What I learned about sex hosting a group date on The Bachelorette.
Three months ago I stood in front of 12 of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen and told them that they needed to talk about sex…in public. It was one part of my long and wild day hosting a group date on ABC’s The Bachelorette. Their task was to give a “Sunday Night Sex Talk” – what I call the Moth-style stories told by performers in my storytelling series. I’ve been running the show for almost five years. I’ve had the here’s what you need to do conversation with over 150 different storytellers. No one has ever been as overwhelmed as the men of The Bachelorette. If you saw the episode when it aired then you know how they reacted. In fairness, no one has done it on national television, but still. Here’s one visual:
That’s Jordan Rodgers (aka Bachelorette Jojo Fletcher‘s future fiance) reacting to performer Hayley Terris faking an orgasm on stage. His eyes actually get wider than that, and he mouths, “oh my god, oh my god,” but I couldn’t screen grab it perfectly. This is a handsome, confident, football player man who has probably seen his fair share of porn.
So why were a dozen men confident enough to go on national television where they spend 75% of their time sitting around in tank tops and the other 25% in soft core porn scenes but totally freaked about a three minute sex story?
Because there is a difference between intimacy and sex
Sex is the one-on-one date between Jojo and Chase that aired just before the Sunday Night Sex Talks segment. They take a hot yoga class that ends with them entwined in a dry hump savasana (sorry, couldn’t find the sanskrit). It is sweat and bodies and total TV awkwardness. There is so. much. kissing. And yet somehow that’s more comfortable to both the contestants and even the viewers than telling or hearing a short story about an actual sex act.
Because culturally we’ve grown far more comfortable with sex and far less comfortable with intimacy.
Sex is all over every form of media – from ABC television at 8pm on a Monday night to whatever is on Skinemax these days (in addition to The Knick). We are used to seeing sex. We are not used to talking about it, reflecting on it, sharing around it and confessing our true feelings about it.
I get that. It’s awkward. It makes us feel exposed. As public as sex has become, it’s still packed with so much judgement, fear and self-consciousness. I can completely understand how wildly confident men and women would struggle to share even the simplest personal story – or resort to telling bold tales about sexual conquests versus honest stories about awkward moments. I often feel the exact same way. But it kind of makes me feel like that pre-teen sneaking make-up and curse words before I had a clue about either – like as a culture we’ve raced far ahead sexually but not fully caught up emotionally.
On the day my episode of The Bachelorette aired my Facebook newsfeed was filled with two stories: Sex Talks on The Bachelorette and the disturbing story of the Stanford rape victim. In some small way I feel like those two things are related.
I don’t know what it’s going to take for our country to become a more sexually positive and sexually safe place, but I’ve got to believe that some part of it is changing the conversation around sex – or, more importantly, having much more of one. I’m proud of and grateful for the small part that everyone who supports Sunday Night Sex Talks plays in that change. So I’m looking forward to making even more people feel incredibly awkward at a show near you soon.
Save the date for Co-Ed Sex Talks at UCB Sunset on July 17th and NO BOYS Sex Talks at Bar Lubitsch on August 7th.