Poldark is ostensibly a soap opera about eighteenth-century copper mining, but, in reality, it is a show about hot people staring at one another to a soundtrack of melancholy orchestral whining and the ceaseless crashing of waves upon the Cornish beach. Sometimes the hot people are staring at each other in anger over the glaring economic and political disparities of Georgian England, and sometimes they are staring at one another in sadness over babies dead of putrid throat or peasants crushed in mine collapses. But mostly, they are just looking at each other because they want to fuck.
One of the requirements for being a male actor with a speaking role on Poldark is a believable sex stare: that aroused, yet oddly sleepy side-eye men give when they are definitely ready to fuck. It’s not to be confused with the coitus face, screwed up in concentration or anxiety, or the post-coitus face, brimming with gratitude. The sex stare is its own thing, basically a primal sexual trigger meant to both galvanize and titillate its target, which in the case of Poldark, is its audience: British women and PBS viewers ages 30-100. So to close out season three of the show that proves how easily distracted we are from peasant poverty by ruling class abs, here are all the men of Poldark ranked based on how good they are at eye fucking.
Aiden Turner, who plays the titular Poldark, has two expressions: annoyed at tyranny and down to fuck. His furrow-browed sex stare is basically its own character on the show. On one hand, it relies on hammy soap opera conventions, intense gazes at a woman’s lips that caress their way back up to her eyes while silently begging to rip open the laces of those politely repressive stays. But there’s also something about his sleepy side-eye and bewildered, slightly open mouth that is totally genuine and incredibly reminiscent of the look actual men get when they’re hoping to fuck. Turner should win an Emmy for the breadth of his sex gaze alone, which encompasses, but is not limited to, Demelza, Elizabeth, copper miners, copper, Aunt Agatha, his house, and the sea.
Granted, he doesn’t really need the work, but if Turner ever finds himself running low on that Hobbit and Poldark cash, he could absolutely get a tenure-track job as a professor of sex staring at the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks.
This is a controversial opinion, but hear me out: if any man ever looked at me the way George Warleggen looks at money, my panties might actually melt. Yes, George Warleggen looks like a Forever 21 reproduction of Hugh Grant with none of the stuttering charm, and he can’t seem to manage an erection without thinking about Ross Poldark or starving peasants. But, the way he fingers a handful of guineas is nearly pornographic, and his penis seems to be the only one that can even temporarily make Elizabeth forget about Ross Poldark’s penis. So let’s just be real: it’s probably worth it.
A newcomer to the cast this season, it doesn’t hurt that actor Josh Whitehouse looks like a seventh grader’s description of a Disney prince come to life: giant Tim Burton character eyes, lips like a Renaissance painting of a cherub, and a curly chin-length bob rivaled only by Poldark’s own. He’s also got a sex stare so open-mouthed and daydreamy that he manages to convincingly look at a drawing of Demelza as if he wants to fuck it, which is perfect, as Demelza is in desperate need of some strange since Ross is definitively back on his bullshit for season three.
Despite being cute as a little brass button on a closely-fitted waistcoat and arguably the least horrible man in Cornwall, Dwight Enys’ sex-stare is surprisingly not great. He insists on either looking women directly in the eyes or politely glancing at tea trays to avoid any impropriety, making it impossible to tell if he wants to fuck or is simply hoping to be offered a bit of refreshment. In season one, he seemingly beds a married patient, Karen, because she asks him for the D, and he can’t quickly produce a courteous excuse to deny it. However, even though he looks like a guy whose post-coital conversation would probably just be vigorous apologies, his scared little deer face somehow makes him more fuckable. I mean, Karen ended up dying for that D.
When they’re not shirtlessly swinging hard spikes into the Earth’s moist crevices, hoping to plow through her hesitant veneer to the riches of glistening motherlode beneath, the copper miners are gazing at Ross Poldark as if they’d like to fuck. I’m not sure what direction the extras and minor characters of Poldark get, but I’m guessing it’s something like this, “Okay, so in this scene, Ross is going to yell at another rich person about how rich people are bad. You men stand behind him, choking your pickaxes and staring at him with damp lips and open mouths.” The peasants of Cornwall may be starving, but they’re also real thirsty for Poldark.
Oh, Francis, you precious little bite of soggy milquetoast. Why didn’t you ever learn to swim? When poor Francis was alive, he always seemed red-eyed and sneezy, like someone on day two of a cold that’s about to keep him in bed for a fortnight. But he did manage to give Elizabeth an eye fucking so good she married him instead of Ross, so that’s something. Francis also has the slightly desperate, too intense stare of a guy at last call in a dive bar whose hotter friend has already left with your hotter friend, so it’s just like, you know what, why not throw a pity fuck this dude’s way, which Elizabeth did at least once.
This season sees a couple of Demelza’s hot brothers show up at Nampara to give Aiden Turner a break from sex staring so he can focus on his tyranny annoyance faces. Like a member of One Direction in 2012, Harry Richardson, as Demelza’s younger brother, has a sex stare that looks like it’ll be ready for a Taylor Swift video in about four years. Right now, it’s a bit too wide-eyed and overwhelmed, right down to the stuttering, nervous exhale as he watches a woman sexily drink water in a cave. He definitely looks like he wants to fuck, it’s just that he also looks like a college freshman who will perform ten minutes of heartbreakingly awkward foreplay on the top bunk in a dorm room before two minutes of missionary sex that will completely overwhelm and amaze him.
What a waste of a sex stare! Demelza’s finest brother shows up to do something Jesus-y in Cornwall, convert everyone to the Methodist church or something, but what he’s really doing is serving some repressed, guilt-ridden sex gazing at a pirate’s hot daughter, who doesn’t believe in marriage but does believe in boning. We spend way too much time in season three on Drake’s sad little premature ejaculatory stares and not nearly enough on Sam’s strong browed, clench-jawed fight against his own sexuality. If I don’t see him rip a bodice in the heather next season, I want my PBS donation back.
Oh Verity. You deserved better. Not only did Captain Blamey kill his wife in “self-defense” (which a troubling number of men on Poldark do) he also gives an aroused fuck stare to a drawing of a mizzenmast and looks at you like most people would look at a drawing of a mizzenmast. At least he comes back from sea with bags full of oranges, so you’ll never get scurvy.
Henry Garrett is a good-looking guy with an unfortunately terrifying sex stare. Maybe it’s the fact that his character, Captain McNeil, never seems to blink, or maybe it’s the fact that his nattily combed little mustache looks like it’s hiding a crusty layer of half-rotten pudding crumbs, but for whatever reason, Captain McNeil is alarmingly not the strange Demelza was looking for while Ross was off fathering Elizabeth’s baby in season two. One point for being one of the few men on the show who can look past Demelza’s childhood poverty to see she’s a fucking flame-haired-and-hearted goddess, minus one thousand points for being a rapey sack of crap with a serial killer sex-gaze rivaled only by Jamie Dornan’s. And minus a further five points for that gross mustache, you fucking creep.
The worst Hugh on the show is also one of the worst sex starers. His fuck look is an exercise in contradictions. He has all the subtlety of a MAGA-hat wearing high and tight enthusiast yelling “nice tits” out the window of an F-150 combined with the kind of anemic gentrified delicacy that requires a pasty geriatric pervert to lure a woman behind an enormous topiary in order to more comfortably sexually assault her in the shade. His house has a “red room.” He participates in a coin toss to determine which gentleman might have the privilege of raping a houseguest. He is trash, and so is his whole storyline.
This asshole. While the sex stares of the top half of this list are like a drizzle of warm custard over a sticky toffee pudding, Ossie Whitworth’s openly lecherous, slack-jawed sex drooling is an expired tin of Heinz spotted dick. Actor Christian Brassington, who usually looks like this, manages to completely lose himself in a character that makes Mr. Collins look like a good preacher and an amazing husband. Reverend Whitworth has thing for feet, and the gluttonous way he looks at a filled pair of stockings is an insult to foot fetishists, feet, women, and Anglicans.
Emily Alford is a Brooklyn-based writer who recently completed her first novel and is working on a memoir about everything she watched on TV all the times she almost died. Twitter: @AlfordAlice.