I’m the Sex Doctor’s Daughter

On growing up in the shadow of Dr. Drew

Paulina Pinsky
Human Parts
Published in
16 min readFeb 14, 2020

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A photo of the writer as a child with her father.
Photos courtesy of the author.

OnOn the way to ice skating practice, when I was eight years old, my mother said, “When you lose your virginity, your father is going to broadcast it on the radio.” My dad is Dr. Drew Pinsky. You know, the guy with gray hair, wire frames, and a serious expression? Looks like Anderson Cooper, but isn’t Dr. Phil? That guy. The co-host of Loveline for over 30 years, my internist and addiction specialist dad became known for giving medically based sex advice on the Los Angeles radio station KROQ 106.7 FM. His career would traverse from radio to television with Loveline on MTV, then Celebrity Rehab on VH1, where he sat opposite celebrities struggling with addiction with his legs crossed, his hands clasped, and a concerned expression on his face as he asked, “Were you abused as a child?”

I have always felt the eyes of the world on me — whether or not they actually are. I learned from a young age that if I ever did anything wrong — like have sex — I would get caught, pants down, in front of the whole nation. My mother’s comment (which she doesn’t remember making) was meant to shame me, to keep me from doing something wrong. The irony, of course, is that my mother can also be quoted as saying, “We’re Pinskys. We test-drive the car before buying.” But that came years later, when I was in my twenties and unabashedly fucking with reckless abandon. However, when I was a little girl, Mom made it clear that America was watching.

There is no universe in which my father would publicly announce, on live radio, that I had been penetrated. But that didn’t matter. My mother’s off-hand remark struck fear into my heart the way that, I imagine, religion does for other people. And now I can’t help but think, was her intent so wrong?

Reading tabloids and watching television taught me that a reckless daughter could ruin a family, a reputation, a lifestyle. I grew up in an age when Britney shaved her head, Paris Hilton rolled onto the red carpet on a motorbike, and Tara Reid posed in a cropped football jersey. The fear that I could be anything like these women lived in my bones. I wanted to be good and loved and accepted and pure more than anything else in the world. So I would just have to stay a virgin forever.

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Paulina Pinsky
Human Parts

Words in Human Parts, P.S. I Love You, and Sexography, & more. paulinapinsky.com.