'My Policeman' doesn't shy away from gay sex. We shouldn't, either.

David Oliver
USA TODAY

What a gay time to be alive.

You've got gay romantic comedy "Bros" still in its theatrical run. You've got queer Spanish students on Netflix's "Elite." And now you've got Harry Styles starring in "My Policeman" (now in theaters; streaming on Amazon Prime Friday).

What do all these projects have in common? Unabashed, unapologetic gay sex. And that is beyond refreshing in an era of increased anti-LGBTQ hate.

Like any 30-year-old gay man consuming entertainment in 2022, I expect mostly sprinkles of queerness across mainstream media. Yes, LGBTQ representation has improved on TV. And there's no shortage of queer TV and movies out there on streaming services (see "Fire Island," "The Other Two," and "The L Word: Generation Q," among others).

This image released by Amazon shows Harry Styles in a scene from "My Policeman."

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Usually gay sex is merely suggested. A scene cuts from a kiss or make out session between two men to them snuggling post-coital in bed. "Call Me By Your Name," released in 2017, infamously cut passionate scenes between its lead characters despite its steamy source material; director Luca Guadagnino said at the time that "to put our gaze upon their lovemaking would have been a sort of unkind intrusion." Seems less like an unkind intrusion and more like a studio note or contract negotiation. But I digress.

Increasingly, though, I've seen more series and movies that don't pan away from queer sex. "Bros" features many gay sex scenes – even if they're played for laughs – including a foursome. The last season of "Elite" includes a nearly four-minute gay sex scene involving multiple positions. And "My Policeman" showcases a torrid love affair between closeted gay Brighton police officer Tom (Styles) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) – with many shots of their trysts (and yes, Styles' butt).

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These stories are very different: A romantic comedy, a teen murder mystery and a moody British period drama don't have all that much in common. But the sex works in each anyway, because none treat it as some kind of spectacle. It's just sex, as you would treat heterosexual intercourse onscreen. Characters who are into each other simply take their clothes off and get down to business. The same titillating foreplay, the same close-up camera intricacies, the same captured intimate moments.

It's that much more powerful in "My Policeman," which takes place across two timelines, in 1957 and 1999. In the 1957 timeline, men like Tom and Patrick could be – and are – arrested for engaging in gay sexual activities. In some places, people can still be arrested (or worse) when caught doing the same thing today. 

Seeing these stories on camera normalizes gay sex for a broad audience and reminds gay people in safer countries how lucky we are to live in a more accepting era. It also serves as a reminder that without living loud and proud where we can, we risk losing the battles older generations fought for and new ones have taken for granted. Not to mention that we deserve to see sex onscreen we can relate to just like straight people.

David Dawson (from left), Emma Corrin and Harry Styles play close friends harboring a big secret in the British ensemble drama "My Policeman."

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Anti-LGBTQ sentiment and legislation remain a pervasive threat, a sentence I keep typing again and again. It's true every time I do, and why I won't stop writing about these issues.

People often say they're OK with gay people, as long as their "lifestyles" aren't thrown in others' faces.

I'd counter that the only reason our "lifestyles" became tolerable at all is because of the people who led riots and fought for representation so that other queer people felt comfortable enough to acknowledge that they too were part of that community. Progress doesn't stop just because we made it across one finish line. Prejudice, like history, repeats itself: It simmers but easily reaches a boil when people feel like they're losing their power.

Two men having sex in 1957 is just as normal as it is in 2022. It wasn't threatening anyone then, and it's not threatening anyone now. You don't have to partake in it to let consenting adults do what they please, free of judgment and shame. Audiences deserve these reminders.

Given "Bros" lackluster box office performance and the "My Policeman" dual theatrical and streaming release, I'm not sure either will do much for their companies' bottom lines. And 2022 already saw Peacock's sex-positive "Queer as Folk" reboot bite the rainbow dust. Regardless, I know seeing gay sex onscreen means something to queer audiences and allies watching. It means our stories matter and must be told in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of media.

What a gay time to be alive. And a sexy time at that.

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