The Bachelor, and its sister show The Bachelorette, are shows that are usually terrified of sex. That’s why Jack Stone was promptly sent packing after bringing up hitting the sheets with Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay during the 2017 season. That’s why the phrase “here for the wrong reasons” was invented (well, that and the “villainous” desire for Instagram spon-con opportunities).
Yet, the ascendance of Colton Underwood, a very public virgin, as the 2019 Bachelor has thrown all of that time-honored prudishness out the window. Colton’s virginity has whipped up a storm of sexual questions usually saved for the Fantasy Suites, when relationships are deemed “real enough” for intense physical intimacy, and those conversations have plagued The Bachelor season 23 since its first few minutes.
Despite these near-constant investigations into Colton's sex life, the first good conversation about sex came at the midpoint of “Week 2,” and had nothing to do with the Bachelor or his decision to wait. Instead that honor goes to Hannah Brown, who shared her own shame around sex. It was the first time all season of this kind of discussion felt like a revelation rather than a rude manipulation.
Colton and Hannah’s one-on-one date stands out as one of the most legitimately awkward moments of The Bachelor. There’s a lot of dead silence. Hannah forgets how to give a basic toast. Colton begins to question his own romantic intuition. A dip in a randomly-placed hot tub comes off as a chore. Then everything turns around on the second part of the outing, when Colton assures Hannah he doesn’t expect her to be perfect. This would be an eye roll-worthy sentiment of self-importance if the Bachelor weren’t speaking to Hannah, a woman who announced, “If something’s not perfect, then I think I’m horrible,” with a panicky smile ahead of the date.
Would Hannah feel as guilty if there wasn’t such a premium on virginity?
Hannah actually needs to hear absolute perfection isn’t the minimum requirement for love.
When she does, her walls begin to fall. So the Miss Alabama winner asks the question that’s been on her mind all day: Why is Colton a virgin? It's a query we could all go without for the remainder of The Bachelor 23 — and the history of time — but it leads a very necessary glimpse into Hannah’s own fears around relationships. It’s clear Hannah, a devout Christian who praises Jesus Christ in her Instagram bio, approves of why Colton has avoided penetrative sex and is almost jealous of how special his first time will be.
“I made a commitment to myself when I was younger to be a virgin when I got married. And then I was in a relationship and that didn’t happen,” she explains. “There was a lot of guilt, and it killed me … for the person I want to be with forever, I would have loved to have that for them.”
It’s obvious Hannah, a person fixated with attaining all forms of perfection, feels like she already doomed her prospective future marriage by having sex with an ex-boyfriend. While this shouldn't be true — virginity doesn't equate to perfection! — Hannah confirms she believes as says as much, continuing, “I don’t feel perfect because I can’t give that to somebody.” It’s likely Hannah’s anxieties were only exacerbated by dating Colton, someone who can give “that” to the love of his life.
All together, Hannah’s reveal is an emotional and thoughtful look at how the purity culture around virginity leads to women torturing themselves for their sexuality. This is a person wracked with shame for sleeping with someone she seemingly loved. Would Hannah feel as guilty if there wasn’t such a premium on virginity?
We can’t know, but we do know Colton handles this very delicate situation deftly. Rather than criticizing Hannah for her past, he lives up to his promise he doesn’t expect Hannah to be a “perfect” person, whatever that actually means. The Bachelor is visibly happy to hear Hannah’s story and assures her it’s “life.” The ex-football player even promises he likes this Hannah, who talks frankly about her sexual history and insecurities, more than the silent, smiley girl from earlier that day. Enter the date rose, which Colton hands over in their next scene together.
Now we now the key to this season isn't telling us why Colton is a virgin for the 23rd time — it's shining a light on the internal lives of the women vying for his heart.