Films with sex at­tacks face au­to­matic 18 rat­ing

Guide­lines set to be tight­ened af­ter MeToo ac­tresses tell of in­dus­try abuse

Daily Mail - - News - By Emily Kent Smith

Me­dia and Tech­nol­ogy Re­porter UN­DER- 18s could be barred from watch­ing films at the cinema fea­tur­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence fol­low­ing wide­spread con­cern that cur­rent age rat­ings are some­times mis­judged. Women’s groups have wel­comed news that the Bri­tish Board of Film Clas­si­fi­ca­tion (BBFC) is con­sid­er­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of show­ing rape scenes to those who have not reached adult­hood. For years, some au­di­ences have been hor­ri­fied by the graphic con­tent they have wit­nessed in films with 15 rat­ings. But fol­low­ing a public con­sul­ta­tion, with scores of view­ers of­fer­ing their opin­ions on the sys­tem, the BBFC said it may place films fea­tur­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence in an over-18 cat­e­gory. If the de­ci­sion were made, each film would then be looked at on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis.

This year, when public panel mem­bers were in­vited to watch the movies In Be­tween, Wind River and Don’t Breathe – all classed as suit­able for those aged 15 and over – many said the sex­ual vi­o­lence por­trayed meant they should be rated 18 in­stead. Wind River, star­ring US ac­tress El­iz­a­beth Olsen, shows the rape of a woman. Pales­tinian direc­tor Maysa­loun Hamoud re­ceived a huge back­lash in her home­land for In Be­tween, which fea­tures drugs and les­bian­ism. Hor­ror movie Don’t Breathe con­tains scenes of a woman held cap­tive in a base­ment.

The BBFC’s re­think comes af­ter the #MeToo move­ment swept the world, with celebri­ties speak­ing out about how they have been sub­jected to in­ap­pro­pri­ate or sex­u­ally abu­sive be­hav­iour. Bri­tish ac­tress Keira Knight­ley, 33, ear­lier this year told of how the fe­male char­ac­ters ‘nearly al­ways get raped’ in films ‘set in the mod­ern day’.

She said: ‘I al­ways find some­thing dis­taste­ful in the way women are por­trayed [ in films set in the present], whereas I’ve al­ways found very in­spir­ing char­ac­ters of­fered to me in his­tor­i­cal pieces.

‘I’m sud­denly be­ing sent scripts with present-day women who aren’t raped in the first five pages and aren’t sim­ply there to be the lov­ing girl­friend or wife.’

Ear­lier this week, the BBFC’s chief ex­ec­u­tive David Austin told an NSPCC con­fer­ence that the body would re­con­sider rat­ings if its con­tin­u­ing re­search showed view­ers were con­cerned about how sex­ual vi­o­lence was clas­si­fied.

He added: ‘ We have 92 per cent ap­proval rat­ings [for clas­si­fi­ca­tion de­ci­sions] and the rea­son for that is that we con­sult the public.’

Yes­ter­day cam­paign group End Vi­o­lence Against Women Coali­tion wel­comed the news. Co- direc­tor Rachel Krys said: ‘It is good the BBFC is think­ing hard about how rape and sex­ual vi­o­lence is de­picted and the mes­sages which are be­ing sent to young peo­ple. If we can avoid young peo­ple be­ing ex­posed to films which nor­malise or triv­i­alise sex­ual vi­o­lence and vic­tim­blam­ing, that will help when we are try­ing to talk to them about healthy sex­ual re­la­tion­ships.

‘We shouldn’t shield young peo­ple from the re­al­i­ties of the world. But film-mak­ers do have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that con­tent doesn’t nor­malise vi­o­lence and misog­yny by send­ing a mes­sage that rape and sex­ual vi­o­lence isn’t ex­tremely harm­ful or that vic­tims are to blame.’

A sim­i­lar study five years ago saw rat­ings tight­ened when scenes por­trayed sadis­tic sex and sex­ual vi­o­lence, such as when it ap­peared that vic­tims en­joyed rape. Mr Austin said the lat­est re­search was tar­geted at the 15 rat­ing.

A BBFC source re­vealed: ‘A gen­eral trend was that peo­ple seemed to find the fact the scenes oc­curred within recog­nis­able “real world” set­tings an ag­gra­vat­ing factor, be­cause it made them feel as if this was some­thing that could hap­pen to them.’

The body yes­ter­day said it was ‘pre­ma­ture’ to say what changes might be made to the guide­lines, which would be­come clearer when the re­search is com­pleted in the au­tumn. But a BBFC spokesman added: ‘It is cer­tainly fair to say that the qual­i­ta­tive part of the re­search, at least, sug­gests height­ened public con­cerns about the is­sue of sex­ual vi­o­lence and some de­sire for a fur­ther tight­en­ing of our al­ready strict stan­dards at 15.

‘The sec­ond stage of the con­sul­ta­tion process is a large-scale quan­ti­ta­tive ex­er­cise in which around 10,000 peo­ple are polled about their opin­ions. That is un­der way now.’

‘Vi­o­lence and misog­yny’

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