A scene in the British TV series Poldark, involving an Icelandic actress, has caused the outrage of organizations battling violence against women for the way it depicts sexual violence.
Poldark’s producer Karen Thrussell said the episode showed a “fiery encounter which concludes with a consensual act,” the Guardian reports.
In the scene, Poldark, played by Aidan Turner, turns up unannounced at the home of Elizabeth, played by Heiða Rún Sigurðardóttir. After an argument about Elizabeth’s plan to marry Poldark’s enemy, Poldark forces her to kiss him. She pushes him away and says she no longer loves him, but hates him. Then he looks at the bed, prompting her to say, “You wouldn’t dare!” after which he pushes her onto the bed and she appears to give it.
Fay Maxted, chief executive of the Survivors Trust, remarked, “I think it is irresponsible of the BBC to misrepresent a rape in a high-profile programme when consent is so poorly understood.”
Sara Green, co-director at the charity End Violence against Women, told the Daily Mail, “It is definitely portrayed very much as a rape. The female character says ‘no’ and there are also non-verbal signs. She is moving away from him and pulling away from him. There is lots of stuff that is ambiguous.”
She added, “It is a really appalling message, which is they have made the representation of non-consensual sex ambiguous by making her appear to change her mind.”
The Telegraph writes:
“Much was made of how a controversial rape scene in Winston Graham’s novels had been ‘cut’ and updated in line with 21st-century ideas of correct behaviour. But had it, really?”
“What’s at issue here is the BBC and the producers’ claim that what takes place in this adaptation is somehow more acceptable. And the disturbing conclusion that in attempting to stay true to the high passions of the original yet preserve Ross Poldark’s – or perhaps Aidan Turner’s – status as national sex symbol the BBC has ended up creating a classic and really quite reprehensible fudge. Because it opens the door for the classic rapist’s defence – long repudiated both morally and legally – of ‘she was saying no but she really meant yes, m’lud.’ And that cannot be right at any level.”