I’m a woman, I love period dramas and I’m Black. So when a new Netflix series called Bridgerton was said to have been blind cast and with a diverse group of actors; I was already sold.
Set during the Regency era in England, Bridgerton is the story of a small London community and the attempts of its inhabitants to find love. We enter the story at the time of debutante season, during which the eponymous Bridgerton family and others, present their daughters at court so that they can be married.
Back in the 19th century, unmarried women of my age would be “spinsters”: women past their prime and unlikely to find a suitor willing to marry them and be their provider and head of the household. I remember fondly a moment when, at supper the night before I was married, my genuinely lovely step father-in-law announced a toast to my “last night as a spinster”. I was 26.
So I was old, but with the carnal knowledge that many of the young women in Bridgerton did not have as they entered into relationship with their new husbands. When looking for someone to write this piece, many were surprised that a Christian publication wanted to write something about sex. I was amused, mainly because sex is literally what got us all here, but also saddened if we as the Church refuse to engage in conversations around sex and relationships, then it leaves space for the world to define – and often distort – what it should look like.
Silence around sex is something the young women, girls really, of the Bridgerton era knew only too well. When Daphne Bridgerton begs her mother to tell her what to expect when she is finally alone with her soon-to-be husband, Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings, her mother appears embarrassed and shys away from telling her the truth; feeding into the sense that sex is something shameful to be hidden away. When Daphne and her new husband – who, like many men of that time is all too familiar with conjugal pleasures – finally consummate their marriage, I was surprised. A beautiful sex scene sounds like an oxymoron but it was encouraging to see two people committed to both life and intimacy together, in the traditional way we see it ordained in the Bible.
A modern rhetoric largely passed around media for young people suggests that you have to “try before you buy” when it comes to relationships. I’ve often heard it said that you can’t wait until marriage before you sleep with someone because, “what if it’s awful??” I wasn’t a virgin when I got married and I can’t change the past but I do love that in Bridgerton, Hollywood gives us a really positive picture of intimacy with a woman who waited. There is much imperfection in the relationship between Daphne and Simon, as there is in all of us. But if you ask me, there is something beautiful in their committed acts of physical love in Bridgerton that we as Christians would do well to celebrate.