‘Sex Work’ at the BBFC, Part I

by Neil Jackson, University of Lincoln, UK. Has anybody seen a good ‘sex work’ recently? At best, it is a question that is likely to cause mildly embarrassed befuddlement in the casual film enthusiast. At worst, anybody even mildly attuned to sociolinguistic nuances may infer suggestion of voyeuristic interest in the workaday toils of prostitution. Either way, ‘sex work’ is a generic term that has been deployed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to distinguish the titillating, affective charge of wanton hardcore pornography. It is a phrase that has become the board’s common descriptor for hardcore films with an R18 classification (the ‘R’ being an abbreviation of ‘restricted’). This limits sale or projection to premises specially licensed to handle such material, and separates it from non-pornographic, dramatic or documentary feature film formats that present sexually explicit themes and images for an adult audience at the 18 certificate level. Essentially, if the BBFC determines that a film is pornographic in nature and intent (that is, designed primarily to sexually arouse the spectator), it is dealt with as a ‘sex work’.   

Fifty Shades Duller, Part I

by Carol Siegel, Washington State University Vancouver, US. If one is a feminist, or even sympathetic to the idea that women aren't inferior to men, there is a lot to be outraged by in the Fifty Shades franchise. But I write this negative response to Fifty Shades Darker (James Foley 2017) neither in anger nor sadness, but in disappointment because the film was so boring. 

Reflections on Living With Porn(ography)

by Ruth Beresford, University of Sheffield, UK. Pornography is something that we all need to talk about. Whether you like it or not, whether you use it or not, pornography has significant social, political and legal implications for us all. New technologies and the internet are constantly changing the pornographic landscape, making the sexually explicit more accessible, available and presented as more diverse than ever before. My own research concerns women’s lived experiences of pornography. It investigates the ways in which women experience, perceive and feel about pornography. I have recently launched the Living With Porn(ography) Project in order to develop an understanding of the ways in which one can experience pornography. Together with a group of women, the project is designed to examine what it means for our lives whether as a user, performer or someone just navigating it within society.

Learning to Play

by Susanna Paasonen, University of Turku, Finland. In a scene from Jan Soldat’s 2016 documentary film, Coming of Age, a senior male couple recount the beginning of their relationship as a fisting date. Horst is sitting topless on a sofa and Kalle, dressed in a plastic bib and diaper, sits in a playpen hugging a teddy bear with a markedly pensive expression.

Roman Porno: Screening Male Desire?

by Colette Balmain, Kingston University, UK. In Screening Sex, Linda Williams insists on the double meaning of the verb to screen ‘as both concealment and revelation.’ [1] While sex in US cinema is marked by a movement away from concealment toward revelation, in Japanese cinema screening sex is marked by an oscillation between concealment and revelation with the sight of the sex act classified as obscene and needing to be obscured from the gaze. Nowhere is this clearer than in eroductions (erotic productions) of the 1970s and 1980s and, in particular, within Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno. In this post, I consider the emergence of Roman Porno in 1971 and Nikkatsu’s recent rebooting of the genre in 2015 in order to chart the way in which the reboots demonstrate a shift in attitude towards screening sex, albeit maintaining that the conventions of female desire are filtered through the male directorial gaze.

Can Jennifer Aniston Rape Anyone? Horrible Bosses and Acknowledging Rape on Screen

by Isaac Gustafsson Wood, University of Southampton, UK ‘Rape. Rape. Rape. That’s a rape. This is what raping people is. You’re a raper. You’ve raped me. That’s a rape’, Dale (Charlie Day) screams as he is shown pictures of his limp and unconscious nude body entangled in sexually suggestive positions with his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston). With a shocked face, Dale finds the words to express his feelings, getting louder and more confident in his ability to recognise what has happened to him as rape. Despite his certainty that he has been raped, Dale is continually undermined by his friends as they refuse to see a problem simply because Julia is sexually attractive. Rape in the comedy Horrible Bosses (2011) is portrayed as a contentious subject to be debated among the characters; who decides what rape is, is up for grabs.

Puppet Love: In Search of Good Sex in Indie Cinema

by Donna Peberdy, Southampton Solent University, UK. Based on a 2005 ‘sound play’, Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson 2015) is a stop motion puppet animation about a British self-help author who specialises in customer services yet struggles to make meaningful connections with other people. Inspired by a disorder called the Fregoli delusion, Michael (voiced by David Thewlis) sees everyone he meets as the same person (all voiced by Tom Noonan), which compounds his banal daily existence. At a conference, he meets Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and is immediately captivated by her physical and vocal differentness. In a world where everyone looks and sounds the same, Lisa is an anomaly: Anomalisa. Michael treats Lisa and her friend to some drinks before Michael and Lisa go back to Michael’s hotel room for a nightcap. Lisa reveals she has very low self-esteem and that it has been eight years since she was last intimate with someone, before Michael begins to kiss her and they have sex.