Why 'Bachelor In Paradise' Season 4 Should Address Consent In Its First Episode
Michael Yada/ABC
Share

The investigation into the alleged misconduct that took place while filming Bachelor In Paradise Season 4 has concluded, and Warner Bros. has announced that the ABC show will return this summer. But, when the season airs, it's important that Bachelor In Paradise doesn't ignore the allegations involving DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios. Though Warner Bros.' investigation turned up no evidence of misconduct and Jackson maintains that he received consent from Olympios, the first episode of BiP Season 4 has a chance to open a dialogue about the importance of consent and to prove that it's a topic the series and its producers take seriously. Bachelor in Paradise has a real platform to shed some light on the topic, and there's simply no reason they should waste that opportunity.

In case you missed the scandal at the start, according to reports from People and TMZ, Bachelor In Paradise stopped filming after it was reported that there was an alleged nonconsensual sexual encounter between contestant Jackson and Olympios. TMZ reported that both contestants were intoxicated at the time of the incident, and that Olympios in particular was allegedly too intoxicated to consent to the encounter. (Jackson has stated that he believes these accusations to be false and that both parties gave consent before sexual activity.) According to Los Angeles Times film writer Amy Kaufman, the filming was initially shut down because one producer "[sued] the production for misconduct" in the workplace after witnessing the alleged incident between Olympios and Jackson. Warner Bros. has since concluded that no misconduct occurred and filming will resume, but Olympios' lawyer released a statement to Bustle that claims she did not consent and that her team will continue to investigate the situation by obtaining witness statements.

While Warner Bros. claims that the footage shows there was no misconduct, the allegations have started a conversation that really needs to be had whenever possible. Producers could address the allegations and the issues they raised in the first episode to show they're committed to making sure consent continues to be a matter of importance in Paradise. They should talk to all of those in the cast about how they can make Paradise a place where everyone feels in control of what's going on at all times, and they should air those conversations. In doing so, they could offer a real dialogue about what consent means for viewers and use the show's platform for good. Because the truth is that a lot of people on and off the show may not know how to truly give and recognize consent.

In fact, a 2013 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Sex Research looking at the ways men and women indicate consent found that 61 percent of men surveyed interpreted a women's consent through her body language, while only nine percent looked to verbal cues to confirm consent. That's a big problem, especially considering that 50 percent of women in the study said they gave consent through a verbal agreement. (Only 10 percent of women said they gave consent through body language.)

Enter the concept of the enthusiastic yes, or affirmative consent. By this rule, a phrase which has been thrown around since at least 2010, consent is only consent if it is vocal, enthusiastic, and continuous. It essentially boils down to the idea that the absence of a no doesn't equal a yes. And this is especially important when it comes to the conversation that the Bachelor In Paradise allegations should inspire, because the conditions under which a yes is given are just as important as the affirmative consent — if not more so. In fact, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) defines "capacity for consent" as one of the required legal factors, meaning that intoxication is a huge part of this conversation. Drunkenness can sometimes mean that a person cannot consent, let alone consent enthusiastically.

Paul Hebert/ABC

To some extent, fans have been talking about the idea of intoxication during sexual activity, but not all of that dialogue has been positive. Throughout this investigation, there were those who heard the rumors and blamed Olympios for coming forward, citing her sexual past and her alleged intoxication as reasons to distrust her.

It's also clear, from fans' reactions, that some viewers do not understand what consent means:

While the production company maintains that nothing nefarious went down, the show should offer its fans a learning moment and a chance to talk about these issues. And a series that delivers the usual will-they won't-they beach bound romance, with an all-important message to boot? That's my idea of paradise.