Recent research has helped the BBFC to respond to concerns about depictions of rape, sexual assault and other sadistic violence in films and videos.
Research carried out on behalf of the BBFC in 2002 and again in 2012 demonstrates that members of the film viewing public find unacceptable certain depictions of sexual and sadistic violence which, in their view, have the potential to cause harm.
Although the research reaffirms views that adults should be able to choose what they see, provided it remains within the law and is not potentially harmful, they are concerned about young men with little experience, and more vulnerable viewers, accessing sadistic and sexually violent content, which could serve to normalise rape and other forms of violence and offer a distorted view of women.
Film viewing members of the public support intervention at the adult category, by the BBFC, to remove certain depictions of violence on the grounds that they consider them to be potentially harmful.
The research carried out by Ipsos MORI in 2012 highlights concerns about certain depictions of sadistic and sexual violence to which the BBFC must respond. Much of the public believe that sexual and sadistic violence are legitimate areas for film makers to explore. But they are concerned by certain depictions which may be potentially harmful to some, including scenes which:
• make sexual or sadistic violence look appealing
• reinforce the suggestion that victims enjoy rape
• invite viewer complicity in rape or other harmful violent activities.
Most of those involved in the research expect the BBFC to intervene to remove potential harm from such scenes. The BBFC may also intervene where a depiction is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) as to pose a harm risk.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: “There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule for any theme under the BBFC classification guidelines, as long as what is depicted is within the law and does not pose a harm risk. Once again the public have told us that context, tone and impact, and a work’s overall message, can aggravate a theme, or make it acceptable, even in cases of sexual and sadistic violence. The decision as to whether and how to intervene in scenes of sexual and sadistic violence is complex, but drawing out and applying these aggravating and mitigating factors is helpful in arriving at a decision which balances freedom of expression against public protection”.
Notes to Editors
- Please find more information about the BBFC and the full policy response to the 2012 Ipsos MORI research into public attitudes towards sexual, sexualised and sadistic violence. The policy response also follows below.
- The BBFC’s response to this research takes effect in six weeks’ time. This is to allow an adequate period of notice to those submitting works.
- The research project undertaken was qualitative in design with fieldwork undertaken in May 2012 in London, Bristol and Dundee. 35 participants watched a range of films and took part in extended depth interviews. 21 participants were invited back for a follow up workshop.
About the BBFC
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is an independent, private, not for profit company which classifies films, videos, DVDs and certain video games, advertisements and trailers. The BBFC operates transparent, well-understood and trusted co-regulatory and self regulatory classification regimes based on years of expertise and published Guidelines which reflect public opinion and the risk of harm; and is accountable to Parliament.