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?
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.
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.
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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Black people can't feel safe in America just by playing Pokemon or building LEGOs.
During times of hardship, we tend to gravitate towards nostalgia as a form of comfort and escapism.
Playing Pokemon games or building LEGO sets can transport us back to a time when life felt less complicated, but the sad truth is that those simpler times were always an illusion, and not every child had the privilege of living in that sort of bubble.
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In their blowout last night, he fell back on the same pattern: confront, manipulate to gain power (occasionally lying), and then backtrack to save face.
It's a general truth that a majority of the Bachelor Franchise's contestants are Christian.
There have been virgin contestants, a born-again virgin Bachelor, and then a straight-up virgin Bachelor. Yet, over the past two decades, the show has refrained from airing discussions of touchy topics like religion or sex. Participants on the show have disclosed that many deep conversations regarding such matters go unaired.
Then, last season, one contestant, Caelynn Miller-Keyes, disclosed her sexual assault to the Bachelor, Colton Underwood. The heart-stopping moment became a revelatory scene in reality television. Viewers everywhere could hear, relate, and connect to the moving story. Powerful moments like those are more common now that participants are breaking away from the show's traditional boundaries, storylines, and rules. In turn, production has begun to re-shape the show; while the series has become more sex positive, religion has remained a taboo subject—until last night.
Throughout this season, Bachelor Nation has witnessed an emotional abuser remain on their TVs for far too long—even by the standards of reality TV, it's been alarming. Luke P.'s concerning behavior, from aggression to excessive lying, has prompted viewers to question, "What in the hell are we not seeing?" Hannah Brown and Luke P. have had a connection that viewers cannot not wrap their heads around, but it turns out that viewers were missing half the story. While Luke P. has stirred the pot by repeatedly disrespecting Hannah and his fellow contestants, viewers have questioned if an inexplicable spiritual connection has been drawing the two together.
Finally, the other half of the story was unveiled during Fantasy Suite week. After the two made-out during their day touring Santorini, Luke P. began their dinner by gaslighting Hannah:
"I am very confident that we're on the same page with our morals, and I just want to hear it from your mouth. I've heard people proclaim their faith, but yet they've said things like, 'I'm excited for Fantasy Suites. I want to explore this relationship on a sexually intimate level, and that's what I'm looking forward to.' And to me, that's like whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa excuse me? What? There's something I'm missing here. Like I don't believe that's something you should be doing, and I just want to make sure that you're not going to be sexually intimate with the other relationships here. Like, I totally have all the trust in the world for you, but at the same time I just want to make sure we're on the same page. Like, if you told me you're going to have sex or you had sex with one or multiple of these guys, I would be wanting to go home 100 percent."
Hannah Sends Luke P Home After Fantasy Suite Warning! | The Bachelorette US www.youtube.com
If delivered differently and with more tact, his concerns could've been reasonable. Instead, he began by aligning the other contestants against him and weaponizing his connection with Hannah to make assumptions about how she should act. Then, he backtracked by asserting that he had faith in her and finally threatened their relationship if she didn't live up to his standards. The loaded speech demonstrates his continued pattern of emotional manipulation. When Hannah disagreed with what he said, he continued to backtrack by claiming that he would work with her through anything, even a "slip-up." Similarly, earlier in the season, he informed Hannah that he would stick by her even if she made a "boneheaded mistake."
Time and time again, Luke P. has utilized gaslighting as a way to maintain control in his relationship with Hannah. Whenever he's felt confident in their relationship, he's directly addressed his concerns with Hannah, but when he's felt their relationship was in jeopardy, he's used manipulation tactics to assert what he wants out of the relationship. However, whenever he's "slipped up," the responsibility hasn't fallen on him because he's protested that he was just "misunderstood"—after lying straight to Hannah's face.
Overall, every time Luke P. has been in the wrong, he's asserted his needs, manipulated the truth, and then backtracked whenever Hannah responded poorly. In their blowout last night, he fell back on the same pattern: confront, manipulate to gain power (occasionally lying), and then backtrack to save face.
Whatever good Hannah saw in Luke P. prior to Fantasy Suite week has been washed away. When Luke P. tried to wield religion against Hannah to shame her, she called him out on it. The Bachelorette proved that she had her Biblical receipts, retorting, "You know the story in the Bible when the woman was called out for adultery, and she was stoned in the village, and Jesus said, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. You're holding your stone up at me and asking me what I've done."
Unfortunately, gaslighting in the Christian community isn't anything new. Too many self-righteous believers still condemn, shame, and utilize their beliefs to shame sinners and preach a narrow way of life. Hannah aptly addressed Luke P.'s hypocrisy by informing him, "Sex might be a sin out of marriage, but pride is a sin too." She continued, "It's like you're holding other people to a standard that you don't even live by."
Faith is meant to spread love and light. Like Hannah said, "I know that I have God in my heart, so I know that everything I do and who I am is light. I am light. Do I make mistakes? I'm not Jesus." Her commentary shed light on the stark contrast between more progressive, inclusive Christians who have embraced the modern world and others who stick to their outdated, hypocritical agendas (like those who are pro-life but don't care about keeping children in cages).
For the formerly apolitical show to air their conversation is a sign that the genre of "reality" TV is still expanding its social consciousness; in particular, it displays that the Bachelor Franchise has solid potential (even after 17 years) to spark new conversations and highlight important narratives. Unfortunately, as portrayed in the previews for next week, the producers seem to allow Luke P. to come back, undoubtedly to exasperate Hannah and continue the toxic drama that is Luke P.'s existence.
ABC's production seems to take a positive step forward by airing their candid conversation, but they still kept around an emotional abuser and then brought him back to let him try to manipulate his way back into Hannah's heart. At least Hannah Brown finally gained clarity and found her way out of a controlling relationship (for now). Hopefully, like other leads who have been forced to endure harmful, disruptive, racist, and misogynistic contestants, Hannah can come out on top, with continued love and respect for herself and her relationship with God.
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