I mentioned yesterday a really interesting podcast I’d listened to about the history of sex education in Sweden and Australia. The program discussed different attitudes towards things like nudity and sexuality and contrasted the difference between the many different adolescent sex education experiences of those of us “of a certain” age.
I think it’s reasonably true to say that during the 1970s and 1980s there was a strong perception in Australia that Sweden was far more “liberal”, sexually speaking. It was certainly the view of one of the people who spoke on the program, Queensland morals campaigner, Rona Joyner. She was “a woman who for years, kept sex education out of Queensland public schools”, according to Maxine McKew in a speech a couple of years ago. To be honest,
I’d completely forgotten she existed – Rona, not Maxine – until I heard the program. Once reminded, a flood of memories came back of the power she exerted back then. Though often mocked during my time at university in Queensland in the mid-1980s, she exerted significant power on the Bjelke-Peterson government back then. Yes, I’m that old!
On the podcast, she described Sweden as a country that had lost its way on sexuality and morality (or words to that effect). Part of the perception, I guess, came from a series of sex-related films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These films included Kärlekens språk (The Language Of Love), I Am Curious (Yellow) and (Blue), Inga and The Seduction of Inga (which, incidentally came with music written by Bjorn and Benny from ABBA). I actually have a vague recollection of one of them being advertised on my local television station, Channel 8 in an “adults only screening” at the city hall (or something like that).
So, thanks to Mr Google, I went in search tonight of information about these films and can offer you the following mini-reviews. They come with a rider: I haven’t watched the films in full. I’ve mostly skipped over the “boring bits” and so these are more “perceptions” and “generalisations” rather than real-life Margaret and David-style complex, considered reviews.
Kärlekens språk was correctly translated as The Language Of Love because that’s all they seem to do in the film. For most of the film, there’s a group of people sitting around talking about sex and morality. The conversation is then interspersed with “how to” components which, frankly, were probably a little too “close up” and “gynecological” for me. If you have absolutely no knowledge of Swedish it looks like you’ve channel hopped to the worst dinner party in the world.
As quickly as conversation dealt with sexuality, you might have imagined the dinner party then turned to a discussion of how to put together a Billy bookcase from IKEA. I absolutely concede it was a ground-breaking film, though it didn’t stand up well to the test of time in my view.
There’s a remake of the film featuring a rather dishy, Swedish actor, turned politician called Martin Hedman. Of more interest for me were the films I Am Curious (Yellow) and I Am Curious (Blue). The yellow and blue, of course, relates to the colours of the Swedish flag.
As moments in history, these films seem to stand up well to the test of time. They locate the attitudes towards sexuality, nudity, and so on within the context of the 1960s anti-war movement. There are lots of people protesting about nuclear energy, street posters asking people if they supported Franco, there’s an art project in Yellow which involves an “edgy” nude camera shoot, and a couple has sex on the steps of the Royal Palace in Stockholm. In the context of growing awareness about new ideas, nudity and sexuality seem well located.
And besides, the sex is actually quite sexy, perhaps also because both films are in black and white (and that always looks good). So in lieu of having missed Swedish class tonight, I did a little bit of independent study. Or that’s how I’m justifying having searched tonight (and found and watched) some late 60s, early 70s Swedish soft-porn.