Steven Price

My book

Media Minefield

Guide to NZ Media Law

Official Information Act

Official Information Act

Bill of Rights Act

Media law resources

Feeds (RSS)

« | Main | »

Fifty shades unrestricted

By Steven | September 27, 2012

The censor’s office has classified the international blockbusting romantic erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, as unrestricted. That means, essentially, they’re saying that its availability is not injurious to the public good.

I think it’s a sensible and thoughtful decision. But then, I would: Random House engaged me to write the submissions for them.

Books like this pose a challenge for censors. They certainly deal with one of the gateways for the censor’s powers: “matters such as sex“. And how. There is quite a lot of sex, and it’s quite explicit. The book deals with BDSM. Should it be restricted?

The censor finds that there’s not really any need to. (Which is a bit lucky, since the series has sold 350,000 copies here, and it’s been voted Number 5 in Whitcoulls’ top 100 list for 2012-2013).

The censor’s decision notes that there is no force or compulsion in the book; it’s spicy, but consensual and respectful. It’s not likely to attract the interest of children. It has won mainstream acceptance. It has opened up a taboo area in a healthy way: in the censor’s words, it has “allowed women to talk about sex in a socially permissible manner”. There’s really no evidence that the 40 million copies that are out in the world at the moment have done anyone any harm. As far as I can tell, no other comparable government has censored it.  There has only been one complaint about it in NZ.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s not the sex that sells this book, at least not by itself. If this was just a porn film on paper, it wouldn’t shift 40 million copies. It’s the love story that makes it resonate with the readers. Okay, that and the sex.

Topics: Censorship | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Fifty shades unrestricted”

  1. Says:
    September 27th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    This is something I fundamentally object to.

    It’s a book, as in text. Nobody was hurt in making it, nobody was coerced. Most other liberal jurisdictions recognise and don’t (de jure or de facto) censor text. (The last such case in the UK was 1992, with an initial conviction by a magistrate overturned on appeal).

  2. christopher mitson Says:
    September 28th, 2012 at 12:55 am

    But, in the words of one of your distinguished legal colleagues, is it the sort of book one would wish one’s wife or servants to read?


You must be logged in to post a comment.