I’m an asexual lingerie model – there needs to be more representation in the media

In a society where asexuality is often misunderstood, one activist and model is working to increase representation and improve the lives of other people like her.

Yasmin Benoit, who recently consulted with Netflix on the asexual character O's storyline in Sex Education, has recently released a report with Stonewall about asexuality.

It highlights how asexuality is protected by the Equality Act and the discrimination that asexual people face in all areas of life.

Here, she discusses the work that she continues to do to increase representation….

“The goal with the work I am doing is to encourage representation in multiple ways in the media like Sex Education and legislative representation in law and policy.

"I wanted to bring a different kind of representation to the space because when I was younger I wasn’t seeing black asexual people or people who weren’t white anywhere."

Yasmin adds that despite the positive work she does, she has faced stigma and criticism on social media for being an asexual model.

"People find the fact that I model confusing because they have this idea that everything a woman does like styling their hair or wearing makeup is because they want a man to have sex with them.

"Because I don't want to have sex, the fact I'm modelling is teasing and wrong to them. I also get people being quite sexually aggressive.

"There's schtick from gender-critical feminists too, who put a lot of emphasis on my appearance and the idea that modelling is contradictory.

"It's sad because people in our society still have reductive views and I thought we had moved beyond that so I think it just proves it's necessary to talk about these things and keep doing the work to challenge stereotypes and ideas because people think if you’re asexual then you need to look a certain way.

“There’s a lot of people in our society who do not get it and do not like it and that’s becoming increasingly prevalent. In the media we’re seeing anything LGBTQIA+ related being used in a weird culture war.

“Ignorance is quite wilful because I think if you are seeing my work then it's minimal effort to read what I said but I think people prefer to be deliberately obtuse about it because they don’t want to believe there’s a problem.

“I think race has something to do with the backlash on my appearance. People are mad about the outfits but it's not entirely about the outfits," Yasmin says.

However, Yasmin does get support from people who commend her for breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes about asexuality.

She says: "People do appreciate that I am representing something different because there are lots of stereotypes about asexuality and people expect you to blend into the background and look like Sheldon Cooper."

And she's also had a supportive reaction from the asexual community over her report with Stonewall, which highlights the inequalities faced.

People struggle with hostile work and healthcare environments, facing delays to vital healthcare, intrusive questions about their sexuality and sexual harassment.

The report has several recommendations, including ensuring that asexual people are protected under the Equality Act's guidance and their needs are included in wider LGBTQ+-specific training for healthcare providers.

“Releasing the asexuality report with Stonewall was a natural trajectory to me because my background was social science and research based subjects when I was studying.

“The reaction from the asexual community has been very positive because there hasn’t been research into this topic in the UK before," Yasmin says.

Check out Yasmin's Twitter here: https://twitter.com/theyasminbenoit

Check out the report here: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/new-research-shining-light-%E2%80%98dehumanising%E2%80%99-discrimination-faced-ace-people

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