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Age Ratings For Films With Sex Scenes And Nudity To Be Raised

Close up of popcorn box between seats in movie theatre. Copy space.
Close up of popcorn box between seats in movie theatre. Copy space. skynesher via Getty Images

Films that feature sex scenes and nudity are due to have age ratings tightened to align with changing public opinion.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said that the guidelines for films rated 12A or 12 will be stricter going forward. It comes after the board surveyed 12,000 people as part of its largest-ever public consultation.

“People are calling for a more cautious approach to classifying sex scenes at the border of 12A/12 and 15,” the BBFC shared on its website. Participants were concerned by “the level of sexual detail, nudity and the duration of the sex scenes rated 12A/12” under the guidelines of previous research in 2019. Similar content is now more likely to be rated as a 15.

The board also said higher ratings might be necessary for films that include language with sexual or misogynistic connotations, like “son of a bitch”, “bitch” or “dick”. “The worry is that young viewers may hear and repeat such language. Language such as this may now require a higher age rating,” the BBFC shared.

A total of 33 full-length feature films, 28 trailers and 151 clips from films and TV of varying genres were shown as part of the research.

However, findings did indicate that audiences were happy for classification to be “more lenient towards some sex references at the 15/18 borderline, especially in comic contexts”.

The research also revealed that people are now “slightly more accepting of cannabis misuse” at the 12A/12 rating, so long as it is “not detailed, glamorised or frequent”.

Additionally, respondents were found to be more comfortable with a relaxing of standards in 12A/12 trailers, meaning some may now include an “isolated use of strong language”.


BBFC president Natasha Kaplinsky said in a statement: “At the BBFC, we’re dedicated to ensuring what we do is responsive to the ever-evolving world around us. Since we last asked people across the country what they thought about our standards, society has changed, and opinions have followed – it’s fascinating how this vast body of new research reflects this.

“This is the first Classification Guidelines update I have overseen as President. Not only am I proud and thrilled to launch these findings, but as someone who has always looked to the BBFC for guidance for myself and my family, seeing first-hand the level of dedication and insight that went into this process has been eye-opening and inspiring. Without a doubt, we are truly shaped by you.

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