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Film ratings and what they mean as age ratings tightened around sex and nudity

The BBFC has published new classification guidelines reflecting shifts in public opinion towards violence, drug use, sex and use of language, following a public consultation involving 12,000 people across the UK  (PA Archive)
The BBFC has published new classification guidelines reflecting shifts in public opinion towards violence, drug use, sex and use of language, following a public consultation involving 12,000 people across the UK (PA Archive)

Updated standards now make it more probable for sex sequences that were previously permitted in films with a 12 or 12A rating to be classified 15.

As it compiled its most recent criteria, the BBFC claimed to have conducted interviews with 12,000 people around the United Kingdom in order "to explore what matters most to audiences when it comes to classification”.

The organisation stated that viewers were "concerned" about the length, degree of nudity, and sexual description of the sex scenes, which were graded 12A/12 according to its prior 2019 rules.

Now, according to BBFC, audiences desire "a more cautious approach to classifying sex scenes at the border of 12A/12 and 15”. Consequently, "content that is similar is now more likely to be rated 15”.

But the study also showed that, "particularly in comedic contexts”, viewers are "happy" for classification to be more lax when it comes to some sex references around the 15–18 age mark.

The BBFC previously conducted similar research in 2019. For UK viewers, sexual violence continues to be the top worry, just as it did back then.However, since 2019, the portrayal of self-harm and suicide has become the second most concerning topic.The BBFC, which stated it will keep highlighting suicide and self-harm in its advice, said respondents expressed a wish to be cautioned against this kind of content.

The organisation also discovered that people's concerns over violent on-screen representations had increased.It stated that, going forward, all age categories for violence might need a higher rating.According to the findings, viewers are now more receptive than ever to portrayals of drug use, including the abuse of solvents and cannabis.As a result, the BBFC declared that it would be less stringent when it came to such content.

On the other hand, the study indicated that parents are worried about foul language becoming commonplace, particularly those with sexist or sexual overtones. A higher age rating might now be necessary for such language.