Smooth sailing is my creative response to reading “I never called it rape” by journalist Robin Warshaw. The book focuses on the hidden epidemic of acquaintance and date rape based on a nationwide study in the USA. After reading it, I felt so angry and disappointed because time and time again, these women were let down by the society that was meant to protect them. The studies presented in this book clearly show that sex is still seen through a male lens. It also highlights the truth about rapists: they are not these mysterious and shady characters that lurk in the dark, typically depicted in movies. Often the sexual assault is perpetrated by an acquaintance or a person in the victim’s social circle.
The book explains that a high percentage of rape cases are not extremally violent. In fact, many victims find it hard at first to identify their experience with sexual assault because it doesn’t line up with the stereotypical extreme violence depiction that is seen on TV and in film. If a victim can struggle to identify rape, there must be men failing to recognise their actions as sexual assault as well.
A single thought kept circling in my head. If only there were ways for men to relate more intimately to the female experience. If they could experience what it’s like to be sexually harassed, objectified and overpowered by men, then maybe, they might be able to reflect on their own past actions. In this film, the protagonist experiences the same sexual assault that he has inflicted on his girlfriend at the start of the film. This assault forces him to assess his past actions and brings him to the reckoning that his behaviour is of a rapist and an abuser.
This film will bring awareness to the complexity of sexual assault and may instigate men to abandon their old misogyny, which causes so much harm to society. These thoughts led to the concept of Smooth Sailing. I wanted to use the all-time classic body-swap narrative but with a gut-punching twist. Having chosen such a heavy subject matter, I decided to make this film a dark comedy early on. Humour is a form of psychological processing; it is a coping mechanism that can help people deal with complex and conflicting ideas. Humour is interwoven into the fabric of our everyday existence, and it allows us to change the way we think and possibly the way we act.