On holiday recently, my boyfriend and I ended an enjoyable day of fishing from a small boat in the middle of a large lake, followed by a supper of hot smoked salmon and lingonberries, in a traditional European manner. We settled down to watch a porn
video in our Finnish hotel room. On the screen, all sorts of sexual practices unfolded, to a script consisting entirely of feral grunts and "Oui! Si! Ja! Yes!", so that, wherever you were in Europe, you would be satisfied.
Soon we won't have to travel so far to enjoy such late-night diversions. This week the Video Appeals Committee ruled that the BBFC should have given R18 certificates to seven pornographic videos showing real, penetrative sex. Until now, the board has
only passed videos showing simulated sex. Nympho Nurse Nancy, Office Tart, Horny Catbabe and Miss Nude International will be coming soon to one of the 80 licensed adult sex shops near you.
The board is not happy about this. They do not think you and I are responsible enough to be entrusted with such erotic material. Most of all, they are worried we might allow our children to watch Office Tart after Teletubbies, and these innocents
might grow up with the perverted notion that the main purpose of filing cabinets is for fornicating against.
The Finnish video was uncompromising; there was anal sex, ejaculation and full Technicolor close-ups. None of the seven videos passed by the board contain any of these elements. Even with these latest concessions, Britain's porn laws are much
stricter than almost anywhere else in Europe.
That's perhaps why the British abroad find foreign cable channels so fascinating. My boyfriend and I viewed the mating habits on the Finnish video with the same detached quasi-scientific curiosity we might watch David Attenborough on birds. If a
child had been with us, what would they have thought of a naked man and woman massaging each other's genitals and the feral grunts? Would they have become distraught and burst into tears? Would their future sexual practices have been warped beyond
recognition? No, I'm convinced they would have fallen straight to sleep.
But what if a child had stayed awake for a few moments and asked me some questions. They might have wanted to know what those nude men and women - with far from perfect bodies, rather like their parents - were doing. In which case, I would have told
them: they are having sex. The child may have tried to look more closely, examining their harshly-lit bodies just as we were. I expect the child would have found it absurd. The idea of penetration is simply silly to a small child. Even adults find it
funny. Author Nina Bawden, a member of the Video Appeals Committee, said that the majority of material they watched was more likely to cause laughter than erections .
There are plenty of other images, on other videos, that our moral overlords are not nearly as concerned about our children and ourselves seeing, even though they show a far less honest, and amusing, picture of sexual practices. In most mainstream
Hollywood movies, sex consists of a man with no hair anywhere on his body rubbing vigorously up against a woman, followed by some slow press-ups and a miraculous orgasm for the female star, as if no one west of Ellis Island had ever heard of a
clitoral stimulation. In healthy contrast, the clitoris has a big part in most porn movies; it's considered important. Women masturbate themselves. But in the warped world of censorship, these most accurate portrayals of female sexuality are banished
to late-night cable channels in far-flung foreign hotel rooms.
Pornography is a challenge to Britain's conservative censorship lobby. It's a truly popular form of entertainment which threatens established prejudices, often pioneering sexual practices considered taboo. Gay and inter-racial sex have long been
prolific in porn when absent almost anywhere else, prompting feminist commentator Paula Webster to say: Pornography implies that we could find all races, genders, ages, and shapes sexually interesting .
Outside the low-brow land of Makin Whoopee and Wet Nurses 2 , sex scenes are far from challenging. It's a daring Hollywood film in which the man isn't on top. In carnal contrast, pornography prefers the fantasy of
the sexually eager woman. One of the most memorable lines in the handful of porn movies I've watched is: "Give it to me, big boy." What is so objectionable about this? In porn videos women are regularly given an aggressive, up-front, on-top
role. As Norman Mailer wryly commented: I've seen any number of pornographic films where you have girls sitting on guys' heads.
Children are not corrupted by porn; they're more likely to be bored by it. And adult viewers of any material, however raunchy, should not be treated like children. But that's exactly the attitude of the British Board of Film Classification in
believing we - the great unwashed British public - cannot be trusted with perfectly ordinary footage of consenting adults copulating. God knows what we might be provoked into doing by such images. Copulate with another consenting adult, perhaps? The
board should have the balls to challenge Britain's censorship laws. Then we could all look forward to having the choice to watch undiluted, honest sex in our own homes.