'Poldark': Steamy PBS Period Piece or Rape Fantasy?

Last night American viewers finally caught up to Britain’s latest pop culture crisis when they tuned into Masterpiece Theater’s Poldark. For those of you who have yet to view last night’s episode, stop reading now. Or, if you’re anything like me, keep reading, then call out sick to view the episode and decide for yourself whether or not the love scene between the very married Ross Poldark and the widowed Elizabeth constitutes what some Britons are calling a “rape fantasy”:

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

For those of you unfamiliar with the series (where have you been?) but still interested in the dilemma that is modern consensual sex, here’s a bit of important context most “rape fantasy” proponents tend to leave out of the discussion. The hit British drama series set in 18th century Cornwall is based on a series of books by the same name authored in the late 1940s. The current series is actually a remake of an intensely popular televised version released in the 1970s. Is your head spinning? It should be when you realize that what constitutes “rape” in the 21st century is not what legally or politically constituted rape in the 70s, let alone over 200 years ago. With the ever-increasingly stressful demands for “safe spaces” and apps created to suit the need to document that a sexual encounter was consensual, any sex on screen is up for debate.