When a woman says no she means no - even to you Poldark
Some 14 viewers of BBC Sunday night blockbuster Poldark have now complained to Britain’s broadcast regulator, Ofcom, about a rape scene in the hit BBC. An Ofcom spokesperson said the complaints would be assessed “before deciding whether to investigate or not”.
In the final episode of the current series, Ross Poldark, played by everyone’s Irishman du jour, Tallaght’s finest Aidan Turner, storms up unannounced to the house of his very former fiancée Elizabeth (Heida Reed). Elizabeth was previously married to Poldark’s recently deceased cousin Francis. Oh do keep up.
But that is when any light-hearted gawping at Poldark’s ripped physique ended.
Captain Poldark kicks in the door and demands that Elizabeth cancels her wedding to his sworn enemy George Warleggan. Naturally, impoverished by her widowhood and groomed by Warleggan for her new role, Elizabeth says no. She will say no again very shortly - and she means it.
After asking Poldark to leave, he seizes her face and forcefully kisses her. Elizabeth pushes him away and tells Poldark she loves George. He then forcefully kisses her again and looks menacingly at the bed.
“You will not dare,” says Elizabeth. “You will not dare.”
“I would Elizabeth,” replies Poldark. “I would and so will you.”
Poldark then pushes Elizabeth on to the bed. The programme makers maintain that at this point, it would seem that Elizabeth changed her mind and decided, it would seem, to have consensual sex.
“In the scene, Elizabeth and Ross have a fiery encounter which concludes with a consensual act,” said Karen Thrussell, Poldark producer.
Many viewers did not agree.
Oh, Ross, we thought you deserved that slap across the face from your cuckolded wife Demelza when you rode back into your home place the next morning. When a woman says no she means no - whatever Donald Trump might think.
Not everyone saw it that way, though.
Doing himself no favours in the eyes of his beholden new fans, Turner told a British newspaper: “It seems consensual and it seems right… he doesn’t force himself upon her.”
Well, others beg to differ.
Novelist Joanna Trollope said: “It is rape. Elizabeth says no to Ross three times. She tries to resist him physically. He has his way.”
Sarah Green, of Britain’s End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “It would not be out of place in a porn film… a strong man, and a woman who resists but wants it really.”
It is ironic that Poldark, a show that trades on satisfying female sexual energy and uses the semi-naked body of a man to pull in the punters for a bit of harmless fun on a Sunday night, should descend into the hateful world of violence against women.
It is sad that, just as some women were feeling that their dramatic needs were being met, Poldark’s producers go all retro on gender power relations.
It is sad that just as Sunday-night drama was looking up, women have been pushed right back into their place - literally.
Poldark raped Elizabeth and rape is not the stuff of light entertainment. Except it is.
Throw in a bit of serial killing and murder. Show the bodies of naked dead women on the slab in the mortuary and, it does seem, that the broadcasters, writers and producers of television drama have one-track minds. The Fall, Silent Witness and don’t even get me started on Game of Thrones.
Despite the feminist fightback, not a lot has changed.
Oh Poldark, the Pinot Grigio was in the fridge, the gossip around the water cooler was guaranteed. Now you have blown it.
When a woman says no, she means no. We trusted Poldark to know that, but the fantasy has been shattered.