Bridgerton, the long-awaited debut of Shondaland on Netflix, is a perfect Gossip GirlmeetsDownton Abbey drama, arriving just in time for a Christmas binge. But more than anything else, this is the horniest show I’ve seen all year (and maybe ever?). At the end of many episodes, I had to pause to collect myself, whisper-shout to absolutely no one, “THESE NERDS ARE HORNED UP!” before eagerly pressing play again.
The premise is simple: Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor)—the daughter of an upper-echelon family—is making her circuit debut this season, officially on the market for marriage prospects. In order to catch the eyes of equally important men, she crafts a plan with the Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), who has no desire to ever get married. She’ll get to be the object of the town’s gossip, while he’ll be left alone away from inquiring mothers. Win-win.
Of course, it all goes awry when the two fall in love. And once they do, the sparks really begin to fly. In a show set in conservative Regency-era times, Bridgerton allows all of its characters to not only feel their lust, but also to act on it. It’s explicit, and I would not recommend watching with your parents, unless you enjoy awkward situations.
While there are many more stolen glances, hasty hookups, and impressively sexual line readings to contemplate, these are the top ten moments of thirst that made me wish I had some pearls to clutch.
In the garden, near the Dark Walk, the Duke and Daphne hatch their plan after a very indecent proposal from Lord Berbrooke. Not only is their plan hatched (duping the entire town into believing they are a love match), but their sexual chemistry of taunts and jabs is also on display. But truthfully, this scene is only here (albeit as an honorary mention) because of the way Regé-Jean Page says the word “issue,” which made my back tingle (it’s at 51:15 for anyone who would like to feel things).
I’m a very big proponent of reading between the lines of seemingly innocent physical touch and extrapolating sexual desires. One time, a boy I had a crush on tucked a rogue piece of hair behind my ear and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since it happened in 2014. So when Simon takes care to fasten the undone buttons on Daphne’s lace glove, all the while maintaining intense eye contact, you know I read that as an act of overt foreplay.
Episode 6 is chock full of in-the-moment sexual activity, but the most spontaneous may be when Daphne visits Simon in his office before dinner and they do it right there on his desk. Literally a fantasy playing out IRL. But more than that, this hookup is what furthers Daphne’s suspicions that Simon isn’t telling her the whole truth. Her souvenir for this exchange? The handkerchief that he finished in.
When participating in a ruse like the one Daphne and Simon have concocted, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate where the game stops and where real life may begin. And at this stage of courtship, it’s rare for those who are interested in one another to be able to enjoy a moment unchaperoned. So it is all the more exhilarating that these two not only have this moment to themselves, but that they make moves to show their desires extend beyond their arrangement.
Shortly after the Duke realized his feelings, he does what all men usually do and attempts to run away from them. But he couldn’t stay away from Daphne, finding her at the ball being courted by the Prince. As he attempts to say goodbye, Simon and Daphne fight and he acts on his impulses: he kisses her. It’s a grave act in this world that could diminish her marriage prospects, but after his apology, all she can do is go back for more.
Simon’s butt! That’s the most important part of this sequence, which is filled with these two making love in every corner of their home during their honeymoon. On the fields? Check. By the river? Check. On the ladder in the library? Check. Is it all accompanied by the staff listening in on the show they’re putting on? You betcha.
Gazebos in the rain have a very special place in my heart, due largely to seeing the Bollywood film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as a young child and forever internalizing a sequence in which the main characters share an intimate dance in their drenched clothing. Of course Bridgerton has turned up the dial on that trope, allowing their protagonists to fully embrace the romantic elements of the rain.
Simon and Daphne, in their newly-married and honeymoon bliss, are happily romping about and making love wherever they damn well please. These two are an unconventional couple, rebuking all of the typical traditions and expectations that come with their titles. After *gasp* eating dinner side-by-side instead of miles apart across the table from one another, the Duke and Duchess run outside in the moonlight, barely able to keep their hands off each other. When the rain starts to pour, as it always does, Simon leads her to a gazebo and proves himself to be a very giving lover who cares more about his lady enjoying herself than his own pleasures. It’s the set up for an ongoing montage of their lovemaking, doing well to show both their love and their lust, but also sets up the betrayal to come as the Duchess innocently asks the Duke if it hurts when he … well, you know.
A whole list could be dedicated to the glances thrown from across a room—between lovers, mortal enemies, and anything in between. Siena (Sabrina Bartlett), an opera singer tired of waiting around for Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) to treat her like his equal, begins dating a silver-haired fox and spends every opportunity she has making Anthony jealous of her new beau. But lust will eventually win out. After a staring contest for the ages, Siena and Anthony engage in some quick and dirty lovemaking under the bleachers while a boxing match occurs above them, acting like some high-schoolers who are willing to risk getting caught for the thrill of being together.
It’s not that Simon is literally going down on Daphne ON THE WINDING STAIRS OF THEIR MANSION, but rather that they are so deeply mad at each other and yet can’t keep their hands to themselves. Sure, this is the mark of a troubled relationship, but now that they are awakened to what sex feels like when you love the other person, there’s no turning back.
Outside of actually seeing these two rip the clothes off each others’ backs, the most titillating tease occurs when Simon tells Daphne to touch herself. JUST LIKE THAT. She, of course, has no idea that that is even a thing that she can do—let alone something she is allowed to do. This is the Regency era, people! Daphne doesn’t know the mechanics of sex, so of course she is in the dark about pleasure being as important as procreation.
I almost made this number one on the list for the sheer audacity of this line. Simon’s boldness, commanding this from Daphne in broad daylight while the two have not entirely made their feelings about each other clear, is of course jaw-dropping and only sets the table for the volcano of their love to erupt. But that he is also deeply invested in her feeling the pleasures of sex that women so often forego is a turn-on of its own.
Woooeee, I need to lay down for this one. After an intimate marriage ceremony, Daphne and Simon set off toward their new home. Of course, they aren’t speaking to each other after the whirlwind events that led up to their wedding: Simon told Daphne he cannot have children and therefore cannot give her what she has always wanted in life, and Daphne, headstrong as ever, commits to him anyway by interrupting a duel and announcing that they are to marry.
The long journey must be broken up over a few days and the new Duke and Duchess end up spending their wedding night at an Inn, and in separate bedrooms. I’ll admit I was nervous that they’d let their stubbornness get the best of them as they both sulked across the hall from one another. But alas, dinner called and so did the moment we’ve waited for. There are much steamier scenes on this list, but this was one of the most beautifully choreographed sex scenes I’ve ever seen, and was the crown jewel payoff that set the rest of them into motion.
After half a season’s worth of courtship, Bridgerton pulls off an extremely intimate portrait of two lovers exploring each others’ contours for the first time—while their physical chemistry is all-consuming, it’s that this first act is grounded in mutual trust and respect that sets it apart. And honestly? Kind of jealous that THIS is what Daphne gets to remember as her first time.
Radhika Menon is a pop culture-obsessed writer and filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has appeared in NY Post’s Decider, Teen Vogue, and will be featured in Brown Girl Magazine‘s first ever print anthology. She is a proud alumna of the University of Michigan and thinks she’s funny on Twitter.
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