Sunday September 11, 2016

Why Pamela Anderson is wrong to shame porn when denouncing Anthony Weiner

Pamela Anderson, seen at an LA launch party for PETA, recently co-wrote a Wall Street Journal column that refers to pornography as mass debasement and the dark side of adult sexuality.

Pamela Anderson, seen at an LA launch party for PETA, recently co-wrote a Wall Street Journal column that refers to pornography as mass debasement and the dark side of adult sexuality. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Listen 12:08

"Porn is for losers, " at least according to Pamela Anderson.

The Canadian actress recently co-wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that calls out the dangers of pornography.

It followed the latest twist in the scandal-plagued life of Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner Sexting

Huma Abedin, pictured in Manhattan in 2013, announced she will separate from her husband Anthony Weiner. (The Associated Press)

According to Anderson and her co-author, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Weiner's story should lay to rest any doubts about the addictive nature of pornography and its "corrosive effects on a man's soul." 

"How many families will suffer," they write.

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?
- Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

But Kristen Gilbert says shaming pornography and the people who consume it needs to end. 

"The idea that we should all feel ashamed of ourselves, that we're all damaged losers is really preposterous," she says. 

Kristen Gilbert

Kristen Gilbert, director of education at Options for Sexual Health, says shaming the people who watch pornography needs to end. (Manusha Janakiram/CBC)

Gilbert, the director of education for Options for Sexual Health, advocates for thinking about sex in a positive and healthy way and she says pornography can occupy a space in healthy sexuality. 

Porn isn't addictive

When it comes to the ideas Anderson and Boteach put forward that pornography is addictive and harmful, Gilbert says there is not much structured science to support the claims. On the contrary, she says, there is work debunking the idea that porn is addictive. 

Gilbert says recent studies on sex addiction have found that religious faith influences our beliefs on sex and porn. 

"So, a simple equation might be the more you believe sex is bad or shameful or immoral, the more you believe that watching porn is harmful and that sex addiction is possible."

To Gilbert, those findings highlight the harm of teaching people that sex is shameful and she wonders about the impact of changing the discussion around sex and pornography. 

What about if we taught people that sex is natural and human and beautiful and pleasurable and satisfying? How would we feel about watching porn then? Maybe we would be more inclined to see it as fantasy or a release.
- Kristen Gilbert

We know what you're thinking — the porn industry isn't exactly a glowing bastion for equality, fairness, and women's rights. And isn't it also ruining the way young boys interact with young girls? 

Gilbert wouldn't dispute the industry is lacking in ethics, but in her view that does not excuse people from having the tough, and often very awkward conversations about sex that often drive kids to seek porn out.

So if you're freaking out about your son or daughter looking at porn, Gilbert says it's vital to think of sexual curiosity as natural in a child's development, not as the "debasement" that Anderson paints it to be. 

"What's happened is that because our sex-education system is so poor, when people have a lack of access to information in their schools and in their families... they'll easy-access porn to find out the answers to the questions that they seek."

As a parent to a teenager and a sex-ed teacher, Gilbert says she often uses the metaphor, coined by American therapist, of porn as baseball highlights. 

Porn as baseball highlights

"You'll see a triple play, and that guy catching a ball over his head at the back wall, and you'll think baseball is really exciting. And if that's all you know of baseball the first time you go to a baseball game, you'll think wow this is so boring right?"

Click the play button above to listen to the full interview with Kristen Gilbert.