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The sex in Bridgerton (including one particularly steamy scene on a library ladder) may have had viewers fanning their faces and some lamenting the fact they watched with their parents, but arguably what cemented the Netflix show's success was its depiction of romantic love.
Was it old-fashioned? Yes, this is after all set in the Regency era. But it also reminded the audience – many whose dating lives began on app Tinder – that there were some lessons to be learned, despite certain missteps (mamas, perhaps don’t marry off your daughters and please tell them more about sex than Lady Bridgerton did). Herein, Bridgerton’s love lessons.
When Simon, Duke of Hastings, accompanies belle of the ball Daphne Bridgerton on a promenade, he clasps her gloved wrist in his hand and does up her lace cuff, button by button. It’s a move that turns the heads of other men in their midst.Advertisement
Sydney sex and relationships therapist Jacqueline Hellyer wishes that modern daters would take note of the smaller gestures. "Even if it’s just a nice kiss on the cheek – you can still do that in an erotic way. I think Bridgerton showed us just how erotic the bare minimum can be, especially when these days people think they have to be naked and doing all sorts of crazy things on the first date," she says. "Energetic frisson is incredibly powerful and something we’ve really lost lately. It’s the building of anticipation and sexual chemistry without doing anything overt."
When they’re not dancing at balls, the fancy folk of Bridgerton are circling the park with linked arms. "I am a huge fan," says Hellyer, who thinks that a restaurant date can often be inferior. "Especially with online dating, you’re meeting someone you don’t know anything about, and sitting opposite them in a restaurant, face to face, not really doing anything? It’s like an interview! ... And keep in mind that watching someone eat is not the most erotic thing, particularly," Hellyer says.
"If you’re doing something like going to an art gallery, or going for a walk, there’s stuff happening around you – it’s easier to talk and it doesn’t matter if there are silences. There isn’t the intensity of the face-to-face, and you can catch little glimpses of each other. Your hands or your arms might brush a little bit. But a restaurant? It’s too intense for a first date."
If you watched the Simon and Daphne in his library, you’ll know that ladders can act as a stairway to… other pleasures. "Everyone is so surprised by this," says Hellyer. "With the rise of porn, you don’t often see men pleasuring women, but if a woman is having pleasure, the man has more pleasure. If it only is about the man ... that’s pretty boring, really."
It’s the lying in Bridgerton that causes relationships to rupture, while those who are direct are rewarded for their honesty. "I’m always telling people to be themselves," Hellyer says. "If a person doesn’t like the real you, you don’t want to be with them anyway. Radical honesty is at the core of all good relationships. Dishonesty is a total disaster."
When a distant cousin of the Featheringtons, Marina Thompson, comes to stay, she brings a hidden stash of handwritten letters penned by her lover Sir George. Penelope Featherington considers them gingerly, as if they are sacred texts. Hand-written letters deliver a bit of magic to their recipient, likely because of their scarcity.
"They were slower times, and so it took time for things to build," says Hellyer. "If you want to use a food analogy, when you cook food slowly you get better results: the meal is richer, the flavours have developed, the food is tenderer. It’s the same with romance and love-making. When you slow it down, it gives time for an erotic richness.”
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