levels of competition with international producers.

Hungary is noted for having liberal pornography laws. The Czech Republic, with its specialised companies such as the spanking producers Lupus Pictures, gay pornography label Bel Ami, and for having become the regular European destination of the U.S. and Japanese producers as well as its culturally open attitude to pornography and extremely low religiosity, is a likely rival. Romania was also considered a "rising star" of European pornography in the mid-2000s, due to the output of pornographic auteur Raul Cristian of Floyd-Agency.

The once popular style of Euro-chic pornography represented by directors Lasse Braun, Joe d'Amato, and Michel Gentil has lost ground and the Pierre Woodman style of video porn now attracts a larger audience. A few directors like Luca Damiano, Mario Salieri, and Alain Payet continue with the "older" cinematographic and dramatic styles that often distinguish European pornography from those of other cultures.


In Albania, pornography is illegal only for producing, delivery, advertising, import, selling and publication of pornographic materials in persons under 18 years old. Child pornography is stictly prohibited.[1]


In Austria, "youth-imperiling" materials or those which violate human dignity may not be displayed or sold to people under 16 years of age. Nudity does not fall under this restriction.


Pornography is illegal in Belarus. Production, distribution, promotion, exhibition as well as possession with intent of distribution or promotion of pornographic materials or objects of pornographic nature is punished by Belarusian criminal law and results in compulsory community service, fine or up to 4 years of imprisonment.[2]


Pornography is legal in Belgium. The products (magazines and DVDs) are essentially import products from Europe (France, Germany, the Netherlands) or North America. There is also a little local production, mostly amateur.


Porn production and distribution is illegal in Bulgaria. All pornographic filming and online sex is illegal. There are no Bulgarian porn production companies. The penalty for production or distribution of pornography is up to one year imprisonment (or up to two years if the criminal used the Internet) and a fine of 1000 BGN to 3000 BGN. The penalty for distribution or possession of child pornography is up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to 2000 BGN. Authorities tolerate illegal distribution of hardcore porn in designated shops, and on TV after 11 pm. Softcore material is rarely censored. Magazines and pornographic papers have become increasingly available since the fall of communism in 1989, and local editions of many international porn magazines are published. Society is often exposed to sexual content in advertising.[3][4]


Pornography is legal in Croatia. Hardcore pornographic material may not be sold to persons under the age of 18. Distribution or possession of child pornography is illegal and punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.


Pornography is legal in Cyprus. Selling pornographic material to people under 18 years old is illegal. Child pornography is strictly illegal.

Czech Republic

Pornography is legal in the Czech Republic. Sale and distribution of child pornography is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years. Possession of child pornography was made illegal in 2007 and carries penalty of up to 2 years in prison. The Czech penal code also bans sale and distribution of pornography depicting sexual intercourse with an animal and pornography depicting violence or disrespect to human beings, with penalty of up to 1 year in prison.[5]


A ban on pornographic literature was lifted in 1967. In 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography.[6] People in Denmark have free access to pornography; it is sold in most convenience stores, and is available for purchase or rental in practically every video store. Pornography including minors younger than 18 years is prohibited, and possession is illegal.


Pornography is legal, distribution or production is regulated by law.[7]


In Finland, child, violent, and bestial pornography is banned.[8] It is legal to sell pornography in any store, but magazines may not be sold to buyers under 15 years of age, and hardcore is restricted to buyers 18 years or older.

Prior to 1 January 1999, all indecent publishing, including the import and export thereof, was banned.[9]


In the early 1970s, French viewers had become familiar with stag films shot in the Netherlands, featuring French actresses such as Claudine Beccarie and Sylvia Bourdon. The first genuine French pornographic film Les Baiseuses by Guy Gibert was released in 1975. The first French porn film that met international success was Le Sexe qui parle by Claude Mulot, which was released the same year (followed by a sequel two years later). This film was so successful that it was exported to the US, with the name Pussy Talk.

In 1976, a law that put considerable sanctions on pornographic films in distribution and taxation, known popularly as Code X was imposed, creating a situation that forced pornography develop itself on its own right. Since then, pornography has been a growing economy in France, now existing in various forms from magazines to satellite TV broadcasting.

Producers of video pornography can be divided into two segments: companies like Vidéo Marc Dorcel, which produces "chic" adult feature films for the international market and companies that produce low-budget videos almost exclusively for domestic market (Œil du Cochon, Euro Choc, Ragtime, etc.). The latter type also tends to focus on popular fetishes such as rape, incest, and fisting (as indicated in the classic series Viol, inceste & fist-fucking (Rape, Incest, and Fist-Fucking) by Fabien Lafait).


Early years of German pornography began with the softcore film Graf Porno und seine Mädchen (Count Porno and his girls) in 1968. The movie's success (more than 3 million admissions) lead to a whole series of films that was and is referred to in German media as the Sex-Welle (sex wave). The most well known film of this period is Schulmädchen-Report: Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten (The School-Girl Report, what the parents don't believe possible) by Ernst Hofbauer in 1970. The sex scenes had become bolder with time and by 1975, when the legal ban of pornography was lifted, the era of German hardcore pornography began.

Director Hans Billian was the protagonist of the period and the films were usually in line with the so-called "Bavarian porn sex comedies", often depicting male performers as comic characters, like Sepp Gneißl in Kasimir der Kuckuckskleber (1977). This era was also characterised by several Josephine Mutzenbacher films.

Today's German pornography is generally very similar to the American "glamour" pornography though often tailored primarily for the German market. In contrast several German labels focus on a more "home-made" amateur flair, often focusing on intense hardcore themes such as gang bangs, bukkake and urine fetishism; most notably 'German Goo Girls' and other series by John Thompson Productions.

Due to popular belief outside of Germany, fecal pornography known as "Scheisse porn" (using the German slang word for faeces) or, more commonly, as "Kaviar" (a generic term) supposedly is particularly popular in Germany, with companies like SG-Video and performers like Austrian Veronica Moser or English Ben Chambers specializing in the concept. Although German companies have their fair world market share in producing for this niche market, the major percentage is sold into export. [1]


In Greece, softcore magazines, calendars, and decks of cards are sold openly at roadside kiosks and tourist shops. Hard core pornography is also freely distributed in convenience stores, kiosks and video stores and can also be shown in encrypted channels and adult cinemas. Selling pornographic material to people under 18 years old is illegal, but in practice the law is not always enforced.Since 2008 there is also a legal little local production. Child pornography is strictly illegal.


In Hungary, the production of pornography mainly dates from the period after the fall of communism in 1989. The production and distribution of pornography was illegal under communism, but the laws were liberalised with the emergence of democracy.[10] Permissive government policies soon propelled the country to the forefront of the European pornography industry. Several foreign directors were attracted to the country's liberal legislation, cheap production costs and large supply of attractive female performers.[11] Eventually, domestic producers began to prosper as well, and several female actresses made big names for themselves within the industry. Hungarian pornography is different from that produced in American in the more natural appearance of its performers. The sex scenes also tend to be more extreme, with frequent use of anal sex and various forms of multiple penetration.[12]


Publication of pornography is illegal in Iceland,[13] and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months. Publication of child pornography is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years. In February 2013, Iceland's parliament began debating a ban on online pornography.[14]


Other than regulations regarding pornographic movies, no laws against pornography, other than child pornography (a child is defined as someone under 18), exist.


Although Italy had accumulated a lot of softcore pornography in the 1970s, hardcore pornography was not a usual trend until the 1980s. The first pornographic film in Italy was Il Telefono rosso (The red telephone) in 1983 by Riccardo Schicchi with Ilona Staller (aka "Cicciolina"). The film caused much controversy and it was restrained from legal release until 1986 with an alternate revision of Italian censorship laws.

With this atmosphere of liberty, Italian producers rushed to meet on-screen curiosities of viewers to even gain the title of presenting "bestiality" in mainstream pornographic films; a trend shared by Rocco Siffredi in his 2003 film Hazardous Duty (in the European release by Night Trips). Italian pornography producers depended on French actresses or expatriates like Marina Hedman (with the notable exception Moana Pozzi with her Valentina, ragazza in calore by Raniero di Giovanbattista in 1981) till the arrival of Hungarian Gabriella Kovács (aka "Angelica Bella") in 1991 but following this, Italy faced an influx of female pornography performers from ex-East Europe.

In today's Italian pornography, the strong emphasis is placed on aggressive anal sex often with implied coercion. Many Italian films have no vaginal intercourse at all, being strictly about anal sex. Another popular theme is age disparity between sexual partners, giving way to the Incesto films by directors like Andy Casanova and Eros Cristaldi. Director Andy Casanova's popular series Stupri Italiani also introduces rape as a popular theme.


In Latvia, the distribution of pornographic material is allowed under very similar legal conditions as in Poland.[15] Pornographic or erotic material is rarely to never sold in places accessible to general public.


In Lithuania, commercial distribution of pornographic material is prohibited by the Article 309 of the country's Criminal Code which states that "A person who, for the purpose of distribution, produces or acquires pornographic material or distributes such material shall be punished by community service or by a fine or by restriction of liberty or by imprisonment for a term of up to one year.".[16]

Erotic material does not fall into this category and is widely accessible in shops and supermarkets.


In Malta, pornography and obscene material is outlawed regardless of whether it has a commercial interest or whether it is directed to an adult audience. The relevant law in this respect is Article 208 (1) of the Criminal Code of Malta which prohibits the manufacture, print, importation, circulation and exportation of pornographic or obscene print, painting, photograph, film, book, card or writing, or any other obscene article whatsoever, whether for gain, or for distribution, or for display in a public place. The law envisages a criminal punishment of imprisonment between six and twelve months, or to a fine not less than one thousand (€1,000) euros but not exceeding three thousand (€3,000) euros, or to both such imprisonment and fine.[17] In a decision given on 21 February 2011,[18] the Maltese Court of Criminal Appeal upheld the criminal conviction of Mr. Alexander Baldacchino who was found guilty of exhibiting soft and hardcore pornographic films at the City Lights Theatre in Valletta.[19] In another judgement, student editor Mark Camilleri and author Alex Vella Gera were found not guilty under Article 208 (1) of the Criminal Code and Article 7 of the Press Act (obscene libel) for the publication of an obscene story entitled Li Tkisser Sewwi (translated in English to 'Repair that which you break') in student newspaper Realtà (distributed for free on campus at the University of Malta) by the Court of Magistrates (Malta). The decision was upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeal.[20]

The offence of child pornography carries stricter penalties. Article 208A of the Criminal Code of Malta criminalises the manufacture, production, distribution, dissemination, importation and exportation, sale, etc. of indecent photographs, films, video recordings or electronic images of persons under age (minors, for the purposes of Maltese law, are persons under the age of eighteen years). The offence carries with it a criminal punishment of imprisonment of a term of twelve months to five years or of a term between two to eight years when the offence is aggravated (e.g. when the offence involves violence or grievous bodily harm on such person). In case of simple possession of such items the criminal punishment envisaged is that of imprisonment not exceeding three years.[21]


  • Article 240a indirectly prohibits giving pornographic pictures to children younger than 16 years. Maximum imprisonment is one year, or a fine of the fourth category (€19,500).[22]
  • Article 240b prohibits child pornography, which is defined as a picture with a child (0–11 years old) or teenager (12–15 years old) performing sexual acts. Maximum imprisonment is 4 years or a fine of the fifth category (€78,000). It also prohibits making a profession or habit of it. The maximum imprisonment in that case is 6 years or a fine of the fifth category (€78,000).[23]
  • Article 248e prohibits online dating with minors (0–15 years old) in order to have sex or to make porn with him/her. The maximum imprisonment in that case is 2 years or a fine of the fourth category (€19,500).[24]
  • Article 254a prohibits bestiality porn. Maximum imprisonment 6 months or a fine of the third category (€7,800).[25]


In Norway, hardcore material was illegal for years de jure to distribute, or sell, but legal to possess. Production, however, was not explicitly illegal, thus both photo and movie shoots occurred. One could acquire pornography abroad, on the Internet, or via satellite TV. Illegal porn shops also existed, especially in larger cities. To satisfy legal requirements, editors of erotic magazines, domestic TV channels, and cable TV obscured sexual organs in activity using black rectangles and the like. After the Norwegian Supreme Court unanimously acquitted a former magazine editor on 7 December 2005 for publishing unobscured hardcore pornography in 2002, it became understood that printed hardcore pornography was no longer illegal. Pornographic magazines and movies were introduced in general stores in 2006. Regular and cable TV tend to abide by the old standards, seeing that edited TV is regulated by a separate law and thus is not affected by the Supreme Court decision. Video-on-demand, however, is not regulated by the TV laws, and, thus, pornography is legal to order.

The depiction of illegal sexual activities, including those involving children, animals, necrophilia, rape, violence, or the use of force, remains illegal.[26][27][28]


In Poland, as of September 1998, Article 202 of the national Penal Code makes pornography legal except for the production or possession of pornographic materials containing minors, bestiality (zoophilia), and "scenes of violence/rape". Also illegal is presenting or showing pornographic materials to people who do not want to have any contact with them, and to persons under 15 years of age. Pornographic magazines and movies are sold in transparent plastic bags openly in kiosks, gas stations, etc..


In Portugal, hardcore pornographic movies can only be shown in adult cinemas. Videos and magazines are openly sold in newsstands but are forbidden by law to be supplied to minors of 18 years. Additionally, hardcore pornographic movies are banned from open-channel TV and can only be broadcast through encrypted/pay-per-view channels. Child pornography is illegal.


Pornography is legal in Romania. Magazines must be enclosed in plastic bags (or something equivalent) with a small red square printed on the enclosing material. Pornographic TV channels offered by cable operators must be encrypted. Pornographic materials cannot be sold to minors under 18.


Most Russian porn is produced in Moscow and in St. Petersburg where the largest adult film producer, SP-Company, is based. The types of Russian adult films may range from gonzo pornography to adaptations of Russian classics (Eugene Onegin (by Tatiana Taneyeva (2003)), The Master and Margarita (by Armen Oganezov & Sergei Pryanishnikov (2002)) etc.) and these productions basically aim the domestic market. Much of the pornography is produced for the international internet market.


Pornography is legal in Serbia. Hardcore pornographic material may not be sold to persons under the age of 18. Distribution or possession of child pornography or pornography involving minors (under 18) is illegal and punishable by law.


Pornography in Spain is legal, and enforcement of obscenity laws is lax. It is illegal to display pornographic material at newsstands, but the great majority do so. In many city centers sex shops may be found. E-commerce merchants from all around the world use I.P.S.P. (Internet clearing services) from Spanish banks. The headquarters of Private Media Group, Europe's biggest pornographic company, are in Barcelona.


Sweden has no age laws for the possession or viewing of pornography. Some shops follow a voluntary limit and do not sell to minors. Material that involves animals is legal, though it is subject to animal-welfare laws. BDSM is classified as an "illegal depiction of violence" (olaga våldsskildring).[29]

It is illegal for people under the age of 18 to act or pose for pornography. Pornography depicting children filmed and photographed, is illegal, even if the material was legal in the originating country.


Pornography in Switzerland is defined by the Article 197 of the Swiss criminal code. The first alinea states that «Any person who offers, shows, passes on or makes accessible to a person who is under the age of 16 pornographic documents, sound or visual recordings, depictions or other articles of a similar nature or pornographic representations, or broadcasts any of the same on radio or television is liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding three years or to a monetary penalty.» Furthermore, it is illegal to produce, import, store, market, advertise, exhibit, offer, show, pass on or make accessible pornography that depicts sexual acts involving children (under 16 years old) or animals, human excrement, or acts of violence, called "hard pornography".

Since July 2014,[30] human excrement and urine are not considered being "hard pornography" anymore. Until June 2014, actors aged 16 and above could participate in a pornography production; however, since July 2014, if a person "looks" or is under 18 years of age, the material is considered as pedo-pornography. This is due to the Swiss ratification of the Lanzarote Convention.

The age of viewing pornography stays fixed at 16 years old (Art. 197 al. 1 of the Swiss criminal code).

The same materials cited above are nevertheless not regarded as pornographic if they have a cultural or scientific value that justifies their protection by law.[31]


Pornography was outlawed in Ukraine in 2009, when Victor Yushchenko, then president, signed the new legislation.[32] The new law has been approved overwhelmingly by the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament), it was signed by the president in July 2009.[33] The possession, distribution, sale and manufacture of pornographic materials are illegal carrying a fine or a jail sentence up to 3 years. Pornography is defined by the law as "vulgar, candid, cynical, obscene depiction of sexual acts, pursuing no other goal, the explicit demonstration of genitals, unethical elements of the sexual act, sexual perversions, realistic sketches that do not meet moral criteria and offend honor and dignity of the human by inciting low instincts. "[34] Pornography for 'medical purpose' remains legal.[35]

Wiska, one of Ukraine's internationally known pornstars, alleges continuous and unconstitutional persecution for her abroad work, and has unsuccessfully applied for political asylum in the European Union.[36]

United Kingdom

In Britain, where pornography is more restricted than it is in many other English-speaking or Western Europe countries, sexual media is easily smeared for an audience that is seldom given an opportunity to see what really is sold under the name of "pornography".[37] However the current British legislative framework including the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (in England and Wales), the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and the Video Recordings Act 1984 leads to a confusing situation in which there is a theoretical ban on the publication and distribution (but not possession) of pornographic material in any form, which is in practice unenforcable due to the vagueness of the legal test of material that "depraves and corrupts". In practice, hardcore material on video and DVD was until recently banned by the requirement under the Video Recordings Act to be certified by the BBFC, while mainstream hardcore material in other forms such as magazines and websites is essentially unrestricted. European, American and British hardcore pornographic magazines are now openly sold in many British newsagents, for instance. Due to libralisation in BBFC policy, mainstream hardcore DVDs now receive R18 certificates, legalising them but restricting their sale to licensed sex shops such as those in Soho.

British-made pornography tends to focus on a rough-and-ready semi-amateur look rather than the more stylized glamorous look of Continental European pornography.

The UK is still the only Member State of the European Union that prohibits private imports of adult pornography by consumers coming from other Member States of the European Union. In the 2004–2005 fiscal year, the agents of Her Majesty Revenue & Customs seized 96,783 items of pornographic media carried by people travelling into the UK.[38]

The UK porn industry is estimated to be now worth about £1 billion, compared to £20 billion worldwide.[39]

See also


  1. ^ "Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania". Article 117. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Republic of Belarus Criminal Code — Article 343. "Production and distribution of pornografic materials or objects of pornographic nature". (Russian)
  3. ^ "Act to amend the Criminal Code of Bulgaria". Bulgarian Parliament. 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  4. ^ "Online pornography appears in State Gazette of Bulgaria". Еconomedia. 2007-05-23. p. 1. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  5. ^ "Trestní zákoník - Část II. - Hlava III. - Trestné činy proti lidské důstojnosti v sexuální oblasti". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  6. ^ Denmark in the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality - "...Denmark was the first country in the world to legitimize written pornography in 1967 (followed by pictorial pornography in 1969).".
  7. ^ "Pornograafilise sisuga ja vägivalda või julmust propageerivate teoste leviku reguleerimise seadus – Riigi Teataja" (in Eesti). Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  8. ^ "Strafflag, 17 KAP, 18 §". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  9. ^ Lag angående undertryckande av osedliga publikationers spridning
  10. ^ Sigel, Lisa Z. (2005). "The Hungarian Example". International Exposure: Perspectives on Modern European Pornography, 1800-2000. Rutgers University Press. p. 180. ISBN . Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  11. ^ Sigel (2005), p. 179.
  12. ^ Sigel (2005), pp. 187–9.
  13. ^ "(Icelandic language) Icelandic general criminal code, article 210". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  14. ^ McVeigh, Tracy. "Can Iceland lead the way towards a ban on violent online pornography?". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  15. ^ "Law on Pornography Restrictions". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  16. ^ "Article 309. Possession of Pornographic Material". 
  17. ^ "Article 208(1) - Offences Relating to Pornographic or Obscene Articles (Criminal Code of Malta)". 
  18. ^ "Il-Pulizija vs Alexander Baldacchino, Court of Criminal Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction), 21 February 2011 (Reference 419/2010)". 
  19. ^ "Waylon Johnston, 'Valletta cinema operator accused of screening pornographic films' (, 25 July 2009)". 
  20. ^ "Waylon Johnston, 'Acquittal of editor, writer confirmed by appeals court' (, 09 February 2012)". 
  21. ^ "Article 208A — Indecent photographs, films, etc., of persons under age. (Criminal Code of Malta)". 
  22. ^ " - Wet- en regelgeving - Wetboek van Strafrecht - BWBR0001854" (in Nederlands). 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  23. ^ " - Wet- en regelgeving - Wetboek van Strafrecht - BWBR0001854" (in Nederlands). 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  24. ^ " - Wet- en regelgeving - Wetboek van Strafrecht - BWBR0001854" (in Nederlands). 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  25. ^ " - Wet- en regelgeving - Wetboek van Strafrecht - BWBR0001854" (in Nederlands). 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  26. ^ "Høyesterett sier ja til porno —". Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  27. ^ "Porno-frifinnelse i Høyesterett". Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  28. ^ " — Kultur". Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  29. ^ "Man freed in landmark S&M case". 
  30. ^ (French) La consommation de pornographie dure est punissable à partir du 1er juillet 2014, Cybercrime Coordination Unit Switzerland, Federal Department of Justice and Police, retrieved 29-08-2014
  31. ^ Swiss Criminal Code Art. 197 - Pornography, Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  32. ^ "Ukraine slaps ban on all porn". Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  33. ^ "In Ukraine, this photo may be porn". GlobalPost. 2010-05-30. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  34. ^ "‘Pornography’ banned, but not defined". 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  35. ^ "Ukraine bans porn…except for medical purposes". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  36. ^ Чехія остаточно відмовила колишній порноакторці Wiska в статусі біженки (Ukrainian)
  37. ^ "The Harm of Porn". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  38. ^ "HM Revenue & Customs Annual Report 2004-05 and Autumn Performance Report 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  39. ^ "Britain becoming the largest porn market". 2006-05-30. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 

External links

  • Eurobabeindex Website about Central and Eastern European female performers (listing by country) Warning: Pornographic content
  • Euro Pornstars Website about European adult actresses Warning: Pornographic content
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