The Amount Of Slut-Shaming On The Bachelorette This Season Is Shocking

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
I’m not sure why we’re surprised about the double standard on display this season on The Bachelorette, considering this is a show about 25 people competing to win one person’s heart on television. And yet, in 2015, when two women are running for President, it’s still shocking to hear just how abusive the general public can be when it comes to a woman’s right to choose who she wants to sleep with and when.

Kaitlyn Bristowe, the current Bachelorette, decided to sleep with one of her male contestants a few weeks after he arrived. She’s dating multiple men at the same time, has no commitments to any of them, and plans on spending the rest of her life with one. Cue: Sweeping, romantic music. However, Kaitlyn's subsequent harassment on social media included death threats, endless name-calling, and a level of vitriol that no one should have to endure, even if they have put their love life on TV.

During this season’s penultimate episode, host Chris Harrison noted that he’d never seen this kind of harassment in seasons past, even when Bachelor Ben Flajnik got naked on camera with a contestant in the ocean. Flajnik’s skinny-dipping partner in crime, Courtney Robertson, eventually revealed that they were having sex (again, on camera) in a tell-all memoir.

Harrison went on to read some of the slut-shaming tweets Kaitlyn had received, presumably to prove his point. Kaitlyn tweeted during the episode, saying, “ALOT of love pouring in right now which is a nice change. I'm all for opinions and chirps, but the kind of hate I've been getting is sick.” As a sign that better times are on the horizon, Kaitlyn got a ton of support from former Bachelorettes Trista Sutter and Ali Fedotowsky, who tweeted their own anti-bullying messages.

As for the rest of this week's episode, there was the predictable amount of sexist chatter and blooper reels, with a few shining moments of humanity tucked in between. All the guys were back, from the just rejected Ben H, to Mr. "I'm horned up" himself (who did have the grace to apologize for his first night behavior). With all of the men back in the room, it seemed striking that Ben H and Ben Z were back together, as the last time most people made distinctions about similarly named men in their lives, it was when they were deciding if Jason T. or Jason R. should be given the better Power Rangers valentine.

Something else that became clear when all the taking heads were compiled and replayed, was the distinction between calling Kaitlyn a girl or a woman. While you could argue it's common to call someone well into her twenties a girl, most of the suitors flipped-flopped, taking about the sweet girl, the funny girl, the girl they were falling in love with, but would insist they were there for the woman they were going to marry. Something magical and transformative was obviously going to happen to her in their eyes when she decided to chose them, making her go from giggly girl to serious, mature woman.

The night kicked off with an incredibly awkward apology from Ian for vocally distancing himself from the guys he felt were doing nothing but sitting around and making "fart jokes." It should be noted that a strong defense has never been mounted by opening with, "Yes, we told fart jokes, but..." Ian felt the need to take off his jacket and get on his knees before the guys to say he was sorry, making everyone uncomfortable and not really disproving that he thought he was above the rest of the assembled men.

There were, as to be expected, unnecessary gay jokes at the expense of Clint and JJ, with Chris Harrison teasing that JJ could "come out" as a cast member on August's Bachelor in Paradise, and Kaitlyn asking if their relationship was "it's complicated" on Facebook. While Clint clarified from the beginning that he was a heterosexual man, JJ spoke passionately about their friendship while some of the other contestants barely contained their laughter, obviously not convinced the pair was ever "just friends."

When Kaitlyn was brought on, the conversation was immediately brought around to the cyberbullying she's been faced with. She insisted that she could deal, even with the death threats, but what really upset her was how much the words against her hurt her family. To illustrate exactly what she was dealing with, Chris read a few of the tweets and direct messages sent to Kaitlyn, obviously shocking the audience with quotes like, "you're a little whore so shut your whore mouth," and "she should just crawl into a hole and die." While the audience gasped the men stood up and applauded her, a nice gesture that seemed to illustrate that whatever criticisms they'd expressed over her actions, they didn't support harassment.

The episode ended on a distinctly light note, with a reel of memorable moments including highlights of Kaitlyn's fear of pigeons, it then concluded with one of the guys creeping towards her in a giant rubber pigeon mask. It was an oddly cheerful, hopeful conclusion with a look towards Kaitlyn's happy future, considering the anger still be directed at her online. But that's part of the fantasy The Bachelorette needs to create and maintain to survive. Out there the world might hate you, harass you, feel justified in publicly wishing for your death. But in the world of the show you're just one rose away from a perfect happily ever after.
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