Ivan is right to assume he may have to drop trou in the latest challenge to win the heart of Tayshia Adams. As he and nine other Bachelorette contestants file into their group outing, they see a man and woman in an explicit “romantic embrace,” as date host Natalia says. During the initial seven episodes of The Bachelorette season 16 nudity and near-nudity have come up multiple times. In each instance, the cast members themselves were expected to go au naturale immediately.
But Ivan actually has nothing to worry about. “Week 8” is the first 2020 Bachelorette episode where nudity is employed without heaping the pressure of losing layers upon its men. The tactic brings out the best in The Bachelorette season 16… and still leads to someone taking their clothing off anyway.
It’s a moment that proves The Bachelorette can have the buzzy skin-baring visuals it desires, while actually raising the emotional stakes of Tayshia’s relationships.
The point of the naked couple on the group date is artistic inspiration. The contestants do not have to copy the duo or outdo them in some bizarre XXX competition — they are simply tasked with sketching their “human forms” as creative expression. The result is a quick snapshot of 10 men’s psyches when they witness a sexy event. These are the kind of details that could genuinely inform Tayshia’s romantic outlook on her contestants. Riley Christian focuses on the joy the man in the pairing feels “with his lady.” Ed Waisbrot — who was accused of having “glamour muscles” earlier in the season — highlights the fact that the man in his drawing has “an eight-pack” for abs. Bennett Jordan explains that he added “background noise” to his sketch as recognition that there is “always some drama around.”
Bennett’s line is an odd continuation of his feud with 25-year-old Noah Erb, who is also on the date. Tayshia notices the dig and is displeased by it. Bennett and Noah end the episode on a two-on-one mini date that will result in someone’s elimination — all because two other people got naked on The Bachelorette.
During the rest of the group date, viewers see how the initial naked honesty of the models coaxes lasting candor out of the guys. Blake Moynes makes a giant penis out of clay, revealing he is apparently obsessed with sex. “It surprises nobody that [Blake] made a penis. He is constantly talking about sex,” Spencer Robertson explains in a confessional. This is a fact no one knew before “Week 8,” but should probably be in Tayshia’s mind as she whittles down her Bachelorette picks. In the subsequent self-portrait section of the date, Riley, Ivan, and Blake all bare their souls as they explain their art pieces.
Dark horse contestant Ben Smith then escalates the situation during his presentation, unveiling his own naked body to everyone in the room as his “self-portrait.” “I talk a big game, but it’s hard for me to express my emotions,” Ben tells Tayshia. “So, figuratively and literally, I’m going to let my guard down … I’m gonna give this all to you. This physical body and also everything inside.” Whether you find Ben’s tactic endearing or unnecessarily outrageous, it works. Tayshia is “extremely overwhelmed” in the moment, yet still gives Ben the group date rose. Ben’s win in clinched when he follows his physical nakedness with the emotional kind, divulging to Tayshia his years-long eating disorder during the cocktail party that evening.
Ben’s revealing scenes stick out — and feel authentic — because they are his choice, unlike previous nude season 16 moments.
As Blake panic complains at the beginning of the “Week 8” group date, “This is gonna be the third time I’m getting naked on this… journey. And I’m not down today.” His first instance of on-screen nudity was the “Week 2” strip dodgeball date, which led to intense accusations of sexist double stands against The Bachelorette. While the men weren’t forced to bare all during the competition — Brendan Morais tells then-Bachelorette Clare Crawley such behavior makes him uncomfortable and he won’t do it — Blake still returns to the contestant bunks appearing to hold his genitals in his hands for bodily privacy. In ensuing episodes, the men are urged to don tiny Speedos for a “splash ball” date and allow Tayshia to oil them up for a wrestling date that is mostly about form-fitting boxers. Not only do these moments feel exploitative in hindsight, but they completely fail at moving a single relationship forward, which is the central point of Bachelorette dates.
If The Bachelorette doesn't want to give us emotional nakedness with its meat market aesthetics, they can keep the beef cake.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.