On the 21st March 1996 underneath a railway in Vauxhall, London, the UK’s first men-only rubber & leather fetish bar opened its doors. Inspired by some of the more niche clubs in Berlin, The Hoist was to be a space where men could meet and explore their sexuality in a safe and kinky environment.
The documentary by Charles Lum & Todd Verow is a fiercely proud celebration of individual freedoms and consensual sex. Combining interviews about the history of legislation and homosexuality with images of explicit gay sex and a tour of the bar – the film is clearly made for gay audiences.
Interviews with Peter Tatchell, Joseph Sonnabend and Brian Robinson provide an interesting historical context for famous injustices such as section 28, differing ages of consent and the spanner case. The most shocking fact being that the law that sent Oscar Wilde to prison (established in 1533) was only repealed in 2003!
The title of the film is a double entendre alluding to the age of sexual consent as well as the era of increased tolerance that we are living through. But the characters in the film are openly hostile to full assimilation into the political mainstream, clearly enjoying their queer status at the periphery of mainstream sexualities.
Another interesting insight that the film highlights is the tension between generations that visit the club. The older men who wear leather and talk face-to-face are in opposition to the younger men who wear sportwear and use Grindr and other apps to meet partners. This conflict suggests that even the most peripheries of subcultures can appear ‘traditional’ given enough time…
The film is likely to become an immediate cult classic, as it definitely won’t get much attention through the normal distribution channels. As a document of a time in history, it is a very interesting one.