The Duke of Hastings from Bridgerton is so hot I now feel fully exonerated for the embarrassment of fancying men.
I might spend hours perfecting replies for a guy who doesn’t listen to me. I might have to spend the occasional night on sheet-less beds, and shower with only an extremely minty 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner and body wash. I might no longer enjoy discussing Capitalist Realism, a truly fantastic book, because I no longer associate it with revolution but stubbly civil servants misquoting it.
However, all of that is now bearable because the Duke (I will be referring to him only as the Duke, and not by his real name, Regé-Jean Page, because I’ve had enough of reality for 2021) has absolved all men of their fuckups. He's made fancying men feel acceptable – enjoyable, even.
Watching someone as hot as the Duke have sex is art, and since all art deserves good criticism, I’m here to offer my feedback, because someone’s paying me to, and because it means I get to watch it all for a second time.
THE MOMENT WHEN HE LICKS THE SPOON
The Oxford Dictionary wouldn’t call this “sex”, but it doesn’t matter because whatever he’s doing to that spoon proves we have evolved beyond the need for such basic physical acts. There’s something transcendent in the way he licks away that creamy dessert, gazing at the metal almost meditatively, his tongue gliding along it, putting all of it into his mouth. Why did anyone bother constructing a plot for Bridgerton? Writing a script? Developing an overarching narrative? From this cutaway alone, my Pringle-crumb covered, sweatpants-wearing carcass felt a release like no other.
ALSO: Shonda Rhimes, if you are listening: will you be holding auditions for who gets to be the spoon in series two? And here are a few suggestions for other things the Duke could eat: a cream egg, an oyster, a peach.
THE ONE WHERE SHE GOES HOME AND WANKS OVER HIM
The Duke tells Daphne to go home and wank, and when she does as he says she looks so pretty. Her body opens like a delicately unfurling rose. She bites down on her pink lips. She grabs the duvet in her fists.
It's worth noting that no woman in the history of wanking has ever looked that perfect when they do it. It’s normally more pyjamas around the ankles, face screwed up like an old receipt. But I’m glad the Bridgerton director chose to provide such an unrealistic vision. I have to endure this ugly reality every night in my own bed, so I don’t need to watch it back onscreen.
As I mentioned, in 2021, I am done with real things. By all means, show strong female leads, let women over the age of 45 play three-dimensional characters, but long may the unrealistic wanking continue.
ALSO: He's so hot every time he sits down, I become jealous of the literal chair underneath him, because even though it's an inanimate object with no hopes and dreams, at least it gets to touch him.
THE ONE WHERE SHE LOSES HER VIRGINITY
Like most women, I’m attracted to emotionally unavailable men, so the fact the Duke keeps acting as though he hates Daphne even though he loves her – because he feels so guilty he’s prevented her from having children – is, honestly, fantastic foreplay for me. And the scene only gets hotter: he’s kissing her neck, unravelling the ribbons out of her corset and saying, “I want to show you more,” and she’s like, “More?” because she has absolutely no idea what sex entails.
Like many other period dramas, in Bridgerton sex is taboo, and this is precisely what makes it so kinky. In 2018, Nathan from Geordie Shore put a curling tong up his arse during the show’s primetime slot; watching Bridgerton takes you back to an era in which removing a glove at the dinner table was considered dirty. In this context, watching the Duke tell her to show him where she touched herself is stressfully hot.
ALSO: The Duke asks Daphne, “What do you want?” and rather than answering, she says: “Simon, I need you closer.” She provides a similar diversion later on, when they’re having sex outside, and she answers the prompt “tell me what you want” with “you”. These are precisely the sort of vague answers I use when I’m too embarrassed to say what I like, because: a) a protestant upbringing, and b) the patriarchy. Here, Daphne proves herself an absolutely seasoned master of diversion. I think he wanted you to be a little more specific, Daphne – fantasies, which fingers where – but go off.
THE ONE WHERE THEY FUCK ON THE DESK
The Duke is working late because, as a farm tenant points out in an earlier scene, his years of absence have caused his people to fall victim to tripled land rents, despite a run of bad harvests.
Having sex where you shouldn’t have sex is hot, so I enjoyed watching the Duke pick up Daphne and put her on the desk where he’s meant to read contracts and sign bills. The fact said workplace is covered with documents that might lead to a better quality of life for those who rely on him, less so. But no bother! In the next scene, Daphne heads off to solve poverty by handing out her subjects handfuls of lavender from the palace’s garden. Lovely!
ALSO: Maybe he goes outside and claps every night for his villagers?
THE ONE WHERE HE GOES DOWN ON HER WHILE SHE’S SAT AT AN EASEL
Daphne Bridgerton is Phoebe Dynevor’s breakout role, and she’s an ideal choice for the part. She’s got a cute mole near her lip. She’s good at acting outraged. Her boobs look great in a corset. She has the vibe of the kid who would alert another member of staff if a teacher hadn’t turned up to the lesson – which is to say, she was born to play the role of an innocent and well-intentioned period drama heroine.
Theoretically, this should have been her moment. She’s literally sitting at an easel, practically screaming at the male gaze: “Look at me!” And yet, despite her talents, the only thing I’m watching is the Duke. Daphne is not a painting hanging in the easel, but a blank canvas on which I project my own likeness. The Duke puts his head between her legs and I don’t think of how she screams, but how I would scream, how my back would arch, how I would say “don’t stop”. I assume everyone else who watched did the same.
Poor Daphne – she’s like a bay leaf in a lasagne: no one really understands what purpose it serves. The Duke could just keep licking the spoon.
ALSO: I nearly feel bad about objectifying this man, but then I remembered: he is a man!
THE ONE WHERE THEY HAVE A HUGE FIGHT AND THEN FUCK ON THE STAIRS
Angry sex is hot because it’s rougher – and when you make them feel good it's extra satisfying, because you're basically winning the argument by showing how much better than them you can be. It turns into a competition, and competitions can make people both try harder and get harder.
After Daphne and the Duke have an incredibly pointless argument that could have been resolved if they’d just spoken to each other, he – to paraphrase Cardi B – puts her pussy right in his face, swipes his nose like a credit card. The Duke – and specifically the image of the Duke giving head – lives rent-free in my mind. In fact, if possible, I would actually pay him to stay there using whatever income I don’t spend on rent and food.
ALSO: Most of the time, though, I just thought about how Daphne’s mum was definitely hearing all that because of how well noise travels up staircases.
THE ONE WHERE THEY FUCK IN THE RAIN
In 1995 we had Mark Darcy diving into a river and walking out with a soaking white blouse clinging to his hairy chest. If you did A-Level GCSE, you would know this is a metaphor for diving into a WAP. Bridgerton is a little more obvious in its symbolism, in that it isn’t really symbolism but rather realism, because you’re basically just watching them fuck. That said, the rain pouring in this scene does still mean wetness for her, for you and for all the other lovely viewers nationwide, especially when his hand is between her legs and he says, “Do you like that?”
ALSO: When he’s about to finish, the Duke pulls out and Daphne asks him whether it hurts to do so. He responds: “I feel as you feel, absolutely wonderful,” and I respect that he backs himself and his performance that much, especially given he only touched her vagina for all of three seconds.