BBC drama 'Poldark' comes under fire for sexual assault scene

The scene featured Aidan Turner's character Ross Poldark not taking no for an answer

BBC drama 'Poldark' comes under fire for sexual assault scene


The BBC Sunday-night drama Poldark, which stars Irish actor Aidan Turner, has come under fire for a scene which many viewers have likened to sexual assault, with many of the show’s fans calling for a boycott.

In the scene, broadcast last night on the British national broadcaster, the character Ross Poldark kicks down the door of his late cousin’s wife’s home, entering her bedroom and refusing to leave at her behest. Poldark then takes Elizabeth into an embrace, where she struggles to free herself and repeatedly says no, only to be forced onto her bed and pinned down. At this point, Elizabeth stops resisting Poldark’s advances.

The popular TV show, set in Cornwall in the 18th century, is the second television drama based on a series of historical novels written by Winston Graham. The third book in the run, 1950’s Jeremy Poldark, does feature a scene in which the character Ross Poldark sexually assault’s his cousin’s widow.

Sexual violence campaigners in the UK have spoken out against the depiction of the scene in the drama, accusing the BBC of blurring the lines between rape, consensual sex, and romanticised rape. They have accused the show of presenting a rapist as a dogmatic hero, for perpetuating the stereotype that only bad, outsider, or violent men carry out sexual assaults, and for feeding into the well-established culture of victim blaming.

“The Poldark ‘rape’ scenewould not have been out of place in a porn film – a strong man who knows what must be done and a woman who apparently resists but wanted it really,” Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women coalition, told Mashable. “Ideas like this are underneath lots of excuses for not believing women when they report rape.”

Responding to the criticism, Karen Thrussell, a Poldark producer, said: “We’ve always been aware that the scene in question has been called controversial and that the controversy is all the more acute when an isolated instance is taken out of context. During the script process, this was one of several scenes we discussed with Andrew Graham [the author’s son].

“In the scene as written and performed, Elizabeth and Ross have a fiery encounter which concluded with a consensual act – one which had been coming for a long time and was borne out of a relationship which, in one form or another, had existed since their youth.”

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