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The sex lives of us season banner
10th - 21st September 2007
Fifty years after the Wolfenden Report, Radio 4 presents a series of programmes exploring sexuality in Modern Britain
Click here to go to the Front Row web pageAcross the fortnight on Front Row, ten celebrated artists promoted landmark works of art from the last 50 years that have changed our views of the expression and depiction of sexuality.

On 21st September Mark Lawson chaired a discussion to decide which has been the most influential. 

You can view the results of the online audience vote below.

Art that Moved the Earth

Which of these ten landmarks do you think is the most significant?

  1. Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
    230 votes
  2. Don't Look Now
    372 votes
  3. Je t'aime, moi non plus
    630 votes
  4. Oh! Calcutta!
    254 votes
  5. Betrayal
    30 votes
  6. Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine
    244 votes
  7. Brookside's lesbian kiss (Channel 4)
    304 votes
  8. My Bed by Tracey Emin
    126 votes
  9. Queer as Folk (Channel 4)
    1114 votes
  10. Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn
    258 votes

Total votes: 3562

This is not a representative poll and the figures do not purport to represent public opinion as a whole on this issue

Have your say
Did we get it right?

What do you think are the most significant landmarks in the portrayal of sex and sexuality since the Wolfenden report?

Discuss our choices and tell us what you would have chosen using the form below ...

Jen Brighton
as far as i can see the bbc have seriously omitted a major part of sexuality, that of lesbian sexuality. once again the media have focused mainly on gay men. it may be the aniversiry of the wolfenden report but lesbian sexuality was never illegal, merely invisable, and remains so. Mainstream lesbian sexuality and gender is hidden underneath the medias preoccupation with gay men and girly women getting it on. when i see a butch woman being celebrated publicly that is when i will feel this country has been sexually liberated. as it stands you cant even find these women on the internet.

Gordon, Aberdeenshire
Jenny Agutter naked or in anything

David - Ely
For me it's the gay kiss in Byker Grove. The storyline of Noddy realising he was gay and then making a disastrous pass at his best mate was gripping. The fact they could do that on a kids' programme with little or no fuss in the media made me feel we'd finally grown up about sex.

Pen, London
1) Honey magazine (1969 onwards for me)2) Mary Renault's novels (started reading them around 1972)3) Rocky Horror stage play (1973)

ivan milton norwich
So according to Germaine Greer Tracy Emin's bed is a major work of great beauty. Apparently its all in the artful way the bedclothes are rumpled and the stained knickers are placed just so. This gives a new meaning to the word major. Come on Germaine, pull the other one!

NB, London
What real passionate sex is, was defined for me at 10 years old when I first saw 'Don't Look Now' (behind my parents back I should add). The intensity of the scene struck me far more than the subsequent meat cleavering. It taught me far more about what loving sex is than anything my parents and school attempted (ie my mum announcing 'I suppose you think you know it all' as she placed an Osboune Guide To Sex (or something similiar) on my bed.

robin. Kent
In general terms the list is very restricting, and therefore creates a division that is not truly there. Moreover is sets up a hierarchy between artsist that is not helpful and is consequently elitist.

Peter, Northampton
...and how could we ignore all the work done (particularly for women) on TV by Dennis Potter - Blackeyes or The Singing Detective - real landmarks in helping to developing our openness to discussion, whatever the press said about them. Brave TV for its time.

Mike Davies, Cardiff
I think Tim of London needs to get out more.

Kevin, London
..and Emmanuelle....

Lyndsay, Vancouver, Canada
Shortbus - the movie released last year by John Cameron Mitchell & friends, takes the cake.Well worth a view!

Jeremy in London
Why not mark 50 years since the Wolfenden report "on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution", which led eventually to a change in the law on male homosexuality (and had little effect on prostitution), with a series of programmes about homosexuality in Modern Britain? I think that I can imagine a range of possible answers to that question which involve justifying the broadcast of the series about sexuality in general, but that's not the point. Yes, fine, it's good to have a series about sexuality in Modern Britain, but that could happen at any time (and should happen a lot more). I can think of quite a few possible answers which involve varying degrees of prejudice (for example, say, homosexuality having "changed from being the love that dare not speak it's name to the love that won't shut up") and varying degrees of delusion (homosexuality is just one of many fully accepted sexualities in Modern Britain, why make a series specifically about that?).Without even really trying, I can think of quite a few interesting topics within the theme of homosexuality in Modern Britain that Radio 4 could make fascinating programmes about: the increasingly anti-gay nature of much school bullying; how it is that, whilst that is true, many more gay teenagers than previously seem to find it possible to come out at school; is it good or bad that many young gay men now don't even know that male homosexuality was ever illegal in this country?; what is happening to gay people in Iraq? what has Gaydar done to gay men's social and sexual networks and, indeed, perhaps their sexuality? how come mothers on Mumsnet feel completely comfortable discussing whether their six-year-old might be gay?; what's it like being a gay Muslim in Britain now? And that's just a few of the "nowadays" topics - with five decades of change to be examined, the range of possible programmes is limitless.And as for works of art, if any Front Row producer or presenter couldn't come up with ten significant works of art by or about homosexuals produced in Britain or by British artists in the last 50 years off the top off their heads, they ought to be sacked: Victim (as mentioned above, a quite incredible omission from the "general" list anyway), A Bigger Splash (painting and film) ; Sebastiane; Bent; The Swimming Pool Library; Loot; Beautiful Thing; A Taste of Honey, Tea and Sympathy; The Long Firm; Maurice (published in 1973 - a fact in itself worth a programme); My Beautiful Laundrette; everything ever by the Pet Shop Boys; The Killing of Georgie (Parts 1 and 2); Round the Horne...Where's the gay cultural mafia when you need them?

Peter in Canterbury
As always, these "Top Ten best of...." efforts are never going to satisfy us all. It's a bit of fun and as long as it's treated as such and not some pseudo high brow, middle class analysis then it's ok...

Tim, London
Come on folks, it's got to be broadband internet. For the first time in history we can now see every sexual act ever thought of and how it is thought of, in glistening close up, at any time we want and in complete privacy. Mmmmm..............

Martin, London
Yes, sadly it true that works of more depth and artistic merit such as Jeffry's suggestion of The Cook, The Thief and Andre's of My Beautiful Laundrette have been overlooked. No doubt the selection panel chose to include works that quite simply far more people have heard of, and perhaps that is a realistic way of judging importance.But then were is Brideshead Revisited, by virtue of its television adaptation one of the most famous period dramas, including as it did the recurring gay character of Anthony Blanche, not to mention the wonderful platonic affection between the main characters. And if we are going to remain low-brow, why not include pre-op transsexual Barbara from the League of Gentlemen, or some of the irritating yet universally known characters featured in Little Britain? A character shoehorned into Brookside and one page of a magazine that only certain people read and young people today are unaware of are hardly "landmarks" that many people are aware of on an everyday basis today.I voted for Tracy's bed, even though it is totally uninteresting as art because like several of her other works, its principal idea can be summed up without having seeing it. It made a point about sexuality, and it made it well. It is impossible not to consider what you think about sexuality and the moral baggage attached to sex as soon as you hear of that mucky mattress.

Brian Dorset
I think your rather binary poll is entirely meaningless and can only lead to meaningless and typical sound-bite announcements. Unworthy of you!! Or more importantly - me. I would like to thank Matthew Parris for 'outing' Peter Mandleson and his then subsequent rather grudging acceptance of the inevitable opening of his very open secret. It led, in its way, to the acceptance of gay people in public life and of several politicians crawling hesitatingly out of the closet. Layers of hypocricy seemed to slough off in only a few years following this.

John in Bangkok
Why was Victim omited from the list? Arguably the most influential film of the 50s and one that can be said to havelead to the revised Sexual Offences Act and to the albeit very limited decriminalisation homosexuality. This film was a true landmark in breaking sexual stereo-types too.

Hannah, England
Martin Ford - I'm sorry but I have to disagree. Tom Robinson described himself as bisexual, and has obviously done a lot through his work to promote gay rights. Therefore, to suggest that he is a throwback to conservatism is unrealistic, and also slightly disrespectful to the right we should each have to explore and name our own sexualities. Don't forget that it is possible to be in a straight relationship and to not uphold heteronormative standards.

Stuart, London
You left out the most important landmark: publication in the 60's of the Penguin unexpurgated edition of D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover".

Kevin Derby
Oh what a fuss is made about division

simon bellord
The great hope in our world as far as sexuality is concerned is the Pope, the truth will prevail. The false ideas that we are just accidental functioning tissue with the ability to invent ourselves will never prevail.

Amanda, Horley
I'd rate Relax as an iconic symbol of sexuality.

Robert in Birmingham
I think that this list is so for the chattering minority. I'm no Elvis Presley fan, however as an icon of sexuality with his movement, music,and in particular his dyed hair, eye liner and sheer macho/feminity in an age that was so non tolerant.

tessa, london
surely, the advent of the performance artists? the hardcore and the amusing? what about annie sprinkle?! post porn feminists? they were revolutions in my life. thinking back a bit, what about john and yoko. or just yoko.

Tony lake district
Was this meant to be about homosexuality? I chose je t'aime because at the time everybody had heard it. QAF not revolutionary because nothing changed by it. Some people liked it many ignored it. A few ranted but they too were ignored. Good choices Andre, but everybody knows that us oldies know nothing.

Jason in London.
I'd have to agree that none of the 10 really represented for me the most significant portrayal of homosexuality. I voted for QAF because for me it represented a moment when male homosexuality became acceptable to the mainstream as a lifestyle unladen by guilt fueled agony.

Martin Ford
While I have no particular animosity towards Tom Robinson do you really think that its appropriate to have someone who was once described as Gay, but who is now in a heterosexual relationship and a proud parent to boot, present a programme about how far Gay rights advanced? Surely his behaviour and life style simply give credibility to those religious and social conservatives who say that Gay men can change their sexuality if only they want to and that sexuality is a choice. It just makes a mockery of what we as a community are trying to achieve. Mr Robinson is to all intents and purposes straight and a “reformed” gay man. Surely you could have found an out gay proud man or Lesbian to present this programme?

Jackie London
Voted for Alison Lapper because it is impossible to believe that as I was growing up in the 60s and 70s that such a magnificent challenge to 'general' thought would ever have been considered. Pregnant woman, let alone without arms and legs were just not on the agenda!Most vivid memory from that time of being awakened to sexuality was an advert of inverted feet at the end of a bed, worrying readers about STDs.I was so young and innocent I thought it was a 'cool' thing to copy out but Dad tore both my copy and the advert up and threw a fit.I think I must have been around 12 but still clear memory of it.Worth bearing in mind these days, that children are supposed to look for their parents for the right way to think about sex.

Mel, London
Surely if any Vanity Fair cover has changed the way we see sex and sexuality it should be the one with KD Lang and Cindy Crawford. As a young woman this single image made me realise just how sexy a lesbian could be, how strong, how beautiful and that a woman like Cindy might be attracted to her. I have always played with my sexuality and gender roles and I think this image confirmed ot me that it was more than OK to do it - it was cool!

Ian in Glasgow but from Australia
The earliest awakening for me was seeing film - The Rocky Horror Picture Show at age 21 in 1981.There was no representation of homosexuality for me before then and it was really liberating !

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