pamela anderson's guide to erotic art and dating in the digital age
Iconic model, eco warrior and Vivienne Westwood muse Pamela Anderson on her love of erotic art, getting sent love letters from prison, and keeping the passion alive.
Pamela Anderson is the archetypal pin-up of the 21st century. Starlet of the silver screen, Baywatch beach babe, fierce animal rights and domestic abuse activist, mother, and Vivienne Westwood muse. She's appeared on more Playboy covers than any other model or actress in history, was named the most powerful Canadian in Hollywood, pole danced for Elton John, sat on a rooftop with Morrissey, posed in front of the lens for nearly every famous photographer in the business and was responsible for some of the most iconic and provocative shots of our time. She changed the way we ran down beaches and thought about high cut swimsuits forever, but most of all, Pamela Anderson reveals, she is a hopeless romantic.
While the rise in digital dating apps, porn and the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon might have led to an astonishing influx of people looking to vamp up their sex life, get laid on a weeknight and stock up on rope and cable ties for the bedroom - it also more than doubled the number of 999 calls in sexual experimentation gone awry and a jaw-dropping rise in loneliness that Pamela Anderson describes as an epidemic.
On the eve of Valentine's Day, Anderson spoke at Sotheby's first ever auction and exhibition of erotic art. Surrounded by buxom buns, penis tables and glorious nudes from the likes of Picasso, Mapplethorpe, Freud, and Klimt, Pam put passion and the erotic art world to rights, giving out expert tips on how to conduct your love life. Here are 10 of the best…
Looking at erotic art is the perfect date
"I would have come to this exhibition at Sotheby's even if I wasn't invited! I absolutely love it! It's all very titillating and so much fun! My university was Playboy; so there was a lot of nakedness going on! For the last 25 years in LA I've always been exposed to male nudes, female nudes, and surrounded by contemporary art and artists. I'm a very big fan of erotic art and eroticism. You know this is the perfect place to take a date on! Seeing all these magnificently sensual pieces, curled up toes in ecstasy, and even some of the less glamorously positioned poses of some of the more historic nudes. They're very real, and so vulnerable and provocative, and remind us that we we've all been doing it since the beginning. Sex has been celebrated from long, long ago. We've been having sex for ages. I think coming here on a date it would spark all these wonderful ideas... maybe even some shenanigans!"
Send love letters
"We need more romance today. Where are the Napoleons sending love letters to the Joséphines? I have some love letters that I was sent, but they're from jail! I knew them all! The guys who sent them, don't get me wrong! Ha ha. My father and my grandfather were both poets, and I've kept my grandparents love letters in a shoe box, from when they used to write to each other. My parents are still happily married, and been together since they were 16! They're marriage is still so romantic and beautiful -- so that's what I really envision love to be. I love romance!"
Porn is in the eye of the beholder
"Eroticism and erotic art doesn't replace sex, pornography does - and that's where the issue is. You have people out there who are addicted to pornography and I don't know if that's funny coming from me, or if I should probably be disqualified from the conversation because my image at times has found it's way into that category. But for me Playboy was about being erotic and explicit but it wasn't pornography; or at least how pornography can be perceived in a negative sense. I think we all have to go out and make the decision within ourselves about what exactly negative pornography is. If we're locked in the bathroom with a computer and not having sex with our wife or husband then that's a problem!
There are studies going on about the rise in people out there that have never actually been with another human being before. They've only experienced pornography and they only want to experience pornography. For me that's so sad. Humans are meant to connect, physically, emotionally. We're supposed to be together."
No TV in the bedroom
"Absolutely no TV in the bedroom! You can't have a TV, iPad or a computer in the bedroom. That's terrible. I hear these statistics that married couples are having sex like once a week in America, you know for 10 minutes! That's terrible, it makes me so sad. I know I don't date - I just get married - and I do love a bad boy and a challenge. So far I've been a terrible chooser of husbands, but I've never had any sexual issues in any of my marriages."
Be open with your kids about sex
"I gave my kids both Kama Sutra books for Christmas, I'm very open and close like that. My children are 19 and 20 and both madly in love. Maybe that's not really the norm for people at that age, but I'm just so happy that they grew up in a house that was surrounded by art and artists, and they've been in places like this exhibition at Sotheby's and been exposed to an open dialogue about intimacy, love and sex from the beginning. Maybe it really sunk into them and having that open conversation and exposure connected the dots of how important human interaction is- and really made it special to meet somebody and get to know somebody beyond these dating apps, and tinder and all that."
Maybe ditch the dating apps
"I've never been on Tinder, I don't even know how to use the computer... so maybe that's lucky for me. I believe in monogamous relationships, and I think that courtship is really important. The key to having great sex and that inexplicable eroticism with you achieve with someone you love comes with getting to know them. I really believe that the only way to really experience that great passionate sex and erotic pleasure is through meaningful, intimate, real life, human connections."
Sex can be shocking, but it can also be funny
"Looking at erotic art in an exhibition like this it's fascinating to see how far we've come and what's now being accepted. But I also think that the art is even more powerful and shocking that the majority of these pieces were coming from a place and time when it wasn't so accessible. 50 Shades is never going to be the best film out there, but the phenomenon it brought really shows us that people are so hungry for it, and so open for this intensely erotic intimacy, and to explore these raw sensual desires.
It's easy to look at that and the film, and think what's next? Or can sex still be shocking or how much further can we take it? I think we'll see variations of the same thing, but there's only so much you can do! Ha ha! There's lots of things that goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults, exploring their inner fantasies, fulfilling passions and making erotic experiences. Sex is about two people connecting but it's also being able to laugh together. Play and enjoy each other. Sex is funny, and having a good sense of humour is one of the sexiest things."
Pamela was Helmut Newton's 'one that got away'
"I was supposed to work with Helmet but then he sadly passed away. His wife always says, every time she see's me, 'You're the one that got away Pamela!'. I respect and adore Robert Mapplethorpe and Helmut Newton so much. That spontaneity that you feel in their pictures is very powerful and erotic and only a feeling that only a picture shot on film has. People just being themselves, and not messed with."
Posing for photos is very sensual
"It's a very intimate experience. You have to dance together. There's this intensely unique kind of human interaction that takes place where you become very close, very quickly. It's a very magical experience. Before the digital age, the greatest photographers I feel that impacted my life and who I had the most sensual connections with, were the ones taking me on film; the ones where we were both in that exact moment, together - and it had to be a good shot.
Now that I'm taking my own pictures, and doing some photography myself and seeing the model from the other side, it always surprises me the power of the connection you have together. The feeling to look at someone through the lens and see how their looking back at me… wow, that's really incredibly powerful. Today, in the post-production era, a photographer might take a dozen shots knowing that whatever isn't right they'll fix up later. For me that loses something. Not only that isn't in the picture, but also in the experience of the having the picture being taken."
The sexual revolution brought us bad sex
"The rates of loneliness are at the highest they've ever been. It's an epidemic. I think the sexual revolution gave us a lot of great freedom but it also gave us a lot of bad sex, a lot of very empty sex. And now we're left with all these lonely people. I'm writing a book right now called The Sexual Revolution about how being totally bombarded with so much imagery, information and so many options has left all of us completely desensitised. Men, women, gay, straight, whoever. How can we create and sustain passionate relationships that last, find people we grow old with and bring back that natural intimacy within this new dynamic that's out there. But I'm hopeful it exists and that we can do it! I think we're just nervous. It takes two people to keep that romance and passion. Both people in a relationship have to want to elevate it and put in hard work to make a wonderfully erotic, sexual and loving relationship; especially with all these new obstacles out there. That's the challenge... but then the challenge is what makes it exciting!"
Erotic Passion and Desire is at Sotheby's until 16 February, admission free
Text Tracy Kawalik
Photography Rankin courtesy Coco de Mer; event photography courtesy Sotheby's