Banned books

Recently in Australia, there was a lot of moralising outrage about books being banned in school libraries. Was this Political Correctness Gone Mad?

No. No, it wasn’t.

Yes, that’s right, the moral outrage brigade hadn’t even bothered to check any details. That shouldn’t be particularly surprising to anyone who, you know, thinks, but what I did find interesting is the sort of hyperbole used on this issue that never seems to make it to the actual censorship that exits.

I’ve previously discussed the Banned Books Week, an awareness-raising campaign in the USA. Since the USA is a big and influential book market, there are flow-on effects of books being challenged and banned there – although the Streisand Effect can apply here and be a net positive, just ask Dan Brown. Australia also has a censorship board and historical lists of previously banned books have been made public.

When you read through the lists of books that were previously banned in Australia but are now available, you can see how we aren’t/weren’t allowed to talk about sex. We also don’t talk about Aboriginal history. Not talking about sex is still a common theme in today’s Australian censorship standards:

Publications will be refused classification (RC) that:

  1. describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or
  2. describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or
  3. promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence

Publications (except RC publications) will be classified as Category 2 Restricted that:

  1. explicitly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or
  2. depict, describe or express revolting or abhorrent phenomena in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult and are unsuitable for a minor to see or read

Publications (except RC publications and Category 2 restricted publications) will be classified as Category 1 Restricted that:

  1. explicitly depict nudity, or describe or impliedly depict sexual or sexually related activity between consenting adults, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or
  2. describe or express in detail violence or sexual activity between consenting adults in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or
  3. are unsuitable for a minor to see or read. Source.

Now obviously the classifications could be very broadly interpreted and implemented. Plenty of books have themes around drug use and abuse, crime is an entire genre, cruelty is in any political memoir, and violence could be retitled thriller. We don’t tend to see those titles banned or restricted. So what does get restricted? As an example, American Psycho has a Category 1 restriction on it and is sold in shrink-wrapping… you know, just in case the words leak out and accidentally encourage someone to take up cannibalism or investment banking.

The number of books impacted by an RC classification is minimal. The 2016-17 figures show none were banned, as compared to video games which had 2 titles banned.

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Publications Classified in 2016-17. Source.

But it does show that a large number of titles were restricted in some way. This is without even touching on the censorship that occurs in access to titles, such as which titles are stocked in stores, which sites can be accessed to buy books, and what ends up in libraries. The restricted categorisation is clearly going to have impacts on where those titles will be available. So I wonder where the moral outrage is over this. Isn’t this Political Correctness Gone Mad? Or is it okay because the people who got outraged in the above video would be the “reasonable adults” who would be offended by these restricted titles?

Or maybe this would all require too much reading on behalf of those wanting to complain about books being banned.

 

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Banned Books Week 2016

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Source: ALA.org

Banned Books Week is an American event, but us Aussies have been known to ban books for silly reasons as well. As such, I think this should be a global event. So read something that some overbearing busybody decided was offensive today.

Did Australia ban small-breasts pornography?

There is a widely spread news about Australia banning pornography featuring actresses with A-cup breasts.

The reason behind:

Senator Joyce claimed that publications featuring small-breasted women were encouraging paedophilia.

Is that true that this legislation exists in Australia? Is such a law legally feasible?

Answer:

The short answer is no, there is no ban on small-breasted porn models. The problem is that the actual laws on what meets classification standards are open to interpretation, so there is an “in practice” reality to the claim due to how the censors categorise and interpret the classification systems in Australia.

There is no specific rule stating that small breasts are bad, but in practice many complaints are registered and material is refused classification due to models not looking “adult” enough and can thus be categorized as either child sexual abuse or offensive sexual fetishes.

Publications will be classified ‘RC’:

  • (a) if they promote or provide instruction in paedophile activity; or if they contain:
  • (b) descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18;
  • (c) detailed instruction in:
    • (i) matters of crime or violence,
    • (ii) the use of proscribed drugs;
  • (d) realistic depictions of bestiality; or if they contain gratuitous, exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions of:
  • (e) violence with a very high degree of impact which are excessively frequent, emphasised or detailed;
  • (f) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact;
  • (g) sexual violence;
  • (h) sexualised nudity involving minors; (i) sexual activity involving minors; or of they contain exploitative descriptions of:
  • (j) violence in a sexual context;
  • (k) sexual activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are revolting or abhorrent;
  • (l) incest fantasies or other fantasies which are offensive or revolting or abhorrent.

As you see, this list is quite open to interpretation. Thus the review board for published materials and the complaints board for online material often do classify materials as RC, regardless of their legality.

It is illegal to sell RC material in, say, a newsagent. It’s also illegal to make it available for viewing publicly.

But it’s not by any means illegal for me to own or possess these things myself and view them in the comfort of my own lounge room. It’s quite legal, for example, for me to own and view (or read, or listen to):

  • An RC film, TV program or other video such as Ken Park or Baise Moi;
  • Material on euthanasia such as The Peaceful Pill Handbook;
  • Material that instructs on bomb-making, theft or any other crime.

Now, sure, some of these things are distasteful to many people. Even offensive. Or morally problematic. And they are all refused classification.

But they are not illegal.

So the RC classification often has material on its list despite that material being perfectly legal. This list includes moviesbooksvideo games and internet sites.

But how do small breasted models fall under this classification system? Well, in practice, many RC classifications have been passed against many magazines, such as the Hustler Barely Legal seriesJust 18 magazine, New Climax, and of course, various DVDs like this and this. The TV show Hungry Beast did several segments on censorship of porn in Australia, including covering the issue of small breasts and exposed labia lips, which was leading to photoshopping of models.

The best example of the bias against small breasts is from the leaked Australian Internet Filter Blacklist compiled by ACMA. This list of sites was not only a disgrace, as legitimate sites were being blacklisted and didn’t realise, but many of the supposed “illegal” or RC sites were perfectly legal. The problem was that they sometimes featured small breasted women. For example, Abby Winters, Just Teen, Teens Naked and Tube8, all legal, all acceptable, all models over 18, are on the blacklist. The common theme to many of the banned porn sites is that there are small breasted women or women who “appear to be” too young. The distinction of “too young” is obviously ambiguous and thus many models are RC’d because small breasts is a sign of “young” women.

It is also worth reading the list to see the sort of sites that were being RC’d, because you will see many perfectly legal sites on the list. I suspect, as is outlined in the Wikileaks article, that complaints are lodged for any hardcore sex sites that a complainant comes across “by accident” and it is duly listed regardless of whether content ticks the points I outlined above.