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The Bachelorette: What Happens in the Fantasy Suite Stays in the Fantasy Suite?

Tue, Jul 29, 2014

Pop Culture, TV

screen shot of ABC’s “After the Final Rose”

Last night’s “After the Final Rose” was the most dramatic ever! Not because the Bachelorette (Andi Dorfman) got engaged to a guy (Josh “I Can’t Put My Arms Down” Murray) after only knowing him for two and a half months and only going on, like, three dates — max — with him. Not even because she slept with both of the two finalists (Josh and Nick “My Neck Is Always Cold” Viall) a week before announcing which one she’d chosen. It was the most dramatic ever because somebody (Nick) admitted to said sex on live TV!

Nick:¬†Knowing how in love with you I was, if you weren’t in love with me, I’m just not sure why, why you made love with me?….I didn’t have any expectations about that night, but to me, that night, that was like fiance√©-type of stuff. That meant so much to me. And I told you that. It meant the world to me.

You know it’s serious when you can hear a rose petal drop on a set with a live studio audience.

It’s an unspoken rule that what happens in the fantasy suites stays in the fantasy suites. It’s the one time the contestants can be alone together, away from the cameras, without microphones or their last few shreds of inhibition. Sex is had and it’s hinted at coyly by producers, but it’s not usually spoken of explicitly, especially not during the post-game “A.F.R.” when the focus is supposed to be on true wuv and mawwiage (and in the loser’s case, total devastating heartbreak).

Andi, with her facial expression set to Defcon 4 Frown, was not pleased with Nick spilling the beans:

That’s below the belt. I think that’s something that should be private.

It’s tempting to get on board the Andi Bus Tour through Indignation Town. After all, what happens in the fantasy suite stays in the fantasy suite. Like Andi said, that’s private. It’s not gentlemanly to kiss and tell. It’s pathetic for a grown man to cry because he didn’t get the final rose. Don’t try to slut-shame Andi because you’re bitter.¬†You, Sir Scarf, just proved to the world why Andi didn’t choose you!

These are sentiments that have been expressed all over the Interweb and the Twittersphere since the show aired. They are even sentiments that we were inclined to embrace in our wine-and-chocolate-covered-strawberries-induced haze last night. But in the sobering light of day, we’ve popped two aspirin, washed the dirty wine glasses, and tried to get a little more Jack Handy about this whole most dramatic finale ever! thing.

If this had been “The Bachelor” instead of “The Bachelorette,” and a woman had gone on national television to ask why he had schtupped her if he didn’t love her, wouldn’t the rallying cry heard round the world have been “You go, girl!”? Isn’t that exactly what happened last season when runner-up Claire, regaining some viewer goodwill, said of Bachelor Juan Pablo, “Don’t tell me you love fucking me [and then not propose]“? And weren’t we all giddy when Andi herself pulled back the curtain of last season’s private fantasy suite to reveal what a self-centered pig JP was?

There’s something disingenuous about using the “privacy card” when you’ve signed up to be on a reality show about love (and — let’s admit it — sex). There’s something disingenuous about having sex with a person whom you know is in love with you (and whom you let believe you love right back, contract or not), and then dumping them and subsequently defending your actions by saying, “Your take on [what the relationship/sex meant] might have been somewhat different than mine.” There’s something disingenuous about answering the question, “You knew I loved you, so why did you make love with me if you didn’t love me back?” with the answer, “That’s exactly why I didn’t make you go through the rose ceremony.” There’s something disingenuous about saying that your intense feelings for this guy (while you dated, kissed and fucked him) were real, when you just admitted that you were in love with someone else the whole entire time, a person you planned on getting engaged to and having a monogamous relationship with for the rest of eternity!

People are joking about how Nick is a creepy stalker who needs a restraining order. But if we believe he was truly in love with Andi — and from the footage we’ve all seen, there’s really no reason not to — then why wouldn’t he do everything he could to see her again, to get some real answers, some closure? If she had refused all his requests to talk privately beforehand, then why shouldn’t he ask her, during the one chance he got, how she could have had sex with him if she didn’t love him?¬†And why wouldn’t he be nervous and awkward and uncomfortable finally facing her? ¬†Forget the fact that there were millions of people watching: it’s hard to confront someone you love who doesn’t love you back. How about a little more sympathy for the guy who got his heart pummeled? (We gave it to Claire, and she wasn’t even very likable!) As a straight man, Nick should be commended for being willing to be so emotionally vulnerable in public, and for expressing the idea that sex can mean something. Being in touch with your emotions and believing that sex is sacred are not the domains solely of women.

As sex writers, we are all for open relationships, as long as everyone involved is well informed about the situation. We’re all for women sleeping with whomever they want without being publicly shamed for it, as long as they’re honest with their partners. In all our advice writing, we encourage (read: demand) that people treat their sex partners with respect, open communication, and forthrightness — no matter their gender. That’s basic human decency.

Of course, decency is not a commodity television usually trades in. It’s a testament to the perverse power of reality TV that anyone thinks Nick should have acted any differently or that Andi acted nobly. We recently listened to a “This American Life” episode about one of the most popular reality shows ever in Japan which capitalized on the real suffering of one individual who was basically stripped, starved, tortured, and humiliated for viewers’ entertainment — it was hard to listen to and we kept asking, somewhat self-righteously, “How could people watch this, laugh at this, enjoy this?” Which of course begs the question, “How can you watch a show that purposely orchestrates people’s heartbreak, especially if you’ve ever had your own heart broken?”

Which is not to say we’re not going to watch “The Bachelor/ette” anymore (let’s not go crazy). But maybe we’ll try to watch it with a little less disdain and a little more empathy from now on.

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