Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography

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Date: 1981

Region: North America

Subject: Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Film Video


Artist: Bonnie Sherr Klein

Confronting Bodies: Ontario Board of Censors (aka Ontario Film Review Board Board, Ontario Film Authority)

Date of Action: 1982 to 1984

Location: Ontario, Canada

Description of Artwork: Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography is a documentary focusing on the pornography industry as an opposing force to feminism. It criticizes the industry's use of violent images to dehumanize women and promote violence against them.

The Incident: It is a persistent myth that this film was banned in Ontario. Although involved in a court action, it was never banned, and eventually classified PG.

In April of 1982, a group identifying itself as the Ontario Film and Video Appreciation Society submitted four films to the Board of Censors, requesting permission to exhibit them. Two of the films, Art of Worldly Wisdom and Rameau's Nephew, were approved, with restrictions on when and where they could be shown. The Board refused to classify Not a Love Story, on the grounds that the owners of the film, The National Film Board, had not released it for commercial exhibition. In addition, no review copy had been submitted, as required by the Theatres Act. The Board banned the fourth film, Amerika, due to explicit sexual activity. The Society took the Board to court, claiming the decisions on all four films were unconstitutional.

In March of 1983, the court ruled that the Board's actions in the cases of Art of Worldly Wisdom, Rameau's Nephew, and Not a Love Story, were constitutional. Regarding Not a Love Story, the court stated "the applicants were seeking permission to show a film they did not own and which they had no right to exhibit. The board does not have to spend its time engaging in theoretical activity." However, "the decision to prohibit the public exhibition of Amerika must be quashed because it was an interference with the freedom of expression of the applicant that was not based on a legally binding standard."

Both parties appealed, and the appeals were dismissed. The Ontario government subsequently updated the regulations for the Board so that there would be legally binding standards.

Results of Incident: The Ontario Film Review Board eventually granted a PG classification to Not a Love Story, backdated to February 1982.

Sources: Re Ontario Film and Video Appreciation Society and Ontario Board of Censors, 1983 CanLII 1923 (ON SC),

Re Ontario Film & Video Appreciation Society and Ontario Board of Censors, 1984 CanLII 1824 (ON CA),

Ontario Film Authority