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People on Twitter Are Warning Each Other About the Rape Scene in 'Bridgerton'

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Editor's Note

This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s “Bridgerton” and Julia Quinn’s book “The Duke and I.”

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Users on Twitter are warning each other about “The Scene” in Netflix’s latest romantic drama, “Bridgerton,” that depicts rape. However, the show doesn’t treat the scene like rape, which viewers have called out for being just as egregious as the scene itself.

Bridgerton” is based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn. The show’s first season — produced by Shondaland — follows Quinn’s first book, 2000’s “The Duke and I.” Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dyvenor) arranges a fake courtship with Duke Simon (Regé-Jean Page). She wants to lure prospective suitors while he wants to avoid having children to erase his family line.

Eventually the two develop a relationship, get married and have lots of sex. Simon, however, isn’t honest about not wanting kids. He tells Daphne he “can’t” have kids versus he “won’t” (doesn’t want to). This causes trouble when Daphne, who is sexually naive at the start of their marriage, realizes Simon may be lying to her about not being able to have kids.

While in Quinn’s novel this scene is deliberately portrayed as non-consensual, “Bridgerton” toned down the non-consensual details from the book (like Simon being intoxicated). It also moves right past the scene without acknowledging the fact Daphne’s actions were rape, the issues of consent, and why her actions as a tit-for-tat retaliation against Simon for lying don’t justify the rape.

“It’s where Daphne really finds her power. It’s a give and take in a way, like, ‘You did this, so I did that,’” Dyvenor, who plays Daphne, told Bustle about the scene. “It’s that murky thing in relationships of being in a marriage and [figuring out] what [is and isn’t] consensual.”

The details of “The Scene,” which occurs in episode six of the series, are described below. If you’ve survived sexual assault or are triggered by explicit depictions of sexual acts, you may want to skip this next paragraph.

Once Daphne suspects Simon is lying about having kids — and he pulls out during sex only to avoid getting her pregnant — she positions herself on top of him during a subsequent sexual encounter. When he’s about to orgasm, she stays on top of him so he can’t pull out. He tries to stop and clearly asks Daphne twice to wait, but she stays on top of him.

Viewers quickly took to calling out “Bridgerton” on social media for not just the scene and the lack of a trigger or content warning, but for not clearly addressing Daphne’s actions as rape. In addition, the show never addresses the encounter again despite the major consent violation.

“One bad moment of uninformed consent does not justify a moment of nonconsensual sex,” Aja Romano wrote for Vox. “Depriving Simon of his consent to both sex and fatherhood, even at the moment of climax, is still rape.”

Viewers highlighted several other issues about how “Bridgerton” handled this scene, including as one Twitter user wrote, “male rape erasure.” According to RAINN, one out of every 10 rape survivors is male. However, male victims often contend with stereotypes about masculinity that make it more difficult for them to speak up about their sexual assault and get support.

“Bridgerton” also failed to acknowledge that Simon, a Black man, was raped by a white woman. Black men have been falsely (and dangerously) accused of rape for centuries, “which further erases the status of Black male victims of sexual assault,” Romano wrote. Culturally, Black men are gaslit to shift “blame away from the white men and women who enact violence upon them.”

No matter how it’s portrayed by “Bridgerton,” Daphne raped Simon in “The Scene,” viewers and critics said.

Header image via Netflix/YouTube

Originally published: December 30, 2020
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