The BBC, never averse to controversy, stands accused of glamorising and trivialising rape and sexual violence in scenes set for broadcast this evening.
Ross Poldark, lead character of the BBC One television series of the same name, uses violence to force himself upon former lover Elizabeth.
The BBC insists that the scene depicts consensual sex, but a preview of tonight's episode has left rape campaigners furious. Julie Bindel, a former Home Office appointed expert on the subject, was in little doubt: "We are seeing rape. It is irresponsible."
Leading criminal barrister Matthew Scott echoed that opinion: "It is rape. If I saw that in evidence on CCTV from a hotel room I would convict him."
The offending scene, which is set for broadcast at the end of tonight's episode, sees Poldark turn up unannounced at the home of his former fiancee Elizabeth.
Poldark kicks the door open with rage, annoyed that Elizabeth is set to marry his rival George Warleggan. He demands that Elizabeth calls off the wedding, but she refuses and demands that he leaves her home.
Poldark refuses, grabs her neck, pins her against the wall and forcefully kisses her. She continues to protest, but is overwhelmed by Poldark's strength. After a few moments Elizabeth was pinned on the bed by Poldark intent on sex. Towards the end of the scene it appears that Elizabeth accepts her fate and responds willingly to Poldark's lusty desires. However, by this stage she has already put up quite a struggle and said "no" three times.
Ms Bindel has voiced concern that the BBC has transformed an aggressive rape scene into something that Elizabeth appears to find enjoyable.
She said: "What they are showing is a woman enjoying rape. It's a rape scene that turns into a fantasy. This is one of the most damaging myths about rape. I think it's really pernicious."
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, a regular critic of the BBC, said: "By rewriting the original story to protect the on-screen reputation of the lead male character, the BBC has sent out two very disturbing messages – that no does not really mean no, and that women can enjoy forced sex."
The BBC, which knows all about sex crimes, maintains that the scene does not depict rape.
Karen Thrussell, producer of Poldark, defended the scene: "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."
Andrew Graham is the son of Poldark author Winston Graham.
Poldark is on BBC One at 9 pm, for anyone that happens to have a valid TV licence.
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