It is night in the anonymous room of a hostel. A 15-year-old girl lies in bed next to her drama teacher, who is twice her age. She “She told me to forgive him, that I was so pretty, to forget him, as if nothing had happened. And she told me the phrase that has always resonated in my head: ‘We shouldn’t have let it happen’. She is Cristina, and she writes this 20 years later.

And Cristina, the Cristina of that time, saw the scene —he groping her— as if it were happening to another person. It’s called dissociation. In her memory, she is only able to look at the yellow ceiling of the room. If what happened is something we shouldn’t have let happen, she tells herself, it’s something I’m letting happen too. I mean, I’m responsible.

On May 23, 2020, an investigative article by journalists Núria Juanico and Albert Llimós appeared in the newspaper Ara: ‘Twenty years of sexual abuse in the Aula de Teatre de Lleida’. In it, several students from the center recounted the sexual abuse they suffered by the former director and teacher of the center, Antonio Gómez. The events happened a couple of decades ago, between 2001 and 2008, when they were teenagers —they were between 15 and 18—. In 2018 nine former students of the Classroom filed a complaint against the two teachers. But 10 years had passed and the crimes had prescribed. The abuses, of different types, repeated the same patterns: the sexualization of the classes, touching, and an abuse of power by the teacher. In June 2019, the Lleida Prosecutor filed the case and Antonio Gómez disappeared from the map. Of course, with a good compensation.

The film director Isabel Coixet, with whom I have worked for years, read the article by Juanico y Llimós and linked it to me with a brief: “I want to make a documentary about this”. The documentary, which would be called El sostre groc (The Yellow Roof) in honor of all those roofs that we have observed with perplexity and frustration, was born at that precise moment, in a desire that culminated on December 16, 2022, when the documentary was released. released in theaters.

On September 4, 2020, Isabel Coixet received the National Cinematography Award. She thought that after the recognition it would be easier for her to get funding for the documentary. However, a few days later, she received a call from the director of a platform. She had read the Yellow Roof dossier, but she hadn’t found it relevant enough. On the one hand, the crime had prescribed and, furthermore, there were no violations or crimes of blood that were seen on the screen. Then refusals from other platforms were added, which also missed a bit of bait, the morbid sensation of sensationalism, a torn and tearful victim. The women of El techo amarillo — Miriam, Goretti, Aida, Sonia, Marta, Violeta, and Cristina — looked whole, lucid. There was no drama. Therefore, neither financing.

Given the refusals, Coixet decided to do it at his own risk. Now, thanks also to the work of the lawyer Carla Vall, specialized in gender violence, the documentary was presented from La Paeria, the headquarters of the Lleida City Council, to report to the Prosecutor’s Office a dozen new cases that would have been committed between the years 2018 and 2019. So that later they say that the cinema is useless.

The yellow roof revolves around a complex issue: consent. About what it means to say yes and where we say it from. If from the certainty, forming an active part of the decision, or if it is about the yes that is born from social pressure, from an education in which what women aspire to is to be depositories of that so precious thing that is the look and the male acceptance. How are you going to tell him no if he wants you, if he looks how nice he is, if he looks at the message he has written to you, if he is your boss, if he is your teacher. As the philosopher Amia Srinivasan recounts in The Right to Sex, “she kept going for the same reason so many girls and women keep going: because women who sexually arouse men are supposed to finish the job.”

Goretti, at one point in The Yellow Roof, states: “There was no force, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of it.” And Violeta: “I thought we were falling in love.” In reality, we do not always know what we want and we are not always able to express it clearly. In 2017, a story went viral in The New Yorker, ‘Cat Person’, by Kristen Roupenian (included in the volume of stories You’re looking forward to, by Anagrama), which recounted something as bland as some dates that didn’t go quite right. Girl meets boy, they flirt on the phone, and when they finally meet up, she doesn’t like the boy at all, but she lets go, convincing herself that he’s not too bad either. Because once he gets on the train he feels that he cannot stop it: “He was overwhelmed just thinking about all the effort it would take to stop what he had set in motion.” The story ended badly with insults. And we might think, why hadn’t she refused from the very beginning? Didn’t she know what she wanted? But unfortunately, Roupenian’s story sounds familiar to many of us.

In the rehearsal The good sex tomorrow. Woman and Desire in the Age of Consent, psychiatrist Katherine Angel states: “It is tempting to insist that women themselves govern their desires; who categorically know what they want. But does anyone really govern himself? I don’t know about you. I do not. Why should a woman know herself to be safe from violence? Perhaps it is not so much a question of knowing what we want, but that our desire seems lawful to us and equal to that of the other. That we can manifest it without fear.

The journey of El techo amarillo, of which I have been lucky enough to be a part, is summed up, in my opinion, in one image: a woman staring into a ceiling, which can be yellow or any other color and texture. “We still don’t know what it is to be free,” says Srinivasan in the final pages of The Right to Sex. And I add, what has happened to us? How many women, at some point, have stayed there, looking at a ceiling, wondering how we got there. Was this what I wanted? No. And then why can’t I move?