This article deals with the topic of sexual assault and may be triggering to some. If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact 1800RESPECT.
Shonda Rhimes’ period drama Bridgerton has sauntered its way into the hearts of Netflix subscribers all over the world. With its ridiculously attractive cast (Regé‑Jean Page, marry me?), spicy storylines and impeccable narration by literal (movie) queen Julie Andrews, it’s the stuff of great television.
But there is one scene in the hit series that has left fans feeling unsettled, and it has resulted in some serious criticism of the show.
Here’s your fair warning that spoilers are about to be dropped henceforth, so take thyself elsewhere if you don’t wish to have the drama revealed to you.
Those of you who are familiar with the Bridgerton storyline will know that Daphne Bridgerton and the Duke (a.k.a Simon, a.k.a my husband) wind up getting married after they’re caught making out in a garden because the sex scandal would ruin them otherwise (what a time).
In the process of setting up their marriage (this involved a duel) Simon tells Daphne that he “cannot” give her children. She accepts this as truth and goes along willingly, telling him he is all she needs.
What you quickly learn, however, is that old mate Duke physically can have children, but because of a vow he made to his awful father he is choosing not to. He does this by employing the pull-out method during sex, which we all know is foolproof (read: it is not foolproof, it’s a very bad contraception choice).
Anyway, because Daphne’s knowledge of sex sits at precisely zero, she doesn’t understand what is going on when Simon turns away from her to orgasm.
It’s all very manipulative and icky on his part if you ask me. But what happens next is all kinds of messed up.
In the Bridgerton episode titled ‘Swish’, Daphne realises something is up with her sex life and finds out what Simon is doing. She’s naturally mortified.
Instead of talking to her husband (which these two suck at), she initiates sex with him, then gets on top and proceeds to hold him down until he climaxes — despite his protests.
The scene is uncomfortable watching and many are calling it an example of marital rape — which I don’t think is too serious a classification at all.
Afterwards, Simon looks at Daphne and says: “How could you?”
To which she replies: “You took advantage. You seized an opportunity, so I did the very same.”
The behaviour is violent and toxic and deserves to be discussed. Now, as many of you will know, the series is based on a set of books — this one is based on The Duke and I by Julia Quinn. In that book, the scene is arguably worse.
As Oprah Mag writes, the book depicts Daphne take advantage of Simon while he is drunk and asleep, so very clearly non-consenting.
The passage reads:
“Daphne had aroused him in sleep, taken advantage of him while he was slightly intoxicated, and held him to her while he poured his seed into her. His eyes widened and fixed on hers. ‘How could you?’ he whispered.”
The inclusion of this event in the story completely shifts the romance in both book and TV series and brings to light the major issues in this couple’s relationship.
It also highlights just how problematic the stigma around sex can be (Daphne’s mother really needed to talk to her about sex, as well as respect), along with the incredible importance of enthusiastic consent in every sexual setting.