'Bridgerton' scene controversy explained: why one clip is dividing opinion

Wondering what that 'Bridgerton' scene controversy is all about?

rege-jean page in bridgerton
(Image credit: Netflix)

Bridgerton has been the talk of the town since it dropped on Netflix on Christmas Day 2020, but the conversation surrounding the show took a more serious turn after viewers got to episode six of season one.

That given episode featured the show's most controversial scene, which had many fans questioning the ethics around it. But what could possibly cause such a division in opinions? Let's discuss. 

*Warning: spoilers ahead.*



What is the 'Bridgerton' scene controversy about?

rege jean in Bridgerton

(Image credit: Netflix)

In episode six of season one, viewers see Daphne Bridgerton (played by Phoebe Dynevor) hatch a plan to get impregnated by her husband Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page). The two get married under the condition that he could not have children—despite Daphne's desire to start a family—which the debutante originally thought was on the grounds of a medical condition.

It's only when Daphne realizes that the Duke can indeed have children but uses the pull-out method in order to avoid fathering any that she initiates sex and positions herself on top of him so he cannot withdraw, despite his attempts to do so.

In Julia Quinn's book, The Duke and I, which season one is based on, the scene is slightly different than on screen: Simon comes home drunk and Daphne, feeling an "intoxicating surge of power," takes advantage of him and leaves him with "complete loss of speech, this choking, strangling feeling". 

Why was the 'Bridgerton' rape scene included?

The book The Duke and I came out 20 years ago and since then, society's understanding of consent has changed—which has now raised questions as to why series creator Chris Van Dusen decided to keep the so-called "Bridgerton rape scene" in the show. 

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab), Van Dusen said: "We had a lot of conversations around that specific incident in the book. And we did discuss it, a lot, as far as how to approach it and how to handle it."

He continued to explain that the scene is part of Daphne's journey from an innocent debutante to a woman who knows what she wants and what she's capable of doing to get it.

"I've always called this first season of the show, if it had a subtitle, it would be, 'The Education of Daphne Bridgerton.' That incident really goes along with that overall — that overarching theme that she starts out as this picture-perfect, wide-eyed, innocent debutante," Van Dusen told the outlet. 

"And we watch her grow into this woman who gets to shed all of the constraints society has held her to, and she finally figures out who she really is and what she's capable of."

Viewers react to the 'Bridgerton' scene controversy: 

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Many have expressed their take on the controversial scene on social media, wondering why the scene was kept and why there was no trigger warning included.

One said: "tw sexual assault, rape for anyone watching #Bridgerton, episode 6 has a male rape scene that they...somehow made worse than the book. I’m so angry".

Another wrote: "It's actually disappointing that we've almost got to 2021 and Hollywood are STILL struggling to recognise female-on-male rape. The Bridgerton scene was supposed to be 'sexy.' Daphne raped Simon so she could have children, despite the latter having experienced severe trauma."

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A third added: "Trigger warning: rape The #Bridgerton rape scene needs to be acknowledged as one. It was hard to watch."

And a fourth wrote: "Just remembered why I did not particularly love the first book of the Bridgerton series and re-read the rest of the books all the time.! The book should have come with a trigger warning and now that it's going to be on a show, all the more! tw: marital rape of husband by wife."

As well as acknowledging that the sex scene is, in fact, rape, a comment piece in Vox (opens in new tab)by writer Aja Romano explains Simon's use of the word “can’t” instead of “won’t” means that Daphne, who has been given little to no sex education, is also unable to give informed consent when they first have sex. 

“The strangest thing about this moment is that I’m not sure the show’s writers consider this scene to be a rape scene,” Romano writes. “One bad moment of uninformed consent does not justify a moment of nonconsensual sex. And depriving Simon of his consent to both sex and fatherhood, even at the moment of climax, is still rape.”

You can see the scene in question for yourself in Bridgerton season 1 on Netflix. 

Mariana is Editor of My Imperfect Life. She has previously worked for titles including woman&home and Goodto, covering all aspects of women’s lifestyle — from beauty and fashion to wellness and travel. She was nominated for AOP Digital Journalist of the Year in 2020, and for New Digital Talent of the Year at the 2016 PPA Digital Awards. She’s mildly obsessed with reality TV (Love Island memes included) and spends far too much time checking her horoscope and figuring out the perfect curly hair routine.