PANIC!

Jameela Jamil’s Porn Panic

On Thursday evening, BBC3 showed a whole hour of porn panic, hosted by Radio One presenter Jameela Jamil. The programme’s title, Porn What’s The Harm, suggested an open-minded enquiry into the question of whether porn is harmful to teenagers who view it. But this was never going to be an unbiased look at the issue. Jamil has long made clear her dislike of pornography. And the programme was as full of misinformation and panic as we expected.

Jamil’s opening words set the scene: “Porn is everywhere!” Um… is it? Of course it isn’t – this is a standard porn panic statement. And it wasn’t alone. Barely a minute passed without Jamil making clear her shock, horror and disgust: “UNBELIEVABLY explicit sex acts”, “In the homes, in the minds, in the lives of our children”, “This is unbelievable!”, “Ordinary families have to deal with this every day”, “Countless children have already been exposed to shocking images”, “I’m horrified!”, “Bombarded with these pornographic images”, and on and on and on…

According to the Internet, Jamil is 28. Yet I wondered at times if she is perhaps in her 50s. Although Internet porn has been freely available for a full generation, Jamil seems to believe she grew up in an innocent, porn-free age, and that young people today are growing up in a different world to the one she did. The web has been widely available for about 20 years, and porn has always featured very heavily, and has been easy to access. And porn on video has been widely available since the 1980s. Anybody under 30 has had easy access to Internet pornography since their early teens, and most people under 50 will have had some exposure to porn as a teenager.

There was a genuine laugh out loud moment for me, when Jamil describes seeing porn at 15, a scene involving a woman and a cucumber, and says: it “…made me not eat a salad for 12 years!” So now we know: porn is responsible for Britain’s unhealthy diets as well as every other bad thing that’s ever happened.

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When talking about teens “sexting” images to each other, she again appears to be far older than she actually is. “I’m so glad that every boyfriend I’ve had until now was before picture messaging”, she says. And since picture messaging has been around for a decade or so, poor Jameela has clearly been single since she was 18!

The programme conducts a survey of teens and finds the average age of first accessing porn is 14 – so no great surprise. It then goes on to look at the effects of porn on teens. Rather than speak to experts, the teenagers themselves are asked how they are affected. Such self-report evidence is of little value. How can teens compare themselves to the person they would be if they hadn’t watched porn? How can teens today compare themselves to the teenagers of the 1970s who didn’t have easy access to pornography?

Predictably, although she claimed to be interested in the effects of porn on teens, Jamil didn’t interview any psychologists. If she had, she’d have discovered there is little evidence that pornography is harmful. Instead, there was a brief appearance by two “experts in sexualisation”. And as has already been covered here, sexualisation is simply another keyword designed to invoke moral panic.

Undaunted by the lack of evidence of harm, Jamil goes into full-blown moral panic mode. She raises the case of an 11 year old boy who raped his 8 year old sister after – we are told – looking at porn. And she interviews a rape victim who is “convinced pornography played a part in the attack”.

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Of course, if porn really was causing people to commit sexual violence, there would have been a steep rise in sexual crime in the past 30 years, as porn consumption has increased – and as is now well known, the reverse has happened. There is a reverse correlation between porn consumption and sexual violence.

In linking porn to rape, Jamil is playing a trick that has been employed by morality campaigners since at least the 1980s. And like those campaigners, she is guilty of switching the blame for rape away from the rapist, and giving rapists an excuse for their behaviour: “the porn made me do it”.

And then, like all good purveyors of panic, Jamil casually adds child abuse imagery to the equation, helping blur the line between consenting adult sex and the rape of children.

She throws in several other tried-and-tested panic tools for good measure, such as blaming porn for women who have cosmetic surgery on their labia. According to this idea, all vulva in pornography are neat and small, and this makes women seek surgery to copy the pornstars. In fact, porn has taught people that vaginas are not all the same, and some scenes (link NSFW!) positively worship generously-proportioned female genitalia. Her evidence that this is happening? “I often see reports in the media linking porn to labiaplasties”. You mean the same media that allows dishonest, moralistic documentaries like yours to be broadcast on TV, Jameela?

It is disappointing that such propaganda is still broadcast by the BBC in the place of informed, panic-free comment. And of course, there’s an agenda. While pretending to be naive of all things porn, Jamil throws in some very current political soundbites. When browsing porn, she expresses shock that she has not been asked to verify her age, thus fitting in surprisingly neatly with ATVOD’s recent campaign aimed at giving ATVOD statutory powers to censor the Internet. If she had tried to access the same sites from a PC on which child protection software was installed, she wouldn’t have been able to access the images that so shocked her.

So come on BBC: this discussion is welcome, but let’s have some honest, evidence based programming, rather than endless panic aimed at building public support for Internet censorship.

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15 thoughts on “Jameela Jamil’s Porn Panic”

    1. Well maybe it doesn’t effect any of your life’s because your all too strong and in influenced by what you see. But actually I know many women who are in and have had terrible sexual relationships mainly by men who first and point or reference was porn.
      But don’t worry guys I’m sure what I am saying lacks evidence for you all.

      1. OK, but anecdotes like this don’t constitute evidence with much value. I could easily say the opposite: I know of many couples for whom porn has enhanced their sex lives.

        Presumably, if the phenomenon you report is widespread, there will be research evidence to back up your anecdotes. I’d be interested to see it.

  1. More Miss-informed Crap from the Media, why don’t they interview real people who actually work in the Industry, the reason is simple they will twist your words and comments and with skillful editing totally miss represent who you are what you do and what you stand for.
    But despite all the facts and figures and Stats the interesting thing was that most of the teenagers interviewed realized that the people involved in a porn movie were Acting and were Actors and it was not a true representation of real life, It’s Fantasy and Escapism just like any Movie, Just Adult Entertainment.
    In My opinion the only people who think it’s real are Politicians and anti-porn lobbyist’s.
    Another interesting comment brought up by one of the Teenagers was that while Sex Education in Schools taught them the Mechanics of Sex the how we do it any why from Books and in Pictures, Teenagers look at Porn and this is both Girls & Boys to actually see how the Sex act is Performed and gain instruction in the art of Lovemaking.
    It’s interesting to Note that while Consensual sex between consenting Adults of Sixteen and Over is Legal, It is Illegal to watch Pornography until the age of 18, something a little not quite right there I think.
    As for the Ex-Porn actress who gave it up because the moneys no Good and Mumbled under her breath something about £300 a day, I’m sure there are many People out there who would Rip your arm off for a wage of £300 a week let alone getting that for a day work.
    There are quite a few of these Porn Expose Type Documentaries being made and Aired at the present moment and I watch in wonder at how the Adult industry is perceived, but producers please, get some one to host the programme who actually knows something about the Industry and the subject they are depicting not someone like Jameela Jamil (Don’t know who she is anyway) who constantly used the Words “I’m Shocked” The Teenagers interviewed were certainly not shocked it’s just part of modern life and let’s face it most would rather play computer games anyway, and we all must remember in this supposed Free Country of Ours We All have a Choice if we don’t want to watch Porn Then Don’t Watch it ! And please don’t Surf the Net looking for Porn just so you can complain about it and say how disgusted you are, after spending all day looking at it.

    Gary

  2. I’ve downloaded it on iPlayer and almost feel like I’ve watched it already by what I’ve read.

    Its very disappointing to know that the BBC has an excellent track record for making brilliant and usually informed documentaries but this??? I expected something better than the demonisation of the porn business.

    I can challk this one up as a complete waste of time and money making this and the London Riots: In their own words documentary where they let the police tell their side of the story complete with weeping and emotion and the rioters acted by actors sound like oafs who were in it to steal trainers and packets f Haribos (yes seriously) nothing said about some bloke called Mark Duggan who was shot in the chest the day before and the family provoked by the shutters coming down at the police station and an angry woman protester getting smacked in the face that ignited the riots that night)….But I digress.

    Very shoddy of the BBC to be broadcasting this biased self serving rubbish considering they’ve got scandals for kiddy fiddling that goes beyond Jimmy Saville and that bloke from Its A Knock Out I guess this is a way to disguise their murky past by blaming it on porn instead.

  3. Porn is everywhere is the stock in trade statement of the anti porn brigade. As we know what they mean when they say this is that they see images of sexuality in public which they object to.

  4. Thank you for putting into writing what a lot of us think.
    Must say I am nearly 50 and I’m certainly not shocked at porn in the way this young presenter is.

    I think the whole thing says a lot more about her and narrow experience of the world, which is very untypical of most British people. Not just of youth of today but of youth in my day too. Teenagers in the 1980s could also access porn fairly easily but not as easily as today. And as teenagers most of us have been interested/ curious to see some porn.

    Not only that but I am mum to a load of school aged children, I can assure you porn is not every where in their lives. And I really do not see it as problem. For my own kids and teenagers in general I am more worried about knife crime, drugs and deaths due to dangerous driving

    There are problems in society such as rape, sexism, low self esteem, etc…. sometimes these may even have a correlation with viewing porn, but that does not mean porn causes them.

  5. It’s important not to forget that the UK had the most rigorous censorship of any Western democracy in the late twentieth century. Thus there is something in the assertion made by journalists and others who grew up before the Net was widely used, to the effect that “there was nothing at all like this when we were teenagers”. But they couldn’t say that if they had lived in any other comparable country.

    The puritans want to turn the clock back to twenty years ago, but they weren’t happy then. I can recall similar moral hysteria and calls for (even) tougher censorship following the horrific murder of the toddler Jamie Bulger in 1993 and there have been many other instances. And further back the Smutfinder General Mrs Whitehouse; though she did oppose the Obscene Publications Act, it was only because she thought it too liberal.

    I wish someone had the wit to make a documentary asking just why it is that we in these islands are so uniquely prone to censor and regulate entertainment that others elsewhere find relatively harmless and why there are these perennial moral panics, largely absent in other European countries. It’s an interesting question and sadly one that never really goes away.

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