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September 10, 2016

Pamela Anderson is Asking Us to Say “No” to Porn.

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Pamela Anderson, internationally recognized sex symbol, wants you to pledge to remove erotic media from your homes, your computers and your lives.

Why? Because according to a recently published commentary by Anderson and Rabbi Shmuel Boteach, erotic media are dangerous. If you choose to indulge, you risk embarrassing yourself in front of your peers, or worse, you’ll turn into a relationship-ruining loser with no control over your porn-flushed genitals.

Anderson and Boteach would like you to accept former congressman Anthony Weiner as the poster child of pornography perils.

If anyone still had doubts about the addictive dangers of pornography…behold the now-shattered marriage of Mr. Weiner and Huma Abedin.

Tastelessly co-opting the private lives of a hurting family to support their moral crusade, the authors offer Weiner’s sexual decision-making as evidence of a mythological pop-culture disorder called “porn addiction.” Despite that we have no evidence linking Weiner to unhealthy consumption of pornography, Anderson and Boteach believe his indiscretions are evidence enough to make overstated claims about the dangers of being a sexual adult.

Anderson’s moral argument against erotic media is an interesting stance for someone who has arguably built an entire career on its relevance, but I’m not bothered by that as some might be. Anyone may change their moral minds for their own reasons, although now that Anderson has publicly called for a ban on erotic media, her reasons seem relevant to me.

What does disturb me, however, is Anderson and Boteach’s attempts to twist their moral argument into a scientific one. Take, for example, the “terrifying” statistics from the American Psychological Association (APA) that the authors inappropriately and irresponsibly misuse. Anderson and Boteach claim that because men report a struggle to stop watching erotic media, they show signs of porn dependency. They go so far as to compare this struggle with the rate of cocaine dependence, a claim that even proponents of sex addiction reject as unscientific. Yet, despite that the APA report makes no connection between personal struggles with sexual health choices and drug addiction, Anderson and Boteach ignore the warnings the report writers do make about overstating the report’s findings.

The evidence of porn addiction simply isn’t there.

Anderson and Boteach claim erotic media is an experiment in “mass debasement” which has ruined relationships across the country. Yet, the APA researchers can’t conclude whether viewing erotic media in relationships is a cause of distress or a consequence of it. They don’t even know if it’s related at all.

Even if porn is related to relationship distress, Anderson and Boteach’s rules seem to be different for women and men. They argue that female viewers of erotic media do so more safely while male viewers of erotic media are repugnant. The majority of the commentary is written with male pronouns to be clear who is ruining the world’s relationships one erotic medium at a time. While ample evidence suggests more men than women view erotic media, there’s no evidence that men’s use is more or less damaging.

If it’s true, however, that women may view erotic media safely while men can’t (it’s not), then what should we do about it? Is erotic media for women only? Should we shame men as “losers” (quite the rabbinical thing to do, by the way) for viewing erotic media? Or should we educate men about the ethical use of erotic media in a way that enhances intimacy, relationships and health?

While it’s true that many people report problematic use of erotic media, the argument that it is addictive or unhealthy is completely unscientific.

The nation’s leading researcher on this topic is Dr. Rory Reid. No one has published more research on hypersexuality—a proposed clinical term that would enfold what Anderson and Boteach call porn addiction. Dr. Reid examined the proposed criteria for hypersexual disorder and, after a massively funded study, concluded that sex addiction or hypersexuality were not clinical disorders. This also applies to porn addiction, sexting addiction or any other ‘addiction’ that would tie itself to sexual health choices.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of Anderson and Boteach’s argument is what they didn’t say. The APA report concludes that it’s dangerous to make unscientific claims without evidence. Where is Anderson’s training in addiction psychology? What expertise besides religious or moral anecdotes does Rabbi Boteach offer?

Should we accept these moral passions without scientific scrutiny?

Moral arguments shrouded in scientific language cause shame. They bludgeon people deeper into isolation, limiting their ability to talk openly and carefully about their sexual choices because they’re too afraid of judgment. I see it every day in my work as a couple’s therapist. Anderson and Boteach have every right to make moral arguments about sexual behaviors. I may not agree, but I can respect that those decisions are grounded in their life experiences. It’s a wholly different monster to pretend those moral arguments are scientific or that they can apply to everyone, or at least to every man.

There’s no question that many women and men struggle to make consistently healthy sexual choices, like controlling sexual urges that put their health at risk or go against their own worldviews. These women and men need the kind of nonjudgmental help that doesn’t reach for the moral stomping ground of sex or porn addiction. They need help that relies on promoting sexual health, without the hurtful slander that oozes from people like Anderson and Boteach.

I’d like to call for a different kind of pledge.

I’d like Anderson and Boteach to pledge to take responsibility for their personal disgust of erotic media before asking the public to share that disgust based on the illusion of scientific evidence. I’d ask Ms. Anderson to provide a careful and thoughtful explanation for her moral reasoning without waxing scientific. I’d ask Rabbi Boteach to provide the religious framework for calling people losers in an effort to motivate them toward health. I’d ask that we all pledge to do our collective research before we rely on pop-culture icons to do our thinking for us.

Let’s pledge to advance sexual health and resist sexual shame.

 

 

 

Author: Mathis Kennington

Image: frcdc on Instagram

Editor: Renée Picard

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