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Sex Party proposes new classification system for Oz

Non-violent erotica category

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The Australian Sex Party (ASP) today issued a direct challenge to what it sees as Australia’s narrow, repressive and intolerant regulations governing the censorship of erotic material. In the process, it may find it has set the ball rolling on a debate with global ramifications.

The Sex Party proposals are wide-ranging and comprehensive, tackling a number of issues specific to Australia as well as issues that go wider.

They argue for a national classification scheme that "includes uniform ratings for explicit adult material across all jurisdictions and through all media (including computer games, magazines and films)".

This is a direct response to the fact that, the ASP claims, the current classification system for adult materials is riddled with inconsistencies across a number of jurisdictions and a range of media. The effect of this inconsistency is a de facto supposition that "Australians living in different areas of the continent have different moralities".

The ASP wants the state to legalise the sale and making of X-rated films nationally. The party is also calling for censors to move away from "privileging narrow moulds of sexual taste, acts and cultures". Instead, it demands that the authorities "expressly include depictions of fetish, which is currently excluded from Australia’s X rating, in a new rating category called Non Violent Erotica (NVE)".

The argument is one that will be familiar to students of film-making the world over. Directors as diverse as John Waters in the US and Nigel Wingrove in the UK have railed against the hypocrisy of the "sex-plus" rule endorsed at the highest level within society and by censorship bodies. This is the view that ordinary everyday acts are made dangerous by the addition of sex, while criminal acts are instantly converted into something far more deserving of punishment.

Several surveys have pointed out the inconsistency of a censorship system – such as that operated in the UK, which claims to censor material in part to prevent copy-catting, but then permits ultra-violent gore such as Saw and Hostel – while banning soft core erotica such as Story of O.

This view is endorsed by Jennie Kermode, editor of UK-based magazine Eye for Film. According to Jennie, "Violence is common in film and television, as it has been in oral tales throughout human history, to the point where mild acts are often seen as cartoonish and not taken very seriously. This is the stuff of Saturday afternoon TV.

“Add a sexual element, however, and suddenly there is moral outrage. This is not a proportionate or rational way to approach classification."

The ASP expresses its opposition to violence in all its forms, and cites a 2005 Eros summary of all recent research studies into the effects of violent media on children. The summary found that by the age of 18 the average American had seen 200,000 dramatised acts of violence and 40,000 dramatised murders, and the average Australian wasn't far behind.

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