Bridgerton Review: Is It Wrong To Never Fantasise About Your Partner While Masturbating?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
The following article contains spoilers for season one of Bridgerton.
I made the mistake of watching Bridgerton with my parents. Don't be like me: The steamy series, which was made available on Netflix on Christmas Day, features a lot of vivid sex scenes that made all three of us deeply uncomfortable. One particular painful moment for me was an episode in which Daphne Bridgerton (played by Phoebe Dynevor) learns to masturbate. And because the show is set in 1813, she didn't make this discovery courtesy of the internet or a sex ed class. No, Duke Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), whom she is pretending to court as part of a plan to find a suitor during the social season, fills her in on the wonders of wanking.
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“It was an interesting scene to shoot and an interesting journey to portray — someone completely discovering it for herself and what that means,” Dynevor tells Refinery29. She noted that it was shocking to think about living in a world where you couldn’t just Google “what is masturbation.” One where, if your family kept you in the dark about your body and its treasure trove of pleasures, there were few ways of learning about it. 
“[Daphne’s] someone who’s been so kept in this bubble,” Dynevor says. “I sort of played with the idea that all she’s heard about romance and sex is the vague mentions in novels.” 
A few episodes after Bridgerton finally pulls up her nightgown and does the deed, the Duke asks Bridgerton what she thought about as she masturbated. She replies: “I thought about you when I touched myself — I always think about you.” It's an incredibly hot exchange, one that I truly hated watching with my mum and dad.
When I described this scene to Laurie Mintz, PhD, a sexuality psychologist, she laughed. It's a nice thing to say, Dr. Mintz told me, but in her experience, most people don't think about their parter when they masturbate — and there's nothing wrong with that.
Self-pleasure (and pleasure in general) is all about mind-body connection, explains Dr. Mintz, author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters — And How to Get It. “If your head isn't in the game, you’re not going to have as much enjoyment,” she says. “We know mentality is so essential. Whatever is going on between your ears is equally as important as what’s going on between your legs.” 
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About 53% of women who masturbate say they use their imaginations, according to numbers from the the TENGA 2020 Self-Pleasure Report, which polled 15,000 people across five countries. (I'm no historian, but I imagine that number was higher in 1813, when porn wasn't as accessible.) And about 25% of Americans say they think about their current partner when masturbating. For some people, this can be incredibly sexy. “Someone who masturbates while thinking about a partner they feel connected to can experience a spike of the kinds of body and brain chemistry that happens when they’re with that person, such as adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin, all of which can influence arousal and pleasure while masturbating," says Dulcinea Pitagora, PhD, a sex therapist known as the Kink Doctor who uses they/them pronouns. It certainly seemed to work for Bridgerton.
But according to the TENGA survey, the significant majority of people don't fantasise about their boo when they're touching themselves. The reason for this isn't that they're not attracted to their partners. It's just that, when you're picturing someone you know well, you may not be able to get past the mundane logistics to really get into the mood. When your mind starts drifting to your go-to fantasy — say, your partner spanking you with a paddle — you might suddenly find yourself thinking, What room would we do it in? The bedroom's a mess. Or, First, we'd have to make up from that fight we had the other day. Or, I'd ask them to walk the dog first; otherwise he'd be barking. You can see how it might be easier to orgasm while thinking about a random person you barely know.
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Of course, it's possible to "leave out those parts that would blunt desire and focus in and emphasise the parts that heighten desire," Pitagora points out — and the people who find it hot to think about their partners while masturbating probably do just that.
Ultimately, different fantasies work for different people. “Our fantasies and our sexualities are so unique — like a fingerprint,” says Liz Goldwyn, the founder of The Sex Ed. Don't beat yourself up if your boo doesn't often come to mind when you're spending some QT with your favourite vibrator. It doesn't mean anything's wrong with your relationship or your sex life. Solo sex is a time to explore yourself, your body, and your own desires, so try to be as non-judgmental and loving about how you prefer to get it on as possible.
“I would encourage people not to self-censor and to freely explore their thoughts, emotions, and feelings of physical pleasure, and follow where that takes them,” Dr. Pitagora says. So, whether that leads you to think of your partner, a stranger, or a perfectly chiseled Duke, let it be. And enjoy.
Ariana Romero contributed to this reporting. 

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