"Consent" is a buzzword on this season of Bachelor In Paradise, and has been brought up just as often as the "journey" or "connections" — and for a good reason. After the allegations of sexual assault in June, and the subsequent investigation, the show had to address how they'd handle consent going forward.
The producers decided that there would be a couple of new rules: Contestants could only be served two drinks per hour, and they had to give verbal consent on camera before engaging in any "intimate moments," according to The Hollywood Reporter. In essence, the only real difference was that, now, they had to make sure the producers knew they were about to go hook up with someone, and that both partners had consented to it, Jasmine Goode told THR. Sounds like a pretty responsible move for a show that's designed to facilitate wild summer hookups, no?
In the same interview with THR, Danielle "Lo" Lombard said that being required to give verbal consent "definitely changed the mood of things." She continued, "If you can imagine, you’re having this physical chemistry with someone and you want things to progress, and then all of a sudden you have to be like, 'Hey, do you verbally consent to doing this?' It kind of kills the moment." Lombard went on to say that she didn't know anyone who "hooked up" in the house after the rule was put in place. "And I think that [the new rule] was a huge reason why," she told THR. "I definitely think it kills the moment. That’s why I think it just didn’t happen." Goode said that the new regulations didn't bother her, and Robby Hayes agreed that it didn't change a thing.
Lombard is just one cast member on Bachelor In Paradise, and she clearly doesn't represent the entire cast's opinion on consent. But her comment does echo a problematic view that many people have about consent: that it's a vibe-destroyer that turns sexual encounters into clinical transactions.
And that's just not true. Giving consent just means that someone is sober enough to make a decision, is able to indicate that they're interested in sexual activity, and isn't feeling coerced, according to Terri Poore, policy director for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. So yeah, you can easily make consent sexy by communicating to your partner that you are excited about sex, as Poore told Refinery29 earlier this month. What's not sexy about articulating exactly what you want to do with your partner in bed? Is it the part about both partners being enthusiastic? Or the part about them both being coherent?
The fact that this myth persists suggests that lots of people just don't know what consent is — and if you don't understand that, then you can't know when a person is giving their consent or being coerced (or not in the right state to give consent). A 2017 study from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that young men, in particular, struggle with identifying what counts as consent. Specifically, only 67% of men between the ages of 18 and 34 who answered the survey said that "sexual intercourse where one of the partners is pressured to give their consent" should be considered assault, versus the 79% of women surveyed who felt the same way.
In the episode immediately following the Bachelor In Paradise shutdown (which resulted from the investigation in June), Chris Harrison sat down with the entire cast to discuss exactly what consent is and what it isn't. Some of the contestants said that it felt like they were being spoken to like children, but given both the frequency of sexual assault and the misunderstandings about consent in general, maybe more people (adults included) need to be lectured about consent on a regular basis. Because, unfortunately, no matter how many high-profile cases remind us what constitutes consent, people continue to be assaulted (and subsequently victim-blamed) at disturbingly high rates.
Bottom line: Consent is essential to any sexual relationship, and brushing it off as something that "kills the moment" or makes sex awkward is wrong and potentially dangerous. Talking about what you want from your partner — whether it's a rose, a one-on-one, time in the Fantasy Suite, or a kiss — is the only way to give consent.