Fantasy Suites typically involve a lot of innuendo. There are candles, vague discussions about “physical intimacy,” the cheeky moment when the couple closes the door to their suite and, of course, that next-morning shoot where the couple appears messy-haired, wearing robes and coyly grinning about their time together. It’s The Bachelorette‘s equivalent of when people in a PG movie fall onto a bed and the camera pans away to a random lamp as a not-so-subtle wink-wink, nudge-nudge. But even though Fantasy Suites are, in theory, all about sex, we rarely see couples openly talk about what they want, what they like or consent. Sure, there was that ham-fisted attempt during 2017’s season of Bachelor in Paradise when Chris Harrison stepped into the role of consent educator like a substitute teacher who didn’t realize they had signed up to teach sex ed. But overall, discussions like the ones we saw Hannah having with Peter, Tyler C., Jed and *especially* Luke P. have largely been absent from the show—but they are needed.
Farrah Khan, manager of Consent Comes First at Ryerson University and a member of Bachelor Nation since the first season of The Bachelor, says that consent should be a fundamental part of The Bachelor franchise.
“The thing is, we have to bring these conversations into the mainstream, and the way we do that is through pop culture. The way we do that is by using what we have available and what people are watching,” says Khan. She adds that that given the premise of the show, consent should be an essential part of its structure. “You can’t talk about sex and pleasure without talking about consent.”
And unlike Chris Harrison’s lecture on Bachelor in Paradise, Hannah’s Fantasy Suites provided the perfect way to relay those lessons to the masses because rather than telling people about consent, it showed what it looks like in real—relatable—situations.
So let’s get down to it. Here are the essential lessons we learned about consent from Hannah’s Fantasy Suites episode of The Bachelorette:
Lesson 1: Women like sex
Like, duh. That said, watching Hannah be openly excited about having sex with her hotties was a refreshing change for the franchise. Case in point: the infamous windmill. Hannah was unabashedly into the prospect of having sex with Peter, and we are here for it. As Khan points out, Hannah did more than buck stigmas around women’s desire for sex—she also openly discussed pleasure.
“When we talk about the sex, it’s almost the mechanics of it, but [Hannah] was talking about her pleasure,” says Khan, referring to the discussion Hannah had with Tyler C., when she said that she wanted to be held and kissed but wasn’t ready to have sex with him. “She was able to say what she wanted.” And that’s a basic, albeit powerful, thing.
Lesson 2: Use protection
There have been conflicting reports about the availability of condoms in the Fantasy Suites, but as viewers, we would never know because protection hasn’t really been discussed or shown on screen. Enter Hannah: During her Fantasy Suite date with Peter, the Bachelorette found a condom in the windmill they were staying at and grinned. Sure, this was possibly a reference to when she found a condom in his car during their one-on-one hometown date, but still. Safety first, friends!
Lesson 3: You don’t have to have sex on a particular timeline
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette operate on a strict and predictable story arc of when the contestants meet, when they meet each other’s families and when they, in theory, have sex. But that chain of events isn’t reflective of how all relationships evolve and unfold. As Khan notes, some people have sex on the first date while others take more time. (Gird your loins because we’re about to talk about *that* date with Tyler C.)
Yes, Hannah and Tyler C. have kept things steamy basically since the beginning of the season. Whether they were oiling each other up in Tyler C.’s hometown or getting couples massages, Hannah noted that “physical intimacy with Tyler is not an issue.” But, when it came to their Fantasy Suite, Hannah slowed things down. “I feel nervous and scared about just how far our physical connection can go when our emotional communication needs to catch up sometimes,” she says. And, spoiler alert, THAT’S TOTALLY FINE. Your relationship, your timeline.
Lesson 4: Advocate for your boundaries
— Hannah Brown (@AlabamaHannah) July 16, 2019
I wasn’t necessarily rooting for Tyler C. before, but after watching his Fantasy Suite date, I am fully #TeamTyler. But, as Khan points out, this reaction to—and Twitter’s unabashed thirst over—Tyler C. respecting Hannah’s wishes is reflective of how much work we still need to do.
“Consent is a low bar,” says Khan. “Yes, I’m really glad that he affirmed that they wouldn’t do anything she wouldn’t want to do and that he respected her boundaries. That’s amazing. But the thing is, it should be like that every time we date somebody—and it shouldn’t be shocking. Yet we’re in a time and we’re in conversations where that is still where we’re at.”
That said, Khan points out that the types of discussions that Hannah was able to have on The Bachelorette can help push these conversations forward. “When we create spaces for women to say what they want and need sexually, and we don’t shame and blame them, then when sexual violence happens, we’re not going to be as apt to say ‘Oh, they were asking for it because they were sexually active’ or ‘They were promiscuous’ or ‘They were acting in a certain way’ or ‘They were wearing certain clothing,'” she says. “I love the fact that [Hannah] was openly invested in her pleasure.” Because pleasure doesn’t always have to mean sex.
Lesson 5: Your body, your choice
OK, I can’t put it off any longer. We have to talk about Luke P. (And trust me when I say that I am SO OVER talking about this dud.) Watching Luke P.’s “sex talk” with Hannah was nothing short of infuriating.
“I just want to make sure you’re not going to be, you know, sexually intimate with the other relationships here,” he told Hannah, as if he had *any* say in what she does with her body. And bless Hannah because she schooled this joker. “It’s just that you’re questioning me, that you’re judging me and feel like you have the right to when you don’t at this point,” she says, in a calm and even tone that I completely lacked as I yelled profanities at the TV. That didn’t seem to get through to Luke P., but Hannah spelled it out later. “He has said that he loves me. But then it’s like, ‘No, you don’t if it’s so contingent on if I fit into what is morally acceptable for your wife to be.’ … You don’t own me,” she said during her ITM. At this point, I was literally cheering at the TV.
Lesson 6: “I have had sex…and Jesus still loves me”
A standout moment for Khan was when Hannah said her now infamous line: “I have had sex…and Jesus still loves me.” Growing up in a Catholic-Muslim household, Khan was raised with the idea of abstinence until marriage. She says watching Hannah’s discussion with Luke P. was an important reminder “that you can be connected to your faith and still make choices about your sexual life. And claim your own pleasure.” She adds that it’s a discussion that’s underrepresented in mainstream media so it was meaningful to see it on this platform.
In case there was any confusion on where Hannah stands on her faith and her sex life, she spelled it out again during an ITM.
“If you love me, then you love me. And you love everything about me. You know that there’s flaws about me, but you love me through those flaws. That’s what I want. You’re not going to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do,” said Hannah. “I answer to the Lord. I don’t answer to Luke.” (It’s a stance she’s still having to prove thanks to Luke P.’s insistence on tweeting at her during the episode.)
Lesson 7: Say it with me now: “NO MEANS NO”
Based on the behaviour we’ve seen this season, Luke P. is clearly a guy who is used to getting his way, so it’s no surprise that he didn’t take Hannah’s rejection well. But according to Khan, who has been working in consent education for two decades, a huge part of understanding consent is learning how to deal when things don’t go your way. When she teaches workshops in schools and workplaces, she always talks about the ‘art of rejection’ and how essential this is to consent culture. Even after Hannah tells Luke P. it’s over, he physically refuses to get up and leave, despite her repeated requests that he do so. And in what is possibly the most cringeworthy moment, Luke P. tells Hannah that owes him a minute to share his feelings, to which Hannah rightfully responds, “I don’t owe you anything.”
Khan sees this interaction as important lessons in consent and rejection.
“If someone doesn’t want to be with you, it’s not their responsibility to make you feel better,” she says, referring to Luke P.’s inability to process Hannah’s request that he leave the show. “Luke expected Hannah to take care of his feelings after she stated what she needed, and that’s not her responsibility.”
So let’s say it once again, louder for the people in the back: NO MEANS NO.
After watching Hannah’s Fantasy Suite dates, Khan says this is the type of material she could use in her courses because, for once, what we saw on The Bachelorette actually provided a good example of consent culture. “It always helps me when these consent conversations happen on pop-culture shows because then I’m able to be like, ‘Do you want to be a Luke or a Tyler?’”