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Jan 29, 2010

Has Australia really banned small breasts?

The internet is buzzing with outrage over claims the Australian Government has banned the depiction of naked A-cup breasts in films in case it encourages pedophilia. Never let the truth get in the way of a good trending Twitter topic.

The internet has its “outraged” face on over news that the Australian Classification Board plans to refuse classification to films depicting A-cup breasts in case it encourages pedophilia.

The story was kickstarted by a press release on Wednesday from the Australian Sex Party on the censorship of female ejaculation in film, which included the statement:

The Board has also started to ban depictions of small-breasted women in adult publications and films. This is in response to a campaign led by Kids Free 2 B Kids and promoted by Barnaby Joyce and Guy Barnett in Senate Estimates late last year. Mainstream companies such as Larry Flint’s Hustler produce some of the publications that have been banned. These companies are regulated by the FBI to ensure that only adult performers are featured in their publications. “We are starting to see depictions of women in their late 20s being banned because they have an A cup size”, she said. “It may be an unintended consequence of the Senator’s actions but they are largely responsible for the sharp increase in breast size in Australian adult magazines of late”.

The piece was seized upon by website Somebody Think of the Children (“discussing censorship and moral panic in Australia”), blaring the headline “Australia bans small breasts”:

The Australian Sex Party (ASP) said Wednesday that the Australian Classification Board (ACB) is now banning depictions of small-breasted women in adult publications and films. It comes just a week after it was found that material with depictions of females ejaculating during orgasm are now Refused Classification and Australian Customs directed to confiscate it.

The post quickly went viral around the likes of Twitter and Reddit, and was picked up by popular UK tech site The Register and snarky feminist blog Jezebel, prompting even more fist shaking and outrage.

But it looks like the critics are the ones guilty of “moral panic” in this case. As an apparently more level-headed member of the Australian anti-censorship movement found after a bit of investigation:

One publishing  company mentioned, no specific decisions cited, no basis for the story other than the an unconfirmed statement by a leading figure of a political party.

There is no information from the Classification Board on any specific ban, only a general statement that publications with depictions of persons who appear to be under 18 must be refused classification (that is, banned).

The second article also says Ms Patten attended a training session at the Censorship Board where she was shown material that had been refused classificiation due to the size of women’s breasts in the material. The article says Ms Patten says some of the banned titles include “Barely Legal”, Finally Legal” and “Purely 18” – the links go to the Classification Board’s database showing the bans on each of those publications.

However, one of these bans was made in 2008, one in 2003, and the rest in 2001 or before.

For its part, the Australian Classification Board has responded to the original Somebody Think of the Children post:

A spokesperson for the ACB told me today that publications which contain offensive depictions or descriptions of persons who are or appear to be persons under the age of 18 (whether they are engaged in sexual activity or not) must be classified RC. They said the Board classifies publications on a case by case basis, in accordance with the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications, the Code and the Classification Act and that the Publications Guidelines do not specify breast size.

Not that the internet seems to have taken notice, as the original story continues to gain traction around the web.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good trending Twitter topic.

UPDATE 12/02: Given this topic is continuing to generate interest — particularly due to the recent cyber attack on Australian government websites over the issue — here’s the latest from Somebody Think of the Children:

The Australian Classification Board (ACB) has confirmed to Somebody Think Of The Children that a person’s overall appearance is used by the Board to determine whether someone appears to look under the age of 18 in a film or publication.

Asked whether breast size was considered by the Board when determining age, McDonald said he had no further comment to make.

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139 comments

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139 thoughts on “Has Australia really banned small breasts?

  1. Ungulate

    Of course the Guidelines don’t specify breast size. The guidelines are deliberately vague and open to interpretation by Classification Board members. Go and take a look to see how much is actually “specified”: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/ComLaw/Legislation/LegislativeInstrumentCompilation1.nsf/0/149B1F3EC2A074C6CA257412000164C7/$file/PublicationsGuidelines2005.pdf

    Each “case by case” basis sets an example.

    Have ACB at all denied that they refused classification to an image of a woman who – despite the magazine she appeared in being regulated by the FBI to ensure its models are over age – had small breasts on the basis that she “appeared under-developed”?

    The decision clearly sets a precedent for rejecting images of women because their anatomy doesn’t measure up to some stereotyped notion that all “matured” women should have the measurements of Marilyn Monroe.

    I’ve got a 26 year old female friend who has the body type of a 12 year old boy. Does that mean she shouldn’t be allowed to pose nude?

    Maybe the “truth” is that the internet outrage is actually a reflection of the fact that there is growing awareness of how arbitrary Australian censorship is.

    If this is all just a storm in a teacup, then why have the Classification Board failed to directly deny the allegations made against them?

  2. gerard

    Ever since K.Rudd denounced Bill Henson’s photography exhibition of pre-teens, the ‘ ‘ban the small breasts’ brigade has been in uproar.

    With the increase in childhood obesity, soon we will ban photography of anything above the waistline, be it young or old, male or female.

    Logically, this will then have to include photography or depiction of nude animals as well. Just imagine the shock of seeing a photo of a lactating little ‘Fluffy’?

    I looked into the mirror this morning and spotted a small breast. I smashed the mirror.

    hhtp://oosterman.wordpress.com/

  3. gerard

    Sorry, wrong http.
    Ever since K.Rudd denounced Bill Henson’s photography exhibition of pre-teens, the ’ ‘ban the small breasts’ brigade has been in uproar.

    With the increase in childhood obesity, soon we will ban photography of anything above the waistline, be it young or old, male or female.

    Logically, this will then have to include photography or depiction of nude animals as well. Just imagine the shock of seeing a photo of a lactating little ‘Fluffy’?

    I looked into the mirror this morning and spotted a small breast. I smashed the mirror.

    http://oosterman.wordpress.com/

  4. Elan

    Just the one breast Gerard? I’m not surprised you smashed the mirror!

  5. Michael Meloni

    Hi Ruth,

    Michael Meloni from Somebody Think Of The Children here. I’ll readily admit my orginal healdine could be considered sensationalist (http://www.somebodythinkofthechildren.com/australia-bans-small-breasts/ ), but the fact remains the claims I reported in my original story were those of the Australian Sex Party and quoted as such.

    I explained how under the National Classification Code and State Criminal Codes such bans (and criminal charges) can occur in Australia.

    In response to the dates the publications were banned, this is irrelevant as to whether the publications were banned because of the reason claimed by ASP — small breasts making a model appear younger than 18. This law is not new, nor are the campaigns in Australia against magazines such as Barely Legal for reasons such as models having small breasts and no pubic hair.

    In my followup post, I provided both ASP and the Classification Board a chance to respond further and both parties did ( http://www.somebodythinkofthechildren.com/classification-board-responds-to-small-breasts-ban/ ).

    While the Publications Guidelines do not specify breast size (they are vague at best about all content), the ACB aknowledged that all offensive depictions of any subject that appears to be under the age of 18 (whether they are engaged in sexual activity or not) must be classified RC. ASP’s claim is that breast size was used to make such a call.

    Further questions to the ACB remain unanswered at this stage.

    The response to this worldwide has been massive, I agree, and unfortunately some people have misinterpreted what has happened. If ASP’s claims turn out to be false, a story will be published on my blog addressing them as such. As is always the case.

    In the meantime, ASP has made an accusation and in turn I blogged about it, giving the Classification Board the opportunity to refute the claims (which they did not) and respond.

    Michael Meloni
    SomebodyThinkOfTheChildren.com

  6. Fiona Patten

    I would like to clarify a few points. In the last 18 months the Classification Board has revoked over 30 serial classifications for a range of reasons, one major one being that the models appear to be under 18. These revoked classifications do not appear on the classification database.
    Late last year I attended a classification publications training session with 3 adult magazine distributors and one publisher. We were shown a range of images and the notes made by the board were read out. The underdeveloped nature of the model’s breasts was cited as a reason for the image to be refused classification numerous times.
    I don’t know which publisher Ruth Brown spoke to but the 4 companies that attended the meeting with me have now drastically reassessed the publications that they will import or publish. All the publications that have been refused classification adhere to the very strict US laws that enforce model age verification in adult publications and films. These laws are upheld by the FBI. There is no chance that any of the models were under 18

  7. glengyron

    Hang on a minute… the ACB says nothing more than “we follow our guidelines” and the journalist takes that to mean they don’t refuse classification based on small breasts? The ACB didn’t specifically respond to that accusation at all.

    If you’ve read the guidelines (obviously not…) they say that no one can be depicted as being less than 18 in pornography in Australia. The people in the films are all legally 18, so, on what basis is it decided that they ‘look’ less than 18?

    Well, according to the ASP and distributors in Australia, breast size is a criteria. This highlights the problem with the sort of broad guidelines applied by the ACB.

    I don’t think the journalist understood the issue. At all.

  8. Ruth Brown

    Hi Michael and Fiona, thanks for your input. I didn’t really intend to editorialise on the issue at all — just a look at the “Purple Monkey Dishwasher” Chinese whispers way a story gets twisted by hyped internet fist-shakers. I think Fiona was justified in highlighting this issue, and Michael covered it fairly.

    It’s places like Twitter and Reddit where people just read a headline or sound bite and run with it, twisting a complicated matter over the issue of sexual taboos on screen into “ZOMG THE GOVT WON’T LET US SEE BREASTS!” without actually reading what the original article and PR is saying.

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