By Leslie Massicotte, Teens Climb High Coordinator
Our first post on the hit Netflix show Bridgerton omitted any mention of the not-talked-about sexual assault between Daphne and Simon and that was just messed up. We all need to be able to recognize the variety of ways that sexual assault can show up, and we shouldn’t run from talking about it just because it’s our favorite show or because the assault was committed by a woman.
So let’s talk about it.
**WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. If you haven’t seen “Bridgerton,” go watch it and come back to this post later :)
**Trigger warning: we’re obviously going to be talking about sexual assault so take care of yourselves <3
This photo is misleading in my opinion….. Photo source: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2020/12/bridgerton-sexual-assault-scene-how-does-it-happen-in-the-book
For the rest of you: Y’all know what scene I’m talking about. Daphne and Simon are married, Daphne (we thought) had accepted the fact that she wouldn’t be able to have children with Simon, and then she discovers that he actually IS physically able to have kids. So she plots a way to get back at him for “lying” to her and for her to get what she now says she’s always wanted: to be a mom.
The lying sucked, I agree. I’m a huge proponent of open communication, so do I wish that Simon had been honest with Daphne about why he didn’t want to have kids? Yes. Do I understand that his childhood trauma might have made open communication about it really difficult? Yes. Do I think this lack of communication, which Daphne calls lying, is a good cause to then take advantage of him? No I do not.
There’s also the issue that Daphne doesn’t know how babies are made in the first place. I’m also a huge proponent of comprehensive sex education, and I’m mad/sad that Daphne’s mom never told her how things work (although this lack of education was not uncommon for the time). Did Simon potentially take advantage of this fact by leaving Daphne in the dark about why their sexy times ended the way they did (by him pulling out)? Yes. Everyone deserves to have access to the same information, and we shouldn’t take advantage of someone’s ignorance by leaving them in the dark. Again though, do I think the anger/shock/frustration(?) Daphne felt about being left in the dark about pregnancy is a good cause for her to rape him? Absolutely not.
What begins as a steamy sex scene where Daphne takes control (which is yes, very sexy… until it’s not) turns into her taking advantage of Simon by forcing him to cum or ejaculate inside of her. Up until that time in the show, Simon had always pulled out before ejaculating (which is about 78% effective at preventing pregnancy by the way) so that he wouldn’t get Daphne pregnant. But this time during sex, she holds him down so he can’t withdraw in time.
This is rape. It’s not the guy perpetrating it (which is more common and better fits our stereotype of people who rape), but Simon was clearly distressed, upset, and shocked by this blatant (and pretty premeditated) act of violating his consent. Women can rape, too, and men can be victims.
Daphne never admits that what she did was wrong. In fact, Lady Whistledown’s first words after that scene are, “All is fair in love and war.” This wrongfully normalizes that doing things like rape is ok as long as the reasons are good. But rape is never ok. However, throughout the rest of the show, we as viewers are encouraged to continue to root for Daphne; we are supposed to agree that she did the right thing by helping Simon get out of this “rut” caused by his childhood trauma, that his father’s abuse didn’t mean that Simon couldn’t be a good father.
“A child would be a blessing”
But this wasn’t Daphne’s choice to make. So the whole situation and the whole way the show dealt with the situation was just yikes.
Some better ways Simon and Daphne could have handled the situation:
First of all, not raping anyone. Period.
Daphne and Simon could have worked on their communication, encouraging Simon to open up and Daphne to discuss her concerns and wants regarding having a baby
Simon could have explained to Daphne why he pulls out and shared his knowledge about baby making
Daphne’s mom could’ve told her how babies are made in the first place--sheesh mom, just spit it out
Daphne could have found alternative ways to deal with her anger and frustration--like talking it out with Simon or someone else, playing piano aggressively, journaling--rather than taking out that anger during sex
In the very least, Daphne could have recognized the serious wrongness of what she did and apologized to Simon rather than pressuring him about kids
I’m sure there are lots of other ways they could’ve handled it as well. As movie/TV watchers, we need to be very aware of where we get our understandings of healthy and sexy relationships and pay attention to where unhealthy aspects get normalized. We can think critically about what we’re watching for entertainment and do better in real life.
Check out some other TV shows and movies for teens that do better.