Every Way the “Bachelor in Paradise” Incident is Terrible

As all the good citizens of Bachelor Nation know by now, the 4th season of “Bachelor in Paradise” has been suspended due to allegations of sexual misconduct on the third day of shooting. Details are still scant, but what is known is that a producer filed a third-party complaint after a sexual encounter between cast members Corinne Olympios (the “villain” of the most recent Bachelor season), and Demario Jackson (the “villain” of the current Bachelorette season, who was only just booted a couple weeks ago). The two had apparently been drinking throughout the first day of production, and at one point moved from the resort bar to the pool, where the sexual encounter occurred, with cameras rolling.

The rest is fuzzy. Some cast members and crew say that Corinne appeared lucid and engaged throughout the evening and the encounter. Another anonymous crew member gave a starkly different, and horrific, account: that Corrine was so intoxicated that she went limp during the encounter, but Demario continued to have sex with her, even though she appeared unconscious. Afterwards, some of the crew carried her to her room because she was unable to walk on her own, but did not give her medical attention. It appears that many cast members witnessed the sexual encounter by the pool, but didn’t think anything nonconsensual was occurring. Several, including Demario, said that everything seemed fine after the event and the next day, and no one realized anything was wrong until the producer filed the complaint.

The beating heart of the issue is this: was Corinne too intoxicated to give consent, and did producers stand by and film a sexual assault taking place? 

A spokesperson for Demario was one of the first to issue a statement after the production halt was announced. According to him, Corinne was the instigator of the encounter, and that he performed oral, but not vaginal, sex. He also said that he and Corinne began talking on the show because producers had informed them that a main storyline was going to be the two of them hooking up.

Corinne has come out and said that she was too intoxicated to give consent, and doesn’t remember the encounter at all. She found out about it from other cast members the next day, at which point she became very upset that producers didn’t intervene. She also mentioned that she had a boyfriend, and would never cheat on him. 

No charges have been filed (yet), but both Corinne and Demario have retained legal counsel. Filming on the show doesn’t seem set to resume, and all cast members have been flown home.

We don’t know exactly what happened, and confirmed details are scarce. I won’t speculate, and I tried to offer the full range of possible explanations and viewpoints. But regardless of what happened, every possible scenario is terrible for every person involved.

Reason 1 why this is terrible: If Corinne was visibly too intoxicated to consent to the encounter, then BIP producers not only didn’t intervene in a sexual assault, but they even stood by and filmed it. I would hope that a show that actively fosters a highly sexualized environment would be hyper-aware of the possibility of assault and the need for consent. This doesn’t seem to have been the case. In fact, it seems as if producers have become so accustomed to the environment they created, where every interaction is just potential reality TV fodder, that they have forgotten that their contestants also exist in the real world, and that what happens on production can have real consequences.

This isn’t the first time the show has played fast and loose with contestant safety. During JoJo Fletcher’s season of ”The Bachelorette”, notoriously horrible contestant (and person) Chad Johnson made threats towards other cast members, punched a door, and grabbed another cast member’s shirt so violently that it ripped. The show did not remove him, and instead installed a very visible and functionally useless security guard to follow him around the mansion. Not only did their “solution” allow the existing abuse to continue by keeping Chad in the house mix, but it added to the drama. The security guard was essentially a blinking neon sign that read “The Chad can blow at any minute!” It was a constant reminder of past drama, even when nothing else was happening.

Not only did they not remove a violent contestant from the show, they actually invited him back. Last season’s “Bachelor in Paradise” kicked off with Chad Johnson yelling slurs at a love interest, shoving her, threatening to murder everyone (again), and mocking another cast member’s disability. The show waited until the next morning, after the “drama” once the incident was over, to ask Chad to leave. It seems that, as viewers, our appetite for drama has led to increasingly risky production sets and producers willing to push the boundaries of decency for the juicy storyline. If this incident with Corinne and Demario all turns out to be a misunderstanding, it doesn't change the fact that production allowed things to go far enough that a credible complaint of misconduct occurred. Even as I was just reading the episode recaps of the human horror that is The Chad, the perversion of it all struck me. Here was an incident where people were genuinely, and rightfully, frightened for their safety, and the episode recaps paint Chad’s behavior as just the goings-on of a hilariously over-the-top douchebag. As a relatively new naturalized citizen of Bachelor Nation myself, this is all enough to give me pause about my citizenship. The only shining light, if this was indeed the scenario that happened, is that one producer did speak up.

Reason 2 why this is terrible: people are scrutinizing Corinne’s sexual past, and demonizing her for it. In her reality-show debut during Nick Viall’s season of “The Bachelor” earlier this year, she was controversial largely because of her overt sexual advances towards Nick. One of her character’s (yes, character, because this is a reality show with legions of editors and producers to curate behavior and create storylines) most memorable moments was an uninvited Louboutin-clad sex ambush at Nick Viall’s hotel room (which, in a very off-brand moment, Nick refused to engage in). Her previous sexual history is being used as proof that she is either lying about the nonconsensual nature of the encounter with Demario, or that she led him on, and therefore is responsible for what happened. Textbook slut-shaming. No surprises here. What makes this particularly terrible on this terrible list, is that this terrible-ness isn’t scenario-dependent; this has already happened, and will undoubtedly continue to happen.  

Reason 3 why this is terrible: people are using the fact that Corinne was drinking and probably drunk to blame her for what happened. Once again, no surprises. Classic victim-blaming. Yes, drinking can complicate things, and Corinne and Demario were both in more vulnerable positions because they were drunk. But I'll repeat what thousands of very smart people before me have said: being drunk doesn't mean you deserve to be sexually assaulted! Corinne was in a highly public environment, surrounded by dozens of cast members, crew, and producers, many of whom I'm sure she counted as friends. She can be forgiven for assuming she was in a relatively safe environment. And even if she were drunk, alone in an alley, the blame for sexual assault is always that of the assailant.

Reason 4 why this is terrible: If it was consensual, and Corinne is lying about it, then she gives fuel to every asshole who automatically assumes women lie about sexual abuse, and makes it harder for women who were assaulted to come forward, in an environment where sexual assault reporting is already painfully low. And, most importantly, an innocent man is being accused of a crime. Let me be clear: in NO WAY do I believe that this is true. Corinne is an adult woman with every right to dictate what does and does not happen to her body. If she says she didn’t consent to this encounter, then to not take her at her word is, quite simply, patronizing assholery. But we're looking at all scenarios here, so let's live in this one for a while. Perhaps she lied because she got caught having sex with someone who wasn't her boyfriend on national TV. This is not an original assumption. One of the first questions I've heard law enforcement ask rape victims is whether they have a boyfriend. A rape victim with a boyfriend loses credibility, because she might be crying rape instead of admitting she cheated. I’m sure there is a person or two out there somewhere who have actually done this. But to lead with the assumption that a woman is lying about rape or assault is problematic on all of the levels. However, if this is the case with the BIP situation, then an innocent man is being accused of a crime, and has to contend with all the social, psychological, and legal side effects associated with that. Not to mention that in this case, Demario also has to contend with the particular brand of vitriol that this country reserves only for black men accused of crimes against white women. For as much trolling as Corinne has been subjected to since the news broke, if it looks like Demario has fared any better, it’s only because his Instagram commenting feature was immediately disabled. If this was a case of consensual drunken antics, then we're left with problematic reality that someone on the production staff saw a black man with a white woman and assumed assault. 

As a white woman, I know I can only speak with so much clarity on the racial issues at play here. So here is a great opinion piece from a woman who can offer that perspective.  

There is plenty more nuanced terribleness surrounding this whole situation (the least important of which being that I have nothing to watch on my summer Mondays now). I hope that this is all a misunderstanding, that no one was hurt during filming, that no one is hurt in the aftermath, and that production learns valuable lessons from this. Unfortunately, I doubt that will be the case, and this is going to get even worse for everyone involved.

For more resources and information about sexual assault, visit RAINN.org.