Rough sex, incels and cyber stalking - why Laura Whitmore tackled tough topics for new show

Rough sex, incels and cyber stalking - why Laura Whitmore tackled tough topics for new show

LAURA WHITMORE has investigated the dark side of rough sex, incels and cyber stalking for a new series tackling some of society’s most controversial topics.

Born in Dublin but raised in Wicklow, the now London-based star returned to her journalistic roots for Laura Whitmore Investigates, a three-part series which airs this week on ITV2.

She took time out to explain what drew her to the topics and why it is important that we talk about them.

How did the series come about and why were you initially drawn to the project?

This has been a long time coming and a space I wanted to work in again.

I was first approached on the subject of incels by Rumpus Media and it was soon after a horrific tragedy happened in Plymouth with a man called Jake Davison, who had been seen talking on incel blogs.

I’d seen the words mentioned in articles online but I wasn’t really familiar with exactly what it meant or the community or the growing online phenomena.

We started working on that and then the idea grew into other films covering the other issues that we wanted to explore.

As we investigated incels and how to navigate the online world, that’s where we learned more about cyber-stalking and rough sex and decide to investigate those too.

It naturally evolved as we started making it.

You have a background in journalism, is it something you are keen to return to?

I started my career in a newsroom, which I both loved and hated simultaneously, because news is very rarely positive but also very important.

So, the newsroom is something which I’ve learned from. I’ve always loved asking questions. I get to ask a wide range of people questions, from working at MTV, interviewing musicians and actors to, further on in my career, interviewing politicians, and there’s always the same key elements involved, no matter who you are interviewing. I enjoy storytelling, in all its forms, so I was happy to go back to it.

I wasn’t sure if I was cut out to be full time in a newsroom because I find it quite emotionally exhausting because I get quite attached to stories which is something that a lot of my friends who work full time in newsrooms and news networks have to remove themselves from. But I think in documentary making its ok to be a bit more emotive, which is a bit different than doing full time news.

The subject matters of the episodes could be considered controversial and quite dark, which may surprise viewers who know you best as an entertainment presenter, was that a deliberate choice?

I feel like, from the outside, I might seem like an unusual person to be hosting these shows, I also feel like I’m probably to best person to do it because of who my audience are and I’d like this to be watched by a range of people, particularly females of my age or maybe the following I have from all the shows I’ve worked on.

And I think it’s important to constantly challenge yourself and other people around you and that has been a deliberate choice to challenge.

Laura Whitmore Investigates is available to stream now on ITVX

How did you approach the interviews and was getting access difficult?

I was surprised by how many people I got to talk to me.

We’re always very honest. I think giving people time and also getting to places. I travelled a lot, I went to six states within five days, and sometimes when people agree to talk to you, you have to go to them straight away in case they change their mind.

I think I try to approach interviews with a lot of empathy but also try to not go in with any judgement. I think when I was interviewing victims’ families, it’s just giving them space to talk because sometimes they feel like they haven’t been listened to or heard.

So doing something as simple as listening is huge and I would never try to go in there with, necessarily a card of questions, I just go in there and have a conversation and see where it takes me.

I also was very aware that we were dealing with people who have suffered a lot of trauma and this is the first time I have worked on a show where I have had counselling and I know the victims have been offered it as well, before and after their interviews and kind of checking back in is very important, afterwards, especially when the show goes out.

Did you do a lot of research into these subjects beforehand and what shocked you the most from what you learned?

I’m lucky I worked with a great team so I had great researchers and producers on this show. It was a very, particularly for incels, a very female based crew from DOP to producer of this particular show.

My exec was male but he very much wanted us to take over the narrative and look at it from a woman’s perspective, so it was very important for a lot of the interviews that it was all females in the room.

The commissioner from ITV is female as well, so that’s very important.

Were you fearful of meeting the incel members in person, given their extremist views?

I tried to go in with no judgement but of course you have a judgement, I don’t agree with most of the things that some of the guys were saying to me, but it’s important to give them space to speak and then afterwards I can challenge them.

So, I had time, so some of the interviews went on for two hours, even though we don’t use the whole interview, but just to get to the place where we want to, you can’t just jump in with some of these topics, so it’s important to give all our contributors the space that they need to get to the issues they want to talk about.

Was having an all-female crew a conscious decision when making the series?

It was and it wasn’t, they were the best people for the job.

In some situations we had a man with us for safety, which is something that we have to consider but, particularly with the incel, we wanted me as a female interviewing and a female behind the camera, so that was intentional, but also the best people for the job.

Has having a daughter made you more aware of understanding and tackling issues impacting women?

Having a child definitely changes your priorities and makes you more sensitive to certain subjects and maybe more sensitive to issues where people have lost a family member or child.

This was something I also had to take self-care about as well.

Also, when it comes to the online world and it’s changing so dramatically it does make me conscious that in a few years to come I’m going to have to deal with that and it’s something I can’t control.

So it does make me hyper-sensitive.

Did you find it difficult to consciously set aside any prejudices you might have held about subject matters or individuals when engaging in interviews?

It’s hard to go in because you will naturally always have some sort of judgement but when you go in with that judgement, I do think people can sense that, so it’s important that I gave a safe space to everyone to talk, no matter who they were, and no matter what I thought about them.

And then, of course, I can challenge, but it’s important I created that safe space of non-judgement and then question those views.

What impact do you hope the series will have on viewers?

You hope that the series will, first of all open up something that people didn’t even know existed or realised, like cyber-stalking, just to protect themselves a little bit more and know that the law is there to protect them.

But also to know how vulnerable they can be, even in their own homes, but without scaring people, without fear-mongering, it’s just about being realistic.

Also, when it comes to incels and toxic masculinity it’s something that infiltrates all our lives, I know it has for me, not to the extremes of this documentary, but it’s definitely in our world and how we talk about people, and how men talk about women online, and also women talk about each other, comes from that as well.

It’s a very real threat and it’s something we need to not just bury our heads in the sand about but to be aware about and talk about.

And also, the more we do it, the more, hopefully, the law will be on our side and social platforms, as well as police forces, will be better at handling it.

Are there any other specific issues or subjects that you would like to explore beyond this series?

I’ve already had two ideas for two further shows so hopefully there will be more to come in different areas. Not areas that just effect women, either.

Episode three of Laura Whitmore Investigates airs tonight at 9pm on ITV2. All episodes are available to stream now on ITVX.