"I think it's about the sexual agency of female characters. The scene portrays two women in a sexual situation connecting emotionally with one another," "Afternoon Delight" filmmaker Jill Soloway told Flavorwire. "That might be what was 'uncomfortable' for the MPAA."
Graves insists no such bias exists and the rating reflects the graphicness of the scene. "When you are a PG-13 or if they're very low in the R, context can move the needle one way or the other," she says, but differentiating an R from an NC-17 often comes down to what specifically is shown, the length of the scene, and to some degree the "gut feeling" of the parental panel involved.
"It's not a science, it's a matter of perception and don't forget these are parents [communicating] information to other parents," Graves says.
Filmmakers unhappy with their ratings have two choices: an appeals process which is overseen by a separate board distributors, exhibitors and other industry independents (Graves says less than 10 out of every 700-800 films end up appealing their ratings and most of them apply for cases of profanity, as the standard used there is far more finite than for other aspects of the system) or by considering the reasons the parental board chose the rating that they did and making alterations from there.
"We are not professional and we are not editors, we don't go in to this feeling we're editing," Graves says. "We go in feeling we're trying to help them edit to get a different rating if they want it."
For those outside of the film industry who are critical of its system, Graves says that the internal studies show that parents – who she says the ratings are for in the first place – are happy with the current standards. The MPAA would not make any of its internal research available for the public. However, Romer is in the midst of his own survey examining the satisfaction parents have with the system.
"If used correctly, we think we're giving them a correct tool and when we do our research, the people who use them think they're quite accurate," Graves says.