At this point there is nothing that can happen on Bachelor in Paradise that would surprise me. This isn’t because it’s so over the top and edgy. The exact opposite is true: the show can’t help but to be disappointingly predictable at every turn. In many cases they go above and beyond in their basic-ness, making sure that the cast, crew, and editing are all in collusion to push whatever reductive storyline they’ve come up with. The same seemed to be true on last night’s episode when Jaimi King — the franchise’s first contestant who was open about not being straight — became the most recent arrival to Paradise. While Bachelor in Paradise has done its best to be on the right side of things — honorable mention to Chris Harrison’s Intro to Consent course earlier in the season — it also has a fan base to consider. That fanbase is committed to traditional, monogamous, heteronormative dating tropes. And it’s attempt to embrace Jaimi’s sexuality come off as immature.
If you’ve ever seen Bachelor in Paradise, you know that it involves some strategy. It’s almost like a sport. There are rules. Staying on the island requires making a connection with someone who is willing to give you a rose at the ceremony; couples who have taken a serious liking to each other — like Taylor Nolan and Derek Peth on this season — are typically off limits; etc. Because Jaimi is bisexual, she throws a curveball into the game that is already so reliant on a delicate ratio of boys and girls. Like any good sport, there is also commentary. And the commentary about Jaimi gives me secondhand embarrassment.
Within the first two minutes of her arrival, some variation of the phrase “either way” was used too many times to be authentic. “The possibilities are endless…,” Jasmine says. “I can’t even really think which direction she might go,” laments Dominique with a shake of her head. And then Jaimi herself says, “the guys seem really frickin cool. But such a great group of people, I can go either way.” We get it, she does not limit herself to a single gender.
But while the unnecessary emphasis on her sexuality was annoying, some of the other implications were borderline problematic. In a confessional describing the moment Jaimi initiated a private, and platonic, conversation with Christen, Jasmine joked with an ironic laugh, “Jaimi, the bisexual, is pulling the virgin.” Whether or not these two traits, bisexuality and virginity, were being juxtaposed or compared is unclear to me because I don’t speak basic. But what I know for sure is that they were contextualized as sexual abnormalities as opposed to valid identities that exist along a continuum that is, for most people, subject to evolution. The false demand for people to stick with one gender (and have sex with them) in order to reach their full capacity as sexual beings is often imposed on people who identify as bisexual.
However, another popular trope about bisexual people — that they lack sexual morals, boundaries, and control — was also implied. Wells, the bartender, inquisitively asked, “She’s kind of wild, right?” and Jaimi herself expressed her dating options like this: “Everyone is up for the taking. I’m just taking whatever I want.” In actuality there were only about 3 people she could have asked, but Bachelor in Paradise wanted to drive home the point home that the rules of her lifestyle are different. Even the date card they gave her said ‘choose whomever you want.’
Listen, it’s great that the franchise is acknowledging that not everyone is trapped by the moors of heterosexuality. But they don’t have to make a spectacle of those people, either. That Jaimi is bisexual has no bearing on her personality or ability to date. And given that she chose Diggy, a dude, for her date anyway made the whole thing seem unnecessarily sensationalized. Be careful Bachelor in Paradise, your outdatedness is showing.