Do Who You’re Gonna Do

The Bachelor Bachelorette television series is interminable enough, but the producers of these shows have an ace-in-the-hole known as Bachelor in Paradise, a spinoff series where the loser nitwits from previous iterations of the show are sent to an island somewhere to drink themselves into oblivion and lazily bang each other in a swirl of scandal and ninth-grade drama histrionics. Naturally it sells like hotcakes—not good hotcakes, mind you, but McDonald’s-style, styrofoam-container, corn-syrup-and-wheat hotcakes, the cheap stuff.

Apparently, however, the show may have recently gone too far; word is that the franchise may be in mortal danger:

“So production on Bachelor in Paradise was suspended. And all the contestants were sent home. And that was because there was some kind of incident between two of the contestants where one or both of them may have been too drunk to consent to sexual activity. That happened just yesterday. Corinne Olympios identified herself as the female contestant involved in that and said that she is a victim. She is pursuing both therapy and legal action to deal with the fallout from what happened.

And the other person involved, DeMario Jackson has identified himself and said that the allegations and all the reports that have sort of come out, mostly anonymously, are inaccurate and false and that he intends to pursue legal action, as well. So right now we’re really unclear exactly what happened between them or whether or not it was filmed by crew members. But there’s definitely a lot of questions.”

One of the key planks of modern sexual politics is that people are entitled to do whatever they want, with whomever they want, whenever and however they want it. To a generation of Baby Boomers raised in the relatively innocent era of postwar American morality, I suppose that sounded like a great idea. In practice it ended up being a raw deal. Out-of-wedlock births, for instance, now account for nearly half of all births (for black women it’s a staggering near-three-quarters); the relative acceptance of aberrant sexual behavior over the past three or four decades, meanwhile, has brought with it staggeringly high numbers of sexually-transmitted infections among gay men, who are astronomically more likely than the general population to contract HIV, syphilis, and various other diseases. Nobody really wants to talk about the profoundly negative side effects of sexual liberationist politics—the disease, the broken families, the fatherless homes, the generation of vulnerable young men the deviant sexual pathologies of which society has tolerated and even encouraged, the countless instances of sexual assault spurred by alcoholic behavior—but it’s all there.

Which is why this Bachelor in Paradise scandal is really not that surprising, and by the standards of our sexually broken society is hardly even that scandalous. There is precisely nobody on Planet Earth, after all, who believes that this hasn’t been going on for as long as the show has been on the air. It is essentially a truism that when you get a bunch of young people together in a tropical resort getaway, give them an open bar, and nudge them towards mindless and loveless copulation, there is going to be perverted and in some cases criminal behavior. “I didn’t see that coming!” said nobody, ever, anywhere.

Except people do say that. If there is one thing to which modern sexual politics is committed, it is pretending that there aren’t likely to be any negative consequences for a society’s drastically loosening the bonds of sexually restrictive mores. There is a pervasive belief throughout sexual liberationist rhetoric that a civilization can have essentially no sexual ethic whatsoever while still maintaining a base level of civilized sexual behavior: do whatever feels good, just so long as you do it in this pre-approved way. But human beings aren’t as linear as we’d like them to be; they don’t behave in the tidy and pre-packaged ways laid out in campus sexual health brochures and wellness center website FAQs. “Do what feels good!” we shout from the rooftops. You know what feels really good, at least for a while? Unprotected, self-indulgent, wanton, unrestricted sexual behavior. “Wait, wait, not that good!” we then shout—but by that point it’s too late

This sordid affair on Bachelor in Paradise, then, is not very shocking at all. Bachelor in Paradise is less a television show and more a monument to an age of publicly-accepted and -encouraged profligacy. Indeed, “two people get heavily intoxicated and become sexually entangled,” if true, is one of the less-alarming things to come out of network television this year so far. And that says something fairly dispiriting about where we are.

One comment

  1. David

    For some reason my otherwise sensible wife & step-daughter like to watch bachelor/bachelorette (thankfully their indulgences don’t extend to “paradise”). Apparently it plays on some fantasy of romantic love combined with a curiosity regarding the production of the “fantasy.” Anyway, because my enjoyment of their company overrides my distaste for Potemkin fantasies (is that redundant?) I end up watching too many episodes of this program. I console myself with the belief that I am conducting a sociological study of what marketers believe “romance” is supposed to be these days (remember your paean to marketing last week?)

    I’m a big fan of “liberation” in general & I’ve read enough history to know that many of the moral standards throughout history were not acted upon nearly as closely as people writing “the great man” versions of history would like us to believe. The line between history & mythology is tenuous at best & often enough overlaps in significant ways.

    In our not too distant past “out-of-wedlock” sex was common enough if not as common as it is today. People married much younger, often enough with a baby less than 9 months to follow. People marry much older now since modern economics makes it much harder to raise a family while still in your early teens. There’s also the fact that too many modern workplaces are not terribly sympathetic to family obligations (how many of you have heard the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle?“). Older men had the options of banging the slave or Irish serving girl, women who had no recourse to compensation or support once pregnant. Prior to that, many laws treated indentured servants who were raped & became pregnant as jezebel’s with no blame upon the rapists (the reference is about 1/2 way down the page – just do a word search for “rape”). All too often, these abuses are perpetuated by those who are supposed to be protecting our morals

    All that being said, I agree that the standards for individuals should aim higher than in this particular “paradise.” I have no objection to consensual sex before marriage but I do object to casual sex. I would even suggest that casual sex is really nothing more than masturbation with a partner since by the very nature of its casualness, you are not really engaging in an act of what should be love but rather, you are only seeking relief with an objectified partner. & as we have seen all too often, that partner turns in to a real person whose needs & motives might be very different from your own. I think people would be much wiser if they (at least) avoided sex with anyone unless both participants were seriously considering marriage.