Porn is no different from Viagra, says censor

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GROWING number of people living solitary, "vicarious" sex lives is creating a need for relaxed pornography laws, the outgoing chief censor said yesterday.

Speaking on the publication of his last annual report, James Ferman, director of the British Board of Film Classification, questioned why Viagra, a chemical sexual stimulant, will be made legally available in the UK when visual sexual stimulants are still strictly controlled.

He claimed that research by the Home Office and by the BBFC has proved that non-violent porn is harmless and that the public wants controls on it relaxed.

Referring to Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, with whom Mr Ferman has clashed in the past, he told The Independent: "If you want to be tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime, then you'll want to be aware of the causes of porn.

"And the fact is that we now have more single households where people are living alone. Many of these people have a sex life which is vicarious. It is the safest sex there is - solitary sex.

"Next month we have Viagra coming. That makes you sexually aroused, which is exactly what pornography has always done. Why should it be that you are allowed to be chemically aroused but not visually?

"We have been too strict in this country. We [the BBFC] tried to liberalise last year and we got our knuckles rapped."

Last year, Mr Ferman, who steps down this year after 23 years in the job, accused Mr Straw of being puritanical when a BBFC-inspired plan to relax the rules covering video pornography was overturned by the Government.

"Governments hate dealing with pornography," said Mr Ferman. "They find it embarrassing. They have to take questions over the despatch box and even those asking the questions get embarrassed. But eventually they have to bite the bullet. Of all the home secretaries I have dealt with, Willie Whitelaw and Douglas Hurd were the best because they were men of the world who took a laid-back attitude. They took the view that man is naturally sinful.

"But when the Home Office conducted some very thorough research into the effects of non-violent pornography, Kenneth Baker was embarrassed by the results and tried to keep the research unpublicised. But our research and all the research from around the world shows that there is no evidence that it does any harm.

"We also funded research as part of the British Social Attitudes Survey, which found that the British have become very relaxed about sexual images ... I think the public is ahead of the politicians on this issue. Even senior police officers tell us we are too strict."

Mr Ferman is adamant, however, that there should be no relaxation for films where violence combines with pornography.

"Although I don't believe any film has a direct cause and effect on behaviour, I do believe that there is a drip-drip effect of showing rape as entertainment," said Mr Ferman. "It might eventually say to some men that women saying no, really mean yes."

Comments