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Report: Steve Crow’s Erotica Sleaze Banned

Wednesday 23 August 2006

Report: Steve Crow’s Erotica Sleaze Banned

One of “porn tycoon” Steve Crow’s “Boobs on Bikes Parade” stars – Ms Jessica Drake - was interviewed on TV One’s Breakfast Show this morning by TV One presenter Ali Ikram. Ms Drake was introduced as “one of 30 porn stars” who intended to ride topless on motorbikes down Auckland’s Queen Street today, to promote Crow’s seventh R18 Erotica Expo which is to be held this weekend in Auckland.

Ms Drake was asked by Mr Ikram whether the public flaunting of her breasts in this fashion was an example of “shameless exploitation” or “a harmless bit of fun”. She responded by saying that as a woman she found the exercise “empowering” and a way of expressing her rights to “freedom of expression”. She showed no concern by the fact that others might be seriously offended by her actions.

The Society believes the real issue is not how Ms Drake benefits from her public display or perceives it, but rather whether it is lawful for a readily accessible public space in downtown Auckland to be allowed by Council and the police to be used for this sort of display designed to promote the sort of hard core porn sleaze Crow sells, material by the truck load, as that exploits, demeans, degrades and dehumanises women. The Society agrees with Mayor Dick Hubbard that such activity, the promotion of hard-core porn in a public space – is ‘morally repugnant and degrading to women’.

Steve Crow’s Sleaze Porn Under Fire.

TV One featured a documentary on Wednesday night 21st of May 2003 at 9.35 p.m. called “Reel Life: Naked Ambition” featuring Steve Crow director of Vixen Direct Ltd. As the Dominion Post points out today (23/08), this is the same man who the Minister of Health, the Hon Annette King, blocked, a few years ago, from filming footage of the birth of a porn star’s baby at Waikato Hospital, intended by Crow to be used in a porno film featuring the baby’s mother “Nikki”. At the time the Society publicly condemned Crow’s plans as “exploitative of both mother and baby” and viewed it as “morally repugnant”.

It wrote to the CEO of the Waikato Hospital Board presenting comprehensive moral and legal arguments for why Crow should be prevented from filming a birth for the stated purpose, copying the letter to relevant Government Ministers. Shortly afterwards the Minister moved against Crow, citing “moral” considerations. The Society applauded the Minister’s decisive action in a press released published on Scoop (21/10/03).

In an article entitled “The People Vs. Steve Crow” by John Landrigan, published in North South magazine (June, pages 82-90), Crow is quoted as stating:
“F-ck the consequences, I make a living selling pictures of people having sex. Simple.”

Landrigan writes: “Besides the porn baby [controversy], collectively he, his ex-business partner Fiona Gibb and Vixen Direct faced 135 criminal charges last year. Crow pleaded guilty to 33 of the lesser charges – for the distribution of objectionable material … he still faces seven regulatory infringements to a law he does not agree with.”

The article then details the Society for Promotion of Community Standard’s successful attempt at getting one of three videos Crow had imported and marketed in NZ, re-classified by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), headed by Chief Censor Bill Hastings. Its action forced the OFLC to overturn its own flawed classification decision on the publication and concede that it had failed to identify seven sections of the video as requiring excisions (due to the presence of “objectionable” content).

“One, Matador Series II,” writes Landrigan, “was deemed after having been on sale for two years to need seven excisions to regain an R18 classification. Crow has refused to make the alterations and if he distributes the film he will face further criminal charges. The SPCS highlighted, among other things, the use of extreme close-ups of women’s anuses as demeaning, and the portrayal of women as merely a collection of orifices as degrading”.

The Society’s quotation from the OFLC’s classification decision (Ref. No. 812; dated 10 July 2000), that effectively sanctioned the release of the video as an R18 publication, is highlighted in the North South article. The OFLC report written by the censors states:

“The video entitled The Matador Series 2 also known as Ally Gets on the Wild Side is classified as objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 18 years. This classification is due to the publication’s treatment of matters of sex.

“The publication depicts fellatio, cunnilingus, digital penetration of the vagina and anus, vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, the simultaneous penetration of a woman’s anus and vagina by two men, and the ejaculation of semen into the mouths of women. Much of the sexual activity is depicted in close focus images.

“The publication depicts sexual conduct of a degrading and dehumanising nature. This is particularly so in the depiction of extreme close focus, but brief images of men having vigorous anal intercourse with women and suddenly withdrawing their penises and shouting “OLE!” At the same time the men splay the women’s buttocks to further extend the women’s gaping anuses while the camera advances for extreme close up views.

The activity is repeated frequently in each sexual encounter. The publication, in focusing on this activity is presenting sexual activity, which is degrading and dehumanising for the purpose of providing a spectacle. The publication also degrades and dehumanises the female participants in the manner in which their bodies are used and displayed for viewer entertainment. In the strongest depiction the director splays a woman’s anus to the close view of the camera while placing a finger in her vagina and forcing the vaginal wall to appear to exit the anus. While the images are brief the publication degrades and dehumanises the female participants to a high extent and degree [p. 85 quoting directly from the OFLC report].

“The dominant effect of the publication as a whole is the sexual conduct of a degrading and dehumanising nature and the degrading and dehumanising depictions of the female participants. These presentations, along with the women’s lack of sexual response or stimulation indicates that the publication is intended for an audience of males for the purpose of sexual arousal.

“Given the publication’s treatment of matters of sex and the particularly strong depictions of degrading and dehumanising sexual activity, the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good unless it is restricted to an adult audience.”

Despite these damning comments concerning the content of this degrading publication, Chief Censor Bill Hastings was more than content to have it released onto the NZ market as a video for home viewing from July 2000 onwards. He even selected it to use as one of three videos screened to 152 members of the public at his Office, to gain their views of “sexually explicit videos” as part of a research project reported on in the Annual Report (2001) of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) (pages 52-55. Full research report available from OFLC website and Office). In other words he knowingly foisted objectionable and toxic content onto a public jury of volunteer film reviewers, who he misled when he informed them the content matter complied with the law.

Most of the participants were sickened by the material Mr Hastings asked them to watch. A number were extremely angry that he had misled them.
After the video “Matador Series 2” was finally reclassified “objectionable” and thereby banned through the actions of the Society to safeguard the “public good” and ensure that he law was applied properly; the Society called on Bill Hastings to reclassify and ban all the other degrading videos and DVDs in the Matador Series (01, 04, 05, 06 and 08) and other similar publications currently being marketed by Steve Crow through his Vixen Direct website (www.vixendirect.com).

Hastings showed no interest in fulfilling his statutory duties to safeguard the “public good”. He has refused throughout the period he has been Deputy Chief Censor and Chief Censor to meet with the Society executive to discuss its serious concerns over the objectionable publications he is classifying for public consumption.

The Matador series directed by Frenchman Jean Yves Le Caste, that Steve Crow markets, consist of five titles, including: “Private Matador: Anal Garden”, “Dirty Men at work”, “Sex Trip” and “Anal Revenge”. All these videos contain the same types and degree of degrading depictions of women as a mere collection of orifices and yet the Chief Censor has failed to take action to have them reclassified in response to the OFLC’s reclassification of “Matador Series 2.”

Under S. 13(3) of the Films. Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 the Chief Censor has the full authority of the law to “determine that any publication should be received for examination by the Classification Office”. He used this section of the Act to “direct the Secretary [of Internal Affairs] to take all reasonable steps to obtain a copy of the publication [“Baise-Moi” in 2001] and submit it to the Classification Office.” Incredibly, the French sex-violence film “Baise-Moi” was the only publication he personally took action against in 2001.

In the end his Office classified it R18, limiting it to film festival screenings and tertiary media/film study courses, failing to rule it “objectionable” and/or or demand excisions to its contents.
Once the publication “Matador Series 2” was classified “objectionable” by the OFLC, Steve Crow had to dispose of all copies of this hardcore porn video – publications he had been distributing for over two years with the approval of the OFLC. If he had refused to comply with the restrictions under the new classification (the ban) and been found to possess a copy or found to have been distributing it, he could have faced a fine of up to $5,000. These restrictions still apply.

Former President of the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards Rev Gordon Dempsey says "the decision to ban the [Matador] video is a vindication of all the Society has been saying for many years about the failure of the Chief Censor's Office to apply the law properly and safeguard the public good from the corrupting influence of harmful material that contravenes the law".
In the landmark decision dated 4 October 2002, (published in the OFLC List of Decisions (November), the Classification Office overturned its earlier decision dated 7 July 2000 that classified the sex video (“The Matador Series 2”) R18 with no excisions recommended.

Steve Crow, whose film-making talents last year was fixated on trying to produce a hardcore ‘porn baby’ film “Ripe” featuring former stripper “Nikki” and her soon-to-be-born made submissions to the Classification Office opposing the Society's appeal to have the video reclassified. On his company's website he stated that he intended marketing his film "Ripe" via overseas distributors to cater to the sexual “fetish” appetites of overseas hardcore porn viewers.

Following an appeal for a review of the earlier classification decision on “The Matador Series 2” video under section 42(3)(b) of the Act by the Society; the Classification Office has recognised in effect that the video content contravenes s. 3(3)(a)(iii), s. 3(3)(c) and s.(3) (3)(e) of the Act. It has ruled that seven excisions need to be made by the distributor Vixen Direct Ltd. “to reduce the degrading and dehumanising effect of the publication.”
Bill Hastings, whose 3-year term as Chief Censor expires in October 2006 was responsible for exposing 53 members of the public of both sexes to the 100- minute sexually explicit video- “The Matador Series 2” - containing objectionable content so degrading and dehumanising in its effect that it has now been banned. It was one of three sexually explicit videos at “the ‘high- end’ of the R18 category”, viewed in the Office of Film and Literature Classification by a group of 153 volunteers recruited by ACNielson to take part in a Classification Office commissioned research study into the “content and classification of sexually explicit videos”.

This research reported on in the Classification Office Annual Report 2001 cost the taxpayer over $38,000.

The Classification Office “sought feedback on whether, and if so to what extent, the [152] participants considered the material (or aspects of it) to be demeaning, degrading and/or dehumanising”. It was “also keen to know if the material might be considered to represent a class of persons [e.g. women] as being inherently inferior by virtue of their sex or any other characteristic” (p. 52). Under section 3(3)(b) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Act 1993 (“the Act”) a publication has to be classified “objectionable” by the Censorship Office if it “describes, depicts, or otherwise deals with … sexual or physical conduct of a degrading or dehumanising or demeaning nature” (s. 3[3][iii]) in a “manner”, or to such an “extent and degree” that it: ………
(b) Degrades or dehumanises or demeans any person: ….. [and/or] (e) Represents (whether directly or by implication) that members of any particular class of the public are inherently inferior to other members of the public by reason of any characteristics of members of that class, being a characteristic that is a prohibited ground of discrimination specified in section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1993.

The Annual Report 2001 report on the inquiry states:

“Three videos were selected for screening to the audiences. Each video was screened to one audience of women and to a second audience of men. All three videos had previously been classified R18 … and assigned the descriptive note: Contains explicit sex scenes.” …

In addition to the researcher [Helena Barwick MA], several Classification Office staff attended each session. The same staff member (a woman) facilitated all six sessions and at the outset of each session, the Chief Censor [Bill Hastings] gave the [152] participants a briefing on the classification criteria set down in [the] Act. During this briefing, participants were introduced to the terms demeaning, degrading and dehumanising, these being key terms the questionnaire would seek their feedback on…” (pp. 52-53).

“Respondents were asked whether they had found any of the sexual activities presented in the video degrading…. Four sexual activities in this video [“The Matador Series 2”] stood out as being judged far more degrading than others did by the respondents. They were:

“Penis going from anus to mouth; double penetration [simultaneous vaginal and anal penetration of a woman by two men]; finger going from anus to mouth; ejaculation on a woman’s face. There was little difference between the activities men ranked as most degrading and those ranked by women.” (p. 55)
Of the 145 participants who completed the questionnaires dealing with the four sexual activities listed above, 141 (97.2%) found the first (penis-mouth-anus) the “most degrading”; 138 (95.2%) the second; 116 (80.0%) the third; and 99 (68.3%) the fourth. Other activities ranked as “most degrading” were “display of labia or anus for camera” (65; 44.8%), “anal intercourse” (22.8%), “women with multiple male partners” (12; 8.3%).

The Annual Report notes: “About two- thirds of the audience was in agreement that the videos could be harmful” (p. 55). The 4 October revised classification of “The Matador Series 2” concludes:

“Seven excisions are required to "The Matador Series 2" video recording to remove parts of scenes that depict sexual conduct that strongly degrades and dehumanises the female participants and contributes significantly to the effect that the publication depicts women as inherently inferior. The conduct involves men engaging in anal intercourse with women and repeatedly displaying the women’s gaping anuses to the camera in the manner of a game, often chanting “un, dos, tre, ole!” [It] finds that the availability of the video recording in its present form is likely to be injurious to the public good because it perpetuates a degrading and dehumanising view of women as orifices to be used as a sexual spectacle.”(p. 15).

Former Society President Rev. Gordon Dempsey says:

“Sadly the Society executive is perceived and criticised by some as so out of touch with community standards that it is incapable of rational comprehension of how parliament intended the law to work in safeguarding the public good. We reject these criticisms while at the same time trying to understand as best we can the mindset of those who dismiss our concerns and appear determined to push their so-called ‘rights’ to watch anything they want to, regardless of the constraints imposed by our censorship laws…The point is, Chief Censor Bill Hastings failed to take action on this video in terms of its reclassification, despite the vast majority of the participants in the research study identifying the activities as degrading, dehumanising and demeaning to a major degree… We believe the Society should not have had to force this matter with the Classification Office by seeking a review.

It should have been more than obvious to Bill Hastings and Ms Nicola McCully [now the new Deputy Chief Censor] that this publication should be banned or cut. Their failure despite significant input from the public at a cost of $38,000 [to tax-payers], calls into question their professional fitness to function as Chief Censor and Deputy Chief Censor. This aberration,” says Dempsey, “is not a one-off event. There are dozens and dozens of hardcore sex and sex-violence videos containing the same degree and kind of degrading, demeaning and dehumanising content as “Matador”. To all of these the Classification Office has granted general R18 classification under the leadership of Mr Hastings who took over as Acting Chief Censor at the end of 1998.”

The inept and flawed approach taken by the Classification Office with respect to the original classification of “Matador Series 2” video highlights a serious problem that the Society has been trying to bring to the attention of the public and government for several years. It is the failure and refusal of the Chief Censor Bill Hastings and his senior colleagues to carry out the clear intention of Parliament as embodied in the Act and fulfil their statutory duties to interpret correctly and apply in particular, section 3(2) and s. 3(3) of the Act.

There are literally hundreds of R18 videos available for home rental and purchase, that contain material just like that in “Matador Series 2”, and yet they all have been released largely uncut for the consumption of those aged 18 years and over. The likelihood of injury to “the public good” posed by their release to this broad category of persons is great.

APPENDIX

References:
7 July 2000 OFLC classification decision on "The Matador Series 2" video (OFLC Ref. no. 200203). Signed by Ms Nicola McCully, Deputy Chief Censor of Film and Literature.
4 October 2002 OFLC classification decision on "The Matador Series 2" video (OFLC Ref. no. 812). Signed by Mr Bill Hastings, Chief Censor of Film and Literature.

Letter of 4 January 2002. Society application to Chief Censor seeking a reclassification of "The Matador Series 2" and two other sexually explicit videos used by the Classification Office in its 2001 Research inquiry.

Application for review made under s. 42(3)(b) of the Act.
The Chief Censor advised the Society in a letter dated 15 February 2002 that the application for review had been granted. The Society’s submission on the "The Matador Series 2" video was received by the Classification Office on 23 May 2002.

Fine not exceeding $5,000 in case of offence by body corporate in relation to possession and/or distribution of a "objectionable publication. Section 131(2) (b) of the Act. Fines applying to offences by individuals - not exceeding $2,000 (s. 131[2][a]).

Vixen Direct Ltd website. http://www.vixen.co.nz
Four of the "Matador Series" marketed by Vixen Direct Ltd required cuts when first classified (Series 03,04,05,06) and another not advertised on its website was banned.

OFLC Research Report 2001 records consultation sessions dealing with "The Matador Series 2": 28 women viewed it on 20 November 2000 and 25 men on 12 March 2001.

Both the Annual Report 2001 and the Research Report ("Public consultation on sexually explicit videos") are available from the Classification Office website: http:www.censorship.govt.nz/publications.html
The cost of the 2001 Research inquiry on three sexually explicit videos (0ver ~$38,000) was supplied by the Classification Office in response to an official information request from the Society. Letter on file.

ENDS


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