Vietnam Mulls "5-Second Rule" for Movie Sex

Fifty Shades of Grey Still 4 - H 2015
Courtesy of Universal

Fifty Shades of Grey Still 4 - H 2015

Prominent Vietnamese filmmakers have criticized the proposal as an arbitrary and ineffective way to regulate adult content in film.

It's perversely simple. 

Vietnam's cultural authorities have proposed something like an adult version of the schoolyard "five-second rule" for movie censorship — five seconds of onscreen sexual passion is OK, but any longer, and you're in the danger zone.

Ngo Phuong Lan, the head of Vietnam's national movie bureau, announced the proposal at a meeting in Hanoi on Friday, Vietnam's Thanh Nien newspaper reports. According to the draft guidelines, Vietnamese movies would have to limit sex scenes to five seconds in length, with no more than three such scenes per film.

The measures are in line with a tradition of strong sexual censorship in the country. Earlier this year, Vietnamese censors cut the sex scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey, reducing the overall running time of the film by 20 minutes. 

Vietnamese filmmakers are up in arms, saying the rules would unreasonably limit their artistic freedom.

Prominent directors Nguyen Thanh and Van Bui Tuan Dung voiced criticisms in the Vietnamese media, arguing that a time limit was a poor metric for regulating sexual content in film, as what's actually shown, and the manner in which it is presented, is much more relevant.

"Some shots are under a second," Van told Thanh Nien, "but they are unbearable anyway." 

Nguyen Van Nhiem, head of Studio A Vietnam, argued that an erotic movie scene should be judged according to its production and artistic value, rather than arbitrary length.

The draft rule has also been criticized for only mentioning female nudity in its language, leaving observers wondering whether male nudity would be fully permitted, or hadn't even been considered due to sexism.

The five-second rule is just one part of Vietnam's broader plan to introduce a revised film ratings system, which would create a new category for films that are deemed suitable only for viewers 18 years old and above. The national movie bureau has said it would consider the public's comments before the rules are finalized. The new ratings system is expected to go into effect in early 2016.