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How Gay Sex Changed the World (2007)

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Ian 'H' Watkins ...
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July 2007 (UK)  »

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Superficial but an engaging potted history nonetheless
10 September 2007 | by See all my reviews

Starting with the legalisation of gay sex in private for adults over 21 years old this film moves quickly through the history of male homosexuality in the UK. Looking at the wider impact on society it covers the reduction of the age of consent, the first gay characters in sitcoms right through to the modern events of gaydar.com and civil partnerships.

The title alone suggests that this is not going to be a gentle documentary that takes a softly-softly approach to the increasing acceptance of male homosexuality – suffice to say that the content has no interest in pandering to those that still would be repulsed by two men kissing (which, lets be honest is still a huge amount of people). At times this is its downside because it does throw garish images onto the screen with abandon and perhaps has details that are too specific considering the breath of the topic it is trying to cover. It did suggest to me a certain amount of homophobe-baiting, understandable perhaps but it doesn't strengthen the film.

Fortunately the rest of the film is quite strong even for the casual straight viewer such as myself. The contributors are perhaps not the tightest or more exclusive group but they are well used and edited to be concise and meaningful while still being personal. The odd contributor proves themselves the exception to the rule but mostly it is all good. Like any potted history of any subject, the film struggles to have a lot of debate or detail and it is fair to suggest that this is a weakness of the documentary – that it rattles forward covering ground without perhaps having a lot of food for thought, but it is hard to criticise it for this because this is also a strength.

Overall then, an interesting potted history across the last forty years of male homosexuality in the UK. Superficial perhaps but engaging for what it is and sat well as part of Channel 4's "40 Years Out" season of films (that provided the detail and debate that this lacked).


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