Quit It Already

Why the Slut-Shaming on ‘The Bachelor’ is Worse Than High School

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Last week on The Bachelor, contestant Clare Crawley “got the rose on the group date, but that wasn’t enough,” as host Chris Harrison points out on his blog. After, when she was feeling “confident and frisky,” Clare asked Bachelor Juan Pablo to join her for a late-night dip in the ocean. The editing did everything to allude to them having sex, but of course, didn’t actually show it. The kiss of death came the night of the rose ceremony when she slyly toasted to “finding love, being loved and making love.”

But the real crime happened later, when JP took Clare aside and pulled a classic bait-and-switch. He told her the consensual moment was a mistake. But not just that. He added that it’ll make him look bad to his daughter and he just “didn’t want to reject her.” When Clare cried and took all the blame, he did little to nothing to share in it.

What happened next is no surprise. It’s an experience many first have in high school, if not earlier, when there are whispers flying around that so-and-so (a girl) did [fill in the sex act] to so-and-so (a boy). You may not know exactly what – it could have been everything or nothing – but that’s not really relevant. What’s important is the collective understanding either way: she is a Slut. Slut with capital “S.” An archetype as old as time, but deserving zero respect.

And what of him? He’s not really a part of this conversation. Maybe he just can’t help that he was “tempted.” It’s an undeniable part of his biology, right? Or maybe he was drunk and just playing along. Again, none of these details really matter, because of another societal truth: the shame of sex always sits on the woman’s shoulders.

Imagine for a second you’re that girl, but you’re living this moment on national television. The cafeteria is filled with 8.2 million people and the conversation will continue long after lunch. There will be jokes online about you being a whore (a pregnant one, at that) and people will say you gave it away too easy. People will tweet things like: “Maybe @Clare_Crawley will think twice before throwing her vag all over a guy [she’s known for ten minutes] on National TV” or “Have you been tested for Agent Orange yet? Having sex in that Vietnam ocean is the nastiest thing you could do.”

Was Clare naive if she didn’t expect this treatment? Yes. Anyone who watches The Bachelor knows that it’s notoriously conservative and takes no prisoners when it comes to humiliating contestants. But the immaturity of this show goes deeper; it’s been high school since inception. At what other point in life do a group of women chase after one man – the star quarterback, for example – like he’s a prize to be won? I guess when you concede to playing the game, you have to subscribe to the unwritten rules.

As viewers though, we don’t have to accept the slut-shaming, and many didn’t. Not just bloggers, but fans of the show, came out in Clare’s defense. People were finally turning on the already unlikeable Bachelor, who also recently made homophobic remarks which he then blamed on his bad English. For example, one fan tweeted: “Whoever gets engaged to Juan Pablo at the end should watch all of the episodes and see what a douche he is, then dump him.” As Jezebel points out succinctly: everyone hates him.

That might be because these women who watch the show, like me, like many of us, know how shitty it feels to be bait-and-switched and then called a Slut (with a capital S). After all, this happens on a smaller scale every day, hundreds of times a day. Chris Harrison has since expressed disapproval of JP’s actions calling them “rude” and pointing out “cultural differences” in an interview with TV Guide. But I refer back to a line in his blog, which rings more true: “it appears that the rules are ever-changing here.” Welcome to being a woman.