Privilege, Helplessness, and Choice »« The Merit Delusion

Terrific Icelandic Film on Sexual Consent (plus interview with filmmakers)

Fáðu Já! (“Get Yes!”) is a fantastic educational film from Iceland on sexual consent.

GO WATCH IT!

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.

Young man and young woman sitting awkwardly on a bed, partially undressed.

A scene from the film (image used with permission). The image shows a young man and a young woman sitting awkwardly on a bed, partially undressed.

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.

A woman forcing food into a man's mouth

“The burger scene” (image used with permission). A woman holds a man’s head and forces food into his mouth.

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.

Thank you!

The filmmakers

The filmmakers: (L-R) Brynhildur Björnsdóttir, Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir and Páll Óskar Hjálmtýsson.

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):

 

 

Comments

  1. CaitieCat says

    Shown in elementary schools. Elementary schools. I doubt you could get this shown in half the secondary schools here, and even that would be pushing it south of the border. Elementary schools. That’s so impressive.

    Everything I ever hear about Iceland makes me want to live there. I mean, Canada’s no slouch for progressivism, but these folks have us beat every which way.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Sunil.

  2. Sunil says

    CaitieCat – I don’t think even college principals would agree to screen this film in India. :(

  3. CaitieCat says

    I believe that, absolutely. I think that would be true of some USan colleges/universities too. Not all, certainly.

    I think most universities here would have no problem with it, save perhaps some of the heavily Christian ones (basically theology schools/seminaries with accreditation). Secondary schools would be hit or miss; I’d expect the ones in large urban centres to be likely, and the rural and/or Albertan ones less likely.

    But elementary schools. That’s a dream out of reach here yet. Wow.

  4. Onamission5 says

    I too am flabbergasted that the film was shown in elementary schools without complaint or so much as a single picket line. If my kids’ elementary– or middle school, for that matter– tried to show a film which educated it’s students on issues of consent, it is a fair assumption that I’d not be able to get to the front door of the school for all the throngs of outraged puritans. We have to sign a yearly waiver just to have our kids educated on the biology of the human body from a heteronormative, cis-centric POV (starts in 5th grade), and two years in they have yet to touch on any part of the topic which discusses sex. Abstinence-only is what passes for sex ed in a good part of my state. Thankfully not my school district, but even so, such a blunt and informative film would never pass muster.

  5. Margrét Hugadóttir says

    The film is shown in “lower secondary schools” in Iceland (from ages 13 and up). We have comprehensive schools for children in the ages of 6 to 16 and we call them elementary schools. Great movie, my pupils loved it.

  6. CaitieCat says

    Wow. That’s still impressive; Canadian secondary schools are 14-17 year-olds, “senior public” are from 12-13. We’d be very unlikely to have it shown to senior public, and I’d guess there’d be a pretty good uptake in secondary schools in urban areas, but there would be some that wouldn’t.

    Impressive country you have, ma’am. We are merely envious. :)

  7. Onamission5 says

    Indeed, what CatieCat said!

    Where I live, we’d be hard pressed to have this film shown even in a high school (grades 9-12, so roughly ages 14-18). There are parents here who vehemently oppose their nearly adult teenagers so much as knowing that LGBT people exist, or that condoms are a fairly effective protection against STD’s. The culture surrounding sex here in the US South is so full of shame-and-blame, particularly when it comes to teens, that any concession health educators can get to actually teach factual information is won via prolonged uphill battle and must be sustained with such as well.

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