Pamela Anderson (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff /Invision/AP, File) (AP/Colin Young-Wolff/Invision)

Porn is not "for losers": Pamela Anderson is wrong to blame it for Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal

Anderson, a former Playboy Playmate, re-hashes a tired argument that treats all X-rated entertainment the same


Rachel Kramer Bussel
September 2, 2016 9:12PM (UTC)

First I want to say that I understand where Pamela Anderson, who wrote an over-the-top indictment of pornography co-authored by rabbi Shmuley Boteach, for The Wall Street Journal this week, is coming froom. How do I, an outspoken sex-positive feminist erotica author, get her point of view? Because I too was once ardently anti-porn. During my college years at the University of California at Berkeley, I eagerly attended a talk and book signing at Cody’s Books by noted feminist anti-porn scholar Catharine MacKinnon, and volunteered for her partner-against-porn Andrea Dworkin’s website. Back then, in my very earliest adulthood, I had never seen porn, mind you, but I was sure it was sexist, backwards and just plain wrong. I too, like Anderson, would have signed on to the idea that porn causes harm, makes men stray and is bad for society.

And then I watched some porn during a date at a guy’s house, and my entire perspective changed. This was almost 20 years ago, so I don’t remember the video’s title. I know it was a series of XXX vignettes, where people got naked and had sex for a few minutes, and then the scene morphed to new people getting naked and having sex. I also know that the instant the first image hit the screen, I was aroused. I didn’t pause to analyze every political permutation of what I was seeing; I simply went with the feeling of being swept away by this new-to-me type of entertainment.

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I honestly don’t even remember all that much about my encounter with the young man in question, only that from that moment on, I could no longer consider myself “against” porn because I was now aware that “porn” was too gigantic an entity to oversimplify. I also couldn’t default to the belief that men had a monopoly on porn viewing. Now I know they also don’t have a monopoly on porn creation and that there are so many talented women behind the camera like Erika Lust, Shine Louise Houston, Maria Beatty, Joanna Angel, Pandora Blake, Tristan Taormino and many others; check out the Feminist Porn Awards website or this guide, as just two of many resources, for more suggestions.

Yet that hasn’t stopped people from trying to paint porn as a monolithic monster intent on complete destruction of love, lust and happy relationships. Anderson and Boteach are only the latest in a long line of moralizers from both the right and the left who make sweeping assumptions about how porn affects users — and who those users are. Here’s a snippet of what they had to say:

“From our respective positions of rabbi-counselor and former Playboy model and actress, we have often warned about pornography’s corrosive effects on a man’s soul and on his ability to function as husband and, by extension, as father. This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays.”

They go on to make doomsday proclamations, such as, “How many families will suffer? How many marriages will implode? How many talented men will scrap their most important relationships and careers for a brief onanistic thrill? How many children will propel, warp-speed, into the dark side of adult sexuality by forced exposure to their fathers’ profanations?”

You probably get the gist, but if not, I’ll summarize it with of their own carefully chosen, highly judgmental words: “porn is for losers.” They aren’t big on the “love the sinner, hate the sin” philosophy.

There are so many things wrong with this argument, it’s hard to know where to start, but first off, they don’t even attempt to define what they mean by “porn.” Instead there’s an inherent assumption that we all know what it is, and that all of it is suspect. There’s no acknowledgement that the category encompasses as wide a range of interests and outlets as the human imagination can conjure. No, instead all the niche fetish subsets and everything from softcore to the most hardcore of sex scenes are simply lumped in as “porn.”

As Cindy Gallop, founder of the website Make Love Not Porn, which features non-porn actors getting it on on camera, writes so eloquently in The Independent, the answer to the fact that porn is so often teens’ de facto sex education and adults’ only outlet for expressing their true sexual desires is a problem, but not one whose solution lies in taking any sort of pledge against porn, as Anderson and Boteach want their readers to do. As Gallop explains, “Of course we enjoy watching porn – especially when society refuses to celebrate sex authentically, openly and honestly in other forms of popular culture. So the epochal shift needs to be not censoring, repressing, blocking, shutting down – it needs to be opening up. Open up the dialogue around sex as a natural universal human experience, but very importantly also – open up to welcoming, supporting and funding entrepreneurs who want to disrupt all of this for the better.”

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Anderson and Boteach want us to pick a side: for porn or against porn, without also considering all the other factors that go into our sexual makeup. They want to castigate porn and its users in the most over-the-top, judgmental way, as if shaming porn users by telling them they’re “losers” is ever going to get them to stop. They don’t pause and question whether their frustration with “porn” is perhaps instead a frustration with sexist attitudes, with men who see women as expendable, freely available and basically prey who should be pounced on at any time . . . even when they’re wearing headphones. There’s a continuum, from the kind of pickup artists who think women “owe” them smiles and conversations and, yes, sex, to the types of attitudes the actress and the rabbi are appalled by, and those predate the widespread porn use they bemoan.

But my biggest issue with their op-ed is that, by roping in Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandals to their animosity toward porn, they very smoothly let him off the hook, failing to hold him accountable when they could instead condemn an entire genre of videos. This is akin to blaming school shootings on video games, or any other boogeyman pop culture scapegoat. As adults, we all have to take responsibility for our actions. That’s not to say that culture, including porn, has no influence over our thoughts and actions, but influence is not the same as causation. Porn didn’t sext women who weren’t Huma Abedin; her husband, Anthony Weiner, did. Yet somehow, that seems to have escaped Anderson’s and Boteach’s notice, despite them trying to have it both ways with bland statements such as “All people are unique individuals and we can be sure that Mr. Weiner’s problems are at least in part a matter of his personal psycho-pathologies.”

If Weiner or any other man (or woman, for that matter) chooses to have an extramarital flirtation, sexting session or full-on affair during a supposedly monogamous relationship, they need to own up to their actions, not blame outside forces. By doing so, Anderson and Boteach are actually deeply insulting men by essentially painting them as mindless sheep who think with their dicks and will do anything a porn star tells them to. Is that really what we think of the male mind, that it’s so pliable, so weak, so easily led by temptation that it can’t make rational decisions even when the body attached to it is aroused? If so, that’s a very sad commentary on the male libido and men’s decision making process. In 2016, I would hope we’d be having a more nuanced conversation about porn, but instead, this pair is trying to drive our sexual culture backward, rather than forward.


Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the author of "Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays" and the editor of more than 50 anthologies, including "The Big Book of Orgasms," "Serving Him" and "Irresistible: Erotic Romance for Couples." She writes widely about sex, dating and pop culture, and is a blogger at Lusty Lady and Cupcakes Take the Cake.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Anthony Weiner Pamela Anderson Pornography Sex

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