CNN host Christiane Amanpour appeared on Saturday night's All Things Considered on NPR to plug her news series Sex and Love Around the World. NPR host Michel Martin suggested somehow this series was all Amanpour's idea, and not CNN trying to use sex as a way to nudge people into watching cable "news" on the weekends. The origin story for this series sounds suspicious.Who really believes this show is conceived while you think about how Syrian refugees have sex as soon as they're rescued from death?
MICHEL MARTIN: Take me back to that, sort of, moment of, kind of, inspiration for you. Were you in some place terrible, as you often wind up being, and did just something spark you?....What was the moment like, can you remember it?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I was actually brushing my teeth, listening to the radio. And I heard a fantastic report about all these, you know, sad refugees who are being expelled from Syria coming to this big refugee camp in Jordan. So on the one hand, they were safe. But on the other hand, you know, I suddenly wondered, well, OK, now they're safe. How do they actually have sex? I don't know why that leapt into my head, but it did.
That's not a persuasive answer. Martin then wondered how the #MeToo movement played into this sex series, noting that Amanpour's CNN show now airs nightly on PBS stations as a replacement for Charlie Rose, who was fired for repeated sexual harassment episodes with female employees. Then Amanpour suggested everywhere in the world, "sex is taboo," and we all suffer in "the current extreme orthodoxy that we all live in, especially around the topic of sex." What world is she describing??
AMANPOUR: First and foremost, I am very pleased that it was a woman who was chosen to fill this spot. I think it sends a massively important signal to the world at large, to be honest with you. Now, having said that, every culture and every country that I know of, whether it's here, whether it's Shanghai, Tokyo, whatever it might be, sex is taboo, Michel, it just is. And it wasn't always so. One of the revelations to me was seeing that in India, of course, there was the Kama Sutra, in Japan, the book called the Shunga. And in the Arab world, in Beirut, this couple who collects antique literature showed me "The Perfumed Garden." "The Perfumed Garden" is their version of the Kama Sutra.
Imagine in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and ever since, there have bean illustrated manuals to explain carnal pleasure. And it's for men and women equally. And women are taught in these books that they don't just have a right to it, they deserve it. And to fast forward hundreds of years to the current extreme orthodoxy that we all live in, especially around the topic of sex, is actually pause for thought. There's a much broader conversation to be had about intimacy, about emotion, about how you become, you know, a functioning, long-lasting couple. And that, to me, especially in this era of porn, of the Internet, of the MeToo is really important. Now's the time. It's late, but it's better late than never.
A different version of this, a mourning of "Western puritanical values," occurs in the Variety review of the new series: "One of the most surprising things she discovered in Japan was the level of openness relating to sexual activity before the 19th century, when exposure to Western puritanical values began to seep in."