All content likely to be X 18+

6.69 The X 18+ classification is an adults-only classification for films with ‘real depictions of actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adults’.[62] In Chapter 9, the ALRC proposes that any media content, rather than only films, may be classified X 18+. This does not mean the ALRC proposes that this content should be legal to sell or distribute; the ALRC review does not address this question.[63] However, if the Australian Government determines that the sale and distribution of some or all X 18+ content should be legal, then the ALRC proposes that media content that is likely to be classified X 18+ must be classified and then appropriately marked and restricted to adults. This media content may include not only films and computer games, but also magazines and websites.[64]

6.70 The primary benefit of classifying this content may be to warn potential viewers that the content is sexually explicit. However, classifying this content also serves to help prevent RC content—much of which is sexually explicit—from being sold and classified as X 18+ content.[65] If publishers of adult content must have trained classifiers review their content against criteria that prohibits certain depictions (for example, of sexual violence), then they may be less likely to sell films with RC content.

6.71 Despite this, some might argue that if access to the content is restricted to adults, there is no need to have the content classified at all. Sexually explicit adult content could arguably be treated in the same way as the ALRC proposes that most R 18+ content be treated: if access is restricted to adults and the content is properly marked, the content should not need to be classified. Laws designed to prohibit RC content, some might say, should target RC content, not X 18+ content.

6.72 This argument might also be supported by the observation that many providers of adult content, particularly those outside Australia, will simply not comply with a law requiring them to classify their content. Unclassified adult content is rife on the internet and sold in sex shops throughout the country; many providers of this content do not comply with existing Australian laws and may be no more likely to comply with these proposed laws. In any event, the sheer quantity of sexually explicit adult content on the internet also means that it is highly unlikely that even law-abiding publishers would arrange to classify all of this content before distributing it in Australia.

6.73 Nevertheless, the ALRC proposes that, if the sale of some X 18+ content is legal in Australia, the content should be required to be classified before it is sold, hired, screened or distributed, either online or offline. Even if it is highly unlikely that most adult content will be classified, by insisting that it should be, the law makes clear Australia’s standard on what may be acceptable to display in sexually explicit content.

Proposal 6–4 If the Australian Government determines that X 18+ content should be legal in all states and territories, the Classification of Media Content Act should provide that media content that is likely to be classified X 18+ (and that, if classified, would be legal to sell and distribute) must be classified before being sold, hired, screened or distributed in Australia.

[62] Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (Cth).

[63] Currently, it is illegal to sell X 18+ films in the Australian states, but not in most parts of the territories. It is not illegal, however, to sell magazines classified Category 1 Restricted or Category 2 Restricted (the publications classifications equivalent to the X 18+ film classification).

[64] In Ch 7, the ALRC discusses who should classify content likely to be X 18+.

[65] The scope of the RC category is discussed in Ch 10.