Former 'Bachelorette' Andi Dorfman: The Fantasy Suite Double Standard Needs to Stop (Guest Column)

Andi Dorfman Getty 2016 - H
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Andi Dorfman starred on ABC’s The Bachelorette season 10. She entered the fantasy suites with two of her final three men, Nick Viall and Josh Murray, and ultimately became engaged to Murray. After Viall outted her for being intimate with both men on live TV, Dorfman received shocking levels of backlash that she chronicles in her book, It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After. Dorfman, who is now single and living in New York City, recalls her experience here one day after JoJo Fletcher's fantasy suites episode aired on Monday's The Bachelorette

Let’s be honest, there is an obvious double standard that you see on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

Take the first night, for example: When I was a contestant on The Bachelor, there were 30 of us. When I was The Bachelorette, I had 25 men to pick from. It always seems like The Bachelor starts off with more women to choose from — that the sky’s the limit.

When it came to filming the show and the fantasy suites, I didn’t feel that I was treated any differently than the men. I have to say, the producers were great at allowing me to do what I wanted in any given situation and respected and supported my decisions.

For the non-viewers, the fantasy suite date is an important one when going through this process. It’s an opportunity to spend a night without cameras and alone with your final three picks. The show sets the mood by offering you a very romantic suite — usually in a beautiful location with added touches like rose petals across the bed. It feels like nothing short of a honeymoon suite.

Sure, most of the time there’s intimacy involved. But it’s not just physical, it’s emotional as well. The experience is a kind of unveiling of the fantasy, in an ironic way. It’s the first time you get to spend time with this person that you’re dating without producers. Cut the cameras, cut the microphone: it’s just you two and you get to see the true side of this person behind closed doors.

Then, it’s important because of the intimacy factor. Intimacy is a normal part of any relationship, whether it’s on television or not. On The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, you are having a relationship — even though it’s short and on camera — and with that comes many things, including intimacy.

Throughout my experience as the Bachelorette, I was shocked at the social media conversations that happened each week while the show aired. No matter what anybody tells you, you can’t be prepared for that kind of criticism and opinions. You just can’t. We’re all normal people who have been plucked out of our everyday lives and plopped onto a TV show. You can hear all the stories that you want, but you can never be fully prepared for the backlash.

When it came to the finale and the live revelation from Nick that we had been physically intimate on the After the Final Rose special, I was even more shocked and unprepared. I had been through the ringer as far as knowing and experiencing peoples' criticism, but when this happened I thought: What are they going to find next? On one hand, you do put your personal life out there, and you know people are going to talk about it and have opinions. But when somebody reveals what is supposed to be very private and you find yourself going back on that, you wonder: Where does the line get drawn? How much is too much?

After that aired, I saw clips of national news anchors on TV calling me a slut. Verbatim. On live national television, calling me a slut. 

You never see them say that about the Bachelor. Almost every Bachelor has sex with everyone he goes into the fantasy suites with. Obviously there are some exceptions, but regardless, you never hear anything of it. And yet we as a society will go so far as to call a woman a slut for having sex with two men that she’s been dating. Two men whose families she’s met, who have professed their love to her and two men she has feelings for. And, somehow, having sex with them becomes grounds to call her a slut.

Why? Because of the number of men? Because it appears like they happened one after another? What people likely don’t realize is that the fantasy suites are stretched out over a two-week timespan. It does come in one quick episode, but this isn’t back-to-back like viewers see. 

I’d be lying if I said it all didn’t hurt my feelings and affect me in a negative way. Nobody wants to have their actions called out on television and be labeled these things. But the more I thought about what I actually did — and not what the news anchor thinks and not what the person behind a keyboard on Twitter thinks — the more I felt like embracing it, and that I felt justified. 

I said in my book: I was a 27-year-old woman, I liked two guys that I was in relationships with and I was doing what I felt was right and what I still feel, to this day, was right. I did, what most other women — and certainly most men — in my position would have done. When I came to that conclusion I realized that I could sleep at night just fine, and that’s all that mattered. 

Just like JoJo, I decided not to enter the fantasy suite with my third pick, Chris Soules. I wasn’t feeling that desire to be intimate with him, and that goes to prove that it’s not like we’re going into this recklessly. I could have gone three for three, but I chose not to because I didn’t want to have that intimate experience with somebody that I didn’t feel a certain way about. It wasn’t just recklessly having sex, but even if I was, so what? Whether it’s love, lust or just enjoyment, there’s the notion that sex has to happen on a deeper level when it comes to women, but not when it comes to men.

It’s interesting that the Bachelorettes, like myself and JoJo and Kaitlyn Bristowe, have had to become the example and go through the slut-shaming in order to shed some light on the issue. At least now people are talking about it. It’s a conversation to be had, for better or worse.

At the end of the day, it is sexism. The fact that we accept these actions from a Bachelor but not a Bachelorette is sexism at its finest. We give the Bachelorette the same opportunity by giving them this lead role and having men vie for them, but it’s not done unconditionally. There’s strings attached, and we see it with the fantasy suites and the issues of sex. The male lead is never called a manwhore. But when a woman who is in the same exact situation does it, she gets labeled a slut and it's all of a sudden newsworthy. 

It’s the epitome of sexism, but again, at least we’re talking about it now. As women, we’re fighting for it and saying: I have every opportunity to do what a man does. There’s a sense of ownership that’s come out of it, and it’s almost a blessing in disguise. I never thought I would say that the revelation of me having sex in the fantasy suite would turn out to be liberating. But it has, because it’s opened up a dialogue and, in turn, has been a great platform for equality. 

It’s 2016. It’s about time that women and sex is no longer taboo. We’re adults, we’re grown women. Men talk about it all the time, and women should be able to talk about it too. The show's demographic is made up primarily of women. What better way to discuss this than to have it on a TV show that women watch?

Experiencing criticism definitely makes you a little weaker at times, but in the end, it’s made me a lot stronger. It’s made me have conviction about something that I can stand for. It’s made me want to fight for something.

I’ve always had a hard time grasping the fact that the hatred mainly comes from the women, since those are our viewers. As a feminist, I think to myself: Wait, we’re women, we’re in this together. It’s harder to see women hating on women. 

To the haters: What is your judgment doing for you? We live in a country where there is freedom of speech and you can say whatever you want, but what are your words doing? What purpose are they serving? Are they just making you feel better or just hurting somebody else? If you’re going to have a judgment, have one with a purpose. What point are you trying to make?

That goes back to: What did I gain from this? It’s that exact idea that if I’m going to do something, it’s going to have purpose. You’re not going to be able to change or convince a hater to stop hating, just ask them: What are you getting out of it and what impact is it having on your life and in general?

The former Bachelorettes, we’re all pretty close. We have this bond where we’ve experienced something that no one else has — and it’s interesting that you don’t see that as much with the Bachelors. There’s this sort of camaraderie with the women, and that does show that we’re strong. That says something about women and banding together. 

I would love to see sexuality for women become normal. I’d like to see that for women on television and in society, in general. My wish is for us to stop dramatizing something that we don’t agree with. We live in a world where normalcy gets overlooked, but as soon as we make it normal for women to be equal to men, we will see the storylines start to change. When the drama and the controversy surrounding something that is actually very normal goes away, that, to me, would be a success. When we stop doing things like tallying the number of guys the Bachelorette makes out with or takes into the fantasy suite. To say: It’s 2016, a woman can do everything a man can do (and probably better!). 

For the future Bachelorettes: You’ll get vilified for being open and honest, but if you’re not, you can get labeled as fake. So sometimes it’s not a win-win to speak out. But when in doubt, why not err on the side of openness and honesty? Let’s be real about it. You can’t rationalize the irrational. You can’t change somebody’s mind, and you can’t live your life for other peoples’ opinions. You’re not living if you do.