Why Pamela Anderson’s Bizarre Anti-Porn Crusade Does More Harm Than Good

The former sex symbol’s condemnation of porn as the source of men’s bad behaviour (including Anthony Weiner’s) is based more on hysteria than facts.

Photo of Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the International Awards Gala for Champions of Jewish Values.

Photo of Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the International Awards Gala for Champions of Jewish Values.

It’s been a summer of strange bedfellows, from Jill Stein and Harambe to co-speechwriters Melania Trump and Michelle Obama. But no unexpected union says “the apocalypse is nigh” quite like actress Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s recently assembled anti-porn task force. The orthodox rabbi and former Baywatch star took their message to the masses on Wednesday with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. If there’s ever been a time to email your grandparents and ask them for their WSJ log-in info, this is it.

The odd couple’s anti-porn argument is pegged to the disgraced Anthony Weiner’s most recent sexting scandal. In addition to disqualifying Weiner from any and all future babysitting gigs, the politician’s self-sabotage has made large, far-reaching waves, as illustrated by this surreal op-ed. Boteach and Anderson approach their incendiary subject matter “from our respective positions of rabbi-counsellor and former Playboy model and actress.” From these traditionally disparate vantage points, the co-writers have managed to carve out a shared moral code. They write, “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.”

Pamela Anderson is an icon of sex and screen—which makes her backward, unsubstantiated opinions on pornography even more disappointing. Let’s take on Boteach and Anderson’s diatribe point by point. The article is based on the assumption that Weiner’s multiple digital infidelities offer incontrovertible proof of the nefarious effects of porn addiction. First of all, this is a conflation of porn addiction and sex addiction. The former is the writers’ cause du jour, while the latter is a condition that media outlets have repeatedly used to diagnose Huma Abedin’s husband. It’s true that Weiner seems to exhibit some of the symptoms of a sex addict; however, sex addiction is scientifically controversial and infamously ill-defined. According to clinical psychologist David Ley, “sex addiction” has been used as a lazy umbrella term, a sort of catch-all diagnosis used to explain away men’s bad behaviour. “Calling Anthony Weiner a sex addict is a distraction from the important issues of personal responsibility and mindful choice,” Ley explained. “It’s also a sad form of slut-shaming.”

Porn addiction is an increasingly trendy, oft-cited sex addiction spinoff. It’s most recent star turn came courtesy of the Republican Party’s official platform. According to the platform, which names pornography as a “public health crisis,” it “seems to be for young people, they do not have the discernment and so they become addicted before they have the maturity to understand the consequences.” However, researchers have found that easily accessible pornography isn’t the root of this “addiction”; rather, it’s the religiously charged repetition of the term itself that has manufactured a majority of its victims. According to sex researcher Nicole Prause, “The actual inherent ‘badness’ [of pornography] there’s very little evidence for. Those who identify with no religious orientation or are agnostic don’t have porn addiction. The label and shaming has grown out of religious values and beliefs in the culture.” In other words, the more we talk about porn addiction and condemn porn as inherently sinful, the more sinners will start self-diagnosing.

Read the full Daily Beast article: http://goo.gl/KfI0BP