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Wednesday, July 20, 2005 

BBFC wins appeal over hardcore at 18.

No surprises:


The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) announced today the outcome of the appeal by eight distributors against the decision by the BBFC to pass nine video works ‘R18’. The seven members of the VAC were unanimously of the view that the appeal should be dismissed.

The distributors submitted their works with a request for an ‘18’ rating. The BBFC rated all of the works ‘R18’, the category reserved for sex works which are only available through licensed sex shops. The distributors appealed to the VAC under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984.

In upholding the Board’s decision on the nine works the VAC in its Judgment expressed the opinion that “the material which is the subject of this appeal is not suitable for distribution other than in a sex shop. We have considered each video individually but in none of them do we find any grounds to change the classification. The Board has the onerous task of ensuring that material of this kind does not fall in the hands of children or the vulnerable and the fact that a person may not order it by mail in this country and must purchase it in person goes some way to enable the Board to discharge this duty.”

The nine works were Lubed, The Secrets of Kama Sutra, Ben Dover – Cumming of Age Volume Two, Heart of Darkness, Queensway Trailers, Dungeon Diva 2, Semi-Detached, Catering for all Tastes – Finger Buffet for Six and L’Elisir d’Amour.

In case you're not familiar with the works of our quaint British censor, the BBFC has to give a certificate to every piece of film that is to be shown in a theatre, or sold on video/dvd. Until 2000, hardcore pornography was banned in the UK. After a ruling by the judicial court, such works, if they can be called that, were classified as R18, meaning they are only allowed to be sold in licenced sex shops. They cannot be sold by mail order, or on the internet by UK retailers.

Since and before the ruling, there have been several films which have featured unsimulated sex scenes, some of which have been passed 18 uncut, others not. These include Baise-Moi, The Idiots, The Pornographer and Romance. Then last year saw the arrival of 9 Songs, a film which consists essentially of bands performing and a couple of lovers having graphic real sex. It was passed 18 uncut for both cinema and DVD, mainly due to its art-house pretensions.

Understandbly, this has upset the companies behind adult film titles. If a film can consist mainly of real sex, no matter how boring or unerotic it is, and be passed at 18, why can't their works be passed at the same certificate? The fact is that the market for R18 works in the UK is tiny, due to the fact that there are very few licenced sex shops to buy them from, and that mail ordering is illegal. Web sites selling R18 titles have recently been prosecuted and shut down. Despite this though, it is perfectly legal to import hardcore from abroad, as long as it does not contain anything that would be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act. Hence the appeal by the distributors to have their works classified as 18. They range in err, hardness, from close to what is now passed as 18 as 'simulated' sex, to as far as the BBFC will allow at R18. (Fisting, most urination, choking and other nasty stuff is mostly forbidden.)

On the whole, this is a silly situation. I'm no fan of pornography, especially some of the degrading acts which take place in the 'gonzo' genre of films, in particular the way in which scenes nearly always finish with a 'facial', with the man ejaculating onto the woman's face. However, I also feel that most of it is completely harmless. If we can't face up to the fact that people want to have sex, and people want to watch other consenting couples having sex, then we'll be stuck with puritanical Victorian values for ever. There are a lot more pressing issues out than those to do with getting paid to have sex on camera.
The obvious solution would be for porn to be rated at 18, but it should be enclosed in special sections within shops, with appropriate packaging and ID required for anyone who looks obviously underage or relatively young who attempts to buy it. They could perform similar types of checking up as they do with getting teenagers to buy cigarettes and alcohol. This would be easy to achieve, and although it might annoy the Daily Mail, since when has that been a bad thing?

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