The Homoerotic Undertones Of The PBS “Sherlock”


Did you watch this weekend’s premiere of Sherlock, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? We don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, but let’s just say Sherlock and Watson share a pretty steamy kiss. (LOL, JK, no, they don’t.)

Of course, Sherlock’s sexual orientation has been much discussed long before the latest BBC series arrived. But the show certainly isn’t reluctant about showing two men show share a close emotional bond, if Sherlock’s mechanisms can be described as “emotion.”

Is this show homoerotic? Well, it’s certainly pretty homo-ish, what with Cumberbatch and Freeman playing a pretty intense bromance. Show creator Steven Moffat once said of the pair, “They are just incredibly good friends. If Sherlock is gay, and who knows if he is, then I don’t think he fancies John,” although he’s certainly capable of jealous when his pal’s attention strays toward the opposite sex.

In other words, the “erotic” aspect may be in the eye of the beholder. So let’s behold!


Here’s what Martin Freeman had to say about their characters: “There are a lot of people hoping that our characters are rampantly at it. If you want to think that they are secretly at it, then you can, but we’ve never played anything like that.”

Okay, fine. It may not be intentionally there, but he just gave us all permission to insert our own subtext. And we do love a good insertion.

Remember when they were moving in and Mrs. Hudson was like “there’s another bedroom upstairs … if you’ll be needing two bedrooms.”

Wink, Wink.

And in Season 1 when Sherlock was “flattered” by what he perceived to be Watson’s “interest”?

Wink, Wink.

And then there was the time Watson got back from the gym, and he was all sweaty because he didn’t have time to shower, and Sherlock made some pithy remark that bothered Watson so he seized Sherlock and threw him over his knee and started spanking him, and Sherlock could only just squirm and whine and his butt got all red, and then Watson made Sherlock lick his pits? (That happens later in the new season. You haven’t seen it yet. Trust us.)

For reasons that are not entirely clear to us, fantasies involving Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have become strangely popular in China. Watson is known as “Peanut,” a pun on the phonetic quality of his name in Chinese, and Cumberbatch’s nickname is “Curly Fu.”

If you like, you can go waaaaaaay down the rabbit-hole of gay subtext with “Decoding the Subtext,” an unbelievably extensive analysis of queerness in the original books. A sample:

This is the second occasion we have had been witness to Holmes waking Watson; only this time he has not bothered to dress, something that, in Victorian times, would have been considered quite indecent.

cumberbatch-benedictOkay, this really seems like grasping at straws. Why not just put it all out in the open with some really raunchy slash?

Here’s some art, and here’s some fiction. A selection:

Shercock is a very short story regarding an unbearably horny Sherlock and Watson who find themselves unable to wait until after dinner to taste each other once more. Written by authentic Brit Alice Sanders, a new erotica author for the Kindle, who has previously had success in mainstream publishing – you can be assured that the writing will be of the utmost quality. With a focus on high-density erotic action, you’ll be aroused and impressed in equal measure. Reward yourself; isn’t a Shercock worth more than a pound?

And then there was the Guy Ritchie version of the Sherlock, which despite being one of the least watchable of the franchise is also one of the gayest. Here’s Guy Ritchie saying as much:

Sherlock and Watson dance together in this film, and also have a preoccupation that guns mirroring that of Zardoz.

sherlock and watsonPart of the franchise’s heteronormativity may be attributed to the rights holders, such as Andrew Plunkett, who said: “It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future. I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books.”

But oh well, Sherlock is (mostly) in the public domain now! A judge just ruled that all of the pre-1922 content now belongs to the people, with the rest of it entering public domain over the next decade.

So fire up that slash fiction and your erotic imagination!

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  • RomanHans

    Not sure if you can call them “homoerotic undertones” since they’re quite obviously put there intentionally by the brilliant Stephan Moffat. In part that’s what makes the series so great for me. My favorite line from last night was Mrs. Hudson’s reaction to Watson’s engagement. This show is the exact opposite of homophobic.

  • LubbockGayMale

    Alan Turing must be spinning in his grave! To think he was an outcast, while Sherlock and Watson as ‘maybe partners’ is celebrated… how the world changes from one century to another!

  • Ridpathos

    Anyone who thinks most homoerotica isn’t put there purely intentionally is fooling themselves. They know it drives not just us (the gays) crazy, but also pretty much everyone out there. Even straight guys like it because they fantasize about having that ultra close friend that they can share everything with (and maybe a quickie or two on the sly–off camera of course).

    Straight women (and even gay women) like it for obvious reasons.

  • sailingsam

    Love to see a gay version…It’s 21st century!

  • sailingsam

    Who drew this picture of Watson grabbing Sherlock?

  • Bean

    I think you’ll find what Moffat actually said was, “I don’t think there is anything that suggests Sherlock is gay but if he was he wouldn’t fancy John.” There wasn’t any “and who knows if he is” to that. I didn’t actually read this article beyond that misquote, because I got a dreadful feeling that I’d be hunting up the real versions of a bunch more toned-down “quotes.”

    Please, please, watch this show, and see all the queer in it. But steer clear of things the creators/writers say. They’re queer-baiting, putting in all this stuff that is clearly meant to be read that way, and then calling the fans ridiculous for it at every turn. If they’re not actually maliciously trying to make their fans feel shitty, then they’re completely tone-deaf when it comes to what comes out of their mouths. All of them do it (which pains me because I love Mark Gatiss so, and he’s one of us) but Moffat’s homophobia and misogyny in particular seem boundless.

  • hotshot70

    I am going to sound a bit like @JimBryant now, so forgive me. This is another ezample of Queerty finding a story where there is none. Mofatt-head is a twerp who has raped the history of Doctor Who.

  • balehead

    Homoerotic?….Or could it just be “emotional closeness” between straight guys?….

  • Pistolo

    When Irene Adler comes into the equation, an overtly flirtatious and sexually aggressive woman interested in Sherlock, the show emphasizes even more homo-eroticism. At one point, while sitting on a chair NAKED, she insinuates Watson loves him because when provoked to punch Sherlock in the face he couldn’t bring himself to do any damage to Sherlock’s nose and teeth (she’d know, she’s a dominatrix). Also, in spite of Irene being in love with Sherlock, she at one point INSISTS Watson is not only jealous but that the two are a couple. Watson goes on to say he really isn’t gay and Irene claims she is then says “But look at us both”.

    But with two straight actors and the masses, some of which are very touchy fangirls, we most likely won’t see any action between the two. It’s a shame, aren’t they allowed to go full frontal in the UK on TV? We could’ve seen Benedict and Martin’s uncut dongs.

  • NCSilverBear

    It was perhaps the closest to “gay” in this show’s series. So much that even I was shocked. I luv this adaptation of Sherlok Holmes. But I hope they don’t go too far down this rabbit hole. It’ll distract from the detective genius that was Sherlock. Much like the American version, Elementary, goes too far “straight” — too the point of changing the gender of Watson. But that’s another issue altogether. Either way, too focus on sex and sexuality takes all the fun and mystery out of an otherwise intriguing story. Keep us guessing and you’ll hold my attention.

  • EvonCook

    I am very surprised of the direction of this article. The PBS Sherlock may not be “homophobic,” it better not be after all, but it certainly is not adding in any way to the possible positive gay suggestion or conclusion that Sherlock and Dr. Watson did have something special and erotic between them. On the contrary, this PBS Sherlock, which I find very tiresome and horribly conceived and written, over produced and screechingly glitzy in jarring special effects clearly and soundly refutes on several occasions that there is any homo or gay relationship there, not only by having the characters say and deny it themselves more than one time, but by having Dr. Watson getting engaged, co-habitating and appearing in bed with a woman as well as having Sherlock tell Molly she is the secret most special person to him. Sorry, some may be thankful and giddy for the homo subject being raised without hate and condemnation, but it is also clear here that reasonable speculation is concluded in the negative and the subject further put to rest not only by denials but with the kind of female beards that traditionally give the deny-ers and the haters excuse to deny “gay” to the very end. How many gay men will never be recognized not because their families destroyed all evidence but simply because there a convenient female in proximity to be pointed to to alleviate any suspicion of homosexuality? At least Dr. Watson is not an Asian female as elsewhere! AND, yes, it is time for a gay version if PBS wants to break new ground.

  • TheBigOne

    I watch this show religiously and get all the gay undertones, but I doubt either character will ever “come out”.

    I would, however, love to see a Martin Freeman nude scene one of these days :-) He may be short, but I bet he more than makes up for it in certain other areas…

  • liandro


    Well, I’ve seen all three of this season’s episodes, and without revealing anything, if Sherlock likes guys, then he’s bisexual (which is fine with me, since I am too). Can’t say more.

    But, no one mentioned the fantasy scene with Moriarty in episode 1. No ambiguity there about same sex attraction, though it was only in the mind of a minor character.

  • NG22

    @TheBigOne: I like the way you think. I’m attracted to Martin Freeman as well. I find him adorable, particularly when he’s being emotionally vulnerable.

  • NG22

    @liandro: SPOILERS!

    I saw all the episodes too. Couldn’t wait. I feel they went very heteronormative this season, which I didn’t particularly like.

    The fantasy sequence with Moriarty was so hot IMO. I feel they should’ve let the camera linger and let them kiss. They keep fucking teasing us. But I love that the Irish actor who plays Moriarty is openly gay. I find him truly adorable.

  • jwrappaport

    @TheBigOne: You know what they say about things in small packages.

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