U.K.’s BBFC tightens censorship rules

Policy toward sexual and sadistic violence altered


The British Board of Film Classification, Blighty’s censorship org, is to tighten its policy on the depiction of sexual and sadistic violence in fiction and documentary films.

Monday’s announcement follows a report by market research company Ipsos MORI that concluded “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.”

The research highlighted a concern that sadistic and sexually violent content normalizing rape and violence could offer a distorted view of women to impressionable young men.

In response, the BBFC will consider cutting or even rejecting films that make “sexual or sadistic violence look appealing”; that “reinforce the suggestion that victims enjoy rape”; and “invite viewer complicity or other harmful violent activities.”

The body may also intervene in cases where acts are considered demeaning or degrading to human dignity, for example in films depicting abuse, torture or death “without any significant mitigating factors.”

“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,” said BBFC director David Cooke. “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.”

Ipsos MORI surveyed 35 participants in April and May in London, Bristol and Dundee. They were shown a range of films, including “Antichrist” and the uncut version of “I Spit on Your Grave,” and took part in extensive interviews.

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