Melon Farmers Original Version

Porn is In and Out

The R18 Story: Chapter 4

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Porn is In & Out & In & Out

The R18 Story, the legalisation of hardcore: Chapter 4: January 1999

By Richard Hennerley of Load Video

January 1999


We are a small production company producing adult gay videos for the UK market...specifically R18 product. We have now released 16 titles dating from August 1996, as you know there has been considerable "controversy" (from everybody except the general public) regarding this format.

Here is a little history of the way we as a business have been shafted by the Board (well, the Home Office really as the BBFC has now completely given up on any pretence of independent thought).

In the middle period of 1997 we had four titles passed and certificated which contained visible oral sex, close up erections and masturbation.

In August 1997 we submitted a further three titles with oral sex. In September we received an Interim Clearance Form (issued prior to the full certificate) on one of the titles.

All then went quiet, no cuts lists, no certificate (though we were not too worried as it often takes the BBFC up to 12 weeks to issue a certificate if you are a small company...). Then in mid-October a bolt out of the blue. A phone call to the BBFC initiated the confession that in fact they were not issuing certificates on R18 product for "a couple of months" whilst they reviewed how explicit product should be allowed to be. The consultations were to be with Police, Customs, the Home Office and "the general public",  which in fact meant a small number of largely symbolic Roadshows.

Nobody from our business was invited to comment. Which is funny really as I can tell a very interesting story about the massive infiltration of hardcore pornography in to the that market is worth much more than the legitimate one and how the UK has Europe's most unregulated and strongest hardcore product. Material banned on the Continent as too violent, unpleasant or for having models under 18, is quite simply dumped in the UK where there are no irksome regulations to deal with.

If you were a cynic you might say that the government was pursuing a twin track tough on legitimate, visible suppliers like myself as a means of looking good in the right-wing trash press and avoid having to actually deal with the difficult problem of real pornography.

What had actually happened is that Customs and Excise had intercepted R18 material coming into the UK and gone whingeing to the Home Office, where a shocked and horrified Jack Straw had issued a personal edict that this filth must stop.

And the BBFC caved in completely. At no stage was I consulted about my titles, or warned of what was going to happen, I only found out by accident!

I was offered the opportunity to cut the titles down to the standard prevailing before the brief period of liberalisation: I saw the proposed cuts lists, one amounted to 26 minutes in a 49 minute film, cutting everything except brief shots of erections in long-shot! Obviously not acceptable. In another glaring example of BBFC ineptitude and inconsistency this proposed "old" standard was actually far tighter than the real "old" standard. I have R18 product from 1996 to prove this!

Meanwhile the review period went on for two months, three months, four months. After six months the Board relented and said we could enter for classification films which showed erections in medium or long shot (gosh!), as long as the shots were not sustained and there was no manipulation of the genitalia.

We were told the review was "nearly done," and another month passed, and another and on the way the Board lost an Appeal on a heterosexual R18 video, but decided that whilst it would grant a certificate for that film, it did not regard the Appeals committee decision in anyway binding...

And finally in December 1998, 14 months after the initial review the Board says "that's it boys, its all sorted oral sex and vaginal penetration are back."

I have it here, on the new cuts list issued on the three titles that the Board had been sitting on since August 1997: "cuts list dated 3/11/97 is now waived and the following cuts are required for an R18 certificate according to the new guidelines under which close ups of genital stimulation are not allowed." The cuts listed then follow, minor cuts of very close up scenes. I have three cuts lists to this effect, all with the same wording dated 21 and 22 December 1998.

All well and good you might think.

January 1998, another phone call to the Board initiates the response, "actually we are not looking at any R18 titles for a couple of months (sound familiar) whilst the new Director reviews the situation."

This all getting a bit depressing. A series of faxes to Duval gradually uncover more facts.

Firstly the review might take "some time," which is worse than a couple of months, no they will not give any idea of time-scale, but I can have a cuts list done to the "old" standard if I want one (which particular "old" standard might this be...).

Then further revelations... a consultation process with the Home Office et al is now necessary to check the content...

I thought this had happened over the last 14 months, and if it oral sex is not acceptable why issue a cuts list on 21 and 22 December...and if it is not acceptable why am I currently selling two titles (featuring oral sex) for another company which like mine had been held up since 1997, but got certificates this month....presumably because they were viewed on Tuesday rather than a Wednesday...

My impression of what has happened at the Board is that now Ferman has gone Straw and his tame poodle Whitam-Smith have decided to crack the whip and rid this country of filth for ever (well, at least the visible stuff that people might notice anyway). I have a horrible feeling more of this kind of censorship as Straw's lust for power and control grows ever stronger.


There appears to have been a very short window when at the end of December 1998 and the first week of January 1999 when several R18 videos slipped through the BBFC with hardcore content:

  • Carnival: International Version (Sheptonhurst) featuring a snippet of explicit anal sex passed in December.
  • Amazing Omar's Triumphs: Canal Sex Capers (Sheptonhurst) passed 8th January.
  • Aroused: The Hard Cut (Zipper Video) gay video passed on 6th January.
  • Coming Together: The Hard Cut (Zipper Video) gay video passed in December but missing from the BBFC database.

After these, explicit R18 releases were again suspended whilst reviewed by Duval and the Home Office. More news to follow

Legalisation of R18 Hardcore  Chapter 1: Jacking Off the Censor Hardcore snippets temporarily got BBFC approval in 1997
 Chapter 2: Makin' Whoopee in Summer 1998
 Chapter 3: Rumours of a Return to Porn in November/December 1998
 Chapter 4: Porn is In & Out & In & Out Again the state of play in January 1999
 Chapter 5: The Video Appeals Committee Forcing the BBFC to respect the law, May 1999
 Chapter 6: Censoring Safer Sex Discrimination at the BBFC. May 1999
 Chapter 7: Hiding Behind Children Giving up on obscenity and using concern for children, July 1999
 Chapter 8: The VAC R18 Appeal Report from the VAC Appeal, July 1999
 Chapter 9: An Appealing Victory Video Appeals Committee judgment allows hardcore, August 1999
 Chapter 10: The Censor and the State BBFC seek Judicial review, winter 1999/2000
 Chapter 11: Judicial Review Confirms Legality of Hardcore : Spring & Summer 2000
 Chapter 12: More Sex Shops Required according to Andreas Whittam Smith, November 2000
 Chapter 13: The Legalisation of Hardcore : A recap 1997-2000

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