Why Was The Bachelorette Forced To Apologize For Having Sex?

Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC.
Oh, The Bachelorette, that purveyor of true love as both a Disney-esque fairytale and a cutthroat competition. After 11 seasons of peddling romance as an Odyssean journey with over-the-top dream dates on tropical islands, are viewers finally fed up with the bullshit version of courtship it's selling? It seems they might be, given the kerfuffle over the sexist twist that kicked off the current season — and the booted contestant who felt no remorse after making a comment about rape. Now, the show is angering viewers in yet another way: by forcing current Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe to apologize for having sex with a contestant before the fantasy suite.  

"I came here to find the man of my dreams — my husband," Bristowe says in a voice-over on ABC's trailer for the upcoming season. "As I start my journey, I'm ready to find that person to spend the rest of my life with. I surrender to every feeling that I'm feeling. I am ready to fall in love," Bristowe continues (over dreamy images of sunsets by the sea and Bristowe standing atop scenic cliffs in Ireland).

Apparently, though, she shouldn't be surrendering to every feeling that she feels. After that placid montage of soul-searching contentment, the usual drama takes hold. The tension builds as we see scenes of Bristowe kissing various men. The men start getting jealous and threatening each other. Finally, Bristowe's voice-over returns: "If the physical part of the relationship isn't there for me, that's a deal-breaker," she says. Makes sense; she is supposed to be dating a man she wants to marry, and sex is usually part of that relationship. The line about surrendering to every feeling returns as she and the dude fall onto a rose-petal-strewn bed. It all looks very in-line with the hearts-and-flowers brand of romance that is the show's trademark.
Then, the dramatic drums start to pound. A man is seen running from Bristowe's room, naked. "I don't think I'm a bad person, and I'm not ashamed of myself, but I do have other relationships, and one of those relationships went too far, too fast...I made a huge mistake," Bristowe tells the camera during a confessional. 

She confronts the group of remaining suitors. "It's hard for me to admit it, but we had sex," she says to them. Smash-cut to men storming off in anger, crying, and spouting platitudes about how where there's smoke, there's fire. One of them is seen telling Bristowe, "I don't question his intentions; I question your intentions. I feel like you're here to make out with a bunch of dudes on TV." The trailer ends with Bristowe in tears. "I made a mistake. That doesn't make me a bad person," she cries. 

While it's true that producers often weave together footage from completely unrelated scenes to create drama, the trailer lends itself heavily to a narrative where a single woman searching for her future husband has sex and is forced to apologize for it. The other men she's dating act betrayed and deceived by her actions and intentions, even though she's supposed to be on a journey to find love — a journey that often involves sex.

Many Twitter users questioned whether or not Bristowe was being slut-shamed for her choices. "The Bachelorette: Kaitlyn Had Sex Like a Bachelor, and Was Judged for It," The Daily Beast wrote about the situation.

There does seem to be an overwhelming double standard for when The Bachelor versus The Bachelorette gives in to desire before the show's agreed-upon timeline. When Clare Crawley and Juan Pablo Galavis had sex in the ocean during a midnight rendezvous, Galavis said that he regretted it and sent Crawley packing. 

"He was more than willing to enjoy it [at the time]. He was having a blast, and so in my eyes, it just really was strange to me that he had such a dramatic opposite reaction to it. I still felt and believe to this day I did nothing wrong," Crawley said in an interview with People. "The issue for me was how he approached it — the words that he used, and how he made me feel when he used those words... It made me feel awful."

Courtney Robertson had a similar ocean tryst with bachelor Ben Flajnik during his season of the show. In her book, I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends, Robertson also implied that as the third and final fantasy-suite date, she knew Flajnik had slept with at least two other women on the show. Still, "the raven-haired beauty was dubbed a 'man-eater,' 'liar,' and 'mean girl' by other contestants during her stint on Season 16 of The Bachelor," the New York Post wrote about Robertson.

Neither Ben Flajnik nor Juan Pablo Galavis issued teary apologies for their pre-fantasy-suite ocean sexcapades — nor did fans, other contestants, or publications spill digital ink questioning their morals. 

Several women who appeared on past seasons of The Bachelor spoke to Us Weekly about the way the show has evolved over time when it comes to being open about sex. "It's good that they talk about it. In real life, people have sex all the time, and it should be talked about," said former contestant Erica Rose. "I think people just shouldn't be such prudes, honestly. People have sex before they're married. Like, everyone does it."

It seems that Kaitlyn Bristowe can be included in that "everyone" — and was forced to apologize for the fact. That kind of shaming is just part of the bullshit that is causing many former fans to give their viewership roses to other, more deserving (and less sexist) TV offerings. 

When reached, neither ABC nor Bachelorette production company Warner Horizon would comment on the matter. 

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