First of all, yes I watch the bachelor. No, I do not watch it by myself. My wife and I watch it as a comedy. I’m not sure if that’s what it’s supposed to be or not, but I’m not entirely sure how you can take the show seriously, especially if you do a little research about how few of the couples actually end up happily married for any length of time. Ali and I have found the show to provide a fascinating glimpse into our culture’s understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. The show, though perhaps not intentionally has a lot to say about what we are looking for when we talk about “love” and “marriage”. Now that I’m done attempting to defend why I watch the show, and if for some reason this blog were to ever go viral I would probably never be able to show my face in public again, let us continue…
Every season when the producers of the show put together the field of contestants they always have a wide variety of people including at least woman with a child from a previous marriage, 1-2 emotionally unstable contestants, an evil villain, a certified lunatic that everyone wonders how they made it on the show and last but not least a virgin. Every season the news is unveiled as if a bomb is being dropped on the show. People’s eyes look like they’re going to pop out of their head when they hear the news and cue eery background music. Could it truly be that a beautiful young adult would be a virgin? Heck, could it be that anybody post-puberty with a beating heart could be a virgin?
This week while I played candy crush and ate Ben and Jerry’s half-baked ice cream I found myself really bothered by the way the show handled the issue of virginity. It really bothers me that one of the contestant’s (Becca) decision to be a virgin has now become the characteristic that completely defines her in the eyes of the show. It seemed like every conversation and all of the relational drama came back to the fact that she was a virgin. If there was one thing the creators of the show wanted you to know about Becca it’s that she is a virgin. Nothing else about her is nearly as important or as worthy of attention as the fact that she is a virgin.
The current bachelor, farmer Chris, hails from a tiny town in Iowa (at least I think that’s the right state) and has been harping all season about looking for a woman with midwest values and small town morals. Over and over again there has been this verbal emphasis on the importance of integrity and character, but then in an odd twist the woman who has chosen to be disciplined and careful in this area of her life has been profoundly villainized. She has been painted as being cold and lacking the desire and ability for closeness and intimacy in a relationship.
As the trailer for next week’s episode played, one of the looming questions was whether or not Chris would be able to handle the fact that Becca was a virgin, as if her being a virgin meant that she was less of a woman and no longer marriage material. Clearly Becca has felt that her being a virgin might be a deal breaker because even now with only 3 contestants left, and there were like 100 to start with, she still hasn’t told Chris because she’s afraid of what he might think of her. If he knows the truth, what culturally groomed labels and stereotypes will automatically be forced upon her? Will she become less appealing as someone with a long and experienced sexual past?
Wake up and smell the roses here people! Why should this woman be ashamed to admit to the person that she supposedly is falling in love with that she is a virgin? How in the world could that be considered a negative thing in the eyes of the man who says that the most important things to him are getting married and raising a family. Why is Becca not being being celebrated instead of being marginalized as if there is something wrong with her? Not once has there been anything positive said about her decision to wait to give herself physically to the man that she loves and is completely committed to. While the show pays lip service to finding a person of character what it really glorifies is the importance of being adventurous, fun and attractive. Your ability to stick to your beliefs is less important than whether or not you are a good french kisser and know your way around a makeup kit.
Week after week there is the really awkward moment on the show when more women get sent home. The camera does a close up of their faces and you see them balling their eyes out in the back of a fancy limo. Hearts and dreams are crushed as these beautiful women in a moment of vulnerability share about their long track records of unfulfilling and painful relationships. You hear the language of regret and fear that they are not good enough. You look behind the eye liner and the fake eyelashes and see staring out at you insecurity, sadness and confusion. “Why me? Why can’t somebody just love me?”, those are always the questions being asked through runny mascara and sniffles.
My heart is sad for these women because they have been fed a lie that to find true love they need to be fun, exciting and sensual. As long as those are the foundational ingredients of a long-term loving relationship I think it is doomed to fail. When who you are seems to matter less than what you look like and how quickly you put out, then we have created a recipe for failed relationships and tons of emotional baggage and insecurity.