by Nicole Patano ’22
“Was Madison wrong for giving Peter an ultimatum?” Anyone watching the current season of The Bachelor needs no further prompting before launching into their opinion about Madison Prewett’s conversation with Peter Weber leading into Fantasy Suites week. One side—which includes Peter—thinks that Madison was right for “sharing her heart.” The other thinks Madison should have known what she signed up for by being on The Bachelor.
The second argument raises a much more important question about the nature of the show. Is the purpose of The Bachelor to actually create a solid, lifelong relationship between two people, or is that simply a byproduct of the producers’ desire for better ratings? Considering only eight out of 38 Bachelors and Bachelorettes are still with their final choices, it seems to be the latter.
The Bachelor espouses some questionable ideals about love and relationships. First is the premise of the show: a man must date 25 women in order to find his spouse, to whom he is expected to propose after only three months. Love cannot adhere to the regimented schedule which accompanies three months of filming or to the quota of kisses and conversations that ensure each woman has enough time with the Bachelor.
The most crooked aspect of The Bachelor? It tells the Bachelor and the women he is dating when it is appropriate to be intimate. According to the producers, the appropriate moment is the week before the proposal, when three contestants remain. This is known as Fantasy Suites week, and “almost every Bachelor has sex with everyone he goes into the Fantasy Suites with,” said former Bachelorette Andi Dorfman.
Bachelor contestants are expected to not have sex with the Bachelor until they are invited into the Fantasy Suite. In the Australian version of the show, there is a ban on sex outside of the Fantasy Suite; in the American version, enforcement takes the form of slut-shaming. Undeniably, both methods demean the woman and the natural progression of intimacy in a relationship.
It is wrong to set restrictions on when a person may be intimate in their relationship. Given the reputation Fantasy Suites has earned over the years, most Bachelors and contestants expect the overnight date to include sex in some capacity. Chris Harrison has even admitted that “[Condoms]…are easily the biggest expense” when it comes to Fantasy Suites.
This causes problems for contestants like Madison, who is waiting to have sex until marriage and objects to her potential husband sleeping with another woman (or two) less than a week before he would be proposing to her. As this is her relationship, first and foremost, she deserves to have a partner who will respect her and the sacred unification of two people through sex. Peter’s decision to “be intimate,” as he says, is his alone. Madison should not be blamed for having certain expectations for the man she is dating and may marry.
On the other extreme, female contestants and Bachelorettes have been historically slut-shamed if they have sex outside of the Fantasy Suite. During the 2014 season of The Bachelor, Juan Pablo slept with Clare Crawley before Fantasy Suites. The next day, he called the act a “mistake” and told Crawley not to tell anyone about what happened between them. In defense of her actions, Crawley said that she simply did what she would have done had the cameras not been there.
However, slut-shaming is not limited to female contestants on The Bachelor. Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe was slut-shamed by Bachelorette fans after sleeping with Nick Viall prior to Fantasy Suites. She took to the internet, saying, “Because I’m a woman. I think it’s a double standard, for sure.” She later told People she felt guilty about not waiting “10 more days” until Fantasy Suites.
Bachelor-watchers should not shame any contestant or Bachelorette for the decisions they make regarding their bodies and their relationships. It does not matter how scripted the show is or that it is meant to be a competition. The Bachelor contestants are real women who have feelings and desires.
Should she choose to be consensually intimate with the Bachelor, it should not be limited to the Fantasy Suite. Should she choose to abstain from sex while on the show, her decision should be respected by the Bachelor, producers, and viewers. Should she choose to uphold her moral standards rather than do “what she signed up for,” she should be praised. Bachelor Nation must respect every woman and the choices she makes in cultivating her own relationship. She is a woman before a contestant.