Anna Span vs the BBFC

Are some things obscene for women but not for men?

by Jane Fae

Female ejaculation in UK films is now legal. Or maybe it is not. It all depends on who you talk to.

Yesterday (5 October), female porn film-maker Anna Span announced triumphantly to the world that she had "won a historic victory with the passing for viewing in the UK of her DVD, Women Love Porn which includes a woman clearly ejaculating".

This, she claimed, was as a result of scientific evidence that she had presented to the British Board of Film Classification to the effect that female ejaculation is a real phenomenon - and wholly different in form and origin from urination.

This distinction is important, as according to the BBFC, depiction of urination in a sexual context (also known as urolagnia) is illegal under UK obscenity law - and they will not pass films for viewing that contain such material.

So the obvious conclusion must be: the BBFC now recognise female ejaculation.

Not so, according to a spokeswoman for the BBFC. She explained: "In this particular work, there was so little focus on urolagnia, that the BBFC took legal advice and the advice was that taking the work as a whole there was no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act and therefore the BBFC passed the work.

"However, were the focus on urolagnia to be more significant in other works, they would require cuts."

This follows a BBFC decision in the case of Waltz With Bashir a mainstream and serious adult cartoon treatment of the Arab-Israeli war. This film included a very few extreme and explicit images, but because the work as a whole was considered to be of a nature that was wholly suitable for an audience aged over 15, the film as a whole was passed with an 18-certificate.

In other words, the BBFC are not quite answering the question: whatever happened to be going on in Women Love Porn, they claim that it is of such short duration that it is safe to exhibit publicly - and on these grounds, they consider they have neither given way on urination, nor conceded the possibility that such a thing as female ejaculation exists.

Anna Span disagrees. She believes that the BBFC, who were initially inclined to reject the film, took fright at her determination to push this to the Video Appeals Committee and that their solution is a cop-out.

Undoubtedly , this is an issue that will not go away, not least because it is beginning to take on totemic status - similar to the issue of male erections being banned from UK magazines - amongst feminists opposed to gender-biased censorship. As one campaigning group, Feminists Against Censorship, argued back in 2001: (this is) "a purely discriminatory approach to ejaculation by the Board - that is, the depiction of male, but not female, ejaculation is being permitted".

Jane Fae is a writer on the politics of sex and sexuality.

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