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The R18 certificate represents a film or video classification given by the British Board of Film Classification. It is intended to provide a classification for works that are within British obscenity laws, but exceed what the BBFC considers acceptable for its 18 certificate. In practice, this means hardcore pornography.
Under the terms of the 1984 Video Recordings Act all videos sold or distributed within the UK must either be given a certificate by the BBFC, or ruled exempt by them. Uncertificated recordings are not legal, regardless of content. The R18 certificate is the most restrictive of the certificates, and videos given this certificate may only be sold in licenced shops - almost always sex shops. According to the BBFC there are currently around 90 such licenced shops. R18 certificated material also may not be sold by via mail order or other remote means such as by telephone or over the Internet.
Since the boundary of British obscenity law is vague, the BBFC deliberately errs on the side of caution. It specifies in detail what kinds of acts are permitted to be depicted in works receiving an R18 certificate, and which are not. In particular, it prohibits the depiction of acts which are illegal, degrading, violent or non-consensual. However, apart from these restrictions, it allows the depiction of most sex acts, including vaginal sexual intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, and anal sex, between any combination of men and women. It also has recently allowed the depiction of visibly consensual sexual bondage and very mild BDSM activities.
There has been some controversy about the prohibition of the depiction of female ejaculation, which the BBFC considers to be the same as urination, the depiction of which it regards as "degrading or dehumanising".
As of 2004, the broadcasting of R18 material is prohibited, even on encrypted digital channels.
History of the R18 certificate
The R18 classification was created in 1982 in response to the recommendatations in 1979 of the Home Office Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship chaired by Sir Bernard Williams. Originally it was only used for films featuring simulated sex only, but the BBFC found itself forced to award R18 certificates to hardcore films in 2000 after a series of legal appeals and a judicial review of those appeals.
The introduction of the R18 certificate for hardcore films is widely seen by observers as a reaction to more liberal attitudes in British society to pornography, the de facto legalization of the import of hardcore pornography (but not its sale) across the EU because of customs law harmonization, and the widespread availability of unregulated pornography over the Internet.
The BBFC has previously granted 18 certificates for movies containing short scenes of unsimulated sex, such as Catherine Breillat's Romance (in 1999) and Patrice Chereau's Intimacy (in 2001).
As of 2004, a review is in progress of the classification and regulation system, and the BBFC is currently being challenged by video distributors to award 18 certificates to material which currently falls under the R18 guidelines. If this succeeds, the R18 classification may cease to have any effective meaning.
In October 2004, the BBFC granted an 18 certificate for Michael Winterbottom's movie 9 Songs, which features a number of explicit scenes of unsimulated sex. It is unclear whether this marks the end of the R18 certificate, or whether the BBFC will apply an "artistic merit" test to distinguish between films which are acceptable for 18 certificates and those which recieve only R18 certificates. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R18 [Dec 2004]
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