Don’t get me wrong. I love “Bridgerton” as much as the next girl and have binged it multiple times since its release, but that doesn’t absolve the show from some of its questionable messages on romantic relationships.
The main premise of the show is the love story between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). You’ve likely seen plenty of articles over how their relationship can be toxic at times, but I’m not here to talk about the controversial scene from the sixth episode. I want to talk about the foundation of their relationship in general.
Simon and Daphne’s Relationship Foundation Is Rocky at Best
Daphne is one of the most popular debutantes of the season and wants nothing more than a loving marriage and family similar to the relationship her parents had before her father died, and Simon wants nothing more than to remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. Their relationship begins as a sham to make Daphne appear desirable to eligible suitors and to keep Simon off the market. This inevitably leads to the two characters developing feelings for each other.
Despite their mutual fondness for each other, Daphne and Simon have nothing in common. Daphne is as traditional as a Regency-era debutante comes, while Simon is the 19th-century equivalent of a total f*ckboy (also known as a rake). We learn early in the series that he’s friends with Daphne’s brother, Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), from their time at Oxford. With Anthony being the ultimate rake, we’re only left to imagine what kind of reputation Simon had at Oxford.
Daphne's dreams of a happy marriage and children are at complete odds with Simon's vow to never marry or produce an heir. With their lack of mutual goals and initially fake relationship, they don’t spend much time sharing their dreams or values with each other.
To make things worse, Daphne is aware that Simon has a sleazy reputation, but she knows nothing about sex. This leads her to believe that whatever Simon was doing with random women is what will make him fall in love with her. She knows that her parents had sex to have their children and has likely noticed that Anthony is not so secretly in love with his mistress, so she likely thinks that sex automatically leads to love.
Women Have This Belief in the 21st Century
Though it’s easy to brush this off because it was the early 19th-century, and Daphne had no access to sex education, plenty of women today still subscribe to the false belief that sex will convince a man to fall in love with you.
Men and women have different physiological reactions to sex.
I remember being as young as 13 or 14 when I started to feel the peer pressure around sex. I knew so many girls who were firm believers that the only way to a guy’s heart was to perform sexual favors. I was still in my awkward phase (I had the frizziest hair and the worst acne), and the thought of talking to a cute boy made me nervous, and now I was supposed to do gross things I just learned about from my friends (the curse of being the oldest sibling is being 14 and having to awkwardly ask your friends how oral sex works) when boys still had cooties like five minutes ago?
I was very lucky to have a mother who told me that sex was no way to get a guy to like you and to wait to be in love and/or married, but many of my peers weren’t that lucky. Hookup culture reinforces the idea from an early age that sex comes first, and if you're lucky, the guy will fall in love with you afterward. Yikes! For women, this may very well be the case. Our brains are wired to bond (and therefore fall in love) with someone we're intimate with.
But for men, that's not the case. They're much less likely to tie physical intimacy to emotional intimacy. As we see on Bridgerton, this isn’t a new phenomenon, for young women have been buying into this lie for centuries.
Worse still, jumping into bed with someone over nothing more than physical attraction can blind you to other, deeper issues with the relationship. It can take months, if not years, for the intense honeymoon phase to end, only for the participants to realize that there wasn't much going on other than a physical attraction. We all want chemistry with our partner, but it's not enough to sustain a relationship long-term.
We all want chemistry with our partner, but it's not enough to sustain a relationship long-term.
Sleeping with someone to get them to fall in love with you is the worst kind of mistaken goal. The truth is that for most men, sex is not necessarily related to love. Women have been fooled into believing that because we often fall in love after having sex, men will react the same way. Many, many women have learned the hard way that this just isn't the case.
Though there are plenty of valid criticisms about the relationship between Simon and Daphne on Bridgerton, one that seems to be largely ignored is that their connection is based more on sex than communication or compatibility. We lie to young women, telling them that sex will convince a man to love them, and it’s one of the most destructive and damaging lies we could ever tell.
We need to put this myth to rest and make sure our romantic relationships are based on love, trust, respect, shared values, and honest communication. Sex on its own is a horribly weak foundation for a relationship, and how do you expect a relationship to last through time with a weak foundation?