Guest Column

Inxeba’s X18 rating is 50 shades of unjust

2018-02-18 06:09

South Africa is a conservative country in terms of religion and culture. That we know and no progressive generation has disrespected that, regardless of their own beliefs. But that should not allow the encouragement of censorship.

We’re not a secretive society. Or so I thought.

This week, the powerful truth of many Xhosa men was shunted to a place where it will be inaccessible to many. The Film and Publications Board confirmed that on Wednesday its appeal tribunal overturned a classification by the body, making Inxeba (The Wound) the first “non-pornographic” film to get the X18 classification. This is a rating usually only given to hard-core porn. This is the highest rating a movie or TV series can get. The board tweeted: “The reasons for the decision of the appeals tribunal are to be shared once they have been finalised and furnished by the tribunal.”

This is grossly unfair, since it means the film can’t be shown at mainstream cinemas. For an X18 rating, certain criteria have to be met, including the showing of genitalia: this does not occur in Inxeba. The board further tweeted: “The complaints were largely based on the perceived cultural insensitivity and distortion of the Xhosa circumcision tradition (ulwaluko), strong language in the film.” Again, these are reasons not usually associated with pornography. What this means is that the experience of countless young men is irrelevant in a community that should listen to and protect them. This very same board is allowing Fifty Shades Freed to be shown at cinemas, which it touts as a family environment and that should be protected from the perverse. I’ve seen both films and the difference between the sex scenes is that Fifty Shades Freed glorifies violence. It promotes the idea that the violence wealthy businessman Christian Grey perpetrates against university student and eventually Mrs Grey, Anastasia Steele, is healthy and loving. This in a South African society where intimate partner femicide occurs by the hour. Fifty Shades Freed takes the position that as long as the behaviour is legal and consensual, it’s morally fine. The sex in this Hollywood film is explicit and violent. The sex scenes in Inxeba by no means are. As long as we support, normalise and consume content like Fifty Shades, where sexual violence is king, we work against ourselves, and undermine the righteous purpose of ending sexual abuse and domestic violence, especially against women. Yet we continue to promote these themes.

Instead, we should acknowledge that South African culture persists in silencing the voices and stories of men who celebrate and experience their culture in an intolerant world.

I’d rather watch Inxeba than a film franchise that normalises rape myths, the grooming of young women for abuse and sexual violence.


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