Colton Underwood Is the Virgin “Bachelor”

Announcement of ABC's first "Virgin Bachelor" shocks audiences and creates mixed expectations for 23rd season.

Liv Rocklin
Colton Underwood, the recently selected star of the 23rd season of "The Bachelor." (Courtesy of ABC)

What happens when you mix “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” zero sexual partners and 25,000 Instagram comments begging ABC to change their mind on a new “Bachelor” contestant: “The Virgin Bachelor.”

Recently, ABC shocked the world by announcing Colton Underwood, a former tight-end on the San Diego Chargers, as the new bachelor in the upcoming season airing Jan. 7, 2019. Twenty-six-year-old Underwood first drew attention on Becca Kufrin’s season of “The Bachelorette,” and later on “Bachelor in Paradise.” More than anything, Underwood garnered attention by telling Kufrin — and the world — that he is a virgin.

“Bachelor” viewers first learned of Underwood’s past when he told Kufrin, saying, “I spent a lot of time working on football Colton, and I sorta forgot who personal Colton was. Because of that, I am a virgin.” While Kufrin’s response was kind, including “I respect you for that so much,” Underwood was perceived differently by viewers. The discourse degenerated into a hyper-masculine mess, with many viewers questioning if there was something wrong with Underwood.

Looking back at the virgins of “Bachelor” past, the list is limited to only seven. The most relevant male example is Sean Lowe, season 17’s bachelor. Lowe, a virgin for religious reasons, was treated much differently as his decision was religious, whereas Underwood said, “It’s not a marriage thing for me, it’s a heart thing.”

In a world of “locker room talk” and Tinder, it is hard for many to accept that an attractive athlete would remain a virgin due to choice, and not because of an inherent problem. ABC, getting wind of the response, played into the joke of it, photographing Underwood next to signs reading “The Virgin River,” and airing comments from other contestants such as Garrett Yrigoyen, saying “I definitely wouldn’t put a ring on the finger unless I knew what I was getting into.” Though viewers are confused about ABC’s pick for their new star, it is clear what direction the editors will take in his upcoming season.

Scrolling through the list of “Bachelor” alumni who made their virginity public, one sticks out in particular. Ashley Iaconetti, 30, has been on four “Bachelor” franchise shows. On her first season on “The Bachelor,” Ashley told bachelor Chris Soules of her status. She received a cold response, and said, “I didn’t think that he thought it was very attractive. I think he stopped looking at me as a sexual object.” Four years later, she is still being asked about it. In a recent interview with Access Hollywood, Iaconetti said, What I am really tired of is the show making it seem like such a big deal, such a big reveal.”

Male or female, “The Bachelor” franchise is happy to fill its ad space with clips of different people claiming their virginity. The difference between the sexes though, is the chase that follows. As mentioned before, the general reaction to a male virgin on the show tends to land somewhere between assuming something is wrong with him and wondering why he hasn’t gone out and lost his virginity already. Contrarily, the response to the women generally revolves around her bravery, and a wonderment over what prince will change her mind.

NYU junior Lizzie Boscolo disagrees with the expectation that ABC will shame Underwood, and thinks they will instead capitalize on Underwood’s virginity by using it to appeal to a more conservative audience.

“Maybe they want to create an illusion of a perfect guy who’s waiting?” she said. “Maybe they’ll use it to make him look better, like look how high his standards are.

As “Bachelor 22” draws closer, the question remains: how will Underwood’s love story be presented? Will it be through double entendres and references to the overnight dates, or will they treat Underwood the same way the have treated every other bachelor, for whom this was not a variable? All Bachelor nation can truly count on is that this will be “The most dramatic season yet.”

Email Liv Rocklin at [email protected]

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