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Don’t watch Pam and Tommy – the series turns someone’s trauma into entertainment

Writer : Alishya Dhir, Educating Fellow & PhD Researcher, Durham College

Hundreds of thousands have watched the brand new collection Pam and Tommy, retelling the mid-1990s story of celebrities Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and their leaked “intercourse tape”. Folks concerned within the present – together with the showrunner and actors – declare that they’re making a “feminist assertion” and recommend that the portrayal of occasions favours Pamela Anderson. Lily James, who performs Anderson, mentioned she hopes the present will “make individuals have a look at their very own culpability in perpetuating this unhealthy viral web habits”.

Nevertheless, the present contributes to this “unhealthy” behaviour by turning Anderson’s expertise of a non-public sexual video being broadly distributed and seen with out her consent into leisure. Many have looked for -– and located -– the unique video, watching it on mainstream porn websites, encouraging others on web boards to observe and sharing hyperlinks to wherever else it may be discovered.

The fact is that Anderson was not concerned with the collection, and has not spoken publicly about what she thinks of it. After we peel again the “good intentions” the collection is utilizing as promotion, we’re left with a present that exploits and income from an extremely traumatic expertise in somebody’s life.

Sadly, Anderson’s experiences are acquainted. Whereas rarer within the mid-1990s, distributing sexual photographs and movies with out consent -– often called image-based sexual abuse – is now alarmingly commonplace. Throughout the pandemic, experiences to the Revenge Porn Helpline have doubled.

Reasonably than society changing into extra conscious of the hurt of intimate picture abuse, the response to this new collection suggests we have gotten desensitised. We settle for as leisure the retelling of a narrative that inevitably results in the resurfacing of the unique video.

Recurring hurt

The distribution and viewing of personal sexual movies with out consent will be devastating for survivors. The breach of belief and sense of violation is acute. Some describe it as a “social rupture” which divides their lives into earlier than and after the abuse. One described it as “torture for the soul”.

The harms are fixed and relentless, with every viewing of the picture or video skilled as a new assault and abuse. Actor Jennifer Lawrence, whose personal photographs had been hacked and went viral in 2014, mentioned simply final 12 months that “my trauma will exist endlessly”. Paris Hilton, whose personal video was non-consensually shared, revealed she has been left with PTSD and the abuse is “one thing that may damage me for the remainder of my life”.

A young woman holding a mobile phone covers her face with her hand
To victims of on-line intimate picture abuse, every view or share is like experiencing an assault once more.
Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock

With this in thoughts, it’s proper to query the ethics of constructing a collection like Pam and Tommy. The collection recreates the video, so the producers themselves will need to have watched the unique in making the present. And within the aftermath – customers on web boards have inspired others to observe it and posted hyperlinks about the way to discover it. Many have additionally made degrading feedback about Anderson herself. All of that is an eerie echo of the unique incident.

The creators of the collection will need to have been conscious this might occur, they usually presumably knew it will imply an elevated viewers. This collection facilitates the continuation of image-based sexual abuse by actively dredging up a traumatic expertise. In doing so, it contributes to the fidelity of harms that victims expertise.

Fixing the issue

In addition to difficult reveals like Pam and Tommy, extra will be achieved to scale back the prevalence and harms of experiences like Anderson’s. Whereas many web platforms declare to have insurance policies in opposition to non-consensual materials, it’s nonetheless freely and simply accessible. The provision of this materials normalises and legitimises image-based sexual abuse. It’s also a main concern of those that face brick partitions when making an attempt to get the fabric eliminated.

Laws, just like the UK’s on-line security invoice, ought to maintain social media and web corporations accountable for his or her position in perpetuating these harms. Porn corporations ought to be required to determine customers importing materials, average content material to take away non-consensual materials and swiftly reply to take-down requests. Platforms should additionally safe the consent of all these in uploaded movies, and it ought to be a prison offence to add materials with out consent.

Whereas such steps would assist to scale back the quantity of non-consensual imagery on-line, we’re preventing a dropping battle if tv and movie producers are, in observe, trivialising these abuses. We are able to solely hope that the actors and creators of Pam and Tommy will mirror on how they’ve exploited Pamela Anderson for revenue, in simply the identical means that she was exploited when the video was initially stolen.


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