Here’s What The Bachelor In Paradise Scandal Can Teach Us About Consent

By now, it is all but inevitable that you have heard about the ongoing lawsuit involving Bachelor in Paradise. If you aren’t familiar, here’s a quick lowdown–early this week, news broke that Bachelor spinoff Bachelor in Paradise had shut down production over alleged “misconduct” on set. Later, it was revealed that this misconduct involved an incident between Paradise contestants Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson over a sexual encounter between the two in which both parties were intoxicated, but Corinne was too intoxicated to consent.

First of all, it is important to remember that we, the Bachelor franchise voyeurs, do not actually know Corinne, DeMario, or any other contestants on the series–though, if you watch the show, you probably believe that you do. Reality television, by design, creates a false sense of intimacy between the viewers and the onscreen ciphers that are presented to them as fully-realized people. It is comforting to “know,” as deeply as one knows anything while watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette that, unlike humans in real life, you can actually put the contestants on the series in a box–one person is the comic relief, for example, another one is wife or husband material, and one person is, of course, the villain.

But this comfort is only possible because contestants on shows like The Bachelor are given certain personas and scripts to stick with to fulfill the viewers’ cravings for character regularity. Corinne and DeMario were both designated “villains” on their respective seasons, so they were told that their storyline on Bachelor in Paradise would be focused on them hooking up to maximize ratings. Contestants like Corinne and DeMario have an incentive to adhere to these personas because, if they fulfill them properly, they get a couple hundred thousand Instagram followers and enough #sponcon deals to ensure a comfortable, celebrity-adjacent existence for the rest of their life.

When something goes off the rails–as something clearly did in this case–it is difficult not to feel a little betrayed that reality TV got a little too real while also knowing, somehow, that buying into a constructed narrative makes one complicit in a situation that, really, should be none of our business. As Jennifer Weiner wrote in the New York Times, “We want steamy hookups, drunken antics and tearful regret. We do not want to be faced with a woman saying she was too intoxicated to consent to sexual activities.”

But maybe you, unlike me, are an intelligent person, and don’t watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or any of its offshoots. If so, what does any of this have to do with you?

Well, for one thing, it’s as good an opportunity as any to talk about consent.

Details in this particular case are murky, which, unfortunately, is the case for many cases involving sexual assault. Early reports said that Corinne was “limp” during the encounter, though sources say that she seems lucid in the footage of the incident.

Still, regardless of how with it Corinne did or did not appear (never mind the fact that it is possible for someone to be totally blackout and not remember anything the following day, but seem lucid in the moment) she still was not capable of consent, which RAINN defines as an agreement between partners to engage in sexual activity. If there is no clear “yes,” there is no consent. Period. “No” means no, and, of course, an absence of a no does not mean “yes,” either. (Also, it is worth noting that only about 2-8 percent of rape accusations are made up so, statistically, it is unlikely that Corinne is lying about this.)

Basically? This particular situation is hard to parse, and will likely become murkier still as the situation progresses. But, one takeaway from the whole thing (if you would like to take anything away from it) is that, when it comes to consent, there isn’t anything dubious there–being blacked out is not the equivalent of saying yes.

What do you think about the Bachelor in Paradise scandal? Let us know in the comments.

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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