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Swedish site urges people to talk about sex

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11:29 CET+01:00
While the world continues to talk about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's case, Sweden-based journalist Johanna Koljonen is encouraging women around the world to share their feelings online about negative sexual experiences.

Koljonen, who hosts the cultural programme P3 Kultur on Sveriges Radio on Sundays, recently tweeted about a negative sexual experience that she had encountered, which prompted an outpouring on Twitter with the hashtags #prataomdet and #talkaboutit.

The response culminated in the creation of the website Prata om det, which has also attracted commentary in English.

"I'm very happy it happened. It's obvious many have waited for this kind of reaction. Hundreds have followed her and continue to speak about something we don't usually speak about," Sandra Dahlén, an expert on sexuality and gender, told The Local on Thursday.

In addition to addressing rape, the site also encourages participants, including men, to speak out about boundaries and grey areas.

"In Swedish society, we do talk about about rape, but rape is considered something so violent and obscure, that no one really has any experience of it," said Dahlén.

"The everyday situations that women go through, where there is no consent, no one says anything, isn't considered rape. The thought of rape is something very violent that happens in a dark alley when someone attacks you. We must speak more about other situations that come up," she added.

In addition to many situations that arise that are not considered rape by law, Dahlén pointed out that women may not consider certain incidents rape.

"The law calls it a rape, but they don't consider it a rape. Women believe they can't be raped by a boyfriend, friend, or husband, that it must a stranger attacking her outside for it to be considered a rape," she explained.

The site is attracting global response in light of conflicting reports and a backlash against what is perceived as Sweden's open-ended and overtly feminist rape laws.

Among the more vocal criticisms was a blog post from controversial American film director Michael Moore last Thursday. Moore, one of Assange's most outspoken supporters who has put up bail money for Assange, called Sweden a safe haven for thousands of Swedish rapists.

Dr. Anu Koivunen, associate professor in the department of cinema studies at Stockholm University, sees parallels in the way social media was used in the creation of the site.

"In some sense, it is a reaction against harassment against the two women who filed a complaint against Julian Assange, using the same media and force of social media to participate in the discussion," she said.

"The talk of sexuality and intimacy brings it scandal value, while the names give it authenticity where one could ask, 'Could I be involved in a similar negative sexual experience?'" she told The Local.

Although the attention on the Assange case triggered the response, Koivunen believed that the discussion managed to distance itself from the WikiLeaks founder right away.

"Last Tuesday, when it started on Twitter, it moved away from Julian Assange right away. The whole phenomenon has parallel tracks, one track ties it in with him, another track is not interested in Julian Assange at all," she said.

"It is about the ethics of sexual citizenship, what kind of responsibilities one has. Discussing sexuality is a complex issue. There is a genuine desire to talk about it outside of Julian Assange," she added.

Koivunen pointed that there is a certain amount of space in the Swedish public sphere for public debate about negative and troublesome sexual experiences

"There is a need to talk about it for real. Julian Assange is not dependent on it. He couldn't account for this big urge for revelatory confessions in the public sphere. talkaboutit opens up a space to discuss sex in a manner that is different from the discourse invited by Sex and the City or 'sex as commodity,'" she said.

"It is interesting to see how people are discussing this, feminists, anti-feminists, straight, queer. It's a real mix who finds this talk about sex and consent important," she added.

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