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BFI Flare Film Festival Review: Age of Consent

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This intriguing and frequently explicit documentary charts the history of a London leather bar, The Hoist, which has been running since 1996.

This club is frequented by men who wish to have sex with other men within a new and exciting environment (often with the help of a harness or two). By taking this venue as its base and starting point, the film then takes the audience through the history of male same-sex activity from partial-decriminalisation in the 1960s right up to the use of apps such as Grindr in twenty-first century Britain.

The style is refreshingly straight-forward, and directors Charles Lum and Todd Verow steer their daring and in-your-face film around many fascinating subjects.

Did you know that the law that sent Oscar Wilde to prison for his homosexual encounters was only dropped in 2003? I certainly did not before seeing this film and this is just one of a number of facts and case studies Lum and Verow (along with contributions from Peter Tatchell, among others) use to paint their history of gay sex.

The documentary feels as if its sticking two fingers up towards those who want gay people to ‘assimilate’ into mainstream society rather than occupy the more kinky corners of the world of sex.

On a personal level, I have difficulty with this, as I see issues regarding sexual fetish behaviour and homosexuality as entirely separate and support the ideology that says that being gay should be just as ‘mainstream’ as being heterosexual. Fetish and bondage sex is a side to sexuality that occurs in both camps – both gay and straight – and iron-clamping it to a history of gay sex is interesting though not entirely helpful.

The use of extremely graphic sexual imagery also got on my nerves. I can see Lum and Verow were trying to achieve (a non-apologetic insight into full-on body-pounding), and to some extent they succeed, though I fear the images of people urinating whilst masturbating (among others) may alienate those who would otherwise find a lot of to like about this lively film.

I wouldn’t recommend watching this with your mum, dad, sister, brother and Auntie Doris, but if you are in the mood for a documentary that has verve, style and passion, you could do a lot worse than this.

Age of Consent (2014), directed by Charles Lum and Todd Verow, was screened as part of the BFI Flare Film Festival in 2014. 

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