British Board of Film Classification To Study Norms and Sexual Violence

The British Board of Film Classification has decided, in the wake of the release of some extremely sexually violent movies, that it wants a better sense of where the British public’s thinking is on violent and sexual acts and images. In its annual report, the Board explained:

In 2011 the BBFC considered The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (in which a man achieves sexual gratification from the stapling together of victims to form a human centipede and which culminates in him raping a woman with barbed wire) and The Bunny Game (in which a truck driver abducts, strips and sexually abuses and tortures a prostitute).

The BBFC intervened with both of these works on account of their depictions of extreme violence against women. It made significant cuts to The Human Centipede 2 and refused to certify The Bunny Game because of the harm risk both works posed.

Partly as a result of these and other films, the BBFC is commissioning a major new piece of original research into depictions of sadistic, sexual and sexualised violence, mainly against women, to determine what the British public today believes is potentially harmful and therefore unacceptable for classification. The research will be completed in 2012 and the BBFC will publish it in the usual way, not least because it might be helpful to other regulators.


I have mixed feelings about refusing to certify films at all, of course. But I cannot wait to see the results of this study. When we talk about sex and sexual violence, a lot of our conversations are dominated, I think, by surprise and shock that some people think certain behaviors, or ways of discussing issues are normal or acceptable. As much as I think I might be dismayed by the results, an attempt to document in a reliable way people’s attitudes about what shocks them, what counts as normal, what counts as consensual, what counts as shocking or upsetting in culture would be a fascinating baseline to have as a basis for future discussions.