Culture News

What If Colton Underwood Was Just Asexual?

If asexuality were a more widely known, understood, and validated orientation, would people like Underwood have such a difficult time accepting their lack of interest in sex?

Observer

America has had a problem with Colton Underwood's sexuality since he became "the world's most famous virgin" in 2019.

While a reality TV show like The Bachelor is no place to find enlightened social commentary, the series' first virgin lead put the concept of virginity under public scrutiny. What is virginity? Does it even exist? In reality, it's as much a social construct as gender. Still, we seem to agree that women have the right to be as (in)experienced as they want, but if a 25-year-old man (and former pro-football player, no less) is still a virgin, then he must be gay, right?

As Underwood recently told Entertainment Tonight while promoting his new book, The First Time: Finding Myself and Looking for Love on Reality TV, he's been plagued by rumors about his sexuality for years. "Even now, I still battle gay rumors when I'm with Cassie, but that's how it was for me as a young kid in grade school and high school," he said. "I can deal with them now."

Underwood won't sate The Bachelor fans' rabid curiosity over whether or not he gave his virginity to his series' winner, Cassandra Randolph: "Cass and I, for our relationship, have decided we don't want to share that...We sort of just laugh and smile, and move on past it." But he does credit the show for confirming that he's straight. "[The show taught me] that I'm straight and I'm very, very attracted to Cassie [Randolph] and women," he said, "but it would have been OK if it would have been the other way too."

He added, "I think that's the biggest message I have for people. If anybody takes anything from this or is going through this, if I help one young man or one young woman go through something that they're struggling with–to let them know that they're not alone–then I consider the book a huge success."

Specifically, in his book he recounts years of questioning his sexuality because he simply didn't experience the desire to have sex. Even as he entered professional football and said he felt "stuck in a hyper masculine culture," he says, "The struggle for me was like, 'How do I talk about this with anybody?' I didn't." He adds that his confusion was a product of various influences, "between my parents' divorce in college sort of messing me up, between being bullied in grade school and high school and literally Googling, 'Am I gay? Why don't I want to have sex?' and then internalizing it all and sort of moving forward with football–I think it's a mixture of all those," he said.

That struggle is all too common–at least for the 1% of the population who identify as asexual.

asexuality.org

Millions of people never experience sexual attraction. That doesn't mean they don't feel romantic attraction, date, marry, or even have sex (after all, a person's sexual behavior doesn't completely define sexual orientation; so asexual people can still have sex in the same way gay people aren't turned straight if they have heterosexual sex).

Is Colton Underwood asexual? That's no one's business but his own; but the fact that fan and media speculation have centered the entire (intrusive) conversation around the gay-straight binary is woefully blinded to the whole spectrum of sexual orientation–not to mention the fact that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are, in fact, separate things. Albeit, it's common to feel them simultaneously, but, just as commonly, people fall into lust rather than love, which is simply experiencing sexual attraction without romantic interest.

To be clear, a person can be asexual and still feel romantically attracted to someone. Alternatively, anyone of any orientation can lack the ability to feel romantic attraction, which just means they're aromantic–and no, being asexual doesn't automatically mean being aromantic, or vice versa. So, hypothetically, Underwood could very well be "very, very attracted to Cassie and women" and still be somewhere on the big, purple, white, and grey spectrum of asexuality.

asexuality

Underwood, for his part, understands why people want to put him in a box. Having grown up in a conservative, faith-based family, he says he's always "lived within boxes." On The Bachelor, he didn't try to disguise his lack of interest in sex by saying he was waiting for marriage due to his faith. Looking back on his struggles to understand his sexuality, he said, "There is no one thing that is on your road that changes your life. There is very rarely that one instinct, and that's the case with this virginity. It's not just one thing. I wish I could say it was all God, because I know that's what he wants for us, but it's not. That's not the case."

If asexuality were a more widely known, understood, and validated orientation, would people like Underwood have such a difficult time accepting their lack of interest in sex? The now-28-year-old says he even understands why people assumed he was gay: "People, sometimes when they don't understand, they have to get from Point A to Point B somehow, and that's a line that they draw. That's just what they do to make sense of things in their mind."

But if our culture's hetero-homo binary wasn't so rigid, so arbitrarily assumed to be the only two expressions of valid sexuality, then it wouldn't be so difficult to understand sexualities that happen to be unlike our own.

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Culture News

Is Carole Baskin Inheriting a Haunted "Indian" Burial Ground with Tiger King Zoo?

Current owner Jeff Lowe claims there are bodies, including "a young American Indian boy," buried on the property

It was recently reported that Carole Baskin had been awarded the property of the Tiger King Zoo—formerly the G.W. Zoo—in Wynnewood, Oklahoma after a judgment found in her favor.

As fans of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King will know, her long-standing legal feud with Joe Exotic (AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage, né Shreibvogel) over his violation of the Big Cat Rescue trademark resulted in a million dollar settlement in her favor. But for the most part Exotic managed to dodge paying Baskin through a series of illegal property transfers that temporarily protected his animal park from seizure.

Now that Exotic is in prison for attempting to have Baskin murdered—along with illegal animal trafficking and several violations of the Endangered Species Act—a judge has finally ruled that the park is hers, and she will be taking over ownership of the 16-acre property later this year. But Jeff Lowe—the park's current owner and the personification of a mid-life crisis—insists that there are no hard feelings, saying, "She deserves this property."

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TV

Don't Congratulate The Bachelor Franchise for Exploiting an LGBTQ Relationship

In response to claims that the show is outdated, they're pandering to viewers and exploiting the LGBTQ community.

ABC Network

If the Bachelor franchise supports LGBTQ partnerships, why do they need to bring in a queer person from outside of the franchise instead of building same-sex romance into the foundation of their shows?

Last week, Demi Burnett came out as queer on Bachelor in Paradise. Her courageous act was followed by an admission: She dated a woman before the show and couldn't stop thinking about her. Her predicament received mixed reactions from fans. The most extreme compared Demi to Jed Wyatt— the dishonest contestant who got engaged to the former Bachelorette, Hannah Brown, after lying to her face about having a girlfriend. In contrast, Demi was honest with her on-island love interest, Derek Peth, who was extremely understanding.

However, Tuesday night's episode did reveal a double standard between how the show deals with straight relationships and how they deal with queer ones.

This past week, Demi opened up to host Chris Harrison about her difficult situation: She was still thinking about the girl she dated, Kristian, and felt conflicted about being away from her.

The following day, Harrison explained that he'd thought about their discussion and invited Demi to walk up the mighty Bachelor in Paradise entry steps. When she made it to the top, she gleamed with joy. Kristian was in Paradise! Immediately, Demi hugged her girlfriend. The moment felt genuine. They kissed, embraced, and called one another "beautiful."

Demi's Girlfriend Kristian Arrives! | Bachelor In Paradise www.youtube.com

"The more time I was away from you, the more and more I thought about you and the more time I spent with him, you just came to the forefront," Demi told Kristian. "The second that I saw you, I knew it's you, and it's always been you, and I want to be with you."

Afterward, Demi had to reconcile with her place on the show and make a clean break from Derek, having finally obtained clarity.

During their "break-up," Derek broke down. In tears, he lamented that he's always been told that he's a "nice guy" but continuously feels like he's not enough. Demi had him sit down with Kristian to acknowledge their respect for one another and ensure they'd be okay on the show together.

Then Demi took Kristian down to the famous Paradise deck to introduce her to the cast, proclaiming that they would explore their relationship on the show. Demi's friends cheered in support (yes, in front of Derek).

The reality is that no one would be clapping if she'd done the same with a man. Double standards never seem to escape The Bachelor franchise. In fact, the whole incident sheds light on how complicated sexuality fluidity can be, and how the feelings of a bisexual person's partner can fall on the back burner as they come to terms with their identity.

Unfortunately, as happy as I was to be represented on screen, I couldn't help but feel forced into the production. The couple's admissions of love indicated the pair were more involved than Demi ever alluded to on the show. She led Bachelor Nation and Derek into believing her connection with Kristian was less serious.

Furthermore, Demi didn't handle the situation well at all. She made her relationship with Kristian seem much more casual than it was. Kristian even told her that she didn't appreciate being taken for granted as a second option. During their date, when Demi finally committed to her, Kristian giddily professed, "I love you." Demi shockingly returned the proclamation, saying, "I love you too."

Demi & Kristian's First Date In Paradise | Bachelor In Paradise www.youtube.com


Despite being elated for Demi, viewers like me were upset, conflicted, and confused. Not only did Demi lead on both Derek and the audience, but ABC packaged it as celebratory of the LGBTQ+ community. If anything, it felt demeaning.

And let's be honest. A network reality TV show like The Bachelor would never allow a bisexual man to explore his sexuality with both sexes in the same way. Sadly, in 2019, that's still a harder pill to swallow than two blonde women making out.

But if the show seriously wants to be celebrated as "groundbreaking television," then it should incorporate queer people into the system and foundation of the franchise, instead of going out of its way to "produce" a queer relationship by bringing in an unknown contestant unrelated to their show.

In spite of all that, Demi and Kristian's love and commitment to one another is still moving and necessary for mainstream audiences to see. The Bachelor production allowing both of them to stay and pursue their relationship, despite its odd break from regular formatting, presents a significant opportunity for the brand to actually take advantage of the praise it's receiving to create meaningful, if not questionable, LGBTQ+ representation.