Thursday, July 24, 2003

Two-minute masturbation

Three weeks ago, I was all Ken Parked-out.

But reading this excellent recent piece (first appearing in The Hobart Mercury's Sunday Tasmanian, of all places), I’ve had a second wind. According to Jane Rankin-Reid, the ratio decidendi for the film’s censorship was simple – the two-minute masturbation scene. No other critic seems to have highlighted this particular scene, although film critic David Stratton has noted, that while the scene of male masturbation is real, there is no real sex between the actors*.

Even though it strikes me as an exceedingly worthy topic of debate, the topic – “that real male masturbation on screen is more/less offensive to the average person than real sex between the actors” – I don’t propose to go there in this forum. Year 10 boys could (ahem) handle it with much more aplomb (boom boom), I’m sure.

I am interested, however, in the two-minute length of the masturbation scene, and what it might say about the Australian national character (given that Australia has been very much an exception among nations, in taking umbrage to Ken Park). Is it that two minutes is on the slow, enjoying-yourself-just-a-bit-too-much, side for the average Aussie bloke?

On the other hand, following the great sex-education flick verite tradition, is two minutes just a neither here nor there length of time for the objective act – long enough for the excitement to build (in both actor and audience), but not long enough to be the scientific norm for such things, and so not quite right and proper?

A third possibility is that Australia’s censors, being incredibly au fait with the dubious cinema tradition of interminable masturbation films, and scenes therein (okay, there’s only one other that I know of, Andy Warhol's 1964 35-minute snoozefest, “Blow Job”), have decided to spare a new generation of young minds from the right-of-passage chore known as Attending Arthouse Cinema?

* “Sense and censorship” by Lynden Barber, The Australian 9 July 2003 (no URL)

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