Content Warning: While this post will not be graphic in nature, it will discuss, in part, pornography and its effects.
Let me start by detailing what I will not be saying in this post. I will not be making a one to one correspondence between watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and viewing pornography. I will not be saying that, like pornography, it is always a sin to watch an episode of the reality TV show. I will certainly not be giving husbands an excuse to view pornography because their wife watched last night’s season finale of The Bachelorette. Now on to what I am going to say.
Last night, millions of viewers, predominately female, tuned in to see who Ashley would choose – J.P. or Ben. Both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette garner significant ratings for ABC. The season finale of the first season of The Bachelorette was one of the most watched reality TV show episodes of all time.
If it was simply regarded as yet another “reality” TV show, there would be no lasting problems. However, for too many women this show does in fact serve as a type of emotional pornography, distorting their view of romance and healthy relationships.
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When a man (or woman for that matter) views actual pornography they warp their sexual instinct, expectations of their significant other and the true meaning of fulfillment and satisfaction. Particularly for men, continued viewing results in a physiological change, which is why pornography addicts continually progress to harder and harder material. This is one of the reasons why pornography use has been linked to sexual violence, rape and murder.
However, just on the simple level, a man viewing pornography comes away with a distorted view about how relationships work and how real women appear and behave. Often times, the habitual pornography viewer has trouble engaging in actual relationships with actual women because he cannot refrain from comparing them to the women he thinks he knows from the pornography. It can prevent loving relationships from forming and damage or even destroy existing relationships.
How does all of these relate to shows like The Bachelor? For some women, they function much like pornography. Women see the “relationships” play out on the show and believe it is portraying how things really should be.
A young girl can watch The Bachelorette and see this women claim to be “in love” with numerous different men at the same time. She will see this beautiful woman make-out and even sleep with multiple men over the course of a few days. She may think, “This is how romance is supposed to work. I should have 20 guys fighting over me and I should enjoy the attention, doing whatever it takes to find out which one I like the most.”
A wife could see The Bachelor and desire the lifestyle presented – magically get-aways, super romantic dates, no responsibilities, no jobs. She may think, “Why can’t I live like this? Why can’t my husband take me to these exotic locations and spoil me with expensive gifts?”
It is similar to soap operas or much of pop music, it glamorizes relationships and the idea of “being in love.” True happiness is chasing after feelings, or at least that’s what we are told. If one person no longer makes you happy, if you haven’t got those tingly feelings anymore, go find the next one.
What the producers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette don’t want you to know is that, excluding last night’s final couple because they have not had significant time together, in 21 seasons only two couples from the final episode are together. No bachelor has ever married the woman to whom he gave the final rose.
The first bachelorette is married to the man she chose and last season’s final couple is planning their wedding. One bachelor chose one woman, but on the wrap-up show changed his mind and has married that season’s runner-up. Even if you count that marriage, only three couples from the show are still together. Of the final couples, only 2 out of 21 really “found love.”
This ideal and standard for a relationship is set, but rarely do the couples on the show live up to it. Yet, so many girls and woman watch the show and are impacted by it as if it is emotional pornography. Their view of dating, relationships and marriage has been skewed by the portrayals of those things on the show.
Again, this is not the equivalent of a man watching pornography, however it appeals to the areas where a woman is most effected. Pornography distorts men because they are predominately visual and physical. That is not the case for most women. They are more emotional wired and these shows build off of that and confuse women as to how their emotions should play out in a real relationship.
No, watching an episode of The Bachelorette is not the same as viewing pornography. However, for some women, it can be almost as devastating to their current or future relationships.