The Bachelor Just Lost All Of Its Hard-Won Sex Positivity

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Fantasy Suites have come to The Bachelor 2020 with Monday night’s “Week 9.” Just a few months ago, this long-awaited section of the ABC reality franchise brought new life to Bachelor Nation when Hannah Brown was the reigning Bachelorette. The major takeaway from that period was Hannah’s now-infamous line, “I have had sex, and honestly, Jesus still loves me!” It was a line that celebrated Hannah’s sexuality while also decimating her slut-shaming sometimes-frontrunner Luke Parker
With Monday night’s Bachelor episode, the man Hannah “fucked in a windmill” — Pilot Pete Weber, the current Bachelor — went through his own gauntlet of Fantasy Suites. By the end of the two-hour chapter, all of the hard-won sex positivity Hannah brought to The Bachelor(ette) had disappeared and in its place were growing feelings of disappointment and enmity. 
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However, Madison Prewett, the contestant at the center of Peter’s tension-filled Fantasy Suite week, isn’t to blame at all. 
“Week 9” begins with Madison pulling Peter aside immediately following the pre-Fantasy Suites rose ceremony. The 23-year-old, who is “saving herself for marriage,” as said in “Week 8,” finally shares a kernel of her truth with Peter on the subject of sex. “If, next week, you were to sleep with somebody else, it would be really hard for me to really move forward in this,” Madison admits. “I just feel like I owe it to you to be upfront with you and honest with you about that.” 
Some accused Madison of approaching Fantasy Suites in the same manner as universally derided Bachelorette villain Luke P. Yet Madison’s attitude is lightyears away from Luke’s bad behavior. If you go back and watch Luke’s Fantasy Suite date with Hannah from July 2019, you will notice he immediately equates an interest in “exploring relationships on a sexually intimate level” with an abject lack of faith. For Luke, wanting to have sex is a sin. He then laughs at the idea of Hannah having sex with “one or multiple” other contestants, describes such a moment as a “slip-up,” and criticizes the mere possibility of Hannah “having sex with everybody.” Luke’s message throughout the conversation is that he will leave the show if Hannah breaks any of his rules. 
Luke is clearly taking this stance from a place of judgement and control over Hannah’s sexuality. This is particularly true since Luke sprang his lecture on Hannah when Fantasy Suites were already in full swing, suggesting his words came from a place of now-twisted insecurity during the stressful Bachelorette period. Luke's tirade was a misogynistic grab at power amid an unsure situation.
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Madison did not ambush Peter in a similar manner. Madison makes sure Peter knows her stance on him having sex with other contestants before everyone leaves for the Gold Coast of Australia. Her entire point is that she is unsure if she would be able to accept a proposal in about a week’s time from a man who just had sex with one or two other women. However, Madison’s feeling have nothing to do with controlling Peter’s sexuality and everything to do with her faith. Madison tries to get her complicated feelings across to Peter by explaining, “In no way do I want to give you an ultimatum or tell you what you can do or can’t do at all … But for me, actions speak louder than words.” 
Madison does not tell Peter in this moment she hasn't had sex and doesn't plan to until her wedding night. Instead, this conversation ensures that Peter knows what is at stake should he be unable to wait to have sex with Madison — and only her. It’s a sentiment she feels for herself, rather than due to a value judgement on the “purity” of Peter, graded by his sex drive. Madison's request is steep, but straightforward. Peter is free to refuse Madison.
This time last year, Colton Underwood released Tayshia Adams and Hannah Godwin during Fantasy Suites to solely pursue his eventual winner, Cassie Randolph. It's no surprise Madison felt comfortable suggesting Peter should forsake intimacy with Hannah Ann Sluss and Victoria Fuller as a way to invest in their future.
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That’s why the true sex-negativity of the episode comes after Peter and Madison’s “Week 9”-starting conversation. The resulting chapter is built around making Madison feel as terrible as possible about Peter’s overnight dates and the remaining other women as paranoid as possible about Madison’s worsening anxiety. Hence the group apartment for Fantasy Suites — a never-before-done slice of hell — and Madison’s slot as the last date of the week, which forces her to witness the aftermath of everyone else's overnight date. We’re not even able to fully hear how Hannah Ann or Victoria feel about sex or intimacy because the narrative is so focused on Madison’s devastation over the possibility of Peter having sex with other people. 
To prove this point, we are not shown Hannah and Peter’s morning together, which is another Bachelor rarity. Such a glimpse into sunny, one-on-one bliss is almost always deployed as an easy way for The Bachelor(ette) to quickly telegraph a couple’s newfound closeness. “Week 9” does not care about Hannah and Peter’s relationship evolution enough to show us that step in their love story. The show swaps out whatever time that scene would have taken and offers up in its place another cast-wide conversation that emphasizes Madison’s discomfort. 
Madison’s date then leans further into that discord by forcing her to climb a death-defying building with Peter, while Hannah Ann road a jet ski and Victoria went to a waterfall. 
“Week 9” could have been a thoughtful, open-hearted exploration of the reasons people do and don’t sleep together. Instead, it ends with the Bachelor who once proudly went four times in a windmill sobbing over having sex somewhere off the coast of Australia.
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