Bachelorette finale: Hannah B, Luke P’s slut shaming, and bad boyfriend Jed


Bachelorette finale: Hannah B, Luke P’s slut shaming, and bad boyfriend Jed

The Bachelor franchise is well-known for touting pretty much every one of its seasons as the “most dramatic yet,” so much so that it’s become a trope. But this season, starring the charming Alabama native and interior decorator Hannah Brown as the Bachelorette, that claim maybe, just maybe, could be true.

For one, a lot happened to live up to the hype: Brown expertly schooled Luke P., an export-import manager from Gainesville, Georgia, who attempted to use her faith to slut-shame her. She got engaged to and then unceremoniously dumped Jed, an aspiring musician from Nashville, who supposedly had a girlfriend while he was on the show. And she wound up asking out Tyler, a guy she had previously rejected, in a sweet twist.

Although Brown may not have done anything as shocking as jumping a fence to escape the cameras — unlike her Bachelor predecessor Colton Underwood — her televised quest to find her soul mate was met with other challenges. She spent the season, in large part, confronting a wide range of toxic and controlling behavior. And all that drama culminated in one of the most surprising — and modern — conclusions to a Bachelorette ever.

At the close of this season, things did not end with an engagement. Instead, after breaking it off with Jed, Brown pursued Tyler, a fan favorite.

The members of #BachelorNation at Vox sat down to try our best to take it all in.

The Bachelor addresses slut-shaming … kind of

Li Zhou: Let’s start with one of the season’s most viral moments, which took place in a later episode, during the Fantasy Suites dates. While they’re out on a date, Luke P., one of the final four contenders, explicitly tells Hannah he does not want her sleeping with anyone else, and cites their respective commitments to Christianity as his rationale.

To make his point, Luke, a born-again virgin, asks Hannah whether she’s had sex with any of the other men on the show. “I don’t believe that’s something you should be doing. I just want to make sure that you’re not going to be sexually intimate with the other relationships here,” he says. He follows up by describing her decision to have sex with one of the other men as a “slip-up.”

Hannah — who had bonded with Luke in part because of his faith — responds with the kind of outrage we’ve been waiting for her to unleash on him all season, reciting the now-iconic line “I have had sex and Jesus still loves me.”

For me, it was a really gratifying thing to see on a show that hasn’t really been able to discuss sexuality, and women’s power over their sexuality, in a strong and effective way. In the past, the show has been complicit, if not the instigator, when it comes to slut-shaming women in their decisions about sex. And for once, it wasn’t.

Dylan Scott: Here’s my thing with this Fantasy Suites moment. I found it very viscerally satisfying in the moment, for sure, just because I think all of us wanted her to see the light with Luke and tell him off.

But also, I feel like we didn’t really dig beneath the surface. Maybe I’m expecting too much from The Bachelorette. There were two contradictory things happening here. My understanding is that she maintained a lot of her attraction to Luke because of his Christian faith. She found that really appealing. And yet it was his very retrograde views about sexual freedom and women’s sexual empowerment that led to this confrontation.

I feel like I didn’t have a sense of how she thought about her own faith. We reached this breaking point and I don’t feel like I understood it totally from her point of view, other than that great “I had sex, and Jesus still loves me” line. I wish we could have plumbed her faith more and understood how Hannah thinks about that conflict.

Lexie Schapitl: One thing that stood out to me is in that conversation, Hannah’s still saying, “I’ve had sex with two men in my life, and they were both people I thought were going to be my husband.”

First off, that’s Hannah’s choice, and she shouldn’t have to explain it to anybody. It’s unfathomable that a Bachelor would have to justify his sexual history in that way. But in a way, the show is still feeding into this very traditional idea of what makes somebody “wife material.” Hannah didn’t say, “I have sex with whoever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t care.” I think that would have been a very different exchange.

Emily Stewart: It’s hard to square what happened with Tyler, too, and Hannah being so explicit that she did not want to have sex with him — not for religious reasons, but because she wanted to make sure their relationship was more than physical. Obviously, that’s her choice, and it’s great, but I feel like that entire narrative conflicts a little with what happened with Luke. With Tyler, we were expected to be really impressed that she told him she didn’t want to have sex and he respected her choice. She actually said no one had ever been so respectful in her life — because he literally didn’t force her.

Lexie: Also, I know Tyler is great, and the internet loves him. But the fact that everyone’s reaction was, “Wow, she said she didn’t want to have sex, and he was like, ‘Fine,’ that’s amazing!” Once again the bar is so low. Our expectations, both of what happens on the show and as an example of society writ large are like, womp womp.

Dylan: That one line, when Hannah said that “this is the most respectful a man has ever treated me” about Tyler — translation, “I told him that I didn’t want to have sex and he didn’t force himself on me” — was really depressing.

Li: When it comes to this question of how she views religion, it was interesting that Hannah was breaking this frame and casting off some kind of patriarchal views that Luke was expressing, but also she’s in the frame still. Like, she’s trying to criticize this system, but based on her whole point about only sleeping with people whom she considers marriage material, she’s still ascribing to a lot of the tenets that she’s also pushing back against. (Vulture’s Ali Barthwell had some interesting points on this front.)

Emily: Also, the entire show just glosses over the fact that Hannah has been engaged twice before. She’s setting up some weird rules for herself — as long as there’s engagement or marriage potential there, then it’s okay to have sex.

Lexie: I mean, the bar for representing sexuality on the show in general is on the floor, right? The Bachelor series has handled sex so poorly for years and years. There was Nick Viall slut-shaming Andi Dorfman on live television. Kaitlyn Bristowe got death threats for daring to talk about sex on her season. In general, a woman who talks about sex when she’s a contestant is seen as a temptress or portrayed as a villain, or at the very least, she’s pitted against another girl on the show. We’ve seen it so many times.

And while last season’s Colton Underwood is a man, his virginity at 27 years old was treated as a punchline the whole season. Given all those things — plus the way the producers talked about sexual misconduct on Bachelor in Paradise, which was also a disappointing way to approach the issue — it was satisfying to see Hannah take down this single-minded guy, who represents a lot of things that are wrong with the show and its portrayal of female sexual independence.

Emily: This season has also been very sexualized in general. You had Hannah literally mounting the men, and the way it was shot and cut definitely lingered on that. So, yes, it was cool that she was empowered, but at the same time, she was hyper-sexualized.

Lexie: I feel like the past few seasons, we’ve seen a lot more sex on the show. More than we did in the much simpler days of, like, 2009.

Li: I do think the show has ramped up the sexual content as sex becomes more prominently depicted and normalized on TV. I also think the increased sexualization of the show helps ABC in multiple ways: 1) It gets to claim that it’s “being body-positive and sex-positive,” and 2) More sex most likely means more viewers. ABC can make both cases in favor of cutting the show in a more objectifying manner.

The frame of the show draws out toxic behavior from male contestants that’s often expressed in the form of anger

Dylan: There’s also an abundance of what we’d call toxic masculinity, specifically rage, on the show. Why do you think the show draws out that kind of behavior? Is that a pretty reliable feature of The Bachelorette?

Li: I think the way the show is set up, with 25 men or women competing for one person’s affections, many contestants exhibit insecurity and control issues. When it comes to the women on the show, The Bachelor will try to play up stereotypes of jealous, catty women. And with the men, this toxicity ends up being shown through anger and violence. In both cases, this behavior, obviously edited by the show’s producers, is about a lack of control, but it is interesting to repeatedly see that men tend to move toward emotional or physical rage to express their frustrations with ceding control over their relationship.

As was very clear from the way Luke was interpreting religion, his relationship to faith also came down to control and how he could use it to determine what his future wife would do, or how she would conduct herself.

Lexie: I think it’s one of the limitations of the show being so simplified and the way it portrays individual contestants. Thorny topics like religion rarely come up, and when they do, it’s in the extremes. It’s never a nuanced discussion, and that’s the problem.

Emily: Making those control issues more apparent is that this season of The Bachelorette is also the first one where the show’s villain has really hung on for so long. Luke was clearly bad for her and bad to her, but he stayed on the show for so long. And a lot of the time, you can blame the producers for keeping on certain people because it’s “good television,” but Luke’s persistence on the show went well beyond that. Him hanging on so long seemed like it was out of everyone’s hands except Hannah’s.

She said afterward that he had made her feel more secure on the first night, when she was worried the other men would be disappointed she was the Bachelorette, and that she felt like he was the closest she had ever come to love at first sight.

But she also said that while it seemed like everyone else was warning him about her, she had to make the decision for herself. It’s a very human quality — ultimately, people often don’t make a change in their lives until they’ve decided to do so for themselves — but it’s not something we usually get to see play out so publicly on television.

Dylan: I think you hit on something important, Li: power dynamics. Especially if it’s a man pursuing a woman and she has her choice of the lot of them. Luke made it very explicit that Hannah still had to win him, which obviously reverses what the point of the show is supposed to be — that the men are competing for the woman. But I think I saw that reversal, if a little bit more subtly and less stated, with Jed too. He was very preoccupied with the idea that Hannah could like Luke as much as she did, and what that says about Jed as a man, or whatever.

Clearly, Hannah’s relationship with Luke dredged up a lot of uncomfortable feelings for Jed, which, again, made it more about him and whether he really wanted to choose her. I do think that, especially for heteronormative guys who have very out-of-date views of courtship and romantic relationships, it’s hard for them to accept the idea that they don’t have the power and somebody else does. And then you lock them in a house with 15 other guys who feel the same way, and you could see how it could become a pretty dangerous alchemy.

The Bachelor franchise is facing some existential questions


Bachelorette Hannah Brown with Pilot Pete.
John Fleenor/ABC/Getty Images

Li: We know that Jed and another one of the final contestants on the show, Peter, both reportedly had pretty dicey girlfriend situations before they went on The Bachelorette, which has historically been taboo. In Jed’s case, he allegedly still had a girlfriend when he left for the show, and in Peter’s, he reportedly dumped his girlfriend after he found out he had been cast. Since contestants are purportedly coming onto the reality show to seriously date someone, having a partner back home has long been viewed as bad form.

This season was one of the first times we’ve seen revelations like this come out through the press and social media, after the season has already been filmed and the Bachelorette has picked her partner. (Typically, the show is able to sift out the contestants who aren’t “here for the right reasons” earlier on.) Hannah presumably learned of some of these developments after the fact, and had to decide if she would stay with the person she chose after finding all this out. These bombshells also seemed to highlight the fact that many people are not on The Bachelorette to genuinely pursue romance, a painfully earnest fairy tale the show was partly founded on.

What do you make of the revelation that Jed may have had a girlfriend when he went on the show, and that Peter effectively dumped his serious girlfriend to go on The Bachelorette? Does it change how people experience the show, which is theoretically about “finding love?”

Lexie: I think the basic issue at hand is the show has become such a platform and a network in itself — largely fueled by the changing ways we see celebrity, and how social media has made it seem easier to become a celebrity yourself. There are plenty of other reasons to go on the show besides romance! It’s such a bigger career opportunity to do the show now than it was to be on The Bachelor in, say, 2004, when you’d get 15 seconds of fame before everyone moved on and no one knew who you were.

There are always people on the show where you can tell that they don’t want to win — they just want to get some new Instagram followers and be an influencer promoting a brand like FabFitFun.

Emily: Jed was vaguely honest about some of that fame-seeking, at least. Not that he was upfront about having a girlfriend, but he was honest about using the show as a platform for his music until he suddenly discovered he actually liked Hannah (or so he claimed, anyway). That being said, Jed clearly executed his self-promo plan from start to finish, because there was magically a guitar everywhere he turned. But in part, it was kind of refreshing to hear someone actually admit, “Yeah, I wasn’t here to fall in love.” Whereas last season, with Colton and Cassie Randolph, the winner of last season of The Bachelor, she really seemed not to have planned on winning and got boxed into a relationship, basically.

Lexie: Cassie definitely wanted to sell FabFitFun!

Li: Or Flat Tummy Tea!

Emily: But between Jed having a girlfriend and Peter also having a girlfriend, the supposed romantic basis of the show this season felt really insincere.

Lexie: I know that there are other reasons to go on The Bachelor, like raising your profile or even just for fun. But you cannot be like, “Hey, girlfriend, I’m going on The Bachelor, see you in six weeks!” and then just never talk to her again.

That’s the worst part of it — the way Jed allegedly handled the fallout with his girlfriend after going on The Bachelorette. I don’t know what happened in the show, or if he thinks he’s going to be famous now. But at the very least, you’ve got to have that conversation.

Dylan: Maybe it’s extreme to say that Jed is almost as bad as Luke. I deeply dislike Jed, almost as much as I dislike Luke, and obviously for a whole different set of reasons. But my take is, all this stuff is good and fun and adds a layer of tension to the show that actually serves it really well as entertainment. Because I thought the most tense, fraught moment of the whole season was not necessarily the confrontation with Luke, but during Hannah’s visit to Jed’s hometown, when his family was trying to tell Hannah, “This guy isn’t here for you. He’s not into you.”

Watching all that and knowing about the supposed girlfriend, I was just riveted, able to interpret his family’s behavior not only based on what Jed had said already but knowing he had been in a romantic relationship right before he came on.

The show, it seems like, has become a much bigger temptation for fame seekers like Jed. I think that all adds to the show rather than takes away. That dynamic and conflict must have been there from the start. People always knew they were going on a nationally broadcast television show.

Li: I do think it was interesting to have the Jed stuff unfolding and leaking out on social media as the show was still happening, versus having the tea coming out after the show has concluded.

That idea of having the parallel storyline of people’s hidden relationships being revealed as the season progressed was certainly entertaining. I do kind of wonder if it opens up a new way for the show to engage with people. In this instance, our awareness of it seems to have happened organically. Jed’s other relationship was not anything that ABC was trying to put out there, as far as I know.

But with social media enabling everything to happen in real time, it is interesting to see how before, you would tape something and nothing would be interacting with it. But now, you have the real-life stuff happening on social media in concurrence with whatever Bachelor romance or narrative that’s unraveling.

Dylan: Now that you mention it, they did kind of toy with making it part of the structure of the show with the Demi stuff at the start of the season. At the time, they had Demi, one of Hannah’s friends from a previous season, make a guest appearance on the show to suss out which men were truly there to “find love.” As part of her cameo, Demi blew up that one guy Scott’s spot because he still had a girlfriend back home. That was basically this kind of situation.

On the other hand, it’s like, is somebody doing a woefully neglectful job of backgrounding these contestants or whatever?

It seems like Peter, the other contestant with a questionable relationship history, went out of his way to delete any social media trace of his relationship. But I feel like if they wanted to really find out and ward off these situations, they could. So maybe they do see a value in, “Are they or aren’t they?”

Li: Or else Demi sucks at her job. Because her job was to figure this stuff out.

Lexie: When it came out that Jed reportedly had a girlfriend, I was like, of course he did. He wants to be a country singer, blah blah blah. When Peter was exposed as reportedly having a girlfriend too, I was a little let down and I don’t know why I had different expectations. I was rooting for Peter! That one hit me.

Li: He also just seems nicer. Jed always seemed kind of greasy and the aspiring musician or whatever vibe.

Lexie: If you listen to his stuff on Spotify, guys, it’s bad.




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