Chapter Four – Results and Analysis of the Questionnaires

Rebecca Hoad

The aim of the primary research is to obtain information from a group of students on their views towards pornography and censorship.  Within this it hopes to discover changing attitudes and any issues that may be affecting their attitudes.  The chapter will be split into two sections.  The first looking at the questions based around the film, Intimacy, and comparing the feedback with the critics’ responses.  Secondly it will be focusing on the remaining questions within the questionnaire.

Before the analysis is undertaken, it is important to look at the characteristics of the respondents.  The group consisted of twenty people, ten males and ten females.  All were within the same age category, and are students reading similar degrees.  It would have been difficult to detect whether any respondent had a difference of views on this topic, just by looking at their characteristics prior to the research.  Although there may be other background factors of importance, age and gender were the focus for this study, to assess changing attitudes among the younger generation, and especially to pick up on feminist criticisms on the effects of women as an example. 

Firstly focusing on the film, Intimacy that was viewed by the respondents for the primary research.  The aim for this was to access whether the respondents agree with what the critics are claiming.  For example, the film allegedly contained, ‘…some of the most explicit sex scenes in mainstream cinemas.’  (The Guardian, 3 July 2001 -- see references).  The main argument being upheld by the critics is they believe it to be pornographic, and argue that therefore it should not have been classified uncut with an eighteen certificate.  The sex scenes have been described as, ‘…violent, wordless (though not silent) totally lacking in tenderness or romance.’  (Observer, 29 July 2001).  Several other descriptions include, ‘unsexy’ and ‘unintimate,’ (The Guardian, 23 July 2001), ‘raw and direct.’ (Observer, 1 July 2001)  Some of these terms appear to be similar to those made by the respondents in the primary research.  (See Appendix 5, Question 4).  Not one respondent’s replies was complimentary towards the sex scenes. 

Not only have the sex scenes been criticised, but also the entire film has been suggested to be full of, ‘…muddled narration [and] obscurity.’  (Observer, 29 July 2001).  Again another similarity compared with the respondents who described Intimacy as ‘boring’ and found the ‘plot very confusing.’  See the graph below for the full results of this question.

The film has only thirty-five minutes of sex scenes throughout the one hundred and twenty-minute long film, yet this has sparked so much fury, with critics claiming it containing, ‘hardcore sex action between non-porn actors.’  (The Guardian, 27 July 2001).  Whether they are porn actors or not, the critics feel, ‘the restless camera and ragged editing,’ (Observer, 29 July 2001), (which is not deemed as a typical pornographic film by the critics’), will not lead people into thinking Intimacy is not pornographic.  

Intimacy was screened at many art theatres over the U.K., attempting, ‘an artistic aim of bringing cinema closer to the truth about human relations.’  (The Guardian. 3 July 2001).  The director, Patrice Chereau’s intention of the film was to screen, ‘an extremely truthful film about a sexual relationship.’  (Observer, 1 July 2001).  So Intimacy aimed to be a, ‘realistic slice of British life,’ (Observer, 29 July 2001), which according to many critics is why Chereau got away with the content of the film.  However terms like ‘truth’ and ‘realistic’ are very difficult to define, again an issue that has not been defined.  Some critics have agreed with Chereau, that Intimacy is, ‘…anything but pornographic.’  (Collins 2001).  Some of the respondents also agree with this statement.  The response ‘realistic’ cropped up in three of the questions, when describing the sex scenes, so similar to Chereau’s intention.  (See Appendix 5, Question 1 & 4.  See also Figure 4).


The most controversial statement of the film was the depiction of an erect penis.  This has been viewed as hardcore material, according to some of the unofficial working codes within the film industry and the police, and it has been suggested there are more subtle ways to convey meanings.  (The Guardian, 3 July 2001).  ‘It is harder to make a truthful piece of film, about sex when you’re bent on showing everything.’  (The Guardian, 3 July 2001).  Again showing the ambiguity of terms.  It has been suggested that the representations of sex are far from artistic in the conventional sense, but again it is difficult to address what everybody views as artistic.  One critic goes as far to say those individuals watching Intimacy, ‘are no different from pornographic consumers, looking for the money shot.’  (The Guardian, 3 July 2001).  This is a very extreme statement and one that is very biased, which is a problem for a lot of these reviews.  This links in with the discussion made earlier on people developing strong views and moral panics on terms that have be given no hard guidelines, causing problems for both politicians and critics.’


Not only has the director been criticised, but also the BBFC for classifying Intimacy.  Critics have discussed that the BBFC’s guidelines are becoming much more lenient towards sexually explicit material, especially in eighteen and restricted eighteen (R18) film categories.  (The Guardian, 27 July 2001).  The director of the BBFC explained their actions as they believe the, ‘public today are becoming less worried than it used to be about portrayals of sexual activity.’  (The Guardian, 27 July 2001).  The BBFC here believe adults are capable of regulating themselves and are working alongside the State to put this into action.  The feedback from the primary research also displays a clear indication that these respondents believe they are capable of regulating themselves, with fourteen out of the twenty stating individuals should be left to decide.  (See Appendix 5, Question 12.)  The remaining five replied that they felt the State and individuals should both help regulate.  They felt the role of the State in this case should be to place obvious warnings of a films content, then leave it to the individuals to choose.  There are already strict guidelines in place into providing consumer advice on video packaging and age restrictions.  However on films releases individuals have to take an educated guess from the age restrictions and film reviews, if they had access to these prior to watching a film.  This is different to videos that detail essential information about a film and are categorised in to genres.  However the BBFC have acknowledged this problem made apparent to them by the general public, in the 2000 annual report.  They are striving to work with the local authorities to make sure adequate advice is available.  Intimacy had the correct information on its cassette, and also displayed additional information on the front of the cassette, stating it contains ‘sexually explicit material.’


The BBFC claimed the controversy caused by Intimacy, ‘was more the result of the origin and language of the film in question than the images themselves.’  (BBFC 2001).  It was felt, ‘frank representations of sex has always been left to the foreign language cinemas.’  (The Guardian, 17 May 2001).  So Intimacy attracted media attention largely on the basis it was the first English – speaking film featuring strong images of sex.  The BBFC defended themselves by stating other similar films such as ‘Romance’ and ‘The Idiots,’ were accepted, and these also displayed similar sexual explicitness.  (2001).  Critics believe Intimacy is just the beginning of a genre that in time will, ‘damage the nations morals.’  (The Guardian, 17 May 2001).


The research aimed to establish whether the respondents felt Intimacy was pornographic or sexually explicit.  One question asked prior to watching Intimacy was whether any respondent had heard of the film prior to the researcher asking.  The outcome was that not one respondent had heard of Intimacy.  This meant they were not aware of the controversial claims, and only knew of its content by reading the description of the film,  (See Appendix 4) and the content displayed on the video-cassette.  This can then be established they had no biased views and similar to any other individual consuming a video, who can only gain information through the description on the cassette.  The question was then asked whether the respondents felt Intimacy’s content was at all similar to the content of a pornographic film.  This then would be assuming people have the same knowledge as each other about porno films, so the question added, to answer if the respondents had knowledge on similar genres.  The chart below displays the responses.

The highest percentage of responses claimed, ‘no’ it is not pornographic.  There were no major differences between both genders.  Only a small minority claimed Intimacy to be pornographic.  Their reasons for this, was that they believed the story-line was very weak, and it was just an attempt to display sexual material in a film without being cut, which it did.  These respondents also held this similar view in expressing their thoughts on the film.  (See Appendix 5, Question 1).  These three all commented that overall the sex scenes were pointless in the film.  This is displaying a view that these respondents held a dislike to this film, or maybe similar material.  It is not obvious what they disliked about the film, apart from their latter comments about the sex scenes. 


Above is a graph displaying explanations for why the respondents felt Intimacy was not pornographic.  There are only seventeen results, as the remaining three did not agree with this view.

There was a slight mixture of opinions, though the main point expressed was that compared to pornographic material, Intimacy in general displayed less sex scenes, and it involved a story line.  These respondents felt pornography centralises around sex, and holds a very weak or no story line.  Another reason expressed, only by the male group, was that they found it ‘unstimulating.’  This expresses the view, that pornography’s purpose is for sexual arousal only.  This term is also expressed in question 5, 6 in Appendix 4 and question 2 in Appendix 5, again only by males.  These questions have not been prompted, so this is a surprise.  The data seems to indicate within this group, males define pornography as a sexual aid, in contrast with women who never even alluded to such expressions.  This may be females general opinion, however it could also mean females are less open about sensitive topics, again this may be because of what is acceptable in society today.  These results are beginning to uncover what pornography is used for.  Within this research, males have expressed pornography is consumed for sexual arousal. 

Chereau the director, and other reviewers have defended the film stating, ‘Intimacy is more about emotion than sex.’  (Chereau 2001).  It has been suggested the majority who have been criticising Intimacy are those who in fact have not viewed it.  (Chereau 2001).  The director claims Intimacy is not and never intended to be pornographic.  Chereau wants, ‘…audiences [to] look beyond the sexual content of the film and see it as an examination of human nature.’  (2001).  So Chereau feels Intimacy is more true to life, or realistic, rather than pornographic.  It has been suggested that the filming was far from glamorous, and, ‘no attractive lens filters [or] exciting editing’ were used, meaning it is far away from any pornographic film.  (Thompson 2001).  Also the actor’s bodies were not perfect, but again this may have been an attempt for a more realistic sexual relationship.

So far it has been established that Chereau, reviewers and the majority of the respondents believe that by basing Intimacy as a real life story which holds a story-line and does not use the glamorous works such as those in Hollywood, this means Intimacy is not pornographic.  Although Intimacy is not a typical pornographic film, surely this could be a start of a new type of porno film?  Films could become even closer to real life, and so much more realistic, that the problem of the social harm debate could again be raised.  Again this displays the problem the BBFC and Governments attempts with classifying particular genres.

One of the aims was to discover how the respondents felt when watching scenes involving a sexual content.  This was established it was going to be problematic, so questions were asked to tackle this problem, to gain self-ratings.  One question was asked prior to watching Intimacy to understand how the respondents were feeling.  See Appendix 5, qu 8 for these results.

There was a diversity of views, however it was apparent that the males commented on being ‘excited’ and the females were more ‘curious’, or ‘un-bothered’.  This latter comment could be expressing a sensitivity towards the topic.  Referring to the responses, the curiosity expressed by the females, leads to believe they may not be familiar with such genres, whereas the males referring to being excited emphasises they may be familiar and like this type of genre.

This whole area about the differences between the genders is a very interesting discovery.  The question, which followed after watching the film, was to determine whether they held the same views.  (See Appendix 5, Question 2).  Again there was a range of views, and a difference between both genders.  The males followed through their view, but felt ‘unaroused.’  The female’s main comment was they found it ‘amusing’ to watch, and one found it ‘embarrassing.’ The group using the term ‘amusing’ could be a form of hiding their embarrassment.  Three females also felt shocked, again another term suggesting they are unfamiliar with such material.  The males that commented to be unaroused also felt the film was boring or confusing.  (See Appendix 5, Question 1).  This could suggest they did not understand or held a dislike to the film, so mentally they would find this unstimulating.  If the plot were more simplified, then maybe the males would have had a different reaction towards the film.  However this could help defend the directors intention of the film too.  If males are only watching the film for arousal purposes only then, they will be left disappointed, which maybe Chereau wanted.

Now looking at the main findings from the general part of the questionnaire on pornography and censorship.  One of the main aims was to establish whether the State should censor sex scenes or not, which has been discussed earlier in the chapter, and also to discover peoples attitudes on the topic.  Several questions were targeted on attitudes.  Prior to watching the film, questions were asked on how the respondents felt about talking about sex.  (See Appendix 4, Question 5).  Mixed responses were expressed from the males and females.  The males felt that there is not a problem with freely talking about sex in society today, compared to the females who held a higher percentage believing there is a problem.  See Appendix 5 for results of the following question.

Again there was a contrast in views between both genders.  The males responses displayed a more relaxed approach towards the topic, expressing views such as having no problems, or can be led onto feeling ‘aroused’.  The females seem to be less comfortable with the issue, and the majority of the group expressed they would only talk to friends about it.  It can be suggested females find this topic much more sensitive, and believe it is a private activity, and it should stay that way.  The respondents were also asked whether they felt attitudes towards sex have changed.  (See Appendix 5, Question 14).  The majority felt attitudes had changed, with no major difference in genders.  Three out of the four respondents who answered ‘no’ to attitudes changing towards sex, also expressed concerns prior to watching the film, in question five, ‘Do you think there is a problem with freely talking about sex in society today?’  They felt there was an issue with underage pregnancies and high abortion rates.  Females expressed these concerns.  Again there is a very interesting shift here from discussing pornography to issues surrounding sex.  It shows how sex is a general topic of concern for moral panics.  Also it shows how it is very difficult to separate out the issues of pornography and social harm from these other issues.  Appendix 5 has the feedback made by the respondents who feel attitudes
have changed.

There is an evident response from both male and females, which both held contrasting opinions.  Again the males are adopting a more relaxed approach with the topic, and believe it is a much more open topic.  Females agree with this, but the help of the media has contributed greatly towards this.  ‘Television has an enormous influence over our domestic lives,’  (The Daily Mail, 26 March 2002) which this reviewer believes is full of, ‘violence, porn…and vile abuse.’  (The Daily Mail, 26 March 2002).  The female group expressed their concerns on this matter that children are being brought up with this.  The ‘Watershed’ was implemented as a censoring guideline, which many of the respondents stated they were aware of when asked if they knew of any legislation.  The ITC guidelines are as follows.  ‘Before the watershed, any sexual portrayal should be appropriately limited and inexplicit, with nudity only justifiable in a non-sexual and relevant content.  (The Daily Mail, 26 March 2002).  However it is believed guidelines are slipping and the portrayal of sexual references are of a similar nature to this and are being displayed before the allowed nine o’ clock watershed.  These attitudes can also be linked in with their opinions on pornography in general.  Respondents were asked prior to watching Intimacy what they thought about pornography.  The graph above displays these results.

Due to limited data it would make it difficult to determine if certain characteristics can be linked to each gender, so this feedback will be looking at the general opinions made by both genders.  The males comment on mostly pornography to be a useful sexual aid, in contrast to females who are aware of the portrayal of sexual activities, but also mentioned about the availability of illegal material. 

Following on from this, was a question designed to gain an understanding of what their attitudes are towards the sex industry.  (See Appendix 4, Question 2).  Once again the females are aware of the negative effects the sex industry has caused.  Females commented they are against prostitution and see it as an ‘sleazy’ industry.  The male’s initial response saw it as a successful industry, a complete contrast to the female’s responses.  It is prominent throughout parts of the questionnaire that females hold more negative views towards pornography compared to the males.  Feedback from questions designed to draw knowledge from the respondents displayed females had a wider understanding on the issues surrounding pornography and censorship.

However on questions based around the social harm debate, mostly all of the respondents were unaware of this issue, but was not surprised it was being debated, once they were informed.  (See Appendix 5, Question 10 & 11).  Although the males have noted mainly positive comments about pornography, when these respondents were asked specific questions on censoring guidelines they expressed their concerns.  For example making preliminary warnings about material that could be deemed as offensive.  This was also evident when the respondents were asked whether they thought the sex scenes in Intimacy was degrading towards the male and female bodies.  (See Appendix 5, Question 3).  .

Two of the comments made by the respondents suggest them to be aware of what is allowed in sexual material.  They expressed the terms; ‘consenting adults’ and ‘unharmful’ sex scenes.  So this is displaying males are also aware of the many political issues surrounding sex.  These comments link back to the feminist commentary in previous chapters, though it could be argued people’s views are not comparable to actual long-term effects.

From analysing the results it is clear there are a diversity of views.  Firstly the respondents felt Intimacy was not that controversial and believed it not to be pornographic, so disagreeing with many critics of the film.  However there was also some similarity in responses towards the film, made by the respondents and critics, that the sex scenes were blunt but realistic and the plot was confusing.

Once the questionnaires were collated a brief discussion took place between the researcher and the respondents.  Both the male and female respondents contributed their opinions, though some more than others.  This has already been acknowledged in Chapter 3 that individuals work better in different environments more than others.

It became evident the respondents knew little about pornography and its surrounding issues, so would they be the right type of people to be able to claim whether Intimacy was pornographic or not?  It is arguable that the young and the naïve viewers are those that are supposed to be most at risk from this material also.  The majority of the respondents felt individuals should be capable to censor themselves without the State intervening, except on providing preliminary warnings about films.  They see this to be correct, as people are made aware of such issues, by much discussion, a large impact by the media, and by people now being more open about the topic.  However mainly the females have expressed concerns on topics such as the problem with birth control rates.  The females held a complete different view towards the attitudes of talking about sex and pornography.  Males were much more relaxed and open, compared to females who felt slightly embarrassed and treated it as a sensitive subject.  Looking at the females expressing these concerns, defenders of a more liberal attitude might argue that birth control rates as one example are suffering because of the sensitivity, and public embarrassment in discussing the subject.  Again this may or may not be a view held by many females, but clearly far more research would be needed to explore this issue.  It was never expressed why these females found this topic sensitive, apart from stating sex is a 'private activity.’  The research could have emphasised  this point to gain a better understanding from the females.   

The research does seem to show that attitudes are changing towards sex, and even though there are still concerns and the social harm debate is still apparent, people are becoming more relaxed with the topic.  It still is a sensitive topic, and a private activity, but it is evident within the age group studied, sex and legal pornography is becoming more acceptable and normal in society today.  The media amongst others are exposing issues, so also the younger generations are becoming familiar with these issues, with a view that it is a much more freely discussed topic.


Chapter 5