A Valentine’s Day Chat about Relationships, Race, and Sex in Bridgerton
By Leslie Massicotte, Teens Climb High Coordinator
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Bridgerton yet, just go do it. And maybe consider skipping this blog post to avoid spoilers.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk Bridgerton.
I know y’all have seen it and are perhaps OBSESSED like I am. The steamy romance between Daphne and Simon, the sex scenes that you have to find headphones for so your mom doesn’t think you’re watching porn, the drama and intrigue of a racially mixed upper Victorian society.
I loved it and...they missed some things. So from a sex educator’s perspective, let’s chat a bit about three themes apparent in this show: relationships, race, and sex.
What I love:
Interracial marriage normalized on mainstream TV! I mean, they’re also just super cute--and have a healthy amount of sex. [Sidenote: any amount of sex (or lack there of) is healthy. It really depends on your relationship and what folks need and want.]
I will say, though, that when it comes to healthy relationship dynamics--like trust, open communication, and honesty--these cuties leave a lot to be desired:
What I don’t love:
Sometimes their drama is a liiiiittle bit much. And this results from not having trust, open communication, and honesty.
Photo source: https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/1385044/Bridgerton-When-does-Daphne-get-pregnant-on-Bridgerton-evg
Remember towards the beginning of the show how Daphne is so torn up because she thinks that Simon doesn’t like her? A lot of stress could’ve been avoided if early on they’d had an open conversation about if they liked each other. Daphne could’ve said, “Hey Simon, can I talk to you? I really like you and it seems like you like me as well. I’m wondering if you’d like to go on a date with me?” Boom done.
(Yes, I know that historically, women did not have the agency to speak their minds especially to their husbands, or to, heaven forbid, ask the MAN out. However, this show took many not-historically-accurate liberties in other ways--they can show us an empowered, communicative woman and a healthy relationship! I promise the sex would be just as steamy--or perhaps even more so.)
Or (SPOILER ALERT!) remember when Daphne is super upset because Simon says he can’t have children and then she gets mad because he actually can have children, he just made a vow not to? I would’ve loved to see Daphne sit down with Simon one day and say, “Simon. I really love you, and I’m so happy to be your wife. I would like to hear more about why you can’t have children or why you have vowed not to, if you’re willing to talk about it. I want to understand better and share how I’m feeling about it. Can we talk?” I know, I know, the drama is what makes TV interesting. But while drama is fun in TV, it’s not fun in real life relationships and open communication, honesty, and trust with your partner are the best ways to avoid it.
What I love:
Representation matters. Seeing people of color in a genre previously reserved for white folks is pretty powerful. It helps us normalize seeing black people in positions of wealth and power. It helps us reimagine what a racially diverse Victorian society could have looked like, if people of color had been treated as equals from the beginning. And wow, Regé-Jean Page (aka Simon) is so freakin’ handsome.
Photo source: https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/tv-movies/a35083112/bridgerton-race-historical-accuracy/
What I don’t love:
The colorism. Colorism is this idea that lighter skinned people of color are better and/or more beautiful than darker skinned people. In Bridgerton, did you notice how lots of the main characters of color are light skinned and the big bad father figure (Simon’s dad) is dark skinned? This persistent association of darkness with evil or bad (think about Disney movies like Scar in “The Lion King,” Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” and Jafar in “Aladdin”...) makes racism and colorism stay alive.
Interested to see if you have good/bad associations with skin color? Harvard released an implicit bias quiz on race--check it out: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
What I love:
That first sex scene. How Simon asks “Do you want me to stop?” before moving on from making out. This is a great example of asking consent and I love it. Anytime we initiate sexual activity, we should be asking this.
Photo source: https://br.pinterest.com/pin/811492426605270891/
How Simon encourages Daphne to touch herself and then brings that experience into their partnered sex. During their wedding night, he asks, “Did you touch yourself like we talked about? Show me.” First of all, so hot. Second of all, like what?! Normalizing masturbation for women and vulva-owning people? Encouraging female pleasure? Giving equal attention to the pleasure of all parties involved in partnered sex? Yes, yes, yes.
I also love how Simon asks Daphne afterwards, “How do you feel?” This is called aftercare and it’s a great thing to do after being sexually intimate with someone. It can help you both process how things went and help you feel closer to each other by communicating about important things. I would love if aftercare was a more normalized part of post-sex.
What I don’t love:
Pretty much any other time these two had sex, Simon went right for vaginal intercourse. In real life, a person with a vulva needs a little (or a lot) more time to “warm up” before moving into vaginal intercourse otherwise the sex could feel painful. For sex to feel nice, it needs to be well lubricated (or wet from being aroused sufficiently) so taking the time for foreplay is really important.
I also didn’t appreciate another losing virginity scene that showed first sex as being really painful. Granted, having sex for the first time MAY have hurt in Victorian times when women literally sat on a couch all day, but now, with tampons, exercise, biking, masturbation, etc., the likelihood of an intact hymen by the time of first sex is low. The first time shouldn’t hurt--if you’re ready, wet or lubricated enough, and going slowly.
That’s it for this post. Hope you enjoyed and have a sexy, SAFE Valentine’s Day.