Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington embracing in front of a mirror in the Bridgerton season 3, part 2 trailer

As a Plus-Size Girl, Those Sex Scenes in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Made Me Feel Seen

Two things about Bridgerton season 3 are my undisputed truth. One, Penelope Featherington is THE hero of this season. And two, they really understood the assignment with those sex scenes. 

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Off-screen, Penelope actor Nicola Coughlan is being hailed for subverting the typical body positivity discourse. “Women like me,” she said in a recent interview, clarifying, “women with perfect breasts…” Here is a woman who doesn’t want to slot her body in any size category, and instead, chooses to believe she is perfect. That’s empowerment on a whole new level.

Nicola Coughlan on the carpet at the Bridgerton premiere in a white dress
(Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images)

As a plus-size girl, this season it was incredibly refreshing to see Penelope’s character reflect the anxieties of someone who might need help to feel confident in their body. I was initially disheartened that the series decided to tiptoe around the real reason Penelope was ignored in the marriage mart all this time—her appearance, and a lack of confidence that stemmed from years of being told she didn’t fit the conventional standards of beauty, or didn’t understand fashion. It was also said indirectly in so many words, yet never truly addressed.

But the scene in Bridgerton season 3, episode 5, when Colin (Luke Newton) and Pen have sex for the first time—in front of a mirror—made up for this quite a bit. I couldn’t help but get swept up in all the emotion. This wasn’t like the carriage scene, where you’d rewind and rewatch it because it was so hot. This was lovemaking—gentle, sweet, kind. The writing brought a smile to my face for how it captured the anxieties of a girl’s first time, unsure about her body, and the guy helping her through it, making her feel beautiful, perfect, and loved.

Colin is truly a sensitive man. A man written by women, if you will. And this season has been all about putting female pleasure first and a woman claiming what she wants for herself. In the carriage scene, Colin is on his knees, all about Penelope’s pleasure.

In the mirror scene, too, Colin wants Penelope to see herself through his eyes as the smartest, most beautiful woman in the world. He shows it to her with his actions, yes, but he also tells it to her explicitly in so many words. For a moment, Pen gets all business-like when she says, “Tell me what to do.” You can see she is nervous, as if anticipating instructions to defuse a bomb!

But Colin instantly puts her to ease. He smiles at her with all the tenderness of the familiarity they share, and makes sure she is relaxed and enjoying her first time. He isn’t condescending. You even see the moment when Pen feels confident to take control, pulling Colin to her, and letting her inhibitions go. This, combined with the knowledge that it was Nicola Coughlan’s decision to embrace her perfect body in all its glory, comes together to make a memorable Bridgerton sex scene.

Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton as Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton in the third season of Bridgerton

I love that season 3 is peppered with scenes where Colin’s yearning for Penelope is often overcome with his want for her body. There’s the scene the night before their wedding, when Colin and Pen meet on the streets of Mayfair, unchaperoned, and he is so overcome that he wants Pen against a door, where anyone could see them! Or the morning after their wedding, when the Lady Whistledown shadow still hangs between them, and he bursts into Pen’s room while she is in her nightgown, only to ogle her bosom.

Penelope’s makeover, her owning of Whistledown, her finally understanding and being understood by her mother—all of these were puzzle pieces that had to come together to create the new, confident Penelope. And feeling not just loved but also desired—wanted on a carnal level—by her husband was a very crucial piece. After all, this need being unfulfilled was what cast doubts about Lord Dealing’s proposal in her mind. He would be her husband and care for her. But he would never love her, never want her.

From personal experience, I can tell you, to see yourself so desired does oodles for a person’s self-confidence and body image. I felt seen! The Bridgerton writers may have fumbled a few things this season, but they did get this part—particularly Colin’s role as a sensitive, considerate, and generous partner—absolutely bang on!

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.