I’m sure everyone knows The Bachelor. I don’t even watch it, but I’m well aware of how it operates. Simply put, the goal is for one man to find his true love among a group of girls, who all individually try to prove to him that she is “the one.” With 22 seasons behind it, it’s one of the longest-lasting shows out there. I think it’s because it basically has everything that reality TV needs to prosper: drama, love (or the promise of it), scandal, sex.
As I said, I don’t follow the series. But even I noticed that there’s been more buzz surrounding their latest season. It turns out their newest bachelor, Colton Underwood, is a virgin. That’s right. If you watch it, it’s impossible you don’t know it. It’s this season’s hook. According to Vox, the word “virgin” was mentioned four times in the first 40 seconds of the premiere. Four times in 40 seconds. I mean.
Unsurprisingly, Colton’s virginity has become the butt of jokes. Prior to the premiere, a promo was released wherein Colton was compared to Steve Carell’s character from the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe joked, “Dolphins are the only mammals besides humans that enjoy sex for pleasure, unlike Colton.” While one contestant from the present season said that she hadn’t “dated a virgin since I was 12, but I’m willing to give it another shot.”
And when Chris Harrison, the host, was asked whether Colton would still be a virgin by the season’s end, he replied, “Not if I do my job right.”
But while it seems everyone is so fixated about the lack of sex in Colton’s life, one man isn’t—Colton himself. He insists that it’s not really a big deal. He shared that he’s not really waiting for marriage, but for the right girl. “I was very open and candid about my virginity and I think a lot of people maybe misunderstood it, or still don’t understand why I am a virgin,” Colton said. “The thing that I stress the most, or at times I get frustrated with, is it’s just a small part of who I am.”
I know the virginity thing is overplayed…. hang in there! You will find out other things about me, I promise.
— Colton Underwood (@colton) January 8, 2019
He added, “Instead of it being ‘Colton Underwood, Bachelor,’ it’s ‘the virgin Colton Underwood,’ or it’s always led with or followed by ‘virgin.’ Do I think that’s right? No,” he said. “Because it’s a small part of who I am, it’s like saying, ‘Colton Underwood, football player,’ and I don’t believe that either. I’m a human being. We’re all human beings; we all have parts of our life that make us into a unique individual.”
It’s easy to see where his frustration comes from. For your character to be reduced to your sexual history is unfair. Demeaning, even. Unfortunately, the preoccupation on Colton’s virginity is symptomatic of how we view sex in society. Of course, it’s different with men and women. While women are pressured to remain chaste, men are expected to be the opposite. So whereas women are slut-shamed for having sex, on the other hand, men like Colton are victim-shamed.
Colby Fleming, a sociologist at Westat who has studied masculinity and virginity, explained this to Mel Magazine. His research among college-age men found that “having sex is often held as a marker of status or achievement of hegemonic masculinity,” and that “virgin-shaming is found in social spaces more concerned with upholding masculine norms.” In Colton’s case, it’s doubly alarming. Because, as Teen Vogue points out, “with a country full of people watching, waiting, and laughing at his expense, the pressure is on—and when it comes to sex, that should never be the case.”
It’s disappointing to see that at this day and age, sex is still linked to masculinity; that to be a “real man,” society dictates that men have to have a lot of sex. I know it’s a long shot, but hopefully, things will turn around and The Bachelor will be a platform for people to realize that there is more to someone than his sexual history. Hopefully, Colton will help them see that.
Art by Marian Hukom
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