There is no rape scene in Netflix’s Bridgerton season one. Let’s set the record straight, right off the bat. Also, if you’re looking for an open and honest discussion from someone who was raped for years and knows what rape looks like, then you’re in the right place. And lastly, even though there is no rape in Bridgerton season one, this editorial will be a little triggering for those who read it and we understand if this is where you need to take a step back.
For those still here, let’s jump into the thick of things with spoilers a plenty.
In the Duke and I by Julia Quinn there is a very controversial scene where the book version of Daphne Bridgerton has sex with an inebriated Simon Basset. Her husband could not fully consent to the action of sex. That’s marital rape. Book Daphne took advantage of book Simon and put him in a position that he never wanted to be in, even if he is the one who started this lie in the first place about not being able to have children.
He didn’t consent.
He was raped.
Now, the Bridgerton season one version of Daphne and Simon is another story. There is no rape scene. Simon is completely sober and gives enthusiastic consent when they start having sex. Daphne has just found out that Simon, someone she trusts to give her the ins and outs of something society or her mother had never taught her, has been lying to her about sex. So she goes into this moment with hopes that what she has learned is a lie.
Daphne straddling Simon and bringing him to completion while inside of her, is not rape. Was it a bit icky that she came into this situation with a purpose in mind? Yes, we do feel that way. But Simon has been coming into this, every time they have sex, with a purpose in mind; one to have sex with Daphne but hold back the fact that pulling out decreases the chances of pregnancy exponentially.
They both came at this situation wrong and should’ve talked about it instead of using each other to prove something. Daphne to get answers and Simon to continue getting revenge on his deceased father for things that happened in the past. Neither are in the right and it’s frustrating as hell, especially as a survivor of rape, to be told that we just watched a rape scene like the one in the book.
The rape in The Duke and I doesn’t happen in Bridgerton.
And it’s not like Julia Quinn is without faults. What she wrote in the original book that season one of Bridgerton is based on is problematic AF. And the things we discovered in the past couple days on Twitter about what she has said in the past when it comes to diversity in books, and how she can’t write them because she can’t write about “our pain,” is a load of bullshit and Shonda Rhimes saw to fix that.
Quinn said she couldn’t write our stories and Rhimes came in and made POC core to the story without making it a show about race. It is about people growing slowly and yet by leaps and bounds, having all the sex they so desire, and trying to find their place in this crazy world. And yes, race and facing those realities are needed. But are they needed every single damn time? POC do more, live more, create more, love more than Hollywood wants us to know and POC deserve to see themselves in something campy, fun, and free of issues of race.
So, no, Bridgerton isn’t a story about a white woman raping a black man. It is a story about discovering who you’re sleeping with and the lies that they’ve been telling you to get to this point. And that holds true for Daphne and Simon. Both are wrong in the way they went about things. But we would never label what happened between them as rape.
Calling their sexual encounter “rape” deligitimizes what happens in The Duke and I. It takes away from the conversation that needs to be had about the book. Also, do viewers and reviewers really think that Shonda Rhimes would leave something so odious as a rape scene in the work she attaches her name to, especially if that man is cast with a black actor in mind and in this current political climate?
It’s like some readers want Bridgerton to be like Poldark. This show decided that they wanted to keep their rape scene. Poldark made the lead rape his past lover in such a violent fashion that we could never watch it again or think of this character as anything other than a rapist. And when confronted by the fact that Poldark could’ve changed the moment to something consensual, they had the gall to protest and say it’s in the book, so why change it?
Everything that we read, consume, or create, becomes old. And as the world and society grows, the things we loved are seen through new lenses and things that weren’t problematic before are problematic now. That’s not a bad thing. That just means that schools of thought are ever evolving and viewers are learning where they draw the line. And here at Fangirlish, we draw the line at the Poldark rape scene in the show and the book.
They didn’t have to keep it but they chose to. And Poldark suffered for that. Bridgerton did not follow in those footsteps. They decided to step back, look at the situation in front of them, and takes things in a different angle that completely deleted the rape without taking away the revelation of Daphne finding out the truth about her husband Simon. That’s ingenuity. That’s thinking on your feet and seeing that rape scenes are not necessary in the media we consume.
So, don’t fret dear Bridgeton fam. Bridgerton does not have a rape scene like the book does. It does better than the book and writes a story of love, heartbreak, and resurrection that keeps you invested in Daphne and Simon without making you feel sick to your stomach. Now, my opinion isn’t the only one available on Fangirlish. One should never be. So, tell us what you think. Let us know if we’re way off base and engage with us in a meaningful way that creates a conversation instead of swirling trouble around for views and clicks sake.
P.S. From one survivor to another, I can also admit that my experience is not the only one, even if I survived years of assault and pain. Experiences differ. And to help better analyze and break down this conversation, make sure to follow Fangirlish on social media for an upcoming roundtable discussion about this Bridgerton topic, where we challenge ourselves to talk about the hard stuff and not shy away from it.
Bridgerton season one is available on Netflix.
I have not watched yet, in large part because I wanted communal response on how this scene was handled. One of the articles I’ve read states that Simon says both “no” and “stop” at certain points during the scene. For me, the withdrawal of consent at any time during intercourse is the withdrawal of consent. Was the other article inaccurate, or do you just fell differently about what his actions signify?
I went back and looked at the scene and I think to add to the grey area he doesn’t say “no” or “stop,” just “wait” a couple of times, which I presume was a deliberate choice.
It is rape. He says ‘no, stop’ several times and she refuses to listen to him. She is angry with him and wants revenge. It’s not okay. Just because you see it as less bad than other rape scenes does not make it not a rape scene. I agree completely with Leslee.
I think this is a very valid discussion – as a lawyer there are various arguments that could be made here – but I believe you’re misconstruing her motives. I do not believe Daphne is “angry and wants revenge.” She isn’t even sure what she’s been told is right till the moment after. There’s no desire for revenge that’s driving her, more of a desire to figure out if he is really doing it on purpose.
I think that scene was going to be so controversial no matter what Van Gusen/Shondaland decided to do. They could have played it out as they did in the book, downplayed it to make it a grey area like they did in the show, or not done it all and it would have been incendiary regardless. A very damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of moment. Now, I don’t agree with all the choices they made about the scene or the consequences. I think maybe because they didn’t make the scene as overt as the book then maybe a clearer conversation about what they each did was wrong and that they each forgave eachother was needed. Because when you introuce nuance like they did with the show, it requires clarity thereafter. Did they still do a better job than the book? I would argue yes. Some articles are saying what did does in the show is worse because she never shows shame or apologies… I don’t agree. But I think then opinions like yours where you are basing it on experience with sexual violence is so valid. I’ve read several articles that are condeming, reasoning, or simply ignoring the mistep in the series. I am glad I read your opinion! I asked my husband if he thought the book had a rape scene or the show. He said both, because at the end of the day he couldn’t give informed constent in the book and wiethdrew consent in the show. But then we started to talk about marital rape, and the greyness that exists in marraige. Not regarding rape, but sex in general. I think your opinion is a real and valid one, but so is my husband’s, and so is Julia Quinn’s or anyone else’s. What the differences in opinon represent is an oppounrity for conversation and clarity about marital rape and the storytelling that is needed if it is going to appear in fiction. Thanks for the post.
“Daphne straddling Simon and bringing him to completion while inside of her, is not rape.” Try and say that if the sexes were flipped, and it was a man having sex with a willing woman who was expecting him to pull out, but instead he refused to get off her and pull out even though she clearly didn’t want him to ejaculate inside her and even said “wait”. Because she doesn’t want a kid and he does. Would that be okay? If she had been lying to him all along about why she had been asking him to pull out every time they had sex, would that justify him putting his sperm in her against her will?
Even if you wouldn’t call it rape, it is definitely coercive conception and seriously screwed up, and you should have mentioned that he told her “wait” and clearly wanted to pull out but couldn’t because she was on top of him. That made your article misleading. Simon also told Daphne beforehand that he couldn’t have children so she went into this accepting that. If she wants to change his mind, she can argue with him; she can’t force kids out of him.
Black women are the people that I have seen criticizing Daphne’s actions the most, btw. If they think it’s worth discussing, I wouldn’t dismiss their complaints just because “PoC deserve to see themselves in something campy, fun and free of issues of race.” What entitles a show to be “free of issues of race,” anyway? Which ones get that get-out-of-jail-free card?
I’m also an atty, not, honestly, that I believe it matters, because the issue isn’t legal. Rape of all kinds has been allowed by and continues to be allowed by laws everywhere. What is legal is not always just and what is just is certainly not always legal.
I am happy that you found enjoyment in the series, good representation, and did not feel triggered. I think, however, I am going to choose not to watch. Thank you for your response.
Absolutely. Did not mean to imply the issue was legal, and I wouldn’t dare to try to speak for the author of this piece, I was just trying to express my frame of mind re: my response so you could make the best decision for yourself.
It is rape because he came into sex not wanting to have a child yet Daphne did not listen to him when he said “wait” and “stop”. What’s especially weird is that when they have sex on their wedding night, Simon sees the visible hesitation Daphne shows on her face, even if she didn’t explicitly say it. He asked her if it was okay to proceed. This was a deliberate choice on the production team, yet Simon is not given the same treatment when he is hesitant as Daphne straddles him and tries to get impregnated. So, yes, it is rape. Consent can be revoked any time during sex.
Rape or not, it was clearly deliberate, it was clearly a sexual violation of what he wanted, he expressed a desire to stop with the words wait, and attempted to stop (he could have gone further but that could have been misconstrued). Furthermore it seems pretty clear that she got what she wanted as she walks away. In my book that fits all the boxes for rape (truly a new term could fit the act “ejaculatory rape”). I am not here to mince words however if you don’t want to call it rape or sexual assault, I can understand. What followed in the aftermath was quintessential rape behavior; victim blaming and gas-lighting.
She clearly got what she wanted and was walking away (fleeing) when he ask’s “what have you done Daphne?” Instead she turns it around on him. In the moment he is asking about this very act she says scoffing, “you what, you love me? No you most certainly do not. You do not know the meaning of the word. You do not lie to the one you love. You do not trick the one you love. You do not humiliate the one you love.” She doesn’t answer his question, concerns, and despair about her act of rape/nonrape. Instead she makes what she just did about him. She lied, she manipulated, she tricked, she humiliated and we ask did she also rape (I think its a good question). Most disturbingly she says he is those things, blames him, and switches the topic from what she just did to what he did in the past (which should be talked about at an appropriate time). This is what gives the perpetrator power and shelter from their crimes.
Watch with the captions on – he says “wait, wait” as his facial expression turns from ecstasy into horror. She does not stop when he says repeatedly “wait” – he is verbally communicating a pause/stop. It’s difficult for me to understand how this is not being viewed as a withdrawal of consent. And afterwards she basically tells him that she violated him because he violated her trust and made assumptions about her level of sexual knowledge. It’s very different from the book, to be sure, but is still a violation of a person’s body.
He clearly wanted her to stop, she did not, that is called rape. He initially gave consent, then he revoked it and she willingly ignored
It is rape.
He was not honest from the beginning (and that is another entire topic, one about toxic relationship), but in this specific moment, she robbed him of the decision of not wanting children by Forcing him to cum inside her.
It is Rape, no matter how toxic his behaviour, or their relationship, was before.
I think its a good thing to engage in conversation on this issue. Thanks for your vulnerability in writing. It is necessary. My hope is that through the bravery of Netflix, Shonda, and you future generations will have clearer understandings of what constitutes rape, and hopefully next time it will be portrayed appropriately (a follow up conversation with people taking responsibility and putting in place boundaries would be nice).
To the writer of this article. I want to respectfully disagree on several points. First, a rape act is not defined by what precedes it but rather by what “happens.” Not calling the act in episode 7 rape because it delegitimize the love making in episode 6 I find faulty. It has no bearing on whether or not this act “now” is rape.
Second, whether Shonda Rhimes wants or doesn’t want something so odious attached to her name again has no relation to whether or not an act is or is not rape. In fact, that begs us to ask further questions about what we know about rape, even the experts. Is what we presume to know about our definitions accurate or do we need to learn more?
Third, I saw the show pop up on my feed and thought ‘awesome a victorian era show where people of color are included in high society.’ I agree with you, the intent was probably not to have a black man raped by a white woman only to become a plot loophole. Intent was probably to show black men and women in a beautiful alternate reality where things were as they ought to be (racially speaking). We however are not viewing it from that vantage point. We are instead viewing it from the reality of a broken world where black men and women have been and are at best disenfranchised, or worse victims of sexual assault / accusations from (for lack of a better term) “Karen’s.” Intent or not we are viewing this as a white woman sexually assaulting a black man and from where I sit or from where I see other people sitting this is a substantial problem that includes race (Shonda was brave to tackle this, my fear would be others wouldn’t be brave enough to add more people of color to such shows in fear of such conversations). Again this should not stop us from such things but encourage us to ask more questions and provide proof that we have much to learn.
The good. Again we are talking about this. I hope and I believe it will come to reality that in the future the rape and gas-lighting of any human will be treated equally. It is conversations like this, a show like this, with people speaking like you, and having hard conversations that lead us to that better future. I hope you forgive me for nit picking your article, you are wise Thanks for your vulnerability in writing on this topic even if we may disagree. You and your experiences are valuable.
Your defense of her action is disgusting. What would you have done if a woman had a man coming inside of her without consent?
But I guess a man’s voice is not as important to you.
Thank goodness for the comments. From another survivor to another, I’m sorry you had to endure any part of your experiences.
But a withdraw of consent during the act and an extreme disrespect of someone’s procreation wishes is problematic no matter how you want to label it.
As someone else says, what if the gender roles were reversed here? It would be very triggering to see a man continue to do those actions to a woman as she is clearly uncomfortable, trying to pause the situation, and has made her self clear in the past there will be no children in the marriage. He would be taking that choice away from her on multiple levels.
Thank you for this article I was relieved to hear somebody else feel this show scene was not rape. I rewatched this scene in fact. He says “wa-wa” at the very end and did not withdrawal his consent in a way that Daphne fully understood. This is why any relationship should have prior discussions about sex and what each persons ideas are for outcomes, desires, boundaries, and what would constitute non-consent. Daphne had no concept that what he actually wanted was sex with pulling out. He consented to sex and he even consented to her being on top. I have also been raped. I have also been in arguably toxic relationships in the past with a mismatch in sexual drive and many incidents of sex that appeared the same to me as this scene (so I would say this is realistic) that neither party would consider rape. Im glad there is a conversation but Im also concerned that so many are “so upset and protest the show” for depicting this scene when practically every other period drama shows scenes of women being marital raped and rape scene warnings are missed for those all the time.
Childhood rape survivor here. What’s wrong with having a rape scene? Fiction is supposed to explore human experiences both positive & negative. Obviously certain material is not appropriate for children, but I don’t see why stories for adults should never depict rape any more than they shouldn’t depict murder. I understand if one chooses not to read such stories for any reason, but there are many survivors of trauma who find much value in reading fictional depictions of their particular trauma.
I just saw episode 6. I want to memorize Daphne’s soliloque after she discovered that he dad fooled her into thinking what sex really was. It’s not rape. She trusted his teaching of sex but she noticed a hollowness afterwards as well as his actions. When she tested her theory to be accurate, Daphne chose to be right rather than compassionate for she had heard about his stark upbringing abd could have deduced that now not having children was more psychological than physical. Daphne , with all her for thought, is allowed to be human and spontaneous too. I want to recite her words to my husband. To no end, I gave my all to him, and tried every which way to trust him. Excuses. Reality is he Has allowed his past to never heal. Sleeps down stairs with his pornography. And he says he loves me more than any one else.
Holy hell, were these devoid of logic comments written by children? No, even children would be more logical. Not letting him *pull out* from the *consensual* sex they’re *ALREADY HAVING* – TO CLIMAX!! – is not rape!! And, quite crucially, he never told her to stop, nor threw her off him (what, is she a horse, or are her legs vice grips?) He only said wait, which had she, simply stopped moving, would have done absolutely nothing to stop him being inside her, nor climaxing. Is the sky still blue? Because this generation is making me doubt it; or, they just have no idea how sex works. Afterall, it is the most celibate, digital generation. That would explain it.
And why is no one crying over him kissing her in the garden? This is all about consent afterall? Why didn’t he ask to hold her hand? Or touch her back? Or eat her on the stairs? Aren’t those rape too? Non-consentual. The hypocrisy, and idiocy, is stunning.
I struggle to see how this isn’t rape. He gives his consent, but then he withdraws it. If a woman told a man she didn’t want to get pregnant and he said he’d withdraw and then forcibly didn’t, how could that be anything other than a sexual assault.
However, I’m perplexed why so many people think because it’s rape it should have been cut from the series, or the book(cut, not handled differently). People do bad things in life — and in fiction. The scene reveals much about both characters.
Hey! First of all, I am sorry you had to go through such violence for so long.
However, let me disagree with you (and others in the comments) on various points. I won’t go into the racial discussion because although I have various critiques on the topic, I want to focus on the sexual aspect of it. I want to start my point by saying this : I do not expect fictional characters to be morally perfect. I have adored morally flawed characters. However, in 2020, I do expect showrunners to know and do better when dealing with sensitive topics.
That leads me into my second point : whether we want to call it r*pe or not and argue over the semantics, this scene clearly depicted reproduction coercion And such action is now considered as a sexual violence and gender-based violence (in Canada at least). Therefore, even if it isn’t r*pe, it is important to acknowledge that watching such scene can be triggering and violent for some viewers. Thus, a clear and special trigger warning should have been needed at the beginning of the episode. In my opinion, not only it was needed, it was a *responsibility* from the showrunners and Netflix to include one. By doing so, they would have also sent the clear message that such action is not OK.
My third point is : since the showrunners had already deviated so much from the books to please a modern audience, I sincerely believe another storyline could have achieved the same objectives (giving the heroine her agency and empowering her) without having her assaulting the hero. Especially since agency and consent were such big themes in the Netflix series. However, they decided to keep it as is. My problem then is portraying a sexual violence as a step in the development of the two characters when in reality, such violence is an added trauma for the victim and their relationship. Sexual violence is not a step to someone’s sexual education and awakening. If they wanted to deal with such subject – great! But give it the importance it deserves and do not gloss over it. Have them discuss in the following episode – not only about Daphne’s anger regarding Simon’s lie (which was not OK and I do not condone his decision to keep her in the dark about sex and reproduction in any shape or form), but also about how Simon felt when she decided to force him to ejaculate into her. I can imagine they would not have used words such as “reproductive coercion” but at least discuss the discomfort and trauma it induced on the hero. Once again, by doing so, showrunners would have also sent a clear message that such action is not OK, no matter how valid the anger is.
Finally, regarding the grey area. I think the way they depicted is accurate. In a relationship, unfortunately, such grey areas can happen. It has happened in my relationship, and from discussions I have had with friends, it has happened in theirs too. But that is when communication comes in. However, it is not because it is a grey area and the “perpetrator” did not do it on purpose that it makes it less violent for the person whose consent was not respected. It pains me to see that the discussion is now on whether or not this scene was r*pe rather than the impacts and frequency at which reproductive coercion happens. And it brings me back to my second and third point : a TW was mandatory and a discussion afterwards was definitely needed.
I hope they will address the consequences of Daphne’s action in season 2. But I deplore the fact that it was not discussed in the context of season 1.
Calling it rape delegitimizes the horrific experience rape victims go through. I think it is time we come up with another word for what happened in the show, because comparing what happens when a victim is forcibly penetrated in a violent and completely non-consensual manner is not the same thing as a husband and wife having sex and one party not wanting to finish (especially given that he was completely lucid and could have easily rolled her off of himself at any time when he knew he was getting close). Even if you consider both acts to be violations of a person’s body and choices, they are NOT the same.
Also, keep in mind, this show is set during a time where any woman that was forced into marrying a man she didn’t love simply because that was what their families wanted would have been raped on their wedding night if you want to refer to all non-consensual sex as rape. That would include any woman in an arranged marriage, which still exists to this day. Does every husband in every arranged marriage around the world have to register as a sex offender? No, because they are not considered rapists.
To set the record straight, those who keep insisting he repeatedly said “no” and “stop”, please re-watch the episode as those words never came out of his mouth. What he said was “wait”. It might be semantics but if you are going to argue and pick it to pieces, please use actual facts.
Wow. Just wow. You’re so incredibly wrong about Regency era men and women. Just like so bad. Also Rape is rape. It doesn’t hinge on violence, but on the act of sex. Stop policing consent. This is rape cukture.