CAAN condemns BBFC irresponsibility over 50 Shades

The British Board of Film Classification was today condemned as irresponsible, ill-informed and hypocritical for apparently endorsing the use of cable ties as a relatively harmless form of bdsm play. Experienced practitioners hit back, claiming cable ties were inherently dangerous and expressing disbelief that the BBFC, which has recently justified censoring bdsm film content on grounds of potential harm, should have been so permissive in respect of a running joke about cable ties in 50 Shades of Grey, on general release since Friday.

Today, Dennis Queen, co-convenor of Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) wrote to the BBFC setting out these concerns in detail, and offering to provide the BBFC with advice on safe bdsm practices for the future.

She explained: “I am extremely worried to hear that we’re seeing a notable increase in emergencies due to ideas from 50 shades of Grey being tried out.

“The BBFC view of what is safe is irresponsible and ill-informed. Apparently they consider ‘soft’ what many of us who are experienced in consensual bdsm would call dangerous and abusive. At the same time, it bans material which it sees as more serious, but which is actually safer. We urgently need to challenge this problem before someone is killed.

“We need people to know cable ties can be dangerous, and people are getting hurt. if you care for your partner, please don’t use cable ties, or anything else which can tighten and injure them. Never tie anyone up in something you can’t instantly get them out of in an emergency, and keep safety scissors handy.

“We also cannot emphasise enough that the basis of the relationship in this story is abusive and anyone who attempts to stalk you, or control your life in the way this particular movie explores, should be avoided. We reiterate Women’s Aid’s call to get help now if you are in a relationship like this.

“There is a thriving BDSM community in this country, so if you fantasise about power games, talk to us for more information about how to play more safely and plan your fun, consensually, as equals.”

Commenting on their classification, the BBFC said: “FIFTY SHADES OF GREY only features activities at the milder end of the BDSM spectrum and contains nothing that is likely to present any novel ideas or potential dangers to adults. As such there was nothing to stop the film being classified 18.”

In respect of their decision to do nothing in respect of the promotion of cable ties, they added: “the BBFC considers such matters in their overall context, include the amount of detail or otherwise in any depiction or reference: in the context of this particular work we did not consider it either justified or proportionate to make an intervention at the adult level.”

When asked what advice they had taken on the matter from experienced bdsm practitioners, they explained that they have long-standing contact with BDSM practitioners – though it is not known what advice, if any, was given in this instance.

Charlotte Rose, who recently organised a protest outside parliament at the extension of BBFC classification to online material, said: “The BBFC approach on this issue is both dangerous and hypocritical.

“The film promotes cable ties for bondage play, while simultaneously failing to give the viewer any education into the very real dangers involved. Yet in discussion of recent legislation giving to ATVOD greater powers to ban dvd’s not passed for viewing by the BBFC, their excuse for much of their censorship activity is that it is necessary in order to protect individuals from potential harm.”

Note to editors:
1. Further protests, in Manchester, Birmingham and Brighton have been planned following the original parliamentary protest in December 2014. The next protest will take place in Manchester on 1 March.
2. CAAN is seriously concerned about the impression given by 50 Shades of Grey that use of cable ties in bdsm is a safe or sensible activity. We would be more than happy to provide additional material, including the provision of articles and interviews, to underline the danger and to provide insight into safer bdsm practice
3. For further information on this release or matters contained in it, as well as a full copy of the letter sent to the BBFC by CAAN, please contact CAAN via

This post is hosted as a favour to Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) while their main site is being reworked.


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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