Too much for Australia?

Censor says no to real gay sex scenes - but yes to bestiality.

by Jennie Kermode

How far should national censors go in limiting the kind of sex we can see onscreen? The Australian Classification Board has come under fire for banning Travis Mathews film I Want Your Love due to its unsimulated gay sex scenes - not least because it recently approved scenes of real life bestiality in Canadian documentary Donkey Love.

The history of films featuring real sex that are aimed at general audiences rather than just the pornography market is a strange one. Until the late Sixties, no national censor would certify them and they simply weren't shown in mainstream cinemas. More recently, the UK's BBFC has agreed to certify films like The Idiots, Baise-Moi and 9 Songs, showing more sympathy to film with arthouse appeal and turning down those whose sexual content it describes as gratuitous. A few films, like Pink Flamingos, have been successfully argued to have content whose gratuitous nature makes them art.

It would be difficult to see I Want Your Love falling foul of British censors as its sexual content is non-violent, only a few minutes long, and central to the story about a young man's conflicted feelings as he prepares to leave his home for another city. The Australian censor's decision is also strange because it amounts to a complete ban, with the film also forbidden to be shown at upcoming festivals in Sydney and Melbourne. Usually, festivals are allowed to screen films even if they haven't yet been certificated - most provide their own guides about age group suitability.

As the ACB has previously given certificates to several films featuring unsimulated sex beween men and women, it has met with accusations of homophobia over this decision.

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