On Wednesday 25th April, the Film Society hosted a screening of Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, a documentary produced by Newcastle alumnus Helen Taylor. The film analyses spring break and hook up culture in America, but its message is easily transferable to a night out in Newcastle. Liberated showed how sexual violation is normalised in this setting, and how something that seems like harmless fun can quickly escalate into straight up sexual assault.
After the screening there was a panel discussion, with the director (Benjamin Nolot), producer (Helen Taylor), Sarah Craggs (the Welfare and Equality officer at Newcastle University), and Kimberleigh Andrews & Shay Douglas who were both interviewed in the film. Shay, who was shown in the documentary to embody hook up culture, seen trying to sleep with as many women as possible and saying, ‘sex is about the number’, kicked things off by talking about his journey since being filmed.
Shay’s segment of the documentary was filmed five years ago, and he said that he now tries to be loving and respectful towards women, rather than seeing them as objects of sexual gratification. Kimberleigh, who in the film discussed worrying about how her little sister will be treated when she grows up, was asked if that is still a concern for her. Kimberleigh said that it was but that she hoped she would be able to show her sister the film to educate and warn her about the problems of hook up culture.
The discussion grew heated when a student voiced concern that as an Indian, gender non-conforming lesbian, the student’s experience was not represented in the film. Benjamin responded that the film was made as a snapshot of life at spring break and that the intention was not to silence or negate other experiences. Kimberleigh said that she was Mexican and bisexual but acknowledged that experiences of sexuality and sexual assault is different across different sexualities and races, and that they cannot always be grouped together.
Helen discussed the key demographic of the documentary, which is college and university students. Liberated is being screened across universities in both American and the UK. Helen said that she hopes the documentary will give students the courage to resist the pressures of culture. Sarah Craggs talked about the issue of consent on a university campus. She said that all students understand that rape is sexual assault, but that not all students recognise that many instances of sexual assault exist other than rape. She also said that students need to learn that consent is not always just a simple issue of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and that non-verbal communication is important.
Roughly 150 people attended the screening, a testament to the buzz that FilmSoc created for the event. However, for those who weren’t at the screening, Liberated is available to watch on Netflix, and is well worth its 86 minutes run time. This is a challenging, unflinching and insightful piece of cinema.