How Gay Sex Changed The World, Channel 4

by | Jul 24, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Following the controversial and unexpectedly bleak Clapham Junction, Channel 4’s Gay Season continued with a more populist approach to the history and legacy of legal homosexuality. It took a bright, breezy and fun approach to challenging prejudices – however in doing so, it ironically revealed a rather ignorant recollection of history.

What was good about it?

• In just an hour, the programme covered an impressive timespan. From the end of illegality in the late 1960s where al fresco and public sex were the only real opportunities for gay people seeking sex, to the emergence of gaydar and civil partnerships, the show analysed multiple facets of the modern gay experience and how its sexual awakening has evolved.

• Some of the reminiscences by figures such as Peter Tatchell and Michael Cashman, who tirelessly fought political and public prejudice (and still do), were genuinely moving and inspiring. Tatchell is often portrayed as a crude madman but his veracity cannot be doubted.

• The focus on how clubbing culture influenced sex and vice versa was pertinent and thoroughly fascinating. We felt rather upset that we weren’t at leather bar The Colherne in the late 70s enjoying men with facial furniture – it looked like a blast.

• The old ?handkerchief in the back pocket? legend where the positioning and colour of a hanky represented the sexual preferences and fetishes of its owner. It?s still an exciting prospect today but we’re amazed that people didn’t get all the varieties of options mixed up after a few beers.

• The soundtrack: gay culture has always been synonymous with memorable music and the programme validated this effectively. Boy George, Erasure, David Bowie, Bronski Beat and even punk were all here and sounded fantastic. Perhaps the ultimate symbol for modern sexuality, Frankie’s Relax and its refrain still reverberate and its debauched video is as contentious (and thrilling) now as it was in the 80s.

• Art critic and professional toff Brian Sewell gloriously declared that ‘he never came out, he emerged’. A refreshing and utterly surprising talking head.

• We will never ever tire of reliving the first sex scene in Queer As Folk.

• The camp-tastic footage of Andy and Vince from Erasure doing the can-can in drag for their video to Who Needs Love Like That?

What was bad about it?

• The emphasis on being uplifting and light was ultimately at the detriment of its historical integrity. While it wasn’t afraid to cover serious issues such as Aids, such a topic was dealt with in a matter of minutes and any negative effects which still live on today were skimmed over. Yes, improvements in fighting the disease are thankfully available this century; however the narrative implied that all prejudice and stereotypes surrounding the disease have been removed. One only has to look at the alarming rise in STDs in the heterosexual young to realise that new generations still believe the disease won’t affect them or their sexual orientation.

• Similarly, the programme’s argument implied that straight people now are really jealous of gay people and their available promiscuity. As Clapham Junction so brilliantly illustrated on Sunday, a lot of middle-class insistence that they “love the gays” actually masks an inherent difficulty with understanding their lives fully.

• The title How Gay Sex Changed The World was ridiculously ambitious since the programme only focused on developments in the far West. We weren’t allowed to discuss why homophobia has actually increased in the past 10 years in Eastern Europe, China or Russia.

• The objective of covering “gay sex” was also fundamentally flawed because it only concerned men and not women. There were no female contributors or figures portrayed and while history of homosexuality has treated the sexes differently, parallels between the two are commonplace.

• Sadly, for every Brian Sewell, there was an H from Steps. Why is it that a man still cannot go through professional life without including a pathetic moniker in his name? H’s main contribution was that it actually “helps being gay now” – not for us when you’re involved Ian.

• The soundtrack was fantastic but the depressing and inevitable consequence was the realisation that we now have a music scene bereft of out and proud equivalents to Tom Robinson, Boy George, Andy Bell and Jimmy Somerville. And before you shout Scissor Sisters! Elton! Will! please think about why none of their videos feature cruising, cottaging and references to anal G-Spots.

• Mark Simpson. We love his work; however he really is immensely adept at coming across as a complete twunt.

• All in all, we couldn’t help but wonder why, if gay sex truly has changed the world for the better and is now accepted, it takes a one-off Gay Season late night on telly to really champion alternative sexuality in the public arena.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

24/07/2007

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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