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Australia Bans Small Breasts? No, these reports are UNCONFIRMED! #nocleanfeed

NOTE: I am a member of an anti-censorship group in Brisbane. This article is my own opinion, not the opinion of that group, and has not been shown to or approved by any members of that group.

There has been anger and much head-shaking over a report claiming that "Australia bans small breasts", published on the Somebody Think of the Children blog. The report is based on a media release from the Australian Sex Party, in which the Party's Fiona Patten says:

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”
However, the original media release contained no more detail than that. 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. I happen to support the broad aims of the Australian Sex Party, but they have taken a side in public debate which means their words must not be taken at face value, but checked.

The original story spread quickly throughout the Internet, as this Google search shows. It wasn't until 18 hours after publication that an update was published on the STOTC blog. 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. [EDIT: April 21 2012 - there are now more banned publications under the Barely Legal search - but still no evidence to back up Ms Patten's original claims].

Reasons for these bans are not given in the database. Ms Patten says:

That information [details of why a publication is banned] is not provided to the applicant when their publication is Refused Classification.
However, the Classification Board's website says:

What if I disagree with the Classification Board's decision?

You can ask a Classification Applications Officer for a copy of the
Classification Board's reasons for decision. You can also apply for a
review to the Classification Review Board, an independent review body.

Reasons why a publication is banned can be seen by the publisher. Not a single one of the classification decisions so far alluded to by Ms Patten took place after "Senate Estimates late last year". And yet this media release, and the reporting of it by a leading anti-censorship blog, has led to the impression that small breasts are to be automatically banned by Australia's censorship board. Well, I call bullshit.

For what it's worth, it may well be true that moral conservatives are trying to pressure the Classification Board to clamp down on depictions of "barely legal" type pornographic magazines which usually try to imply that their models are only a few days or weeks older than 18. Australia seems to be a pretty dirty-minded country which likes to hide it's dirty-mindedness behind rage at even slight sexual deviancy. But there's no proof of that in anything the Australian Sex Party has said in their media release. When we fight against censorship we need to have our facts clear and make sure they can't be easily shown to be wrong. We shouldn't whip up a moral panic by claiming that others are trying to whip up a moral panic. We certainly shouldn't upset people (and I've seen quite a few people upset about this today) without knowing our facts are correct.

And if someone has a barrow to push - even if (especially if) we agree with them - we need to make sure we don't take what they say at face value, but carefully check everything they claim before getting people angry about something that might turn out to be not true.


Natalie said...

I'm definitely one of the people who was pissed off at this, but if it is a beat up I will be relieved yet feet kind of betrayed by the ASP. I don't like looking silly for getting on a bandwagon and shaking my fist, I'll admit that quite readily, I just wish I had the tools to check this stuff out!

David J said...

Yeah, I like what the Sex Party stands for, but any political party's words need to be taken with a grain of salt.

It is of course quite possible that moral conservatives *do* want to ban "barely legal" type mags and are going to put pressure on the Classification Board to take a stricter line on which pictures appear to be of women under 18 (and which therefore need to be refused classification under current law).

But the facts the Sex Party have put forward so far don't make the case at all. This story has spread so far so quickly that it's a great example of why we need to double-check what people say, especially when we want to believe it.

Anonymous said...

nice report Dave :D

Matt Burgess said...

Nicely said. Our forum posters on AustralianGamer.com have been going mental about this. I was outraged too until I started to really look into it and could not find any sort of original source for this "new policy decision" beyond the ASP's say so.

I too support the ASP's broad goals, but there are enough legitimate problems without making stuff up.