Fáðu Já! (“Get Yes!”) is a fantastic educational film from Iceland on sexual consent.
The film is 20 minutes long. (Update: have updated the image below to point to the landing page instead of directly to the video.) You can find versions in other languages as well. And after you watch, come back to read a short email interview I did with Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir, one of the filmmakers.
Interview with Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir:
How did the idea for the film come about?
The film came about in late 2011. A number of locally known and internationally famous men had been accused of rape in the prior months. This sparked debates online and we, the makers of the film, were horrified when we read a comment from a teenage girl who wrote that she’d be thrilled if she were raped by someone famous. It was obvious to us that there is a lack of knowledge about the distinction between sex, on one hand, and sexual violence, on the other. There’s also a creepy glorification of violence in pop culture, which adds to the problem.
Around the same time as we got the idea behind the film, the Ministry of Education was shopping around for ideas for preventative material regarding sexual violence. They liked the idea and decided to sponsor it, along with the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry Internal Affairs. There’s a lot of ministries behind this little film.
Who are the filmmakers?
We are a group of three people with different backgrounds. Brynhildur Björnsdóttir is an experienced TV and radio host with focus on children’s entertainment, Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson is one of Iceland’s biggest pop stars and cultural icon. I’m a published author, playwright and activist against sexual violence. Our combined experience and individual talents were vital to the project. And it certainly didn’t harm to have a famous pop star on board!
And what was your role in the production?
I wrote the script, which was a product of brainstorming sessions and idea exchanges between all three of us.
What is the sex education in Iceland like?
Sex education in Iceland is probably pretty good, when compared with many other countries where it is practically nonexistent. However, we could – and we should – do better. Most sex education focuses far too much on the biological side of sex, the reproduction. But sex is no less an emotional act as a physical one. In my opinion, sex education should focus on the emotional side too, such as learning to set and respect boundaries, as well as understanding the feelings that sex can evoke in you and your partner.
Was the film shown in schools? What was the response like?
Yes, the film was shown in all elementary schools across Iceland on January 30th, 2013. The response was overwhelming. The project got a whole lot of media attention and was featured on pretty much every talk show in the country. The reporters and journalists were noble enough to recognise the fact that the project’s goal (educating youth about sex and sexual violence) is more important than being ‘exclusive’ with the story. So they all interviewed us, more or less. The reviews were extremely positive and I barely heard any negative feedback. Some of the older, ‘cooler’ teenagers said that it was obviously made for the younger kids – but we think the film is for everyone who has ever reached puberty.
One scene in particular seems to really stick in people’s minds, after watching the film. It shows a couple in a restaurant, where the boy decides he doesn’t want the hamburger he ordered. The girl starts to pressure him (“come on, you know you want to…”) until she gets up and forces the hamburger down the boy’s throat. It is a powerful metaphor for rape and it seems to have gotten a lot of people to think.
Could you share some statistics on sexual assault in Iceland?
The largest study on gender-based violence in Iceland, published in 2010, showed that one in four Icelandic women have experienced sexual violence (24%). Unfortunately, this rate of sexual violence against women seems to be very common throughout the world (around one-in-three or one-in-four). A shocking study from 2000 showed that one in five girls and one in ten boys in Iceland experience some form of sexual abuse before they’re 18 years old.
What is the law on rape, and what improvements can be made on it?
70% of rape cases in Iceland are dismissed before reaching the court room. This is a huge problem. The current definition of rape in the Icelandic law says that a person who uses “violence, threat of violence or other means of illegal duress to have sexual intercourse with another person is guilty of rape”. Consent is a non-issue. Local research shows that 25-48% of victims of rape don’t put up physical resistance to their attacker and many people freeze. These victims are not protected by the current wording of the law, because obviously there is no need to use any force or with a person who freezes during the attack (also known as rape induced paralysis). If the law were differently phrased, stating that “having intercourse with someone without their consent is rape” for example, those who freeze during rape would have legal protection and the law would be more inclusive. That would be an improvement. In Icelandic, “Fáðu já” means “Get Yes”. In the end, getting consent from your partner is the only way to be sure that you’re on the same page. It’s really that simple.
PS: Further to the subject of rape induced paralysis (a.k.a tonic immobility) that Þórdís Elva mentioned above, readers should watch this presentation from the US National Institute of Justice titled The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault. It talks about how victims of sexual assault behave and the misconceptions people have – like “Why didn’t she fight back?” You can download the entire transcript as a Word document too.
Here are some other great resources on consent (if you have more, please leave them in the comments):
- Stephanie Zvan debunks the notion that “Consent is hard”.