Sex & Rape in Netflix’s Bridgerton – A Discussion

Please note: Today’s post is going to be discussing themes of sex, betrayal, and rape in the Netflix Original Series, Bridgerton. They shall be discussed in detail where necessary. Additionally, due to the subject matter, there shall be major spoilers mentioned for the series. In order to avoid further triggers, no screen-grabs will be provided. Please proceed cautiously at your own discretion. Thank you.

Bridgerton wasn’t a series that I expected to pick up, however, when it was advertised as being a historical Gossip Girl of sorts, I became curious about it. The scandalous nature of the story is its biggest appeal for me. It’s definitely a wicked indulgence more than anything else and sometimes an outrageous pleasure of the sort can be endearing. However, after surpassing the halfway mark yesterday, I was left with an array of emotions and thoughts that were as infuriating as they were shocking.

One of the big conflicts of the series surround Duke Simon Basset and his very strict belief in not fathering any children. He never planned on getting married either, however, upon falling in love and having a physical engagement with his love interest—Daphne Bridgerton—he was forced to marry her to protect her from being disgraced. He told Daphne prior to their engagement that he could not give her children, something she understood and accepted.

After they wedded and start to have sex, the engagement would always end with Basset pulling out before orgasming as a pregnancy preventative measure.  He never explains what he’s doing or why he’s doing it to Daphne, assuming that she already knew how the human body functions in terms of reproduction. Later it’s revealed that Daphne’s mother never explains what sexual intercourse is and how it leads to pregnancy. The discussion of bodily fluids being exchanged and all of the biological shtick that goes with it never comes up. Daphne, like many other young girls of the time, assume that getting pregnant can only happen after one is married, but has no clue as to what needs to occur in order for conception to become a reality. There is definitely a whole other discussion I can have about sex and the historical era, but that’s not why I’m here today.

When Daphne starts to feel troubled by the fact that Basset always pulls out, she turns to her only confidant at her husband’s home and learns exactly what is going on. She feels incredibly betrayed by her husband as she believed this entire time that he was physically incapable of fathering a child, not that it was a personal choice of sorts (I won’t go into the background of this because it’s not relevant here). After she learns the truth, they have sex again. This time she is on top of him during their engagement and she essentially forces him to orgasm inside of her.

This entire scene and situation was so triggering to watch for many reasons and no content warnings are provided for it, which was an ever bigger astonishment and source of outrage. The fact that he lied to her about his intentions is a humongous betrayal, but the even bigger issue here is that Daphne basically rapes her husband to prove a point and so few people are talking about it.

While they’re having sex, as he gets closer to climax, he tells Daphne to stop. He tells her no. Yet, she ignores his pleas and continues to have sex with him. When someone says NO or STOP at anytime during sexual intercourse and the other party continues to have sex with them, it is an act of rape. It doesn’t matter if the consent is withdrawn prior to or during intercourse. Once that consent is gone, you stop having sex! To not stop is to commit an act of rape!

The thing that pissed me off even more was how offended and hurt Daphne felt in the aftermath of everything. I understand and respect her feelings of emotional infidelity and being lied to, yet it didn’t give her the right to ignore consent form her husband to prove a point. She goes on a lengthy rant about dishonesty and feeling like she was used and forced into a situation where her consent was taken from her, so she felt completely justified in doing the same thing to him. She makes claims about how he doesn’t know the meaning of love because he lied to her and he tricked her; acts that go against the very nature of love itself.

Are you fucking kidding me?!

This scene made me so angry. She has the audacity to sit here and talk about being lied to and tricked when she straight up rapes her husband because he made the decision to not father any kids. It’s not his fault that she didn’t know how humans reproduce. It’s not his fault that she didn’t have any knowledge for what pulling out pre-orgasm meant. It’s her mother’s fault for never taking the time to properly teach her daughter how human bodies and intercourse work and it’s her fault for not asking him openly and honestly to his face about the concerns that she had with respect to their marriage and sex life. That in itself is an act of dishonesty on her part!

I’ll admit, he should’ve told her about his past and why he didn’t want to have children and what that would mean for their marriage, including their physical intimacy. He was a total dumbass for not doing that and I completely comprehend the feelings of rage that comes with discovering all this crap post-marriage. But that still didn’t give her the right to do what she did.

She lied to him.

She tricked him.

She raped him.

All of these things happened because she felt justified in her actions due to the pain and anguish she was feeling. Pain, anguish, heartbreak—none of those justify having sex with someone when they tell you NO or to STOP. Nothing justifies rape. Nothing.

I can’t help but wonder how this scene and situation would have been perceived if the roles were reserved. If Simon Basset had raped Daphne in order to prove a point or to seek vengeance against her for being dishonest, then everyone, their mum, and their goddamn fucking dog would be talking about this scene. They would be dissecting his actions and having debates on the nature of abuse and a woman’s right to her decision to not have children would rise up, amongst other things. Some people would even go so far as to blame him because he’s Black (what little discussions I’ve seen have justified what happened because he was Black and “he would’ve done the same thing,” WHUT?! Um… NO?! How the fuck…?!). But since this happened to a man, because a man was violated by a woman, it’s no big deal? How the fuck does that work?

A Black man was violated by a white woman! Once again, if the roles were reversed, the uproar of brutality that would come with ripping this scene to shreds would be utterly unforgiving, so it completely boggles my mind that so few people are talking about this episode and this scene specifically!!

Nothing gives cause to rape. Choosing to continue with sexual engagement with someone after they have said no or asked you to STOP is rape. It doesn’t matter what gender you are! All gendered people can be raped. All gendered people are capable of rape! It is not limited to being an act of violence against women only! Men can also be raped! More people need to get their heads out of their asses and talk about this because it is not okay and there’s much discourse to be had here about gender roles and the misguided notion of “masculinity” in sexual relationships. If your feminism stops when a man or non-female gendered person is sexually exploited, then guess what, that’s not fucking feminism!

I felt incredibly bothered by this whole ordeal and further disheartened that so few people were discussing this extremely heinous and serious act of violation and abuse. My thoughts are a bit all over the place in this discussion, but that’s because I’m mad. I’m mad and I’m hurt and I’m incredibly disappointed that people find little to no faults with rape unless women are victims, especially when they’re non-POC women. Shite like this needs to be talked about. Normalising discussions on rape victims of ALL GENDERS and ALL IDENTITIES is extremely vital in combatting the toxicity of rape culture. Ignoring it or claiming “it’s no big deal” is exactly what contributes to the poison of society’s perception on rape, particularly rape against non-female folx, like Simon Basset.

[The scene in question occurs within the last fifteen minutes of Episode 6: Swish.]
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7 thoughts on “Sex & Rape in Netflix’s Bridgerton – A Discussion

  1. I agree that it’s a huge issue, and I have seen it discussed in several places although not as often as it would have been if Simon had done that to Daphne. I have actually come across folks who believe Daphne was right for doing what she did. I’m a huge fan of the show, but I agree with you on this that Daphne was wrong here. I also think that Simon should have explained himself better to her. It did sound as if he’s incapable of having kids rather than choosing not to. Actually, I was pissed about the whole thing because, although he loves her, he was forced to marry and raped – forced into a sexual situation he didn’t fully agree to.

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  2. Pingback: Films & TV Shows that I Watched in January 2021 | BiblioNyan

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