Ah yes, the coveted college winter break. Being home for a month straight is sanctioned time for catching up with family, old friends, and eventually resorting to copious vegging-out time. I have been an on-and-off viewer of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," only really being invested if I had time. This year, I had too much time on my hands, so I figured, "why not?"
I have read other articles and have seen enough of "The Bachelor" to know that it's a bit of a problematic show. For starters, the whole message of competing with 30 other women or men to find "true love" with one person is kind of sick messaging in my opinion. I am old enough at this point in time to roll my eyes at the screen and understand that this isn't how people actually fall in love, but someone much younger with big expectations for the world may not be as knowledgable. All of the show commentary about how person x or y is "the one" is honestly so twisted, I can't believe millions of people watch this show. After turning on the show and watching the juicy drama and dozens of beautiful faces parade across the screen, I soon remember why people are absolutely hooked on this show.
This season of "The Bachelor" features Colton Underwood, former short-lived NFL player, who is now apparently searching for love. This season is unique in one major way: Colton Underwood is a 26-year-old virgin! ABC wants to baffle the audience with this reality. But why? He's so handsome and successful? How is this possible outside of religious commitments? America wasn't ready to handle the idea of a perfectly fine-looking young man not having dozens of women by this point in his life. Our psyche has been ingrained with the idea that tall, handsome, successful men will always be having sex. Colton's story was shocking to "The Bachelor" world.
From moment one, ABC made sure to highlight this very intimate detail of Colton's personal life. "The Bachelor" made it their mission to not only point out, but exploit, Colton's virgin status for the amusement of both the girls on the show as well as the rest of America. From the first night of the show, when girls are coming one-by-one to the mansion to make a first impression on Colton, they make fun of his lack of sexual experience by pulling various introductions specifically mocking him (the V-Card one was my favorite, right after another girl's "pop your cherry" trick, which in my opinion, the balloon looked very much NOT like a cherry). Colton took all of the jokes shamelessly, like a champ. He knew what he had signed up for.
We can take a look at the flip side of this situation. If this was a season of "The Bachelorette" featuring a virgin bachelorette, the commentary would be completely reversed. The male contestants would be praising the bachelorette for her "decision" to abstain from sex and would make it their personal goal to conquest her. This "conquest" sort of behavior is being exhibited toward Colton this season as well, but just because ABC is showing that the women of this show can 'think like men' doesn't make it right. The ongoing narrative surrounding the anticipation of who will be the one to take Colton's virginity further stigmatizes sex and adds to the undeniable problem of toxic masculinity in American culture. Again, I am able to see past this message — but will the younger girls be able to? Is "The Bachelor" truly making any sort of positive impact on young women, or is ABC just wasting its massive platform to cultivate more problems in the American female psyche?
I am aware that the fail rate of proposals on "The Bachelor" is fairly high, but that sometimes, things work out for the contestants. At the end of the day, I truly believe that love is random luck, so going on a season of "The Bachelor" and truly falling in love is not entirely impossible. That being said, I feel bad that Colton has to have a very intimate detail of his life completely exploited on public television in order to pursue a group of women he thinks contains "the one." Whomever Colton ends up choosing, I hope it is someone he can laugh with and love fully — someone who doesn't care about his lack of sexual experience. Whatever happens, America and I are rooting for this season to be successful in love, as we have always been.