‘It’s a Sin’ was the talking point of the country for a while, and like many others, I devoured the series the night it was released. It made my heart swell, shattered it into pieces, fixed it up again with the cheapest tape possible, only to then fall apart and splinter into even smaller shards.
The most profound impact the show had, however, is the conversations and discourse the series prompted. An open and raw depiction of the AIDS crisis on mainstream television exposed the lack of consideration from the government and other people, while highlighting the stigma that still surrounds HIV and AIDS, and sparked further discussion with individuals sharing their own experiences. Russell T Davies is a mastermind, known for breaking down barriers and creating raw and realistic portrayals of gay life, and ‘It’s a Sin’ was no different. It was constructive and heart-warming, but the positive discourse also came with the negative, perpetuated in this case by The Sun.
The other smash-hit TV show of 2021, ‘Bridgerton’, serves as a point of comparison for one journalist at the publication I prefer to deny the existence of. ‘Bridgerton’s sex scenes were described as “steamy” and “the hottest sex scenes ever”, versus ‘It’s a Sin’, which featured “explicit” sex scenes which left viewers “shocked”. Are you angry at this? You should be.
The clear double standard here towards the depiction of queer sex is simply wrong. What about sex between two men is “explicit” and “shocking”? I’ll tell you what is explicit and shocking about this, nothing. The explicit and shocking aspect of this, I would argue, is the clear homophobia.
The headlines covering ‘Bridgerton’ and ‘It’s a Sin’ were compared and circulated side-by-side, highlighting the blatant prejudice to the point where the publication backtracked. A change of title in light of the uproar was welcomed, but the damage was already done. Sex between queer people is historically undocumented in mainstream media, but in no way does this mean it doesn’t exist or happen, because it does. It was a breath of fresh air to see this on screen.
Unlike those who write for the publication I’m still choosing to redact the name of, I don’t live under a rock in the Stone Age, and I acknowledge that queer people have sex. Any denial or disapproval of this fact is inherently homophobic. Homophobia and a lack of tolerance kept realistic and unapologetic representation off our screens for years, but now this representation is treated with hostility and ridiculed, instead of being celebrated. Naturally, queer people are frustrated.
This example also demonstrates that homophobia is still a problem in the UK, regardless of the steps that have been made in recent years. Hate crime still exists, individuals are still ostracised from their families, and although the world has become a bit more tolerant, it has paved the way for homophobia to change and adapt. Microaggressions like the headline in question prove queer people are still sometimes viewed as inferior or lesser, even subconsciously, and I firmly believe the headline would have slipped under the radar if the comparison had not been drawn.
Sex is sex. Between a man and a woman, two men, maybe three men if we’re going off the depictions shown in ‘It’s a Sin’, it’s all sex. There is nothing shocking about it, and if you are set on describing it in detail, it’s all steamy; it’s all hot, regardless of who it is between.
If you’re shocked by gay sex, then your homophobia is the shocking thing, not what you’re watching.