Monday night’s episode of The Bachelor had beauty pageant drama, a cute date at a carnival with children, and, well, more beauty pageant drama. The third week of The Bachelor also had a hand prank courtesy of this season’s villain, Demi Burnett, that involved a blindfolded Colton Underwood being caressed by a fake plastic hand. It might sound silly at first, but watching it, it was hard to not think about consent. In particular, the nature of it on this show, because this situation was nothing new.
OK, the fake hand situation, specifically, was new. To explain: Demi, previously best known for thinking 31-year-old women should be in a nursing home, took Colton aside on a group date and asked if she could blindfold him. He obliged, and she proceeded to tell him to stand up and bend over. Again, he obliged. All good at this point. Then she, first, spanked him with a wooden paddle, and next, took out a fake hand and rubbed it down his body, starting at his shoulder and moving down until it almost got to his crotch. All the while she was saying, “Are you feeling nervous? Feeling a little more nervous?”
Demi thought this was fun and a way of standing out while all the other women “blend in”, but it was pretty uncomfortable. Sure, it was a fake hand, but as it was presented, Colton didn’t know that. Also, just because there isn’t a real hand touching you, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to consent to being touched by something. Especially because Colton had no idea how low that thing was going to go.
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It’s possible that behind-the-scenes Colton knew exactly what was going to happen and he had to consent to it ahead of time. But, even if that was the case, it was presented like he had no idea, which is what we as viewers took in. Doing so, it continues a narrative that exists on The Bachelor and outside of it: Men don’t need to consent to sexual things, because of course they want sex. (Even our virginal Colton).
This has happened before on The Bachelor. One notable instance occurred during Nick Viall’s season when Corinne Olympios took her bikini top off during a photoshoot on a group date and had him hold her breasts. Nick later said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, “I think you even saw on the show that I was sort of caught off guard, and quite honestly, I was a little uncomfortable.” He added, “But I like people and women who are expressive and confident and willing to take risks. I think we should be careful about judging and criticizing people so quickly for doing that.”
It’s true that a woman shouldn’t be judged for taking her top of if she wants to take her top off. The issue is when it involves someone else and that person hasn’t agreed to coming into contact with a naked body (or having someone come into contact with their naked body or having a fake hand rubbed down their body while they’re blindfolded).
So far, this is Colton’s response to the hand situation:
He also posted a Bird Box meme:
The Bachelor doesn’t have a great history of handling sex and did an awkward — at best — job of explaining consent after the Bachelor in Paradise scandal. Demi, for her part has a poor history, too. Last week, she gave Colton a kiss he wasn’t expecting and led him into a bedroom while wearing a robe with him not knowing what was happening. Colton seems fine enough with all of this so far, and in the end, it’s his call. But the show needs to do better when it comes to situations with contestants who want to “shock” the Bachelor. Showing what appears to be a lack of consent continues a crappy narrative and makes light of something that’s actually pretty messed up. And, at the very least, the less The Bachelor utilizes a fake hand as a plot device, the better.
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