When it was announced that Disney, the house of mouse known for family-friendly children’s films were producing a drama based on a sex tape, eyebrows were raised at the surprisingly saucy subject matter.


However, Pam & Tommy, along with being a tremendous success as a miniseries, also highlights one of the biggest changes in how people talk about sex and sexuality, in an era when discussing sex toys and adult lingerie was still seen as a taboo and the internet was still developing as a technology.


It is a story of a bizarre heist undertaken purely for revenge, the dawn of a new technology and the cultural implications that are felt to this day, and a media frenzy that was a mix of voyeuristic and moralistic.


Kickstart My Heart

Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee were two of the most famous people in the world in 1995 when they married on a beach after a whirlwind two months together.


During their honeymoon, they recorded a private video of each other together, which was kept in a safe and was intended for only their eyes to see it.


This would have been the case were it not for a heated argument between the Motley Crue drummer and an electrician by the name of Rand Gauthier. This seemingly innocuous dispute escalated when Mr Lee pointed a gun at Mr Gauthier when he was coming to pick up his tools.


This led to him breaking into the couple’s house and stealing a safe that contained photographs, two expensive watches, cufflinks a cross, Pamela Anderson’s white bikini and a camcorder tape.


When he took it to an adult video studio where he worked, Mr Gauthier realised what the tape was and that it could either make him extremely rich or destroy his life. It ended up doing both in the end.


The tapes were sold on the early internet at such a small scale that it took over three months for the Lees to notice that the safe was missing and that the tape had started to be distributed around.


This led to a $10m lawsuit against Penthouse magazine and everyone they thought had a copy of the tape to try and legally stop them from distributing it.


Whilst they eventually got an injunction, it was in late 1997 and far too late to stop a video that had been widely distributed, to the point that even mainstream magazines were discussing its details at length and publishing reviews.


Worse, Penthouse claimed that the couple did not have the right to privacy because they had discussed their sex life before, and it would take decades for this damage to be undone and for people to be able to healthily and candidly talk about their sex lives in public again.


The final influential moment the tape had was when a 25-year-old entrepreneur named Seth Warshavsky, who ran an early live streaming adult website and announced that he planned on broadcasting the tape online, with no real plans to do so until the Lees settled and he legally could.

Whilst celebrities have been recording themselves having saucy action since the availability of video cameras, the Pam and Tommy tape and the bizarre story behind it was a cultural obsession and the implication on how we talk about sex, the right to be forgotten and intimacy are felt to this day.

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