Review of Classification of Sexually Explicit Teen Book

Media Release 5 Oct 2013
The Secretary for Internal Affairs has approved Family First NZ’s application for leave to apply to the Film and Literature Board of Review to review the classification of Into the River by Ted Dawe.

“The Office of Film and Literature Classification originally reviewed the book, which contains explicit sexual content, highly offensive language and other adult themes, after Family First NZ laid an official complaint. The OFLC acknowledged that it’s suitable for mature audiences 16 years of age and over, but they have made no requirement to warn parents about the content. They say it is up to marketers and booksellers to take the responsibility of warning parents and caregivers – something the OFLC won’t do,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “And NZ Post has provided the Award which is for books aimed at the 13-plus age group.”

“The OFLC bases their judgment extensively on those with a vested interest in the book or its award – for example, the author, the chief judge of the Awards, and a blogger who just happened to have ‘worked on in its initial assessment and editing phase’.”

“They also argue that a low number of calls to the Classification Office suggests there’s little objection. They fail to mention the widespread condemnation by many in the media including the NZ Herald editorial, and they also fail to acknowledge the massive protest to NZ Post calling on them to withdraw the Award given to the book, and that some bookstores refused to sell the book,” says Mr McCoskrie.

The report is also factually incorrect. The OFLC report says “The word ‘f**k’ and its derivatives are used occasionally and the word ‘c**t’ is seen once. The language is not likely to cause harm. These are words and terms that have relatively common usage amongst teenage boys.”

This is factually incorrect. In fact, the c-word is used a staggering total of nine times – in a book supposedly targeted at teens. ‘F**k’ is used 17 times, ‘sh*t’ 16 times, and ‘c*ck’ 10 times, amongst others.

Other concerns with the OFLC’s report are attempts to minimize the issue of having sex under the legal age, illegal drug use, child sex exploitation and the sexual relationship between the student and the teacher, and violent assault.

“The other fascinating aspect is that the report complements the book because of the analysis of the racism. The conclusion is that the analysis of racism is important, but it’s anything-goes-no-worries for teenage sex, illegal drug activity, child sexual exploitation, and violence,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Family First is seeking clear warning labels for parents to be displayed on the cover of the book and for the book to withdrawn from school and public libraries. They have also asked NZ Post to withdraw the Award given to the book.

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