Editor’s note: TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of sexual assault and rape
Editor’s note: Spoiler warning for Netflix’s Bridgerton Season 1
We all have heard of “Bridgerton.” It’s still in the Top 10 on Netflix. However, I have seen very little criticism of what happens in episode six.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, the protagonist, Daphne, wants to prove that her new husband, Simon, is avoiding fatherhood. She instigates sex, and even though he tells her to wait, she stays on top of him until the end.
The straightforward sexual assault is played down, and Daphne faces little to no consequences for her actions. While there is a lot to unpack character-wise, this is evidence that media is desensitized to sexual assault.
Daphne is a young woman, uneducated on conception. How could she have sexually assaulted him if she did not know any better? Isn’t she a woman? Of course, she can decide when she wants a child, right?
Daphne is an abuser, and you almost have to watch the scene twice to grasp it.
“Since men are the stereotypical sexual assaulters, I feel like the audience would have more easily understood what was happening. Since Daphne was the one assaulting Simon, it made it less understandable of what was happening,” Georgia State senior Ashleigh Cochran said.
Furthermore, there is no trigger warning, and according to the Innocent Lives Foundation website, “memories of trauma are worse without warning.”
Remembering you are in control and paying attention to warnings is a widespread tip for survivors consuming media. If there is no chance for survivors to decide if they are ready to witness an assault, a series, especially one as big as “Bridgerton,” should do better.
So what exactly do we call what happened to Simon? First we need to understand the media industry’s lack of attentiveness, it is essential to know what you see when you see it.
Sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, is any “nonconsensual sexual act, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”
“Wait, wait,” the words Simon said during the scene, should it be categorized with another verbiage like “Please stop” and other signals indicating you do not want to engage in a sexual act. Case closed, Daphne assaulted Simon.
There is debate on the severity of the crime and what we should call it.
“I would say that Daphne forcing Simon to do what they did was rape. While he does consent to sex, he does not consent to finishing, and by forcing him to do that, Daphne is entrapping him in the relationship,” Cochran said.
Rape is defined by the FBI as “penetration, no matter how slight, without the consent of the victim.” Entrapment is just what it sounds like, trapping a partner into pregnancy or abortion.
Daphne put the pieces together and knew Simon wouldn’t have kids, not couldn’t, and did what she did anyway.
Whatever you choose to call it, the presentation of the scene was insensitive and tacky. That did not keep the show from being renewed for a second season, similar to how it did not keep Daphne from getting a happy ending.
Our heroine is an abuser, and she, along with the entertainment industry, should be ashamed that this was allowed to happen.