A Bachelor Goes Limp

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
July 14 2009 5:58 PM

A Bachelor Goes Limp

Last night, on the latest episode of The Bachelorette , the inevitable happened: One of the contestants-lovelorn, earnest, ready-to-drop-on-one-knee Ed-was given an opportunity to have sex with a girl he is "crazy about" in a hotel room, tricked out with roses, body oil, and ... a crew, cameras, and millions watching at home. He failed to get hard. How has this not happened before?

In this instance, erectile dysfunction (what a lame joke that the guy’s name is Ed), seems to be an indication of a higher brain function than is typical of Bachelorette contestants. As Ed said, in classically opaque, euphemistic Bachelor -speak, "I’m having a hard time adjusting to everything. There are too many external things going on right now that are really affecting the way that I’m behaving." The kind of guy who doesn’t like his foreplay on camera is not necessarily a dud, but Ed’s going have to field questions about his skittish penis for the rest of his 15 minutes nonetheless. At least the Bachelorette, Jillian, seemed to understand these were unusually stressful circumstances and opted to keep Ed around (making him one of the final two suitors) despite the fact that he could not "show her" how much he cared about her.

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Longtime watchers of the series know that the most twisted part of any season usually comes when it’s time for the overnight dates. By this point, the contestants have been culled down to three or four, and it’s sexy time. No really, it’s time to have sex. The Bachelor or Bachelorette spends all day with one contestant, and then, after a romantic dinner, invites them to sleep over. What goes on in the room well ... we can only guess. After some smooching, the camera always fades away, leaving the two contestants in a cinch, usually on a bed covered in petals.

On the one hand, the shagging that likely occurs behind closed doors is appropriate. Sex is an important thing to have done with a person you are conceivably about to marry. On the other, it makes very stark what is super creepy about the show. One dude, or one chick, bangs four people, one night after the other, to see which one he/she loves the most. Those four people, who seem to have genuine feelings for the bachelor/bachelorette, know that the object of their affection is getting nookie from the competition. Do they decide to be the one who says, "Eh, all I know for sure is you could dump me on national TV tomorrow, so maybe, let’s wait until the cameras are gone for good?" Are you kidding? That’s not how you win this contest. Unless Ed gets the girl next week.

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.