The World’s Oldest Porn Was Discovered in China in the 1980s … and It’s Queer AF

The World’s Oldest Porn Was Discovered in China in the 1980s … and It’s Queer AF

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When we think about mainstream pornography today, we’re often thinking about straight, heteronormative porn. So isn’t it ironic that the world’s oldest porn was actually neither of those things?

The world’s oldest porn was carved into rock between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago — and it’s incredibly queer.

Chinese archaeologist Wang Binghua discovered the Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs, located in the Xinjiang region of northwest China, in the late 1980s. As of now, these petroglyphs are also the oldest depictions of LGBTQ+ activity known to us.

The carvings show 100 figures, some of which combine male and female features (like an erect penis but a traditionally female headdress), seeming to signify trans, non-binary or gender nonconforming (GNC) individuals.

Four scenes are depicted in the tableau. One of them shows men and women dancing around a GNC person — ithyphallic (the archaeology term for being depicted with an erect penis), yet wearing a female headdress — who is about to have sex with a woman. This scene also includes another GNC person about to have sex with another woman. In the last full scene of the tableau, no obvious women are portrayed at all. Instead, two men have their arms around one another, while a lone man at the bottom masturbates.

The Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs are filled with queer acts and people, and depict fertility rituals as well as queer sex. It’s noteworthy that these two concepts (typically due to bi erasure) don’t usually go hand-in-hand.

Ancient portrayals like these carvings, which are unashamedly explicit, pose an interesting idea worth pondering: that humankind has seemingly regressed in our understanding and acceptance of sexuality and gender over time. As we know, colonialism played a crucial role in condemning same-sex relationships and non-conforming gender identities.

And then there’s perhaps the ultimate irony: that the world’s oldest porn is found in China, a nation that is currently hell-bent on erasing LGBTQ people from existence within its borders.

Are you surprised that the world’s oldest porn is so queer?

Photos: Jeannine Davis-Kimball

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