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R18 certificate
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R18 certificate

The R18 certificate represents a video classification given by the British Board of Film Classification. It is intended to provide a classification for works that are within British obscenity laws, but exceed what the BBFC considers acceptable for its 18 certificate. In practice, this means hardcore pornography.

An R18 certificate for a hardcore video makes it legal to sell, unlike uncertificated videos, which are illegal to sell in the UK because of the Video Recordings Act 1984. Like 18 certificate videos, R18 certificate videos may only be sold to adults. Unlike 18 certificate videos, R18 certificate videos may only be sold in licensed sex shops, of which, according to the BBFC, there are approximately 90 in the UK, and they may not be sold by mail order. This greatly restricts the possibility for distribution, compared to 18 certificate videos.

Since the boundary of British obscenity law is vague, the BBFC deliberately errs on the side of caution. It specifies in detail what kinds of acts are permitted to be depicted in works recieving an R18 certificate, and which are not. In particular, it prohibits the depiction of acts which are illegal, degrading, violent or non-consensual. However, apart from these restrictions, it allows the depiction of most sex acts, including vaginal sexual intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, and anal sex, between any combination of men and women. It also has recently allowed the depiction of visibly consensual sexual bondage and very mild BDSM activities.

There has been some controversy about the prohibition of the depiction of female ejaculation, which the BBFC considers to be the same as urination, the depiction of which it regards as "degrading or dehumanising".

The R18 classification was created in 1982 in response to the recommendatations in 1979 of the Home Office Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship chaired by Sir Bernard Williams. Originally it was only used for films featuring simulated sex only, but the BBFC found itself forced to award R18 certificates to hardcore films in 2000 after a series of legal appeals and a judicial review of those appeals.

The introduction of the R18 certificate for hardcore films is widely seen by observers as a reaction to more liberal attitudes in British society to pornography, the de facto legalization of the import of hardcore pornography (but not its sale) across the EU because of customs law harmonization, and the widespread availability of unregulated pornography over the Internet.

As of 2004, the broadcast of R18 material is prohibited, even on encrypted digital channels. There is a review in progress of the classification and regulation system, and the BBFC is currently being challenged to award 18 certificates to material which currently falls under the R18 guidelines. If this succeeds, the R18 classification may cease to have any effective meaning.

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