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New Swedish film puts sex back on the map

New Swedish film puts sex back on the map

Published: 14 Jan 2011 10:39 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Jan 2011 10:39 GMT+01:00

Sweden's previous cinematic effort to teach people about the birds and the bees, “Language of love” (Ur kärlekens språk), came out in 1969 and is often cited as one of the reasons why the country became synonymous with sex.

The film, which featured live actors, contained authentic scenes of intercourse and masturbation, and despite the fact that many of the scenes consist of serious round table discussions, the film sparked protests in the UK and was confiscated at the US border, spawning a free speech case that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.

In the intervening years, societal attitudes toward sex and talking about sex have changed considerably. The advent of the internet has also made images and information about sex more readily available to young people and adults alike.

Despite increased access to information about sex, young people in Sweden nevertheless seem in need of a refresher course. Chlamydia infection rates are on the rise, and many seem to be lacking basic knowledge about human procreation.

Thus, public health and education officials in Sweden thought the time was ripe for a new film to increase sexual awareness among Swedish teens.

Entitled “Sex on the map”, the new film, co-produced by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR), is the first sex-ed film for Swedish schools for 25 years.

It’s set in a school library where five teenagers, Abdu, Melody, Kim, Hanna and William, have met to do some extra maths study. The stand-in teacher, Jao, knows less about algebra and equations than he does about what’s really on the teenage mind: sex.

While the set up may sound like something out of a low-budget porn production, “Sex on the map” is about as far from the San Fernando valley as the Ice Hotel.

In a frank and open way, the maths teacher explains everything about sex to the students, from the anatomy of the genitals (including the ‘vaginal corona’, as the hymen was recently christened by RFSU), to the act of sex in all its variations and interpretations.

The subject matter in the film, which ranges from the most basic sexual information to quite complicated emotional and physical issues, is based on real questions that Swedish teenagers have asked RFSU.

Rather than relying on live actors like “Language of love”, the new 28-minute film is animated, featuring detailed anatomical drawings and intimate encounters between semi-life like cartoon characters.

The film’s writer and director, Annamaria Dahlöf, found in researching “Sex on the map” that teenager’s questions about sex had become more and more basic in recent years. It wasn’t uncommon to be asked “Can you get pregnant if you have a bath in the same water that a boy has ejaculated in?” she told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Sweden has led the way in terms of frank discussions of sex for generations, and sex education has been obligatory in Swedish schools since 1955. The open attitude towards sex is largely thanks to the RFSU organisation, which was founded in 1933.

From its inception, the organisation has fought for issues such as the right to an abortion and contraception, sex education in schools and the decriminalisation of homosexuality. When it began, RFSU was funded through sales of prophylactics. Even today a large part of the group’s income comes from the sale of condoms, as well as other products including lubricants, dildos, vibrators and pregnancy testing kits.

A sexuality education expert at RFSU, Hans Olsson, served as project leader for the film and did his best to ensure the accuracy of both its anatomical and emotional content.

According to Olsson, it was high time for a new sex education film for Sweden. The film shown currently shown in schools is a Danish film that made 25 years ago. Being an animation the film has stood the test of time well, but things needed to be updated for a modern audience.

Although the new film is very explicit, Olsson doesn’t think people will be too shocked by it.

“We have already previewed it to a group of 300 people in Gothenburg and it got a good reaction. The audience wasn’t shocked as there’s nothing new in terms of its explicit content. Most people have seen sex on the Internet,” Olsson explains.

When it comes to grading Sweden’s efforts to promote sexual awareness, Olsson gives Sweden mixed marks. By some measures, Sweden is doing very well in comparison to other European countries. There are fewer teenage mothers than in the UK, for example, and attitudes towards sex and sexuality are open.

Overall, says Olsson, Swedish teenagers are “satisfied with their sex lives”.

On the other hand, infection rates for Chlamydia have been on the rise over the last few years and condom use is particularly lax among the 19- to 21-year-olds. However, if a sexually transmitted disease is caught or there is an unwanted pregnancy, there is less of a taboo in Sweden to talk about it and seek help.

The fact that the new film is animated makes it a lot easier to show sex in both an explicit and anatomically detailed way. On an emotional level, cartoon characters also allow the viewer to detach themselves from the action.

Current plans call for it to be shown throughout the Nordic region. A version with English subtitles will also be released, although there are no plans as yet to distribute the film to the wider international market.

And while the new film probably won’t generate as much controversy as Sweden’s last foray into sex education cinema, its creators hope it will help young Swedes learn and talk about sex.

The philosophy of RFSU, and by extension, the forthcoming film, is to be non-judgmental about sex and instead to offer factual advice, rather than take a moral stance.

“Society has to accept that young people have sex and that it is a part of their lives. At RFSU we aim to support rather than restrict young people, in order to help them make healthy decisions,” says Olsson.

“Sex on the map” (Sex på kartan) will have its premiere broadcast on Monday 17th January at 10.30pm on Svergies Television (SVT 1).

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

15:01 January 14, 2011 by jjoensuu
Young people in Sweden need to be told this? haha, I do not believe that.

Besides that the amount of information that is needed for copulation-related activities can easily be communicated with the material that is already available.

More likely is that there are people who find it amusing to make this type of videos and now they think they have found a good excuse for it.
00:50 January 15, 2011 by Tanskalainen
I believe the Mexicans know more about sex than anybody and they don't need any frigging cartoons to explain it.
22:36 January 15, 2011 by tomas R
Hello!

It is the big question to show or not to show the things about sex to young people. But I think that it is important to show these things in video for teenagers. Because the young people must understand the reality of sex life in family. And the important of this thing.

It is my opinion,

tomas (Lithuania)
15:50 January 16, 2011 by Freebie
Recommended viewing perhaps for this particular American high school, considering '....High School in Memphis Deals With 90 Teen Pregnancies'

http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7901507-high-school-in-memphis-deals-with-90-teen-pregnancies
22:49 January 17, 2011 by Dr. Dillner
This reminds me of a song from *Annie, Get your Gun" entitled, "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly." Part of the lyrics:

Folks like us could never fuss

With schools and books and learning.

Still we've gone from A to Z,

Doin' what comes naturally (doin' what comes naturally)

You don't have to know how to read or write

When you're out with a feller in the pale moonlight.

You don't have to look in a book to find out

What he thinks of the moon and what is on his mind.

That comes naturally (that comes naturally).
23:06 January 17, 2011 by Swedesmith
Shucks and I always thought masturbate had to do with fishin'.
21:51 January 18, 2011 by Garry Jones
Are parents consulted before this is shown to kids for consent?

For the rest of my post see the forums. I'd already posted there when I saw this. (Same heading)
23:55 January 18, 2011 by Ivan Juric
After the consentual sex scene you should also show where the "polis" come kicking the door down and arresting the man for rape due to some obscure technicality.
16:40 January 20, 2011 by ismetopher
where can I view this video?
15:36 January 21, 2011 by MarshaLynn
How is it that for thousands of years, civilization has gotten by without sex ed? It's a bunch of hooey and is the spawn of a degenerate society. The people who come up with these ideas are the last ones I would want teaching my children about the birds and the bees. Here is what you should teach: that non-monogamous sex leads to unwanted pregnancies and STDs. There! That's all they need to know. Furthermore, when we have a society that is soaking in sex everywhere -- even on billboards!!! -- then we have to be crazy to think we aren't influencing kids in that direction. When society does not control itself, why does it expect kids to do so? Maybe, just maybe!!!, profligate attitudes toward sex aren't such a good idea for society.
20:03 January 22, 2011 by BobWas
I know it's only an instructional video, how did they have the teacher broach the subject of sex to the maths study group? Sounds like something a pervert would do.

Like, "Psst, kids. Look at this porn I found on the Internet"
10:37 February 1, 2011 by HYBRED
"...Overall, says Olsson, Swedish teenagers are "satisfied with their sex lives".

Envy or jealousy may be part of the problem. Adult Swedes are somewhat uptight when it comes to sex. The older they get the worse it is. They just hate someone else enjoying themselves and getting something they are not.

But underage kids should not be having sex.
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