In 2018, the BBFC undertook a public consultation exercise that will inform its 2019 Classification Guidelines. Thus far, journalists have over-reached in their reactions to the exercise. To illustrate, various press outlets erroneously declared that films featuring sexual violence will be automatically allocated an 18-certificate under the BBFC’s 2019 guidelines. Both the Daily Mail’s Emily Kent Smith and The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Hymas refer to (but fail to substantiate) the motivating factors for the as-yet unconfirmed shift in BBFC policy, pointing towards ‘widespread concern that current age ratings are sometimes misjudged’ and ‘public backlash over “liberal” classifications following the #MeToo movement’. Hymas’s reference to #MeToo conflates real-world sexual assault with fictional representations of sexual violence. #MeToo was certainly driven by discussions about sexual assault within the film industry. However, outrage over real-world incidents of sexual assault does not directly equate to concerns about representations of sexual violence in fiction film; the latter may be of concern to ‘the public’, but the #MeToo campaign does not evince any such concern. Moreover, any change in BBFC policy would only impact on how films are classified; it would not directly curb instances of sexual assault within the film industry, for instance. Conflating real-world sexual assault with fictional representations is unhelpful inasmuch as it distracts from the campaign to prevent real-world sexual violence by changing working conditions within the film industry (and beyond).
The BBFC are currently in the process of consulting with the public about film classification guidelines in order to review those previously published in 2014 and issue new guidelines in early 2019. In his keynote address at the annual 'How safe are our children?' NSPCC conference last week, BBFC director David Austin shared some initial results of the current consultation and suggested that the revised guidelines would likely become stricter in order to reflect the increased increased public concern about scenes of rape and sexual violence. We are seeking short (1000-2000 word) articles, interviews, discussions, video essays or other content that address the politics of sexual violence as it relates to the screen and screen cultures in the current climate.