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DVD Review: Gay Sex in the 70s

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I was glad when Gay Sex in the 70s mercifully came to a close. Former ABC producer/director Joseph Lovett (20/20, State of Denial) attempts to direct and document the New York gay scene in the aftermath of the 1969 Stonewall riots to the first cases of AIDS in 1981. Interviews with several middle-aged gay men are interspersed with grainy footage of gay life in the 1970s – bathhouses, pornography, Chelsea Piers. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that the only thing gay men did in the 1970s was have lots of sex. Complete strangers would just shoot you a glance ("You would have sex several times a day," anonymously, of course) and you retired to the nearest private or semi-private place.

"Sex was the best way to break the ice," argues Larry Kramer, a well known HIV-positive activist and playwright. "It's much easier to talk to someone after you've had sex." About the only problem was the relative blandness of gay porn: "It couldn't compete. Anything that was in pornography you could have in the street in abundance every day. Life was a pornographic film." After just a few minutes, I found myself terribly bored, listening to stories of the sexual exploits of the interview subjects.

A couple of the men do acknowledge wondering at the time if their ‘free love’ approach to life would become an issue: "A number of my best friends, we used to talk about, you know, are we headed for trouble?" But the prevailing attitude was, "If we catch a disease or anything, we just go to the doctor. Everything is curable."

Oh, how wrong they were. As a heterosexual female born in the 1970s, I know it’s impossible for me to understand what being a gay man in that time was like. However, because Gay Sex in the 70s plays at times like a watered down piece of porn, for some the documentary will fit every stereotype they have about the gay lifestyle.

The best part of Gay Sex in the 70s was when some of the interview subjects talked about what it was like growing up gay in places like Georgia and Kentucky in the 1950s and 1960s. Even those who lived in New York were forced to be very secretive about their sexual preferences before the Stonewall riots. I would have liked to hear more about that, but the documentary isn’t called Gay Sex in the 70’s for nothing.

There is nothing special about the DVD. The film is presented in 4×3 letterbox and Dolby 2.0 sound. The disc includes closed captioning, the theatrical trailer, photo gallery, and information on more titles from Wolfe Video.

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About Rebecca Wright

  • Jenkins

    [quote]I know it’s impossible for me to understand what being a gay man in that time was like.[/quote]

    Whorish……….