Lesbian nun drama is offensive to queer women

Virginie Efira and Daphné Patakia play lesbian nuns in Benedetta. (Mubi)

Catholics rail against film about lesbian nuns Benedettareleased on Good Friday, but in this case, they are not alone.

A petition by the Irish Anti-LGBT+ Society for Christian Civilization against Benedetta – a biopic of queer real-life nun Benedetta Carlini, who claimed to have had stigmata – has so far been signed over 13,000 times.

The petition claims that the film “offends God and countless Catholics around the world.”

He adds: “This immoral film blasphemously presents several intense ’embraces’ between Jesus and a nun, a statuette of Mary Most Holy used as a sex toy, the ‘pornography’ of voyeuristic lesbian nuns… Promoting virtue, not Vice !”

It’s almost amazing how Benedetta alienates any audience it might have appealed to – Catholics think it’s blasphemous, film critics have called it “nunsploitation”, lesbians wonder if there are perhaps too many boobs, and the nuns… well, presumably the nuns haven’t had a chance to catch the movie yet.

The film, from controversial Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, the mind behind Primary instinct and Showgirlsis loosely based on the 1986 book by historian Judith C Brown, which explores the life and sexuality of the real 17th century nun, imprisoned for having sex with another sister.

Free is the key word.

As Verhoeven covers the basic facts – Benedetta (Virginie Efira) has a relationship with Sister Bartolomea Crivelli (Daphne Patakia) and struggles for power with the formidable abbess (Charlotte Rampling) of the Theatine convent in Pescia, Italy – for a For whatever reason, there’s nudity in the vast majority of scenes, even the one where an older nun with the plague has her bubonic bumps inspected.

Throughout the film, written, directed and produced by men, only the women are shown fully naked, which begs the question: is it Benedetta art, or is it just plagued lesbian torture porn?

Violence against women is a recurring theme, from self-flagellation to burning at the stake, but one of the most unnecessary and upsetting scenes is when a nun is punished with a medieval vaginal torture device known as the name “pear of anguish”. The scene doesn’t seem to serve the storyline in any way, and appears to have been added for twisted entertainment.

Verhoeven defended the film’s explicit sex scenes, some of which are certainly not consensual, and excessive nudity by insisting that viewers are just “afraid of sex”.

Yes, we are, if this sex poses an extremely high risk of splinters from the dildo carved by Sister Bartolomea from a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary.

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