Raunchy period dramas ‘falsely sexualize celibacy’

A screenshot from Emily Bronte's latest biography where Bronte and the curate are about to kiss

A screenshot from Emily Bronte’s latest biography where Bronte and the curate are about to kiss

Raunchy period dramas are erasing asexuals by inappropriately sexualizing celibate historical figures, activists warn.

It has been argued that films such as the Emily Bronte biopic Emily and Jane Austen’s romance film Becoming Jane inaccurately portray real people enjoying a love life they never had or wanted.

Asexual activists have complained that historical figures uninterested in sex and romance are being erased from history by having their identities changed for entertainment in racy drama.

It is argued that this reduces the representation of asexual people and implicitly judges people’s lives as too boring for film or TV, unless it involves sleeping with someone.

Yasmin Benoit, a model and asexual activist, told The Telegraph: “You are erasing asexual people and implying that they must be someone else. It’s disrespectful to the individual when you’re talking about real people who really existed.

“You’re basically saying they’d be better off if they weren’t single, and they’d be better off being attracted to this or that person or maybe a sexier one, so the filmmakers can throw in a sex scene here and there.”

Yasmin Benoit - Lampros Kalfuntzos

Yasmin Benoit – Lampros Kalfuntzos

The 2022 film Emily features Emily Bronte in love with the Vicar William Weightman, despite the writer not having had any relationships during her lifetime, and the 2007 film Becoming Jane similarly shows Jane Austen in love with a man named Tom Lefroy, despite there being no mention of the novelist pursuing any romance.

In the 2020 film Ammonite, about the life of fossil hunter Mary Anning, the main character is portrayed as embroiled in a lesbian affair, even though there is also no evidence that she ever had a sexual relationship.

Kate Winslet by the sea as Saoirsie Ronan puts her face to hers - Lionsgate

Kate Winslet by the sea as Saoirsie Ronan puts her face to hers – Lionsgate

Ms Benoit said: “The message is basically ‘you’re not interesting enough as a legendary writer because you haven’t dated anyone, so we’re just going to take elements of you and do what we like.’

She added: “Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of gender. There are many such people in the UK, but it is often medicalized, seen as a problem, a deficit. People think there must be something wrong with you physically and mentally.

“These movies seem to buy it. They also remove any depictions of asexual people on screen.

“The lack of visibility and awareness means that people don’t really know that asexuality is an orientation and don’t accept it as such, so they may feel pressured to act a certain way.”

Ms Benoit has raised concerns that the asexual community has become a victim of ratings-chasing producers, following the famous Netflix drama Bridgerton, one of the streaming giant’s most successful series.

The fear is that because “sex sells,” biographies of historical figures will continue to be distorted to fit their lives into the “Hollywood” need for a love story.

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