More damaging than porn? The myths and assumptions of Daubney’s doc

I’ve just had a chance to catch up on Martin Daubey’s shockingly alarmist documentary, Porn on the Brain, which was broadcast on C4 on Monday (and can be watched again here) and could barely get to the end before I felt compelled to write this.

A number of times over the past year, I’ve found myself defending Daubney on radio and in debates when certain feminists have attacked him for being a feckless pornographer who abused women and did a gross disservice to men while he was editor of Loaded magazine. Repeatedly, I asked people to let him speak when he was shouted down with cries of ‘misogynist!’, when he was defending the mag he edited as entertainment, or defending the free press rights of lads mags and journalists in general. And now I’m left thinking, ‘for what?’ as he goes and hangs himself by his own petard in the most oddly masochistic of ways – by ‘outing’ himself as a corrupter of innocence as someone that encouraged the objectification of women, pronouncing porn addiction the evil of our time.

Porn on the Brain started out relatively well. It was candid in tone and content, took a wry look at wanking and sexual awakening – and then veered into something akin to self-mockery when Daubney announced that he eventually gave up his masturbational ways to become a dad, as if he’d realised that all that wanking had only been in preparation for the main procreational event.  Quickly, the narrative then carried on in a disturbingly moralistic vein as Daubney interrogated porn, describing in particular that depicting fisting or age play as ‘gross’, having ‘lost its sense of humour’ and becoming ‘something altogether more macabre’ compared to the jolly bird-with-pants-round-their-ankles stuff he used to watch and print at Loaded. He then moved to presenting the results of one study on the effects of porn-viewing on the brain as evidence of neuro-chemical addiction, extrapolating a whole theory around why teenagers were particularly vulnerable to this from this single preliminary study which even lead researcher Dr Valerie Voon warned him was just the beginning of the evidence collection. FYI, if you’re interested in reading some research that claims just the opposite, try this (my thanks to sex educator Justin Hancock of Bish Training for pointing it out to me).

Daubney’s trailing of one poor teen as he found himself compulsively reacting to a hot-pant clad girl on the street and had to pull into a pub to go knock one out was particularly crass. Not just the filming or commentary – although the guy in question was clearly in distress even though he must have given his consent – but the simplistic causal relationship Daubney made between his porn viewing habits and his compulsive wanking. It was bad science at best, harmful amateur diagnosis and unethical interviewing at worst. And it did nothing to even consider the underlying issues that might have been triggering Callum’s response. ADHD, childhood abuse, communicative/social difficulties, low self-esteem…just some of the factors professionals who work in sexual therapy use to explain compulsive sexual acting-out. But no. The problem here was porn.

The documentary pulled itself a little around at the end (no pun intended..) – at least Daubney admitted that children need sex education at a young age, and Callum was seen consulting with a sex therapist who began to explain that his relationship with porn was probably about deeper emotional issues. But Daubney offered no evaluation of this, nor sought to correct the film’s main framing of porn as the problem that causes sexual malfunction and self-harming behaviour.

What a waste of an opportunity Daubney had to talk about sexual moralism, societal contradictions – hell, in an hour-long programme he didn’t even once mention the word CONSENT. Fantasy and escapism also fell by the wayside. But then, Daubney might have to recognise his own tall tale to be able to tell where he’d strayed from science and empirical fact himself…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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