How ‘The 70s’ Became a Morality Play

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IS IT POSSIBLE to talk about gay sex in the 1970’s without talking about hiv/aids in the 1980’s? Are we justified in presenting the 70’s as the decade in which gay men had anonymous sex in public parks, backrooms, and bathhouses, all under the guise of “gay liberation”? The release of a new documentary, Gay Sex in the 70s, raises these and other questions. The documentary made its first appearance last summer at a number of film festivals from New York to Seattle. The seductive title and the offer of a walk down memory lane, not to mention the erotic imagery used to promote it, enticed standing-room-only crowds to these screenings. At the film’s debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, director Joseph F. Lovett explained that his interest in making the film resulted from a conversation he had with a young gay couple in their twenties who were completely unaware of the unbridled sexual activity that took place among gay men in New York in the 70’s.

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