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 2001: April-June

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24th June   Customary Delay

Customs have finally updated their website to reflect their acceptance of hardcore porn. The advice for travellers page now reads:

Prohibited goods (that is, goods which are banned completely).

  • Indecent and obscene material featuring children, such as books, magazines, films, videotapes, laser discs and software.
  • Pornographic material other than that which depicts the type of consensual sexual activity between adults which can be legally purchased in the UK.

It took about 9 months to get the page updated, I wonder why. My guess is that maybe they waited until the election just on the off chance that Home Secretary Anne Widdecombe may have rolled back the changes.

24th June   European Censors

Very worrying bollox from the European Parliament as reported in The European Voice, June 7-13

MEPS want laws to combat child pornography toughened to cover 'fake' computer-generated images as well as paedophiliac photographs and videos. They will also call for explicit descriptive texts or drawings of youngsters to be made an imprisonable offence.

The European Parliament's recommendations on proposed laws put forward by Justice Commisioner António Vitorino make clear that written material which 'creates the impression that the person depicted is a child engaged in or witnessing explicit sexual contact' would also be considered child pornography. Vladimir Nabokov's classic novel Lolita would apparently fall foul of this definition.

Vitorino's proposals, due to be adopted at a full meeting of MEPs at Strasbourg next week, would oblige member-states to intorduce a maximum penalty of at least four years for child pornography and prostitution offences. This "minimum maximum" would be increased to eight years if the child involved was under 10, although Parliament wants this raised to 16. The proposals aim to harmonise definitions of child abuse, helping authorities to cooperate in the fight against international paedophiles

The Parliament's Rapporteur thus apparently envisages extending the proposed EU-wide unconditional prohibition of "visual depictions" of sexual acts performed by persons under eighteen (18) as 'child pornography' to include "written descriptions" of such acts, even where the acts described are in fact legitimate (eg within marriage) or purely imaginary, and regardless of the context (scientific, medical, literary, educational etc. ) or literary merit, and notwithstanding the Constitutional prohibitions on censorship in several EU member-states.

24th June   New State Censor

The BBFC now report to Tessa Jowell, Secretary for Culture Media and Sport. Media regulation and censorship has now been shifted from the Home Office to their new home at the DCMS. As far as I can tell, The Home Office retains responsibility for adminstering the Obscene Publications Act so maybe the BBFC will now have to consult with both departments.

20th June   Lies & Perjury

The crap law concerning licensed sex shops is clearly open to abuse and encourages councillors with strong views to edge towards corruption. The law should be rapidly changed to allow the refusal of a licenese only on the grounds of proven harm. Now that sex shops are allowed to sell what the customers want there will be many applications over the next few months. If councillors feel that they can put their own views above the law and reject licenses on a whim we may see many repeats of the following story.

From Ananova

A district councillor told "deliberate and fundamental lies" in court documents relating to an application to set up a sex video business, a jury has heard.Councillor Gordon Tonkinson falsely claimed he had not voted during a council committee meeting which rejected the application, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard. The councillor is said to have been wildly opposed to the proposed premises in Shifnal, Shropshire.

Tonkinson, a member of Bridgnorth District Council, and council officials Trudi Elliott and Wendy Ridley, all deny perjury relating to a judicial review of the application held at the High Court in London. Andrew Lockhart, prosecuting, told the court that Tonkinson's vote at the meeting in August 1997 had proved vital, meaning the application by Primetime Promotions was refused by five votes to four. Ridley, the authority's head of Environmental Services, and Elliott, the council's chief executive, did not vote at the meeting but are also alleged to have submitted perjured affidavits to the judicial review.

The court heard that all three defendants claimed in police interviews that the affidavits were made "by mistake rather than wilfully". The court heard that the High Court eventually overturned the council's decision, having decided it was unreasonable. Mr Lockhart said Ridley and Elliott had also submitted affidavits claiming that Tonkinson had not voted at the "heated" meeting.

The prosecutor added: "Primetime alleged that there was bias on the part of Mr Tonkinson against the application. They decided to bring proceedings in the High Court in London for judicial review. In the course of the proceedings, these three defendants were the witnesses deployed by Bridgnorth District Council to counter the allegations ... One was that Mr Tonkinson was biased. All of these three defendants swore affidavits that Mr Tonkinson had not voted that night.

Tonkinson, 62, of Damson Lane, Weston Heath, near Shifnal, Elliott, 42, of Stourport Road, Bewdley, Worcestershire, and Ridley, 56, of Foxlands Crescent, Penn, Wolverhampton, all deny perjury between January 1998 and January 1999.

20th June   Not In Coventry

Thanks to Martin

There's been a bit of controversy regarding sex shops in Coventry recently. A businessman from Poole wanted to open up a shop on a street in the City centre (Hales Street). He was refused a license.

The usual rubbish was thrown around -- worries about kids seeing it, etc. That was the police. They thought it would cause harm, and the usual
religious groups came out to campaign.

However, I think the real reason for it being turned down was because Hales Street is in the middle of a huge redevelopment of an area of the city centre - full of expensive apartments, cafes and restaurants. They didn't really want a sex shop there.

Ironically, a number of people wrote to Coventry Evening Telegraph commenting that a sex shops would add a bit of life to the city centre!

17th June   Not In Nottingham...Not

From the Nottingham Evening Post

Nottingham has its first licensed sex shop in more than a decade - after councillors' objections got lost in the post.

Delta Love Productions in Hyson Green received a licence despite the city council's strict "no sex" policy. Last year the shameful council banned nudity in city venues and pledged to fight any expansion of the sex industry.

But Delta applied to the council's licensing officer for a sex shop licence. Local councillors wrote opposing the move but the postal delay meant their letters arrived a day too late. Because there were no objections, the council had no grounds for rejecting the application and had to let it through.

No one in the area had objected to the plan for the Radford Road shop, which hit the headlines a year ago when council officials gave it a £22,000 renovation grant, a decision later called "stupid" by council leader Graham Chapman. Today he denied there had been any relaxation in the council's anti-sleaze policy.  Our policy is that we would discourage sex shops but they are protected by licensing laws that we have to apply, This one slipped through because the objections, from two local councillors, came in late.

Delta was already an adult shop but as a licensed sex shop it will be allowed to stock many more explicit goods.  Shop owner Frank Turner said he was delighted at winning the licence.

6th June   Nutters Harangue StrawberryX

Received from StrawberryX:

Until recently, www.StrawberryX.com had been trading adult DVD's fairly annonymously to a group of select individuals who had found them by accident or word of mouth. Then they decided to place an advert in DVD review - The  magazine hit the news stands in central London on May 30th 2001. The Internet Vigilante Nutter's email came just 3 days later.  It was their standard - shut your business or we'll call the cops - written  in capital letters and sent annonymously from a hotmail account. Their  demands were simple - 7 days to close the business or they would force legal  action. Owner Lee McGeorge said, I had no choice but to scream obscenities  at the computer for an hour, then hold my head in my hands wondering what to  do - It's one thing to go looking for paedaphiles but this is my livelihood,  and the actual 'content' I sell is perfectly legal anyway!

Writing the vigilantes an email back it was stated StrawberryX would not  close because some secret emailer asks - Then came the long email full of  technical lawspeak on the video recordings act.  After thought, and a great deal of stress and heartache, StrawberryX emailed the vigilantes back saying they would alter the business and not ship products from the UK. The business has had to alter so that orders are passed
to an American wholesaler - who packs the products and ships them to a UK  remailing service who then ships by UK mail to the customer.

So what's the end result? Instead of delivering in 3 or 4 days, StrawberryX  now push (and according to Lee, this is really hard to keep the price low) to  meet a 7 or 8 day schedule. If they want it faster (5 days is the best) it  would mean the cost of a disc would almost double.

Do the same customers receive the same goods? Of course!
Do they pay the same price? Bet your ass they do!
Do they have to wait longer? OH YES INDEED!
Why? Because that's the way the vigilantes want it.....!

If you wanna email these people and force a little anti-censorship morality  down their throats for a change, their address is  internetvigilantes@hotmail.com

For information this is one of the emails from the Internet Vigilante Nutters.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,

WE HAVE RECEIVED SEVERAL COMPLAINTS REGARDING YOUR WEBPAGES AT:-

strawberryx.co.uk
strawberryx.com

Registered by:- McGeorge, Lee

IT IS NOTED THAT YOU ARE OFFERING, FOR SALE, UNCLASSIFIED VIDEO WORKS VIA MAILORDER, WITHOUT A LICENSE. WE WOULD LIKE TO MAKE YOU AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING:-

A)IT IS ILLEGAL TO DISTRIBUTE UNCLASSIFIED VIDEOWORKS FROM WITHIN THE UK.
B)IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL 'R18' VIDEOWORKS WITHIN THE UK, WITHOUT A LICENSE.
C) IT IS ILLEGAL TO DISTRIBUTE 'R18' VIDEO WORKS VIA MAILORDER.

WE THEREFORE ASK THAT YOU REMOVE ALL ILLEGAL ACTIVITY FROM YOUR WEBPAGE. FAILURE TO COMPLY, WITHIN 7 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THIS E-MAIL, AND WE WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO FORWARD OUR REPORTS TO ISLINGTON LOCAL TRADING STANDARDS AND NEW SCOTLAND YARDS SERIOUS CRIME SQUAD.

IF YOU ARE IN ANY DOUBTS OF THE SERIOUSNESS OF OUR PROPOSALS, WE SUGGEST YOU VISIT THE BELOW WEBPAGE - WHO WE ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF PREOSECUTING:- WWW.R18VID.COM

BEST REGARDS AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR COMPLIANCE WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT.

IV - SOUTH EAST DIVISION

 

21st May   My State is My Enemy

From Silicon.com

The French, German and UK governments are leading a stealth attack on Europe's data privacy laws, according to leaked documents obtained by campaign group Statewatch.

The documents reveal the Council of the European Union has given its backing to plans permitting the retention of phone, email, fax and internet communication data for up to seven years, giving law enforcement agencies the ability to 'fish' for criminal activity.

The draft proposal claims the obligation on operators to erase and make traffic data anonymous "seriously obstructs" criminal investigations. It calls on the European Commission to take "immediate action" to ensure that law enforcement agencies can have access.

Silicon Says

Everyone understands the problems the police face in tracking criminals, but trying to force service providers to store and search this much data is patently ridiculous. Perhaps Europe's politicians should be forced to foot the bill, then they might think twice.  According to Statewatch director Tony Bunyan, repressive regimes would be condemned for violating civil liberties if they took similar action. The fact that it is being proposed in the 'democratic' EU does not make it any less authoritarian or totalitarian, he claimed.

The move will bring the Council into direct conflict with Europe's data protection commissioners and a revised directive on electronic data protection currently before the European Parliament.

In her annual report for 2000, UK data protection commissioner Elizabeth France said the routine long-term preservation of data by ISPs "would be disproportionate general surveillance of communications".

The plans date back to 1995 when Europe adopted a cross-Atlantic interception agreement with the FBI. A move in 1998 to extend the so-called Enfopol legislation to include the internet failed, leaving individual countries to create their own interception laws, such as the UK's RIP Act.

The latest proposals echo a report from the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) last August, which caused a storm of protest at the time. Giving evidence to the DTI Select Committee in December, e-minister Patricia Hewitt said she disagreed with the NCIS demands. I have discussed it informally with [home office minister] Charles Clarke and I understand it is his view as well that that proposal should not be implemented, she told MPs.

Caspar Bowden, director of internet think-tank FIPR, said: The government has repeatedly denied supporting these quasi-totalitarian measures, but it turns out they have been secretly lobbying at European level all along. This is sheer duplicity.

16th May   Born Again Killers

After years in the censorship wilderness Warners have finally decided to release Natural Born Killers. It will inittially be released on rental video/DVD on July 9th. Unfortunately it is the much cut US R rated version that was given a BBFC certificate in 1995. However the extras have been resubmitted more recently and will be the same as on the US unrated version. These include such notable deleted scenes as 'The Hun Brothers'. No doubt the unrated version would sail through the BBFC in these more unlightened times.

On another topic, Anchor Bay have set up a UK operation and one of their early releases will surely be the uncut version of The Evil Dead.

14th May   Cult of the Dead Cow

From an article by Stuart Miller in The Guardian

A group of hackers has alarmed law enforcement agencies with plans for a browser that could make it impossible to control the material people have access to on the world wide web. The US-based "ethical" hacking group, Cult of the Dead Cow, says the new technology will allow people living under oppressive regimes to circumvent censorship to access banned material.

The browser, dubbed Peekabooty, will be launched in July amid mounting concern from human rights and civil liberties groups over attempts to restrict access to the internet. Peekabooty, which will use all the machines in the network to store data instead of using a central server, will be the internet equivalent of having information delivered in a discreet brown envelope.

Members will be able to send an encrypted message asking for particular files or documents to be put on the network. When they appear, Peekabooty will encrypt them and send them back to the members' computer. A report published earlier this year by the French group Reporters Sans Frontières revealed that the worldwide growth of the internet has been matched by the emergence of "an arsenal of repressive solutions". In China, for example, where there are 20m users, the authorities have passed a series of laws to restrict access and filter content. Those caught breaking these laws could face the death penalty.

But the imminent launch of Peekabooty has reignited the battle between campaigners for freedom of information and law enforcement agencies, who claim the new technology could be misused to conceal illegal material such as child pornography. The British web watchdog, the Internet Watch Foundation, will discuss the implications of the new technology with its international partners at a conference next week. A spokeswoman said: There is a potential criminal use and this presents a challenge for law enforcement.

Peekabooty has also set off alarm bells in the record industry, which is battling against music-sharing sites such as Napster to impose copyright on the internet. Jollyon Benn, internet investigator for the British phonographic industry, said: The sad fact is that this will be misused and that is why it is the sort of thing that keeps us lying awake at night. But it is the potential for criminal misuse of Peekabooty that has prompted most concern. In Britain, the widely- criticised Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which came into force last year, gives police the power to "tap" data systems and makes it an offence for individuals to refuse to hand over encryption keys.

Tim Snape, of the Internet Service Providers Association, said the new browser could hamper police attempts to use the powers. He said: If it is used to perform an illegal act then police should have a mechanism to require logs on the activities but to do that they must be able to provide the details on specific, targeted and identified individuals. This could make that more difficult.

But Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, a leading critic of the act, said: This browser shows how easy it easy to circumvent surveillance. It would only be regarded as shocking if the government planned to introduce more draconian legislation beyond the RIP Act.

Last year, it emerged that British police have been pressing the government to introduce new legislation forcing internet service providers to hold detailed logs on the surfing activities of all their users for seven years. Amnesty International welcomed Cult of the Dead Cow's attempt to undermine censorship of the web. A spokesman said: Most of our work is to [inform] people, including those oppressed themselves, about their rights and we have used the internet from an early stage to do that.

13th May   Daily Mail Done by the ASA

I previously reported a Daily Mail leaflet sent to Express customers that accused the Express of becoming X rated. This leaflet was investigated by the ASA withe folloeing conclusion as reported on the BBC site.

An advertisement campaign which suggested the Daily and Sunday Express had become x-rated has been criticised. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the campaign by the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday had unfairly denigrated its rival papers.

Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Mail titles, sent leaflets to Express readers after the papers had been taken over by a magazine publisher Richard Desmond. They read: The Daily and Sunday Express have just been acquired by a pornographer. Do you really want an x-rated newspaper in your home?

Before taking over the Express group, Mr Desmond made much of his money from soft porn magazines and the adult television station the Fantasy Channel. Following complaints to the ASA, Associated Newspapers said the mailing was not a statement of fact but merely reflected their opinion and they denied it misled recipients.

But the ASA said Mr Desmond's background did not necessarily mean the Express papers would or had become x-rated and their editorial integrity had been unfairly discredited.

13th May   Swopping Vigilantism for Publicity

No sooner had I posted the link to Swopsy, a proposed adult movie exchange, than they were threatened by the Internet Vigilante Nutter. I think a reasonable response would be to ensure that Swopsy at least receive a little more publicity than would otherwise be the case. I therefore urge readers to check out Swopsy's site. In the meantime I will ponder on what sort of low-life makes it their ambition to prohibit life's pleasures from their fellow man.

To whom it may concern,

We would like to remind you that:-

  • It is a criminal offence to distribute unclassified/imported video works within the UK, whether a financial transaction has taken place or not - in short the videoworks must be kept for personal use.
  • It is a ciminal offence to distribute 'R18' video works via the UK  Mailing Network & again it is illegal to distribute without a council  licence, again regardless of whether a financial transaction has taken place or not.
  • It is illegal to encourage or aid criminal activity - the implication  being the Swopsy website & subscription fee is potentialy infringing this regulation.
  • It is against Geocities rules & regulations to host websites in breach of local law.

We will leave you with this...for now.

Regards

IV

7th May   Heroic Hutty vs the Censorial IWF

From www.zdnet.co.uk

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) failed to reach a consensus of opinion on whether Internet service providers (ISPs) should have their self-regulatory approach towards dealing with unlawful newsgroups revoked, when a board member deliberately left Wednesday's meeting to make a vote impossible.

The group was to vote on whether it should take on more power in forcing ISPs to remove newsgroups regularly carrying paedophilic content. But the board was forced to defer any decision after Malcolm Hutty, from the Campaign against Censorship of the Internet in Britain, left the meeting, bringing it below the number of representatives required for a vote to take place.

Within the quarterly meeting, the IWF board entered into an agreement that its policy should comply with the Human Rights Act and be tested by the better regulation taskforce, ensuring that the body is technologically neutral, transparent and accountable. In light of this, Hutty felt that a more detailed process was needed to properly consider newsgroup policy alongside the IWF's commitment to explicitly consider human rights issues.

The IWF was set up in the autumn of 1996 to look at the growing problem of child pornography on the Internet. Wednesday's consultation on newsgroups considered whether or not the organisation should move beyond its current advisory role, and take on more powers in persuading ISPs to drop newsgroups identified as carrying illegal content. Such a decision would reverse ISPs' current self-regulatory standing, which allows them to decide whether they will act on IWF recommendations.

I would like to achieve a voluntary agreement by all ISPs that they will stand by IWF advice, with the IWF possessing a degree of force to ensure that content providers act on its recommendations, said David Kerr, chairman of the IWF. Otherwise the whole basis of the IWF will change from a servant to ISPs to a master of ISPs, moving it towards a statutory regulator.

Speaking from a child protection standpoint, IWF board member Nigel Williams, representing Childnet International, is satisfied with the IWF's notification remit, but argues the importance of introducing consequences for ISPs who fail to act on IWF reports.

ISPs are exposed under the law for knowingly holding illegal material that they have been advised to take down, but it is up to the police to take action," he argued. "There should be consequences for ISPs who refuse to accept IWF recommendations... the ideal of introducing sanctions is entirely reasonable, with the ultimate punishment being prosecution.

The IWF is content that most ISPs funding the council don't carry offending newsgroups anymore. However, Williams is concerned that within the meeting, little feedback was given on the number of ISPs who remove whole newsgroups containing regular postings of illegal material, rather than just responding to notifications of individual paedophilic articles.

We have to get from the IWF a minimum requirement principle accepted, argued Williams. He explained that this could be expressed two-fold, by firstly establishing a statistical measure of how regularly particular newsgroups are likely to have postings of illegal material, and secondly addressing the way in which newsgroups are promoted through paedophilic names.

But setting a minimum requirement for ISPs could threaten their prerogative to disagree with IWF recommendations. Hutty argued that "as a minimum standard, IPSs need to be able to make a judgement on whether or not they agree with IWF alerts to illegal articles. If they are breaking the law they should stop, but that is up to the police to enforce through the law."

A second meeting has been proposed for 23 May, when the IWF board will separately discuss the newsgroup issue.

7th May   Tiny Minds

By Martin Bright from Yesterday's Observer

High street computer retailers and software giant Microsoft are to join forces with the British police and children's charities in an unprecedented crackdown on child porn on the internet.  For the first time, PC World, Tiny and Time have agreed that they have a responsibility for child protection when they sell computers to families. All computers are to be fitted with software to filter out child pornography and 'kite marks' for child-friendly chatrooms will be introduced. The big three, which dominate the home PC market, will develop packages to block websites with adult content and access to chatrooms which paedophiles use.

Internet service providers and software manufacturers have also agreed to tighten up controls on paedophile 'newsgroups' where subscribers can exchange images and pornography about children. It is illegal to download images of children from the internet, but not to set up a paedophile chatroom or exchange sexual fantasies involving children. The industry was shocked into action by the 'Wonderland' case this year, in which more than a hundred paedophiles around the world were arrested and tens of thousands of images seized in an international operation led by British police.

The proposals will be announced later this week at the launch of the Government's new Internet Task Force on Child Protection, chaired by Home Office Minister Lord Bassam. The task force includes members of the industry, seven children's charities, senior police officers and Home Office officials.

Other measures being considered by the task force include tougher legislation on internet 'grooming', in which children are lured into sexual relationships with paedophiles. Actress Emily Watson, star of the film Angela's Ashes, will tomorrow launch a campaign on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children warning parents to be vigilant about the dangers of the Internet. The NSPCC is particularly concerned about paedophiles who persuade children to meet them after striking up an online relationship.

However, civil rights groups last night expressed concern that measures brought in to protect children from paedophiles could be used to snoop on other kinds of internet activity and censor sites that unintentionally attracted paedophiles. Caspar Bowden of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, an internet policy think tank said: There is a danger that child protection concerns, fuelled by tabloid witch hunts, might develop into calls for general surveillance of private internet communications.

The giant electrical retail Dixons group, which includes Currys and PC World, has already begun discussions with the Internet Watch Foundation, the industry's internal regulator, to develop parental guidelines for all customers of their family machines. Dixons' corporate and public affairs director Lesley Smith said retailers recognised they had a key role in child protection. But she said: It is clearly in the interests of parents that we do this and we believe it is in our interests too. She admitted that said it was difficult to develop entirely foolproof technology.

The task force is thought to favour a film-style rating system developed by the Internet Content Rating Association. Mainstream websites now label their websites according to how child-friendly they are and any adult-oriented sites can be quickly filtered out by new software. Internet Watch Foundation spokeswoman Ruth Dixon said: We welcome this move. The UK is ahead of the game in bringing all the stakeholders together to protect children.'

 

29th April   Illiberal Tories

A Scottish Conservative recently tried to amend a law and outlaw group sex. The shameful SMP, Phil Gallie raised the issue during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's justice and home affairs committee. He says a Bill that is currently going through Parliament would legalise group sex between males to bring it in line with heterosexual group sex which is legal. Instead, he wants all group sex to be banned.

Gallie uttered the classic phrase of shame:  I do not propose or foresee some kind of snooper force lurking behind bedroom doors but... I do feel strongly that Parliament should not condone such activities through legislation.

He has temporarily withdrawn his amendment due to lack of support but plans to reintroduce it when the Bill reaches the next stage in Parliament.

25th April   Standard Of Intimacy

From the Evening Standard by Neil Norman

Once the province of porn and arthouse cinema, sex is now finding its way into the mainstream cinema. And not just as an adjunct to the main story: it is the main story.

New films like Wayne Wang's The Centre of the World, the Australian movie Better Than Sex, the forthcoming Intimacy and Killing Me Softly all take the sexual relationship between the main characters as the main theme. Thus we can see Joseph Fiennes and Heather Graham or Kerry Fox and Mark Rylance stripping off and getting down to business to the manner porn. The newly liberated BBFC has finally buckled to public pressure and gone soft on hard sex in movies.

Not that there was much pressure. The fact is that the members of the BBFC simply realised (following the results of a survey) that the majority of mainstream audiences were no longer offended by sex on screen. It is not that they want more; they simply don't care where, how and with what frequency it is depicted. Now that sex is no longer shocking, film-makers are attempting to push the frontiers of depiction in order to regain some of the impact lost in our anything-goes age. And therein lies a potential problem.

Actors and actresses whose career CVs include respectable and lauded work in film, on stage and television are now to be found scrutinising their contracts more keenly than ever. Whereas a few years ago it was the "no nudity" clause that was important, now it is the "no penetration" clause that may prove a stumbling block. Fellatio? Spanish? Greek? Anal? Mutual masturbation? All these (and more) sexual activities may now fall within the boundaries of acceptable demands of actors if the latest batch of movies is anything to go by.

Is real sex any more authentic than acted sex? In the sense that sex is often regarded as "performance", the question is moot. There are those, I gather, for whom sex and acting are inextricably linked. Faked orgasms are often as convincing as the real thing - check out Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. Better still, ask your partner how many times she (or he) has simulated her orgasms and the truthful answer may not be the one you really want. If it is impossible to tell the difference in real life why should it matter when watching it on screen?

That, I suppose, depends on the purpose of the sequence in question. We have already seen actual penetration in recent non-porn movies like The Idiots, La Vie de Jesus and Romance in which legitimate actors engage in real sex up to (if not including) the point of orgasm. The frontier between "acting" and "being" is consequently blurred. But to what purpose?

Any good actor can convince an audience of the reality of his actions; that is the whole point of acting. The verisimilitude of the sex scenes in Betty Blue, Don't Look Now or Last Tango in Paris is such that it is still asked of the actors and the directors as to whether the participants did indeed go all the way. Not only is this a compliment to the performers but it also maintains an element of sexual mystery that has been eroded over the decades.

Once you actually witness the event in its messy, slurpy, all-over-the place glory, the mystery has gone. In some cases, this may be entirely appropriate; but it is not, in fact, erotic. To see Kerry Fox take Mark Rylance's erect penis between her lips in Intimacy is to know everything. And yet it is still a performance. They are still playing people other than themselves; they are still acting. Therefore, it is no more "real" than if they had somehow faked it. This being the case, what's the point?

Real sex between identifiable actors contributes not a jot to our understanding of their characters or the film in general. This is more to do with perception than prurience. Even nudity is a distraction. It is human nature to adjust your perception when an actor or actress removes their clothes; for a fleeting moment the viewer is disengaged from the illusion created and repositioned into the subtly different aspect of voyeur.

If it has never been necessary actually to kill an actor on screen to portray an authentic death, why should it be necessary to have actors performing real sex to convince us that they are having "real" sex?

The real-sex thing - while not as insidious as the snuff movie - none the less invites a similar response. If candour and eroticism go hand-in-hand then all may be well if the actors and director are inventive enough to create an entire story around the act; In the Realm of the Senses is a case in point. Sex here is what the film is about. So, too, is Intimacy. But it is not perforce erotic.

On the other hand, "acted" sex scenes can be profoundly erotic - like the scene between Rachel Weisz and Jude Law in the otherwise unremarkable Enemy at the Gates; or the thwarted sex scene (virtually fully clothed) between Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin in The Big Easy which has an incredible erotic charge. This has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with honesty of portrayal.

The best sex is that which employs both physical activity and imagination, body and mind. This applies to both life and cinema. Take away the need for imagination and you render the performance a little less effective.

It's not what you do, it's the way that you fake it. That's what gets results.

22nd April   Oral Intimacy

The press have latched on to the up'n'coming 18 rated film with hardcore elements featuring British actors. Here is what John Arlidge of the Observer has to say on the subject

The most sexually explicit British film, featuring the first uncensored scenes of oral sex, will go on show in cinemas next month. Intimacy, described by the BBFC as 'strongly explicit', is certain to spark controversy. The regulator gave it an 18 certificate last month.

The film, shot in London with a mainly British cast, is an adaptation of two novellas by Hanif Kureishi - Intimacy and Night Light. It tells the story of Clare, played by Kerry Fox who starred with Ewan McGregor in Shallow Grave, and her affair with Jay, played by Mark Rylance, artistic director of the Globe Theatre. Clare, who is married to Andy, played by Timothy Spall, visits Jay for sex every week. From the beginning of the film the couple are pictured having sex. In one scene Clare performs oral sex on Jay.

The BBFC, which passed the film without cuts, is bracing itself for a public outcry. The regulator relaxed its guidelines on sex last year after a survey of cinema audiences revealed that the majority opposed censorship. Sue Clark, spokeswoman for the board, said: 'Audiences may be used to seeing explicit sex scenes in foreign language films, such as The Idiots, which is Danish, and the Japanese film Ai no corrida, but this is the first time many will see such scenes in an English language movie. There is one very explicit scene, which features fellatio, which has not been seen before now. Some people may think it is too strong, particularly when it is with actors they recognise, but we passed the film without cuts because there is no violence. The two people are equally involved in the relationship, there is no coercion, and it does not contravene our guidelines. Serious filmgoers will think it is a good film.

Intimacy won the Golden Bear award for best film and Kerry Fox won the best actress award at the Berlin Film Festival in March. It is directed by Patrice Chereau, who made La Reine Margot, starring Isabelle Adjani.

The film's release follows the BBFC's decision to approve the French film, Romance, which features graphic sex scenes. Another French movie, Baise-moi ( Screw me ), which features a violent rape, has also been cleared for release.

The board's new liberal approach towards sex on screen has been bitterly criticised by conservative viewers' groups. Media Watch UK - the new name for the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association - campaigned against the release of Baise-moi and a spokesman described Intimacy as 'a film which sounds anything but intimate'. John Milton Whatmore, chairman of Media Watch, said: I have not seen Intimacy but, if it is as explicit as reports suggest, giving it an 18 certificate is not enough. There are 18-year-olds who are comfortable with sex and sexuality and there are those who are not. Young impressionable people are influenced by what they see on screen and, if you unload too much explicit information on them too soon, you can confuse or scare them. I do not blame the film-makers for making a film that they think has artistic merit. It is up to the regulators to protect the public and by approving this film they are failing in their duty.

Anna Butler, marketing director of Pathé, the film's UK distributor, dismissed the criticism. It's a serious intelligent film. It has sex scenes but they are not exploitative. They are in the context of a relationship. They are not offensive and they are performed by a great cast, directed by a reputable director.

7th April   ON Stronger Porn

Thanks to John from the excellent www.sexontv.co.uk

I've just got ONdigital and I was interested to see a film called Class Action on the OnRequest Adult PPV channel. Its been a while since I watched any softcore porn and the censorship restrictions seem to have been loosened.  Obviously this film didn't feature any penetration shots but it was far more explicit any softcore porn I've seen on TV. The film featured

  • Side views where labia could clearly been seen
  • Open crotch shots, in fact no deliberate obscurring of pussys at all
  • A scene with rearend shots of two girls been dildoed, everything but the actual point of entry was visible
  • Masturbation but with hand covering the point of entry
  • Cunnilingus shots with glimses of pussy

On the whole there was much less "pulling away" of the camera than in the standard, horribly mangled US softcore....

In fact the BBFC guidelines have been relaxed for 18 rated videos along the lines noticed above. ITC regulations allow UK cable/satellite broadcasters to screen 18 rated videos so this relaxation will be filtering through to all UK softcore channels.

5th April   FCUK the ASA

fcuk.jpg (7484 bytes)In an unusually strongly worded judgment, the Advertising Standards Authority said that the latest FCUK poster, was "irresponsible" and "brought advertising into disrepute".

In future, the watchdogs will pre-vet the company's posters before they can be displayed, which means they will inevitably be tamer.

That may go some way to countering the widespread criticism that advertisers are free to put up offensive posters, gain huge impact from them, and then - when they are ordered down (often after the campaign has run its course) - to notch up even more publicity. ...(Good on em)

 

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