It was easy to wander into Bachelor Winter Games expecting a lackluster product. The 2018 Bachelor’s most thrilling moments have been limited to the magic of Bekah Martinez or watching star Arie Luyendyk Jr. dare to drink red wine on camera — a major no-no thanks to sound quality — and Bachelor In Paradise was far too mired in genuinely alarming controversy to ever feel like a complete escape. But, the reality TV riff on the actual Winter Olympics surprised us. It’s fun, it’s weird, and it even managed to make Ben Higgins seem more compelling than a nicely buttered piece of toast. Even with all of these successes though, it’s fair to say Winter Games’ crowning achievement is finally treating sex like a normal, healthy part of a relationship.
In 2018 that should be obvious, but in the wide world of Bachelor Nation, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Canadian Bachelor lead Kevin Wendt and veteran TV cry machine Ashley Iaconetti give us our first sign Winter Games isn’t terrified of sex one bit. During the new breakout couple’s date in penultimate installment “Episode 3,” Ashley reveals she’s virgin. I would like to remind everyone that’s a made-up status created by the patriarchy to control women’s sexualities, but, nonetheless, Ashley is very concerned this news will make “Canadian Ben Higgins” Kevin “soft.”
It does not, but it does lead to an extremely honest discussion about the importance of physical intimacy in a relationship. “It’s hard to imagine ever marrying someone [without sleeping with them]. Let alone even proposing. Actually even being in a long-term relationship,” Kevin admits. “Because I feel like sex in relationship is one of the most important things.” This is the kind of vocal sexual honesty that usually gets a Bachelor(ette) contestant labeled “here for the wrong reasons.” Ask Jack Stone or the great Corrine “Platinum Vagine” Olympios during her original Bachelor run. Someone who actually wants to sleep with their new romantic partner — I never!
Yet, Kevin doesn’t get the opportunistic creep edit. Rather, Ashley beams as Kevin explains he “respects” her decision to wait for the right guy and thinks whatever man “takes” her virginity needs to ensure she feels good about the experience “for a long time.” From there, Kevin joins Ashley for the kind of sexy pottery date the world hasn’t seen since 1990’s Ghost. The Nickelback superfan comes off looking like a sex-positive prince charming with Tom Brady hair.
If this were the only instance of Winter Games being cool with normal human sexuality over “the journey” or PG-romance, it would be easy to write off Kevin and Ashley’s frank discussion as a fluke. But, the episode wraps with one of Bachelor Nation’s most sexually forward eliminations ever, with a kissing contest so intense it left one poor competitor sick from performance anxiety. Cuties Dean Unglert and Lesley Murphy dance their way into a kiss that looks so much like an advanced sexual position Bachelorette queen Rachel Lindsay, who was judging the event, remarks, “Oh my God, I thought you were going to kiss her in a different spot.”
Everyone laughs as Dean and Lesley continue to manhandle each other and stick their tongues in each others mouths. No one accuses anyone of being there for the wrong reason. And, of course, they can’t because the remaining couples try to out-sexy the first couple. Kevin can’t keep his hands off of Ashley’s butt to the point where judge JoJo Fletcher happily whispers, “The booty!” Lily McManus wraps her legs around Courtney Dober’s waist like it’s a steamy movie sex scene. And Josiah Graham even tries to make kissing someone with fresh puke-mouth hot. It did not work at all, but the Bachelorette reject and lovable New Zealander Ally Thompson did give the entire enterprise the old college try.
Although fellow seasonal Bachelor spin-off Bachelor In Paradise also traffics in Bachelor(ette) rejects “exploring” their options together, those interested in sexual passion and actual love are sharply delineated. Think back to Taylor Nolan and Derek Peth, who spent most of their summer quietly whispering about love somewhere on the beach, versus the antics of Dean, who was clearly led solely by his sexual appetites. One was Good and one has been vilified for fuckboi-ery for half a year. The show needs both types of people to survive, but obviously only wants fans to like one of them.
And, we all know the Bachelor(ette) mothership tries to pretend sex doesn’t exist until the fantasy suites arrive — even when you’re dealing with a Bachelor as physically obsessed as Arie “The Kissing Bandit” Luyendyk Jr.
Winter Games, on the other hand, lives in a place where sex and love can exist at the exact same time. This nexus is also called Real-Life. We can feel confident knowing this as all of the teasers for the season 1 finale suggest Ashley and sex loving Kevin are about to get even more physical with each other. It’s nobody's business just how far the couple will go, but at least Ashley seems excited and comfortable with exploring that side of herself.
So, a sex-positive Bachelor was always possible; we just needed to fly in about a dozen foreign nations to make it happen.
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