A sexologist explains what Bridgerton gets wrong about sex
While the sex in Bridgerton is enough to get anyone hot under the covers, a lot of the subject matter is quite problematic.
Women around the world will forever feel indebted to executive producer, Shonda Rimes and creator, Chris Van Dusen for bringing the Bridgerton romance novels of Julia Quinn to the screen (or should I say Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings aka Regé-Jean Page to it).
Following the journey of protagonist, Daphne Bridgerton, a gentleman’s daughter in the want of a husband, we watch (and wish we were her) as she becomes ‘very caught up with’ the handsome outsider, Duke Simon.
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While the Netflix period piece is definitely giving its audience abundant sexual tension and pleasure, these sex scenes or, well let’s face it…soft porn; as juicy as they may be, accurate, they are not.
Sexologist, Lisa Torney explains the ins and outs of Bridgerton’s inaccurate sex education to Body + Soul.
SPOILER ALERT: Oh, and there are spoilers for the one percent of the population who haven’t yet binged the show.
Pregnancy and sex
According to Bridgerton, it would seem that 18th century women have no knowledge of how life is created or even what sex is at all.
I mean Daphne thinks the most intimate act married couples take part in is kissing (until Duke Simon provides her with a bit more insight i.e. a guide to self-pleasure.) This lack of understanding, Torney says is an example of how “the show highlights the lack of sexuality education for women.”
Another example is “a storyline where two young female characters try to learn how a woman becomes pregnant and with no one telling them they ponder outlandish theories fearful they may become pregnant. When one asks her mother, she is chastised yet her older brothers are aware and make fun of her. The message is that it’s ok for men to know about and have sex but not women even though it can impact them significantly,” she says.
The first time
“After Daphne has sex for the first time with Simon on her wedding night, she is furious with her mother for not telling her what to expect when she asked beforehand which highlights the discomfort people have about talking openly about sex,” Torney says.
As well as a lack of information about what to expect, the scene also touches on the issues of consent (more on this below) and the unrealistic representation of pleasure.
I mean despite this being Daphne’s first sexual experience with another person, very limited foreplay and less than one minute of actual sex, Daphne and the Duke climax together. TOGETHER. Well call me a downer but as if.
“Consent is problematic in the show with a sexual violation by Daphne Bridgeton who tries to conceive against her husband Simon’s wishes,” says Torney. Yep, she’s referring to ‘that scene’.
But consent has also been an issue for Daphne.
“Consent is also an issue on their wedding night when Daphne has sex for the first time with no knowledge of what it is she is agreeing to and is therefore unable to give informed consent.”
Clearly there was no sex-ed back in the debutante circuit.
Although that wedding night scene may be an “unrealistic view of sexual encounters,” other sex scenes between the couple do get something right, Torney says.
“What they get right is the exploration of sexual pleasure after Daphne marries Simon which is a celebration of sexual discovery and lust.”
Although it must be said that they are very short celebrations (the average is about 13 seconds if you were wondering – start to finish (yes, I timed them)).
Sex outside of marriage
“There does not seem to be ramifications for men who have sex outside marriage and impregnate unmarried women who are then made to feel shameful and ostracised by society for expressing their sexuality” Torney says.
And case in point, Anthony Bridgerton (Daphne’s eldest brother/ a real tool). This superb example of toxic masculinity is more than happy to share his opinion about unmarried women being nothing more than hags for engaging in an open-mouthed kiss yet is also very willing to take part in a secret affair with opera singer, Siena. Ummm, double standards anyone?
Now I know that Bridgerton is predominantly viewed for some sexy escapism but if you do happen to want a show that is not only entertaining but also a bit more accurate in its representation of sex, Torney says Netflix’s Sex Education is where it’s at.
“Sex Education which is feminist and sex positive covering a myriad of sexual health topics including masturbation, wet dreams, abortion, pornography, slut shaming, vaginismus, STI’s, sexual assault, first sexual experiences, consent, self-harm and mental health issues.”
Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram: @shonamarion.