• Michelle Johnson

How short film Spaghetti is tackling the conversation around consent

Journalist Michelle Johnson hosts BAFTA Q&A for world premiere of Spaghetti the movie  [© Tasha Best Photographer /]
Hosting the Spaghetti cast Q&A at the short film's BAFTA world premiere [© Tasha Best Photographer /]

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to host a cast Q&A for short film Spaghetti, at its world premiere at BAFTA, London. Starring filmmaker Mary McBain and actor/producer Dan Burman, along with actors Robert Dukes and Nina Rubesa, Spaghetti is a darkly funny and incisive short movie that aims to open up conversation around sexual consent. [Watch the film below]

When the #MeToo movement first gained traction online in 2017, it wasn't just famous names calling out instances of sexual misconduct and assault within Hollywood. Although many stars – including Alyssa Milano, Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon and Terry Crews – used their high profiles to share their own stories, they were among 19 million people from diverse countries and industries who posted using the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter in less than 12 months.

The sheer magnitude of the experiences shared is staggering and, along with the subsequent investigations (last year the New York Times listed 201 powerful men, including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, who have since been ousted from their jobs) makes #MeToo one of the most significant viral campaigns of the decade.

At the time, surely none of the women and men who confirmed they had experienced sexual misconduct, assault or harassment could have guessed that it would spark more than solidarity and debate, but actually help change attitudes and inspire the beginnings of genuine legislative change at home and abroad.

Of course, while there's still a way to go, there has also been backlash, including meaningful criticism that focusing on the perpetration of sexual misconduct isn't enough to make long-lasting changes. The movement's founder, activist Tarana Burke, said last year that she feared media backlash had framed the movement as anti-men, when in fact it should be "about the one in four girls and the one in six boys who are sexually abused every year, and who carry those wounds into adulthood".

So, now that #MeToo has put the spotlight on the issue, how do women and men together tackle the problems of misconduct?

One aspect of the issue is early education, and this is where Spaghetti writer Mary believes teens would benefit from learning more about how to negotiate consent in any form. Having control of our body, and having a true understanding of sexual consent, could be key to dealing with issues of harassment and assault in adulthood.

Although sex and relationship education in schools can be seen as a tricky subject that's being widely debated – how young is too young? Could teaching early lead to earlier sexualisation of our children? – most global evidence suggests that early SRE actually teaches young adults to wait longer and make more informed choices.

And regardless, teaching young adults about bodily consent, bodily autonomy, how to negotiate – and continue negotiating – what they do and don't want, and how to accept when someone else says 'no', well. I can't see any part of life where that isn't a powerful benefit. And as Mary says, learning how to communicate with your partner isn't just key to positive sexual encounters – it's also pretty sexy.

Mary and Dan are currently trialling an educational programme in secondary schools which they hope to roll out, using Spaghetti as a tool through which to begin these crucial conversations.

Knowledge is power and, like Team Spaghetti, I'm hopeful that improved education about consent will empower people in years to come to complete those legislative strides that today's campaigns began.