Porn Or Art?

In recent years, there has been a change happening with the censorship of sex in regards to the BBFC. In 1982, the R18 certificate was created, which was used primarily for films containing simulated sex as hardcore pornography was illegal. This changed in 2000 when it became legal to sell hardcore pornography in the UK. Around the same time, the rules of what were allowed with an 18 certificate were relaxed slightly.

R18 Certificate. Only used on hardcore porn films.

In 1999, the BBFC granted an 18 certificate to French art house film Romance, which contained scenes of real, unsimulated sex. They followed this up by also allowing fellow French movie Baise Moi in 2000 and English film Intimacy in 2001. All of these movies contained real sex acts within them and all were granted 18 certificates, which allowed them to be given a mainstream release. To try and understand this change, Jerry Barnett was interviewed. Jerry, 46, is an author who wrote the book Porn Panic!: Sex And Censorship In The UK.

To start with, it is important to understand the difference between a film which contains sex acts and a porn film. In regards to this, Jerry said: “The censors define pornography as something whose primary intent is to be sexually stimulating. So they would consider artistic merit when classifying a film. The same scene in a film and taken out of context would be treated differently.” This is a vital point. Despite these films and others like them containing real sex, if these scenes were removed from the film and presented just as that scene, they would most likely not be regarded as they were. The context is what provides the justification.

Baise Moi cover

The next point to consider is why the BBFC started to allow these types of scenes into mainstream releases. Regarding this, Jerry said: “They have allowed explicit sex for some time, in line with the liberalising of society since the 1990s. They were reflecting the change in culture around sex. Of course, they have a clear idea of what sex is or is not.” It is true that society has become more liberal since the 1990s, so maybe it was only a matter of time before these types of changes were made by the BBFC. Despite this, it could be argued that they have not been perfect. Even though they have shown more intelligence in their ratings, Jerry still feels they could do more. He said: “They have clung onto old guidelines for obscenity, even after courts have found people not guilty. There does not seem to be much interest in advancing with public attitudes.”

Of the 10 films banned by the BBFC since 2008, three have been pornographic. In talking about this, Jerry said: “There are many types of banned acts that the BBFC will cut from films, including those considered harmful and those considered obscene. A lot of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism And Masochism) content in particular is banned in the UK.” It does seem to be the case the BBFC are cautious when considering a pornographic film with potentially violent content.

The Texas Vibrator Massacre cover

Two of the films, The Texas Vibrator Massacre and My Daughter’s A Cocksucker, were banned for containing scenes which were set up to look as if they were incestuous and the third one, Lost In The Hood, was banned as the sex contained within was made to look like it was rape, despite all sex being consensual. This is all understandable though. Incest and rape is likely to offend many people. Also, The Texas Vibrator Massacre was banned for also containing a large amount of eroticised sexual violence. Despite relaxing some of the rules regarding censorship in the last few years, eroticised sexual violence will always be troublesome for the BBFC.

So, with this all in mind, it is clear that in regards to sex, the BBFC have shown more intelligence with their ratings. They clearly understand there is a real difference between a porn film and a film containing real sex. It is all about context and reasoning.

 

 

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