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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.

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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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