Sex & Dating | May 20, 2021 9:56 am

Your Grandpa’s Porn: Pornhub Is Remastering Vintage Videos Dating Back to 1896

The site's new "Remastured" Film Library features old skin flicks from the 19th and 20th centuries

May Irwin and John C Rice stars of the Broadway play 'The Kiss', reenact the play's famous kissing scene for the Edison Company's cameras.
The world's first on-screen kiss was shocking in its day.
ohn Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Give mankind an artistic medium, and we’ll find a way to make porn with it. It comes as no surprise, then, that “From the moment we figured out how to make images come to life through film, we’ve been making porn,” as Pornhub puts it.

The platform largely responsible for ushering in the era of internet porn we know today is throwing it back to the earliest days of film, remastering pornographic clips dating back as far as 1896. As part of its “Remastured” (sic) initiative, Pornhub used artificial intelligence to colorize 20 vintage erotic films spanning roughly half a century, from the 1890s to the 1940s. In the process, Pornhub actually taught AI a thing or two. “By introducing AI to Pornhub’s massive content library, it learned a naughty new trick: how to detect subtle shades of penises, nipples and turn-of-the-century bush,” Pornhub said in a press release.

The result is Pornhub’s Remastured Film Library, a collection of proto-porn films that span from predictably tame to surprisingly sexy, if often a bit campy. Of course, the porn of the 19th century hardly resembles anything we’d consider pornographic by even the most puritanical standards today. The first entry in the Remastured series is 1896’s The Kiss, a 25-second clip depicting the first kiss ever captured on film. While hardly erotic by today’s standards and likely too tame to even snag an MTV Best Kiss nomination, The Kiss was apparently quite scandalous in its day, when it was “denounced as shocking and obscene,” according to Pornhub. It also happened to be directed by Thomas Edison, who somehow remains better known for inventing the lightbulb despite apparently being the world’s first porn director.

Successive films in the Remastured series gradually get a little more racy. By 1905 we get some actual nudity in the form of a topless woman brushing her hair, and by the 1930s and ’40s we arrive at some films that begin to vaguely resemble porn as we know it today, in that they feature actual genitals, sex acts and storylines. There are sorority sister threesomes, spanking and even a happy-ending massage, which also features some kind of vaguely terrifying ball-massaging device.

Make no mistake, this is your grandpa’s porn — or maybe even his grandpa’s porn. But it’s charming, sometimes artistic, sometimes funny and sometimes legitimately kind of hot in its own way. Moreover, it’s an important reminder that the desire to create and consume erotic material is a natural and healthy aspect of the human condition that far predates internet porn. No matter how chaste we imagine our foremothers and forefathers, it turns out they were horny little freaks just like us, and that’s beautiful.