Freedom, Sex and Power: Film/Video Regulation in Ontario by Taryn Sirove (Wreck, 2008)


Ontario Film and Video Appreciation Society vs Ontario Censor Board, Feb 1983. Drawing by Dave Anderson

This impeccably researched scholarship is courtesy of Taryn Sirove. It charts the resistance to provincial censorship beginning in the 1980s, with stops along the way to weigh in on court dramas, busts in Peterborough, the Funnel, Richard Fung on porn and race, and so much more. Here is Taryn in her own words:

The article came out of my Master’s Thesis in Visual and Material Culture at Queen’s University. I found an interest in this history while researching a 1986 exhibition called “Habits,” my focus at the time being on media arts histories and pro-feminist work by male artists. This video screening featured work by Clive Robertson, Richard Fung, John Greyson, Gary Kibbins, and Colin Campbell, all prominent anti-censorship activists. Film/video regulation and the way an engaged cultural citizenry confronts the state continue to be research interests of mine. I’m currently on parental leave from a postdoc in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University to spend time with my 1 and 3 year old boys.


“Ontario is getting out of the film censorship business,” announced the headline of the December 10, 2004 Toronto Star. This, after Glad Day Bookshop, a small retailer specializing in queer literature and videotapes, won a decisive legal battle against the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB). Glad Day Bookshop appealed its conviction for illegally distributing the sexually-explicit video, Descent, by “renowned” American filmmaker, Steven Scarborough. The bookshop called upon the Federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms to overturn a provincial regulation – the Theatres Act – which required that all videos and films be either approved by the OFRB, be partially censored, or altogether banned. Despite Glad Day Bookshop’s successful legal challenge to the Act and the OFRB, the Star headline was totally erroneous; as of today, the OFRB has retained its powers for the prior restraint and banning of film and video in Ontario.

In this essay, I map of number of interventions and contests around the regulation of video and film from the 1980s until the present. In addition to considering…

If you’d like to go on reading please click on the link for the pdf of this beautifully researched essay Freedom, Sex and Power