Xander: Alright, alright, it's not what you think.
Willow: You like to look at the semi-nude engravings?
Xander: I guess it is what you think.
There are some things that all humans need from time to time. Quite apart from food, shelter and love...they need sex, or failing that, at least porn. Unfortunately, it's not always so easy to come by, even as an adult — maybe it's a more straitlaced era where pornography is uncommon or hard to come by even for the most resourceful people (or maybe you can come by it, but you can't talk about it on television!) Or maybe the urge, shall we say, has only just set in and there's no actual pornography nearby. What to do?
The obvious answer is "find something that's almost as good and work with that". After all, if it works, it works. There are three main variants of this trope.
Educational Porn: Thanks to National Geographic Nudity, something containing nude or scantily clad people that is intended for cultural or educational purposes can be co-opted for titillation. National Geographic magazines are the most commonly cited here, for obvious reasons. Never mind that the photo subjects have no reason to adhere to Western standards of beauty (resulting in birthing hips, floppy breasts, etc.); a 13-year-old boy is generally not picky when the urge is upon him. Similarly, workout tapes with scantily clad women, sporting events, nudist magazines and marital "how-to" guides also fall into this category, and were even sometimes slyly marketed as "legitimate porn" in the past.
A particularly extreme variant of the above is Religious porn: Abrahamic religions have holy texts containing at least some sexual content (for example, the Song of Songs in The Bible), as well as teachings that condemn your soul for the idea of doing what that makes you think of doing. Generally used in media to portray a character struggling under a deeply religious upbringing, or to make fun of the hypocrisy of the religious; it is also the most 'moral' of all the possible material used for this, and therefore the easiest to plausibly disguise if a character is caught doing it. Religious porn has a long history in Western art, with many a Renaissance erotic nude being nominally a handsome Israelite hero or a beautiful Saint or Adam and Eve - modern perusal of Michelangelo can feel more Educational than Religious. Due to the guilt being a big part of what makes this trope funny, finding it in the context of religions with more sexually positive views is far more rare, but jokes about the illustrations in the Kama Sutra are in no way uncommon.
Advertising Porn: Because Sex Sells, advertising is usually full of slightly erotic and suggestive images — so why not make use of that? While there's no nudity, lingerie/underwear catalogues and similar can be used for somewhat more sexual purposes than they (supposedly) were intended. Actually, in some countries with more relaxed attitudes than the Anglo-Saxon world, advertising may feature nudity. This sometimes leads to the phenomenon of English-language TV shows about the weirdness of foreign advertising — which can feature healthy doses of Fanservice.
Scrambled Porn: Mostly seen in shows from the 80's and 90's, as newer technology has made it obsolete, a character will try to make out a pay-per-view television program that has been scrambled with Video Cipher. It is often pointed out that the program they're watching turns out to be entirely innocuous. A newer version may involve the Slow-Loading Internet Image.
Still Truth in Television. Before the Internet rose in the 1990s - 2000s, there was a real social and physical barrier up between the average person and pornography. You actually had to go to a porn store (newstands had softer stuff, like Playboy) to buy it, or get a catalog from which you could order it. Many people were worried to the point of paranoia that their work or church would get word that their car was seen in the parking lot of the seedy adult bookstore, or someone would see them buy Playboy at the tobacco store. And if that's how much trouble the adults had, the teens surely had it worse — usually having to locate their parents' Porn Stash when no one was home or to be lucky enough to find it in a Dumpster Dive.
Times have changed because The Internet Is for Porn, and anybody with a connection can see as much porn as they like and whatever kind they like, making this a largely Forgotten Trope. Although Internet censorship is turning this into a Cyclic Trope. What has changed is the price. It used to be you not only had to go somewhere to get porn; but it was expensive, too. Nowadays anyone can have a collection that dwarfs (perhaps in more ways than one) their parents'/grandparents' stashes — in an evening — and all fitting on an easily-stashed USB key. However, the underage may still have trouble secretly accessing porn if their internet usage is closely monitored by a parent who is tech savvy enough to prevent the workarounds that usually foil more clueless parents, or if they don't own a computer in the first place, or if they're still on 56K dial-up or DSL.
- In Episode 13 of Osomatsu-san, it's revealed that Jyushimatsu gets off to a Bug Encyclopedia (yes, of literal insects).
- In Twisted Toyfare Theatre, one of Dr. Doom's evil plans involved intercepting the Fantastic Four's mail just so Reed Richards wouldn't be able to get off on awkward tribal totty in National Geographic.
- Subverted in FoxTrot: Roger thinks Jason is growing up after he comes home from a garage sale with an armful of National Geographics. After all, why else would a young boy want them? As it turns out, the geeky Jason and Marcus want them for the articles, in particular the Apollo 11 issue.
- There was an article in MAD, where one of the captions showed a kid jerking off to National Geographic. All we see of the magazine is the cover: "TRIBAL WOMEN".
- Hobbes once mentions checking out the hot tigress babes on the National Geographic covers. (Of course, Fridge Logic sets in because, really, aren't tigers always naked? Maybe the tigresses in question had been shaved...)
- The animals in Liberty Meadows were once seen getting excited about a nature documentary, on the mating habits of African Wild Dogs.
- Marvel Comics had a two-issue crossover between Wolverine and the Punisher — whose artists apparently have a rivalry of some sort: the Punisher issue had the Punisher make a fool of Wolverine by subjecting him to morbidly over-the-top physical injuries, and finishing up by keeping him indisposed by parking a steamroller on top of him. The Wolverine writers got even in round 2 by having Wolverine trash the Punisher's van, and finding an enormous collection of, ahem, "men's weightlifting magazines" in the front seat.
Punisher: It's an investigation! Those men are all suspects!Wolverine: Sure. Right. Whatever you say.
- Likely a reference to the film Murder by Death in which San Francisco-based detective Sam Diamond is questioned by his secretary about all the bodybuilder magazines he keeps at his office. "They was all suspects!"
- In The Strawberry Statement movie: "Do you remember that... National Geographic you have in your back room? Yeah, well this one is a white version of page 43."
- In Kick-Ass, the protagonist is initially a nerd who is ignored by the female populace of the school and, in his own words, 'easily excitable', so National Geographic is, as shown, enough for his tastes then.
- In Porky's one of the character is seen to use National Geographic to "kick start" his member for his daily measuring routine...
- In Bernie, the prosecutor observes that Bernie subscribes to a men's fitness magazine without being very athletic himself.
- Historically, fitness and sport publications have been a source for beefcake porn for men in homophobic cultures.
- 976-EVIL: Early in the film Hoax can be seen reading from a National Geographic magazine for this use, but his religious mother catches him red-handed.
- In Colonel Kill Motherfuckers, Nicholas masturbates to pictures of pottery in National Geographic. And pictures of gorillas.
- Implied in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer when the eponymous character finds his girlfriend peeking into technical literature on anatomy belonging to the teacher, which was notable as this kind of literature was outlawed exactly because of this trope (well, as the book is set in a mid-19th century Missouri village, it is completely justified).
- In David Klass's You Don't Know Me, John appears to be using the National Geographic for this purpose (when he actually just happened to flip to that page). His mother just shrugs it off and says that it's normal, but her boyfriend is considerably less understanding.
- In the Red Dwarf novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers Rimmer calls out his double on their habit of being aroused by pictures of Renaissance paintings.
- The Morris Gleitzman book The Other Facts of Life references this trope at the beginning. Ben's mother finds a National Geographic magazine, complete with a barebreasted tribeswoman picture, in his bedroom, and insists that his father talk to him about sex, since such a magazine in a 12-year-old's bedroom "can only mean one thing". It turns out that Ben is puzzled by her insistence that it must be sexual, as he has been preoccupied with the idea of third world hunger.
- In Colin the Librarian: The Chronicles of Ancient Threa - Volume 3 or Maybe 4 by Rich Parsons, Colin sees the main perk of working at the library being access to National Geographic.
- Mentioned in Wyrd Sisters which clarifies that witches do not perform rituals naked and that detail was included because many books about witchcraft are written by wizards, who are men who don't get out much.
- That same joke returns in Good Omens with the character of Anathema Device, who is noted to be wearing practical clothing as opposed to this trope.
- When the wizards are exploring the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography's study in The Last Continent, a couple of them become very interested in some of the books with illustrations of islanders who "exist in a state of Nature within their own skin".
- M*A*S*H mentions this one a few times - Radar talks about how his Uncle Ed used to punish him for looking at the nude tribeswomen in National Geographic. Most of Hawkeye's mail for the first few seasons consists of different nudist magazines.
- When Hawkeye and Trapper are leaving for R&R in Tokyo, Henry tells them to stop at a bookshop where he's ordered some old Japanese prints under an assumed name. ("Some things never change, if you get my drift.")
- Referenced in Frasier: Frasier talks about sharing a room with Niles and being kept up all night by the latter's looking at National Geographics under the bedcovers. When Niles asserts he was only looking at the maps, Frasier replies that this is what made it so weird.
- An episode of Married... with Children had the librarian trying to seduce Bud by getting him hot. When he studied in the library, she'd recommend books with the sexiest nudes and mark the pages as what he should study. Predictably, he's caught having A Date with Rosie Palms and nearly gets expelled for it.
- One episode of Friends mentions this: Joey is giggling at a National Geographic magazine, and Chandler asks him if he's looking at the naked tribeswomen. As it turns out, he's looking at a pig.
- Chappelle's Show presented a Parody Commercial for Third World Girls Gone Wild; the video was a documentary film of topless tribeswomen performing a presumably traditional dance.
- In the "DNA" episode of Red Dwarf, after Kryten gets turned into a Human, he finds that a triple-deluxe vacuum cleaner in an appliance catalogue gives him a double Polaroid.
- Referenced in a season five episode of, when Ryan O'Reily is talking about Hawaii in the drug rehabilitation group, explaining that he read about the well-endowed women in "National Pornographic", with the impressive full-colour photographs.
- The inmates' favourite program is the children's TV show "Miss Sally's Schoolyard", because Miss Sally has large breasts.
- In one episode of Bottom, Richie and Eddie get into an argument about whether or not the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is pornography. Attempting to prove it is, Eddie pulls out their art history book with a picture of the ceiling in it - and finds it falls open to the exact page:
Richie: How dare you accuse me of masturbating!Eddie: Who said anything about masturbating?Richie: You did, just then!Eddie: I did not, I just said it's odd how it always falls open at that precise page!Richie: Yes, you did, and the reason you said that is because you know that's the picture I always look at when I'm having a w—[stops himself a second too late]
- An episode of Black Books features an audio version of this, with a subplot basically involving Fran having A Date with Rosie Palms while listening to the Shipping Forecast because she finds the voice of the man who was delivering it that evening irresistibly arousing.
- In an early Buffy episode, it's revealed that Xander regularly checks out rare occult books on witches "to look at the semi-nude engravings".
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Death of a Travelling Salesman", the presence of a large stack of bodybuilding magazines is taken as evidence that the victim was homosexual. (The show is set in the 1950s and bodybuilding magazines were the closest thing to gay porn available.)
- Mad Men: Ken tells a story about, when he was a teenager, going to see an "educational" movie about sex that was obviously thinly-veiled porn. He saw one of his teachers there, but it set up a situation of "mutually-assured destruction"; neither of them could get the other in trouble for going to the movie without exposing that they were there, too.
- Variation in That '70s Show. Instead of National Geographic Nudity, Jackie gives Kelso a copy of Cosmo magazine so that he can get in touch with his feminine side and relate to her better. She notes that she removed the reproductive health related material so that he wouldn't get distracted by it. At the end of the episode, Kelso has found an uncensored copy of the issue, and the boys are huddled around him. What they're looking at is implied to not even be nudity, but a diagram of the reproductive system that they confuse for a map of Six Flags, which makes it even stranger that they're clearly getting off on it.
- The refrain of "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang mentions acting out the animal mating scenes in nature programs that originally aired on the Discovery Channel (and since moved to sister channel Animal Planet).
- "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem quotes a line from "The Bad Touch" implying that said nature programs can be used for this purpose.
- A Running Gag in Round the Horne was Kenneth Horne's collection of magazines about the benefits of a naturist lifestyle, which he read for the articles.
- An article on setting GURPS Dungeon Fantasy games on the Discworld suggests that part of the popularity of the older Monster Compendiums published by the Order of Subterranean Taxonomy is that, after a few days underground, delvers become very interested in the sketches of succubi and sylphs. Any similarity to 80s teenagers and the first edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual is entirely coincidental.
- Possible example: Dr. Langford in BioShock mentions that the paganistic Splicers holed up in Arcadia have been breaking into her lab and stealing, among other things, her National Geographic collection and muses with disgust, "They're feathering their disgusting shrines with it, I suppose, the sick bastards."
- The That Guy with the Glasses group review had The Nostalgia Critic getting off to George Takei's biography.
- From Cracked's The 5 Most Unexpected Things About Life at Guantanamo Bay: "This isn't to say that no one wanted that magazine for its own merits. Once a guy asked, 'Hey, in National Geographic I hear they have ... boobs, yes?'"
- In an episode of American Dad!, Stan shows Steve an anti-masturbation film to keep him from touching himself. In the video, a young boy is home alone and can't decide what to do. He finds a copy of National Geographic with the headline "Women of the Bush" and walks into the bathroom with it, so it's quite clear what he's doing in there.
- In the episode of Beavis And Butthead where the titular duo become magazine telemarketers, during their interview, Butthead asks if they'll be selling adult magazines. Beavis gives the example of National Geographic.
- Bob's Burgers: In "Carpe Museum", Zeke spends his time on a field trip to the local natural history museum showing Gene all the exhibits that have boobs in them.
- Robin Williams - in Live On Broadway he asserts this was the case for him.
- Dave Barry also referenced the phenomenon.
- Russell Baker asserts this is the reason why knowledge of geography is on the decline - back in the day, National Geographic was all they had, so some real knowledge was picked up on the way.
- According to Encyclopedia Dramatica, Wikipedia is filling this void in the modern era - after all, someone who walks in suddenly is less likely to be bothered by you looking up something on Wikipedia than by seeing a porn website. However, since Wikipedia is not censored, it still contains a fair amount of NSFW material that can do the job. Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger has written an essay accusing Wikipedia of having a "porn problem".
- Wikimedia Commons is even worse/better, depending on your view. The Other Wiki has roughly five images per article, Commons is nothing but images.
- Several jurisdictions reportedly prohibited unsupervised access to Wikipedia for minors at schools just for that reason.
- Cracked had something to say about this with its 6 Most Terrifying Sex Illustrations on Wikipedia (Mostly work safe).
- For anyone with surfing behind a filter, DeviantArt may also fit the bill. Why else would the "artistic nude" pieces get so much attention?
- Comedian Tony Martin - in his book A Nest of Occasionals he recounts the time that he and his step brother found some of the same National Geographics in the school library their parents had bought for them and, upon comparing them, were horrified to find that for several years their mum had been removing the pages which had any pictures of naked tribal women on them.
- Sex ed pamphlets and some anatomy books can have moderately explicit images. In some books, the diagrams of various human systems are superimposed on a photorealistic image or even actual photograph of a naked woman.
- Teenage boys often noted that in sex ed textbooks a picture of a man's sex organs are fully rendered and detailed, while a woman's are usually rendered with a diagram of the uterus and fallopian tubes, often in cross-section. If a drawing of a vagina from the outside was shown, the labia (the "lips") were almost never shown spread apart to see the parts. This has changed, and any teenager with an internet connection can see a picture of an open vagina on Wikipedia.
- Along the lines of trying to avert this trope, the instructions of how to apply a tampon are often the most simple line drawings possible. Yes, teenage boys have checked in the instructions from the box in the bathroom.
- National Geographic themselves acknowledged this trope in their 1988 centennial issue.
- Ever wonder why there are so many fitness videos released before the 1980's? It's not because people want to be fit.
- Parodied in Touhou fanart: Rinnosuke finally realizes why Wriggle Nightbug was so interested in a field guide to insects.
- Reportedly, 24-hour sports channels that focus on gymnastics are very popular in Turkey, because erotic channels are banned.
- Singer Bob Geldof, in the book of the TV series Geldof In Africa, refers to childhood memories of how Africa was portrayed to him as a youngster... including the fact that the National Geographic gave him the first pictures of naked women amongst its inhabitants—despite the otherwise strictly Catholic educational establishment he was attending, they let it fly because the National Geographic was educational!.
- Matt Stopera reports that men's water polo is popular with women and gay men on his blog and he and those who commented explain why here and Braxton draws a comparison between the sport and gay fetish porn. the Meanwhile on Sunrise On 7, in this segment on the Australian men's water polo team at the 2012 London Olympics, Edwima Barthowmew cheerfully compares the sport to the AncientGreek Olympics.
- Most of the men's exercise magazines including Beach Adonis, Face and Physique, Muscle Boy, Men's Workout and Exercise for Men Only are popular with gay men for this very reason.
- ESPN the Magazine's annual "Body Issue" features various professional athletes doing artistic nude photos. While the actual photos are tastefully done—genitals and women's nipples are always covered by props or limbs, and their poses relate to their sport rather than being sexually alluring—the fact remains that the photo subjects are pro athletes of both sexes and a diverse array of races and body types, all at their physical prime, baring it all for the camera. It's hard not to...appreciate the artistry at hand.
- Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue started out the same way, back when the magazine was a little less rigorous on what defined "sports content" to begin with, having an issue on tropical getaways to exotic locations in the Caribbean in the middle of February seemed perfectly logical. Even as recently as the mid-90's, the Swimsuit issue still doubled as a regular issue of SI with the usual articles about sports.
- In The Devil's Playground, schoolboys are seen ogle lingerie ads in a newspaper. The film takes place at a very strict high school seminary where the boys aren't even allowed to bathe naked. One of the monks who teaches says that with all the rules, they've turned the dictionary and Readers Digest into dirty books.
- Ben Stiller's character uses lingerie ads during the infamous "hair gel" scene in There's Something About Mary.
- The titular character in Meeting Daddy is a strict Baptist who disapproves of premarital sex, so he makes his daughter and the man she is engaged to sleep in separate rooms when the man comes to visit the family home in Georgia. The man becomes seriously sex-starved and starts fantasizing about all the things that turn him on; he mentions at one point to his fiancée that he's always had a fetish for old-fashioned bullet bras, and used to masturbate to pictures of women wearing them. As it happens, the fiancee's mother used to wear a bullet bra, and the girl slips it on under her blouse in the hopes that her boyfriend will notice. He does.
- In Adaptation Charlie Kaufman beats it to the picture of Susan Orlean on the back panel of her book The Orchid Thief.
- In the Adam Sandler film That's My Boy, Donnie masturbates to a photograph of his son's fiancee's grandmother as a young woman in a vintage swimsuit, when he cannot find anything else erotic to fuel his desire.
- In Super Troopers, one of the highway patrolmen/main characters uses a salacious billboard as wanking fodder during his shift.
- The Colony (2013). A teenager who grew up After the End when the world is undergoing another ice age is puzzled to find a swimsuit magazine depicting scantily-clad women frolicking in the sun. The expedition leader suggests he use it for a more pragmatic purpose.
- True Confessions: In this film set in the 1940s, Frank the LAPD detective cheerfully relates how he has looked at so many brassiere ads that he can tell what brand of bra a woman is wearing from the outline under her dress/blouse.
- In the Laura Caxton series, Laura uses this as "The Reason You Suck" Speech: the vampire who's trying to kill her used to be, and psychologically still is, "a sad little man who used to jack off to the bra ads in the newspaper".
- In the business directory section of the Discworld spin-off The Complete Ankh-Morpork City Guide, there's a listing for a corsetry maker that mentions the full catalogue is available discreetly and contains "hundreds of GIRLS in corsets". Apparently, they've worked out where the primary market is.
- Friends: Chandler comes to visit Rachel at work so he can take a peek at the most recent catalogues.
- The Librarians (2007) features Frances walking in on Terry, caught with his pants down, jerking off to bra ads in the newspaper.
- Seinfeld: In The Contest, George Costanza was caught with a copy of Glamour.
- One episode of My Wife and Kids had junior escaping to the bathroom with increasingly supposedly non-sexual magazines, the height of which was an issue of a monthly cooking magazine. Cue euphemism filled explanation of just how a teenage boy can make that sexy.
- Lois from Malcolm in the Middle is pleased with Stevie's influence on her boys when she sees them reading a newspaper, unaware that they're looking at the underwear ads.
- On Cheers, Norm subscribed to the Victoria's Secret Catalogue using the cunningly selected alias of 'Norma Peterson'.
- In Peep Show, the best thing Jeremy can find for A Date with Rosie Palms is a gaming magazine with a rather conservative picture of a "sexy hobbit" on the cover, around which he tries to construct an elaborate fantasy.
- In one episode of The Wire, Landsman (who usually openly looks at much more dirty magazines at work) is seen perusing a Victoria's Secret catalogue. When asked why he made the change, he remarked, "Change of pace. They look pretty hot with their clothes on, too."
- In one episode of The Inbetweeners, Jay masturbates in an old people's home over the problem pages in women's magazines (which he describes as "wanking gold"). Later, when he's been through them all (even having to wank over Fern Britton), he finds a black and white photograph of a woman in a bikini. Hilarity Ensues.
- Bottom again: Richie repeatedly demonstrates a willingness to masturbate to anything with a picture of a woman in her underwear in it. He once attempted to impress a pair of lesbians by boasting he had a large collection of Freemans mail-order catalogues that "just flop open to the lingerie pages".
- In Generation Kill, Evan Wright shows off a totally innocuous picture of his girlfriend back home. The other Marines promptly steal it and use it for recreation for the remainder of the tour.
- At one point Person even "pimps out" the photo in exchange for some batteries.
- Captain Blackadder uses a lingerie catalog.
"I've always been a soldier, married to the army. The book of King's Regulations is my mistress—possibly with a Harrod's lingerie catalogue discreetly tucked between the pages."
- Will & Grace: Will visits a fertility clinic to donate sperm but the magazines provided are all targeted at straight men and filled with attractive women. He asks the nurse if she has any menswear catalogues lying around he can use instead but all she has is "Martha Stewart Living" magazine. Will scoffs until he notices an article on attractive carpenters that he decides he can work with.
- Similar to the Calvin and Hobbes example above, there's a Get Fuzzy where Satchel quickly snags a magazine when the mail arrives and runs out of the room. Bucky comments, "Field and Stream: the Victoria's Secret Catalog for dogs." The outdoors = lots of trees = lots of places for dogs to relieve themselves?
- Ash from Misfile admits to having used underwear catalogs the way any red-blooded American teenage boy would. Unfortunately, he finds out that his mother is one of the models. More recently, he had a large stash of actual porn before his Gender Bender situation replaced them with gender-flipped equivalents.
- In Questionable Content, it emerged that Dora discovered that she was bisexual because of pictures of her boyfriend Marten's mother (who works as a fetish model).
Dora: I'm sorry! I was only fourteen! They were sexy and I didn't have access to any other erotica!
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Moe is forced to admit under a lie detector test that he's going home to "ogle the women in the Victoria's Secret catalogue". When this is flagged as yet another lie, he admits it's actually the Sears catalogue.
- In one Family Guy, when Stewie finally succeeds in derailing Peter and Lois' plans to conceive a fourth child (about twenty seconds after he stops trying), Peter takes a lingerie catalogue into the bathroom.
- In the South Park episode "Cartman Sucks", Butters is taken to a religious camp for bi-curious boys with the intention of removing their non-heterosexual tendencies. In one scene Butters' roommate is scolded by a counselor for having a men's underwear catalog from the 1980's hidden in his dorm room.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Scary-oke", Dipper sneaks into his Grunkle Stan's bedroom, and ends up finding a trunk full of women's fashion magazines. Dipper is rather put-off ("Euw! Pretending I never saw that..."), perhaps guessing the most-likely reason his crusty old great-uncle has back-issues of "Lady Swimwear" and "Fully-Clothed Women Magazine".
- The Family That Dwelt Apart: As the narration relates that the only thing the Pruitts ever went to the mainland for was the mail, one of the younger Pruitts is looking at the Sears catalogue. Mainly, the brassiere section.
- Department store catalogs are the epitome of this, particularly any containing listings for swimwear, underwear and lingerie. And we're not just talking catalogs from recent decades either; flip through the old Sears catalogs from the early 1900s and some of the females drawn wearing underskirts and modesty garments were kinda cute...
- Interestingly, one of the ways you could buy porn pre-Internet was by ordering a free catalog from a distributor. This presented an interesting twist as sometimes the catalog itself turned into Poor Man's Porn. The reason many of these catalogs were censored or pictures printed really tiny was not because of censorship laws, but they wanted people with the catalog to actually order stuff, not just use the catalog.
- Brian Posehn mentions that a young boy can get off on anything, up to and including pictures of bras without women in them.
- Chris Rock wrote in his book Rock This! about his mother finding and disposing of his pornography collection when he was a kid. Needing a substitute, the best he could come up with was a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix. He starts to fantasize about her being younger and more attractive...only for Uncle Ben jump from a box of rice and yell at him for trying to seduce his woman.
- Real Life - during Operation Desert Storm, soldiers were forbidden to possess pictures of scantily clad or nude women, so made do with more fully-clothed and covered models instead.
- From Travolta 3335's Ace Idiot series: "Hmmm, that i looks kinda like a boob! I can work with this..."
- Many religious kick-the-porn-habit self-help books mention being turned on by lingerie ads. These books also have to walk a fine line because self-help books usually tell stories so readers know they are not alone... but those stories can also be used for "poor man's erotic fiction", or "suggestions for poor man's porn".
- The January 1992 Mensa Bulletin cover became controversial due to its "pornographic" nature, with readers even writing in accusing the magazine of feeding their pornography addictions. The model was wearing a fairly modest negligee. Some Mensans later made fun of the discussion by complaining that one of the following covers, which was of flowers, was offensive because the flowers on the cover had their sexual organs showing.
- In one column, Dave Barry talks about taking the "Land O' Lakes Girl," the Native American woman (formerly) on the front of a package of Land o' Lakes butter, cutting out the box of butter she's holding in front of her chest, folding it so that her knees show in the "window," and drawing crude nipples on the kneecaps so that it looks like her tunic is open and showing her breasts. At one point, the company cropped the image into a close-up of her face to stop teen boys turning her into an exhibitionist, before removing her altogether.
- Many straight women and gay men like to look at the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog because of the naked guys in them.
- Most gay and bisexual men will admit to at one point having kept the packaging their underwear came in for this exact reason. In fact some will insist that the hot underwear models were an early Closet Key for them. Underwear companies that cater to gay men, like Andrew Christian, tend to be utterly shameless in invoking this trope, having online commercials that are basically "Watch these half-naked muscular guys have fun in our underwear!" For bonus points, some companies (including Andrew Christian) will feature actual gay porn stars in their ads.
- Porn websites stopped offering trial periods—even paid ones like three days for $2.99—because viewers would save as much content as possible during that brief window of time then cancel before it renewed at full price.
- American Pie: In the opening sequence, Jim is caught by his parents trying to watch scrambled porn.
- Later, Oz mentions that "if there's a channel that should be illegal it's the 'all-woman's channel lifetime supply of pantyhose or some shit." and Jim, that "Ariel, man. She's so hot!".
- Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie during the opening sequence when Janey is watching "She's All That". While not completely scrambled, it does look grainy and wavy.
- Watch in Spanish here.
- The Drew Carey Show has an episode where Drew, Oswald, and Lewis try to to watch scrambled porn because Drew believes that the cable company will turn him in if he has both Cartoon Network and porn channels.
- It turns out it's the surgery channel they're watching, not the porn channel.
- Al and Bud try this in an episode of Married... with Children, turns out it was an elbow.
- When NO MAAM goes to Washington DC, the first thing Al does is have Ike unscramble the porn channel.
- In the VH1 series I Love The 80's, scrambled porn was mentioned:
Masturbation by itself wont make you go blind, but masturbating to scrambled porn just might.
- The Goldbergs had this with Adam and Barry discovering a scrambled porn channel, and it becomes something of a bonding experience until they try to find a way to "fix" it...
- Referenced in Gaijin Smash.
- Homestar Runner: Though the primary point seems to be the violence rather than the porn, in the Strong Bad Email "rated" Strong Bad, Coach Z, and Bubs watch an R-rated movie on scrambled cable. One line in the "movie" is a sexy-sounding female voice saying "Two underwears", implying that the porn is there nonetheless.
- One episode of The Simpsons reveals Moe is too cheap to unscramble the porn channel at his bar. It turned out to be an advertisement for shoe inserts.
Moe: I've been writing creepy letters to that?
- One of the comics had Moe describe some superstitions, and he started claiming that a lucky shirt of his would help him get real lucky...before confessing that he'd end up at home watching scrambled porn. No confirmation whether it was the ad or not.
- Not surprisingly, Robot Chicken takes a stab at it. Watch here.
- Older television sets had a focus knob which the especially persistent masturbator could turn to bring more focus to the scramble — you never got a perfect picture, but could see more than a regular scramble.note Unfortunately this required constant attention to keep up with the constantly changing screen — and usually using your dominant hand, too.
- It was also possible in some cases to get a clearer picture by turning the channel-change dial halfway between the designated channel and the next one up.note Like the focus knob, this required attention, and like the focus knob, the channel dial went the way of the dodo eventually.
- Moviebob references this in his review of Heavy Metal. He points out that the reason this movie was such a big deal was, back then, "boobs were really hard to see". Before the internet, if young men wanted access to nudity, they either had to steal Playboys from the least responsible male authority figure or use "tin foil and pie plates to unscramble Cinemax for a couple of seconds".
- Technology eventually marched on, and beginning in the very late 1980s, cable-ready televisions and VCR's (meaning they could be directly wired to receive cable tv rather than needing a separate box) had a chip that recognized the scrambled signal and replaced it with a solid blue screen. Not really a blue screen of death, but it certainly dashed hopes here and there. Also, some TV sets actually offered a way to turn off the feature buried deep in the settings screen for those who truly need it — it's just that no one ever reads the manual to find out about it.
- And it marched on even further, since digital cable and satellite will simply not show a channel that the customer isn't subscribed to.
- However, it's not quite a Discredited Trope in the United Kingdom, given the controversy surrounding opt-in filters for "adult" material.
- The cartoon book "Heiterkeit braucht keine Worte" note has a Danish cartoon about why the (fictional in-universe) Illustrated Bible was a bad idea.
Two spoiled children: "Show me the scene with Potiphar's wife again!"
- A Playboy cartoon depicts a colonial-era Puritan reading the Bible to his children, one of whom requests "the part where Abimelech looks out the window and sees Isaac 'sporting' with Rebecca."
- Gore Vidal told of an old Hollywood screenwriter he knew (The Wise Old Hack) who referred to Biblical/Classical epics as "Teats and Sand" movies.
- The first description of the female orgasm in literature was written by the 9th-century nun and polymath Hildegard of Bingen, in a description of the religious rapture she experiences with a recurring fantasy of an angel with a beautiful face who penetrates her through the heart with a flaming spear. Needless to say, there was little else available in a convent.
- The Song of Solomon from The Bible is basically erotica.
- Richie in Bottom masturbates to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel regularly enough that his art book falls open on that page.
- On an episode of M*A*S*H, Father Mulcahy finds that a patient has an interest in reading the Bible, only to find out from what part he's reading that it's the Song of Solomon. At that, Mulcahy politely advises he reads something in the Bible that is less... "inspirational."
- Exalted has Regent Fokuf, the Puppet King of the Realm, spending his private time jacking off to the holy texts of the Immaculate Order. It's basically the equivalent of reading The Bible and indulging one's self to the Song of Solomon.
- The Vestal's origin comic in Darkest Dungeon shows her getting excited by religious murals in her convent, before being chastised and recoiling in shame.
- In the Dragon Age franchise, the leader of the setting's dominant religion (basically their version of the Pope) is the always-female Divine. The late Divine Rosamund was elected at 19 and was noted for her beauty, and as a result she was the subject of a great deal of unauthorized art and literature if you catch our drift.
- Sunday School Dropouts, "Job", featured the guest Greg saying his parents hung a picture of the Virgin Mary above his bed to discourage masturbation, before admitting that he was so desperate it actually just encouraged it. Lauren jokes the entire podcast had been leading up to this confession.
- The Toast's "The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian in Ascending Order of Sexiness And Descending Order Of Actual Martyring ranks paintings of a saint usually depicted as being a gorgeous naked man tied up to a tree, and ends with a "good night guys".
- Bob Chipman has argued that this was one of the leading reasons why Hollywood made so many Biblical epics during the 1950s and early '60s. With The Hays Code still in effect yet social mores having moved on from the time in which it was implemented, the major studios turned to Scripture for source material that would satisfy audience demands for more sex and violence yet would be difficult for Moral Guardians or the MPAA to criticize, lest they be framed as trying to censor The Bible. He believes that the downfall of the Code in the late '60s killed off these sorts of films, as now filmmakers no longer needed the figleaf of accurately telling Bible stories to depict more graphic content on screen.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Master Roshi has been shown drooling over women's aerobics programs on television...in spite of the fact that it's been shown several times over that he owns pornographic magazines.
- Referenced in an episode of Dragon Ball Z Abridged where Roshi is in the middle of leering at an aerobics program when Oolong points out that he can get ACTUAL pornography from the Internet. Roshi says that being able to enjoy things like this is what separates the connoisseurs from the mere perverts.
- Roshi's example has been faithfully followed by a whole generation of Dirty Old Man mentors, chief among them Happosai of Ranma ½.
- The Bolt Chronicles: Canines seemingly consider the magazine Dog Fancy to be suitably titillating. Referenced in The Cameo and The Seven.
- Born American (1986). One of the protagonists in the gulag gets hold of a coin and tries to purchase medical care for his friend. The Friend in the Black Market says it's not enough, but as the protagonist is a young man he could use it to buy... (puts a finger through hole in coin and leers) We then cut to several male inmates, including the protagonist, looking through vents into the women's shower. Contrary to the usual Girls Behind Bars trope, the women are rather unshapely.
- In Grandma's Boy (2006), Alex uses a Lara Croft action figure as visual stimulation while staying over at his friend's house due to not having access to anything better.
- In Good Boys, Max uses a video game's Character Customization menu for this before his dad interrupts. From the looks of it, he's into the game's Amazonian Beauties. He and his friends later discover real porn, though, and are disgusted by it.
- A Deleted Scene from Life, the Universe and Everything (later included as an extra in special editions and added, in abridged form, to the radio adaptation of And Another Thing...) revealed that the Galactic Government has incredibly strict anti-pornography laws, passed — perhaps surprisingly — by President Beeblebrox, which happen to go into explicit detail about all the things that aren't allowed to be portrayed in any way. This means of course, that they are the only portrayal of such acts available, and may be accessed for a small fee. Nobody knows for certain where the money goes, but it's obviously Zaphod Beeblebrox.
- Bottom has a running gag about Richie and occasionally Eddie masturbating to the news when read by newsreader Sue Carpenter. At one point, Eddie gives Richie a 'play telescope' for Christmas, which is a toilet roll tube with a crude drawing of Sue Carpenter in a bikini on the beach taped over one end.
- In one episode, Richie and Eddie get off on 'pornographic doodles' of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and "Meryl Streep" that Eddie has been printing on his forged banknotes. Later, when they hand a "£27" note to the bartender, he finds himself overcome with the need to run off to the bathroom...
- Peep Show features an episode where Jez decides to make some money by donating his sperm. Because the clinic has not provided him with any porn to get him in the mood, he's forced to improvise with the only thing he has on him — a five pound note with a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth II on it ...
- Exaggerated in Extras when a guy is Caught With His Pants Down with a novelty pen that had a picture of a pinup girl on the side.
- In the music video to "Anxiety" the boy in the evil dentist's waiting room reads the "True Police Yearbook". Headline: "So Sex Hungry - She Killed For It!"
- "Weird Al" Yankovic: The video for Amish Paradise has a shot of an Amish porn magazine, in which a woman shows off her ankle.
- American Dad!: Roger's nude portrait of Haley that Steve had been masturbating with (it was a neck-down portrait, so he didn't know it was his sister) is sold at auction. Steve resigns to going back to "squinting really hard until stuff looks like boobs".
- One episode of The Critic has lovelorn Jay Sherman fantasizing about The Statue of Liberty who he imagines seducing him and taking off her robe for him. He's quickly stopped by a police officer who points out to him a sign that forbids him from doing just that.
- Rick and Morty
- In The Ricks Must be Crazy, Rick and Morty are stuck three levels deep in recurring universes. This universe is relatively new, so it doesn't have any technology, and therefore, no porn. While Rick takes several weeks trying to find a way to escape back into their own universe, the teenaged Morty grows increasingly sexually frustrated, before he finally snaps and angrily demands that Rick hurries up in finding a solution, telling him the situation has taken such a toll on him that he recently masturbated to "a curvy piece of drift wood."
- Several episodes imply the ever-pathetic Jerry does this sort of thing a lot, with his family being utterly repulsed by it and not even remotely believing his excuses, like the Victoria's Secret he had stashed under a mattress or a mannequin leg he keeps hidden which poor Morty and Summer stumbled upon once.
- A common complaint of public and academic library staff is patrons using the art and photography collection for A Date with Rosie Palms, sometimes right in the library.