For the first time, the leading man on “The Bachelor” is a virgin, and sexual innuendos are through the roof in a show that is already pretty risque. On this season of “The Bachelor”—where 30 women try to win the heart of one man—Colton Underwood is presented as a person whose defining quality is his virginity, which reveals a preoccupation with sex that is problematic in its own way. In turn, the women who date Colton at times appear to be more concerned about taking his virginity than marrying him.
In the first episode, Colton and the host of “The Bachelor,” Chris Harrison, address the negative responses to his virginity that emerged following the announcement that he was “The Bachelor” pick of 2019. Some critics of the choice doubted that Colton could be ready for marriage if he has not had sex, while others, Harrison reports, said that Colton is “not a man.” In the season’s first episode, women on the show say his virginity is “concerning” and “so weird.” At one point, a woman pops a balloon shaped like a cherry in his face.
Even as the show mocks and fixates on his virginity, Colton invites empathy and sparks thought-provoking conversations about sexual morality.
But even as the show mocks and fixates on his virginity, Colton invites empathy and sparks thought-provoking conversations about sexual morality. It seems that even when you are an attractive, accomplished man, dating as a virgin can be hard.
Colton’s first “one-on-one” date starts out very rocky; conversation wears thin and his date, Hannah B., seems inexplicably anxious. Suddenly she blurts out, “Why are you a virgin?” It is a question he has received countless times. He patiently explains that it just did not happen for a long time, and eventually he decided he would rather wait for someone special than “get it over with.” Their initial awkwardness diminishes when Hannah opens up about feelings of shame about her sexual history, and Hannah gushes about his ability to truly listen. Later in the episode, Colton has a date with Heather, who nervously admits she has never kissed anyone. He treats her with the same understanding and respect.
Last week, in what was possibly the most serious moment in the history of “The Bachelor,” a contestant named Caelynn tells Colton about being drugged and raped in college. She describes how several male “friends” put something in their wine. She says the men raped them, took pictures of the assault and suffered no legal repercussions despite her desperate attempts to seek legal action. Caelynn talked about the shame she has felt and said she still sometimes has difficulty with physical intimacy. Colton assures her that she is safe with him and hugs her. He also confides that his first love was sexually abused and that part of the reason he had not had sex was because she was not ready for that level of intimacy. Following their conversation, Caelynn said that her romantic relationship with Colton is the safest and most comfortable she has ever had (even though, in the world of “The Bachelor,” it is going on at the same time as his relationships with the other contestants).
Colton breaks down two of the most prevalent untruths we hear about sexuality: that sex has no emotional weight or that once you have had sex you are dirty or ruined.
In these scenes, Colton breaks down two of the most prevalent untruths we hear about sexuality: that sex has no emotional weight or that once you have had sex you are dirty or ruined.
Human sexuality is complex and nuanced. The world is not neatly divided between virgins and people who have had sex; everyone’s sexual experiences are different and complicated and they do not define our human dignity. In the era of #MeToo, the virtue of chastity should not be wielded to shame people who have had sex but to call everyone to treat their partners with patience. At the same time, people like Colton who are committed to chastity deserve to be respected and not mocked.