The Reality of Consent

Maria Posted by Maria at June 13, 2017 13:37:00 June 13, 2017 13:37:00

As Rachel continues to charm on The Bachelorette, the franchise’s embarrassing cousin, Bachelor in Paradise, has halted filming because of an allegation of sexual misconduct.

I am not a member of Bachelor Nation; I’ve watched one season of Bachelor in Paradise (BiP) and didn’t know who anyone was, but I was fascinated by the expectation of an engagement after a couple of weeks in Mexico. (Three couples got engaged. One is still together.) At the BiP resort, there is heavy drinking, immediate hook-ups, and lots of fighting. Each episode, the female and male contestants take turns handing out roses (there’s an odd number of people every week, so whoever is left without a partner is cut).

The allegation of misconduct has come about in a few different ways (I will be using names, as they are widely available online). It involves Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson; both were the cast “villians” in their respective seasons. There are different versions of the story being leaked. Let’s start with TMZ as they had the first statements from DeMario’s camp (interesting, as he has surely signed a confidentiality agreement, as do all contestants), then Corinne and the production rebuttal.

(Please keep in mind I’m working with the information available to me at the time of writing, and am ignoring many of the cast reaction stories because I don’t give a single solitary f-ck about anyone not involved.)

TMZ out of the gate: the cast arrived at the island. Producers encouraged Corinne and DeMario to hook up. There was lot of drinking, and the two engaged in heavy petting and oral sex (he was too drunk to get it up). Key detail: she “put her genitals in his face.” The crew was present. DeMario’s camp says everything was fine between them the next day and they were only alerted to an issue after a producer watched the tape. The report acknowledges that the oral sex details are a major point of contention. (Read the full TMZ account here.)

US Weekly, via ET and under new ownership, has this: "Next thing you know, Corinne comes over and hops on his lap. They start talking and joking," the insider claimed to ET, adding that the pair quickly became hot and heavy. "Everyone is just going about their business. Cameras are rolling. Producers are everywhere. That's when a 'third party' [a producer] felt uncomfortable, claiming misconduct in the workplace." They also add that since filming was halted, DeMario got a hold of her and they are “getting along well.” Read the full US Weekly account here.

PEOPLE treats it as much more than a drunken hook-up, reporting from their source: “The show absolutely values the primacy of consent, and this instance it appears as though conduct allegedly occurred without the proper consent having been given.” PEOPLE also notes that two cast members saw the incident and were upset producers did not intervene. Read the full PEOPLE report here.

LA Times reporter Amy Kaufman (who has deep ties to the show) had an exclusive thread on this early on – read it here. According to Refinery 29, Corinne has watched the tape. The investigation was prompted by a producer.

Late yesterday afternoon, TMZ had the first account from Corinne who asserts she was blackout drunk and that she had no recollection of what happened, and cast members had to fill her in the next day. Per this report, she is more upset with production than she is with DeMario because he was also intoxicated, and she is blaming producers for not intervening. Production is denying any wrongdoing.

Consent is what this hinges on – not a concept that often comes up in reality TV but one that comes up all the time for women in real life.

We’ve heard stories like this before and know where it’s going: the focus is on the behaviour of the possible victim, not the alleged perpetrator. The idea that she continued to speak to him (keep in mind that on BiP, they are isolated, with only the cast and crew and no radio/TV etc) is mentioned in many versions. She continued to speak to him, which means what? If she was blackout drunk, she would not have known they were together the night before. Or maybe she felt pressured, or embarrassed, or in denial. Contact is not proof of consent.

Online, Corinne’s story is already being written. She is being blamed and slut-shamed (and there are many racist comments directed at DeMario, who is black). Many of the comments place the onus on the possible victim -– why did you continue to speak to him? Why didn’t you go to the police? Why didn’t you drink water/keep your legs closed/not go in the pool/blow your rape whistle?

I’m not meaning to make light of this but really, no matter what unfolds in the investigation, to many people she is another drunk girl at a bar with too short of a skirt. Her social media, her “platinum vagine” catchphrase, her every move on TV will be scrutinized for signs that she is the kind of woman who clearly wanted “it” in every way, shape and form. And while this story is similar to many, it’s also unique in that it happened in a controlled, remote and monitored environment with several sober adults not just present, but responsible for the set.

Witnesses to sexual assault aren’t uncommon. We’ve all read stories of teenagers holding up cellphones while an unconscious girl is raped. If this incident happened, what would make it justifiable– because the alleged victim signed a contract to be there? Is it because she talked about her vagina and played a cookie-cutter villain, and not one of the earnest do-gooders who actually want to get married? Or did the producers simply f-ck up and not grasp the gravity of what was happening in the moment? According to former contestants, producers intervene all the time – so why not this time? Was there a different set of expectations for Corinne and DeMario?

On the other end, “production sources” have vehemently denied the complaint, saying the tape shows she was lucid and no one came to them with concerns at the time. Most of the contestants should be mic’d day-and-night, so conversations are monitored. If they producers are playing this hand, what do they know?

Some of the comments I’ve read on social media are also directed at the producer who filed the original complaint, wondering why someone who works on BiP would be uncomfortable with heavy petting/oral sex. Let’s get this perfectly straight: some people are upset that a producer would sound the alarm on an alleged sexual assault at their workplace. Even if he/she is reporting out of an abundance of caution, isn’t it better to report than not report?

This is the constant cry of people who dismiss statistics – why isn’t it reported? Someone reports it and everyone screams slut, liar, gold digger. It’s the reality of people who try to have misconduct investigated -- and this is happening publicly. Imagine what happens behind closed doors.

The threads blaming the producer (many assume it’s a woman – I have not seen anything to confirm that) for getting the show cancelled argue s/he must be too sensitive or have ulterior motives. “You work for The Bachelor, what did you expect.” And that’s denominator in many sexual assault incidents – that all of this should be expected. You drink too much? Expect it. You go on a reality show centered around hook-ups? Expect it. You get naked on TV? Expect it. You work in entertainment? Expect it. It’s nothing to cancel a season about. You think you witnessed sexual assault? Don’t be so uptight. These women must be after more money!

What we are left with is a she said/he said/they said – and a tape (which I hope, unless Corinne wants it to, never sees the light of day). There will not be a 2017 season of Bachelor in Paradise. The investigation continues, and so do the frustrating conversations about consent, and what kind of woman is allowed to exercise her right to it.


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