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 thoughts on “Has Australia really banned small breasts?

  1. David Havyatt

    Wow. Have we noted the disconnect. The Board are saying they Refuse Classification to material which “contain offensive depictions or descriptions of persons who are or appear to be persons under the age of 18 ” The FBI check only deals with half of that.

    Can I just ask why we mighht want “offensive depictions” of people who “appear to be under 18” other than to try to titilate those who want to get their rocks off on under age people!

    So – I don’t give a stuff about what the FBI might be doing on actual ages – it is the image that matters and I’d guess breast size is just one indicator the Board is using on the question of “appears to be”.

  2. Fiona Patten

    The problem is David that deciding if someone appears to be under the age of 18 is very subjective. We have even had instances when the same model is in two magazines. In one she is found to appear to be under 18 and in the other not.

    The images themselves are not offensive – they only become offensive if the Board decides that the model appears to be under 18 or is being portrayed as under 18.

    Most other countries use proof of age as the line.

  3. Matt McLeod

    Leaving aside the specific question of whether the Board is banning “small boobs”, I think the bigger problem is that there’s clearly a lack of transparency in the decision making process. Otherwise this would be easily settled by reference to the evidence, one way or the other.

    I am not a fan of censorship — even when the material in question is something I personally find objectionable — but if we are to have it then it must be properly accountable and transparent. Hiding behind FoI is not acceptable.

  4. LukeRevolution

    Melinda Reist links to her own article on ABC which seeks to describe all pornography as harmful. She cites a number of studies to support her case. I note that several of them are either quite old or were conducted by partisan right-wing researchers. I think the more correct method for correlating studies is to gather up all the studies and see what conclusions can be drawn. The less correct method is to start with the conclusion and ignore any dissenting information.

    There are also plenty of studies that show pornography is not harmful. The Porn Report by McKee et al is the first one that jumps to mind. Interestingly, Michael Flood has just released an overview of existing studies. His report says the evidence is often conflicting and inconclusive. He found that porn in and of itself is not harmful; rather that a variety of factors including family, socialisation, peer groups, culture and pre-existing psychology make a huge difference. He advocates education (not censorship) as a vital factor in reducing any possible harm caused by porn.

    Ms Reist then discusses numerous magazines which she finds offensive. These items all depict models that are over 18 but are made to look younger – they “appear under 18”. She is concerned that such magazines encourage pedophilia. To be honest I wonder the same thing. But here’s my problem. There’s no actual evidence to prove that looking at such magazines leads men to commit a crime. There may be correlation, pedophiles may very well read porn magazines but did the magazine cause the pedophilia?

    Hell, it’s even possible that these magazines prevent child sexual abuse crime, but there’s no evidence of that either. Although Todd Kendall’s 2007 study showed a correlation between increased availability of pornography and decreased rates of rape. Could material not involving and harming children, obviously, reduce the pedophile’s socially unacceptable orientation?

    My concern is that she is advocating legislation that essentially bans *thinking* about it. Once you start getting into the area of thought crime, you’re in very slippery territory indeed. And the thought crime problem produces its own chilling effect, which we’ve seen within the Arts following the Bill Henson case, and in the new wariness of adult magazines to avoid small breasts.

    Considering that Ms Reist heads an organisation called Women’s Forum, how does she feel about any possible bans on depictions of female ejaculation? Does she feel that images or movies showing female orgasm are harmful to those who watch it? Does she feel that this aspect of female sexuality should never be captured on film or seen by anyone? Can she cite a peer-reviewed report that proves viewing depictions of female orgasms result in crime?

  5. Julie Gale

    Fiona Patten certainly needs to clarify her comments!
    The Australian Sex Party media release, which she wrote, has grossly misrepresented and distorted the work of Kids Free 2B Kids, to push their agenda regarding their core business of promoting and defending pornography.
    Fiona Patten has misconstrued and falsely represented the work KF2BK has been engaged in with the Classification Board.
    We suggest Ms Patten gets her facts straight before writing or making any further comments.
    Our work is often misrepresented by people and groups with hidden agendas.
    This is a ridiculous strawman campaign – almost laughable…if so many people hadn’t believed it.

  6. Ms Naughty

    Julie Gale
    Would you care to elaborate on exactly what kind of work KF2BK has been engaged in with the Classification Board?

  7. Melinda Reist


    I don’t ‘head up Women’s Forum Australia’. I also don’t have an issue with female ejaculation. I do have an issue with teen porn magazines promoting sex with minors, rape and incest. These magazines – many of them imported by David Watt, an office bearer with the Eros Association – pose young women (who may or may not be 18) as child-like. They are surrounded by soft toys, holding hand puppets, wearing braces, pigtails, and other accroutements of childhood and presented as desperate to be penetrated multiple ways by older men. Some issues depict the girls in sexual acts. Perhaps you think this is OK. I share Gail Dines view, expressed in a soon to be published book chapter titled Childified Women: How the mainstream Porn Industry Sells Child Pornography to Men.
    “…More men than ever now have the opportunity to masturbate to pseudo child pornography (PCP) images of ‘girls’”. Dines points out that what pseudo child pornography and actual child pornography have in common is their aim to “sexually arouse men to images of sexualized ‘children’”.

    Maybe you don’t have a problem with that.

  8. Melinda Reist

    Also ‘Lukerrevolution’ why don’t you come out from behind the veil of anonymity so we know who you are and if you have any vested interests? Some us are prepared to use our real names (though Crikey has abbreviated mine somewhat, but you seem to know who I am).

  9. glengyron

    Melinda Resit, a personal attack in response to legitimate questions? Classy.

  10. LukeRevolution

    Before the KF2BK people start pulling out their matches they should look closely at the strawman that underpins their “all children are being harmed all the time by anything designed for adults” model. Sure, the model has an air of appealing ‘truthiness’ about it and offers clear target that are easily demonized but it is not a proven model.

    If we are going to face the real problem of child sex abuse we need real action underpinned by peer reviewed studies not stabs in the dark by the panic stricken. While we are wasting our time banning female ejaculation and small boobs we are allowing more and more children to be abused.

    Imagine the harm being done to young women who are being told that to be a woman you’ve gotta go big. Is this being sponsored by the plastic surgery industry? See, that has an air of truthiness about it but I have no proof.

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