Public attitudes to sex have changed considerably over the years, and recent public consultations in 2005 and 2009 indicate a greater tolerance of portrayals of sex on screen. However, there is still a clear public feeling that some images of, and references to, sex should not be passed as suitable for younger children. The BBFC reflects this through the age rating system - the U rating, for example, allows for mild sexual behaviour (for example, kissing) and references only (for example, to ‘making love’). Progressively stronger images and references are allowed through the age rating system, and at the other end of the spectrum there is a special rating, R18, for explicit images of real sex in a pornographic work. These types of images can be rated 18 only when they are justified by context.

The BBFC must also consider legal issues associated with images of sex, such as the Protection of Children Act and the 1994 amendment to the Video Recordings Act, which states that the BBFC must pay special attention to certain matter including 'human sexual activity'.