If you want to see the film Viva Erotica be grateful for federalism. The Sydney Morning Herald puts the situation this way:
AS SEX films go, Viva Erotica is tame: 28 minutes of sex and no violence. But because the sex is real, it is classified X18+, a rating that means it is banned from sale in all states.
All states, yes. But not all territories. Our-not-quite-so-conservative-as-it-seems federal government has declined to use its power to over-ride territory laws permitting the sale of X-rated videos or to instruct its wholly-owned corporation Australia Post not to deliver them around the country. But porn peddler Adultshop is seeking to overturn the X classification of Viva Erotica on the grounds that it does not offend ‘community standards’. After all, R-rated real sex is currently showing at your local art house cinema in Shortbus. But under the Office of Film and Literature Classification guidelines (pdf) Shortbus‘s real sex is not the same as Viva Erotica‘s real sex because the former has bothered with a plot and the latter has not.
To help its case, Adultshop had ACNielsen conduct a survey.
Explicit erotic films: Films and videos primarily involving various forms of actual sex, including close-ups, involving consenting adults, with no coercion or violence. In the ACNielsen survey, Australian Adults were asked: Do you personally find this content offensive (ie does it cause feelings of outrage and/or disgust)?
Apparently only 30% of respondents experienced outrage or disgust, and vast majorities thought that these films should be available to adults (though with interesting gender differences, 70% of women, 82% of men). In Helen Vnuk’s book Snatched: Sex and Censorship in Australia she cites several other surveys with similar results: in 1994 two-thirds for X-rated videos being available, 83% in 1997, and 73% in 1999. In the Sex in Australia survey, they found that 37% of men and 16% of women had watched an X-rated video in the last 12 months.
However, this opinion seems to be conditional on the material being kept out of the public realm. The Australian Election Survey has been regularly asking questions about the ‘right to show nudity and sex in films and magazines’. In 2004, half its respondents thought that this right had gone too far, while only 10% thought it had not gone far enough. Perhaps there are concerns about how easily children can access this material.
I’m not convinced that these polls show that the ‘community’ would approve of Viva Erotica being given an R rather than X rating. In theory at least, it would mean that Viva Erotica could turn up in mainstream cinemas that also show films for children and don’t seem to check which of the sometimes numerous cinemas you go into after showing your ticket. It could also be made available through mainstream DVD outlets. Allowing X-rated videos to be sold legally around the country in shops children are not permitted to enter more obviously fits with the ‘community standards’ recorded in these polls.