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  • Writer's pictureJude

Lasting Marks, S&M, and the Past

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

It has been a while since I have watched a short film. I am currently overwhelmed with my own creativity. I wanted to learn something new, and a short film/documentary on Short Of The Week is something I enjoy. Lasting Marks was the winner of the Best Short Film award at the 2018 London Film Festival, a documentary revisiting Operation Spanner, an operation executed by Police in Manchester to crack down on homosexual men engaging in Sadomasochism/S&M acts together. Despite being consensual, stigma regarding homosexuality was immense, the men were convicted over a ten-year period.

I found this short film fascinating because I conceive things in a dated manner. Roland Jaggard, one of the men who was arrested, narrates the film and depicts the entirety of the movement. The anti-gay sentiment, the grouping of people who had never met. The judging, cheekiness, and total lack of understanding. You can hear a slight strain and reluctance in his voice as Sadomasochism is not normally a topic we get to speak so freely about. He explains their engagements, the manner in which the Police made it a witch hunt and the way the media intensified the stigma to the outrage of the people. In contrast to today, we can understand why it is a necessity to empower those who are exhibiting sexual freedom.

The liberal movements of today, which contains notions many utilise and extend to teach others how to accept, are examples of how far we have moved past certain conversations. Though we cannot say discrimination regarding sexual identity has been dealt with in whole. Roland even stated himself things are much better today though there are still ways to go. I follow a few people on social media that engage in private fetish/kink parties. For some reason I love it from a distance, people able to share their experiences and sexual wants together unfiltered and unharmed by a judging public eye.

On the other side, I have seen snide comments and it is that human invasiveness where things must be adopted and applied to themselves. The moral of this documentary is do not be an inner asshole, no pun intended. Today, we have the fortune of the public sphere, and interconnectivity I constantly bang on about. Prosumers, who produce and consume content that directly impacts us. The mainstay of society can be shut out without having an insight in, so we respect and understand that from a distance.

I feel these are all tactics that are very telling of Human beings themselves. We find disgust in things and maintain ideology, such as religiousness regarding sexual encounters and weirdness, appropriateness, by social conventions. The Operation also came during the AIDS epidemic, where incorrect information regarding the health of homosexual men was spread. They were targeted, marginalised and you can imagine the totality of responses they received in such a period. The main point for me was that it is consensual, and the case depicted an earlier time in this country when homophobia and national consciousness of what it means to be “civilised” is overbearing.

As a result, the narration is insightful highlighting a period of time the country’s disposition on the matter, systematically, was very much lacking. Hearing about Roland’s experiences in today’s time of sexual freedom, vocally and physical by public sphere and media channels, recognition of the variety of identities and orientations made me consider the consciousness of this period, and how this impacted the mindsets of the people moving forward.

In summary, Lasting Marks is a really interesting documentary. There is not much detail regarding Operation Spanner available for search. The UK, in my opinion, has a terrible way of documenting the past, especially regarding gender issues, sexuality, race, colonialism, slavery, and empire. For me, this brings into question the heteronormativity of the judge and police at hand. A refusal to acknowledge the range of human beings, a range we are still figuring out today while realising the extent of our past.

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