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During a group date focused on honesty with several of her contestants, which was led by former Bachelor star Nick Viall, the star of the 17th cycle of The Bachelorette spoke about a part of her past that she said “in some ways has shaped me into exactly who I am today.”
Thurston, whose season premiered on June 7, has been marketed as ABC’s sex-positive Bachelorette, a title she has leaned into ever since bringing a vibrator to her first night on The Bachelor with Matt James earlier this year.
“I know you see me today as this very sex-positive woman who is very confident. She hasn’t always been here,” said Thurston during Monday night’s episode after encouraging the men on her date to open up about difficult times in their past relationships.
Thurston said that 10 years ago on New Year’s Eve, she was drinking and involved in a situation where there wasn’t consent. “I was in denial about what happened, so much so that I tried to form a relationship with him because I didn’t want to believe what actually had happened. And when that didn’t work out, for years I had a very unhealthy relationship with sex.”
Explaining how she didn’t want to have sex and didn’t like talking about sex after what happened, she added, “It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now, and being open and comfortable talking about it, and loving myself, and accepting things that I can no longer control.”
When speaking to the camera after sharing her story, Thurston stressed the importance of consent and communication. “What I shared with the group today is something I never really talked about,” she said, after noting to the men that her mom was also unaware. “For a long time I felt responsible for being too drunk, too irresponsible, too stupid. But it’s not my fault because consent is important and I did not give it that night.”
Afterwards, she said she felt closer to the men in the group session: “I feel like this weight has been lifted. I feel liberated.”
After the segment aired, the ABC series ran a PSA for RAINN, prompting anyone who has experienced sexual assault to call 800-656-HOPE or visit rainn.org.
Before the #MeToo era, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette had shied away from discussing topics surrounding sex and consent on air. The Bachelor in Paradise shutdown in 2017 over a sexual misconduct probe, however, prompted the franchise to rethink airing topical conversations, particularly after the 2018 season of The Bachelor was criticized for being out of touch and a contestant on the subsequent season of The Bachelorette was convicted of sexual assault after he was cast.
In more recent years, the franchise promoted sex positivity with 2019 Bachelorette star Hannah Brown and spoke to the #MeToo movement when Caelynn Miller-Keyes, a contestant on Colton Underwood’s 2019 season of The Bachelor, became the first on the show to open up about being a sexual assault survivor.
Going into her season, Thurston had promised a more authentic run of the ABC and Warner Bros. TV series, especially in wake of Chris Harrison’s exit as host and the problematic season of The Bachelor, which is where the 30-year-old bank marketing manager made her debut. The episode also airs on the same day as a revealing first-person essay in New York Magazine from Rachel Lindsay, the first-ever Black Bachelorette, about her experience of feeling exploited behind-the-scenes.
“I wanted my experience to be true to myself and great for the men who were joining me as well as Bachelor Nation,” Thurston told The Hollywood Reporter before her season’ launched. “And I think that was really taken into consideration and worked out. I expressed what I wanted with my journey, and I think I was listened to. As [viewers will see], it feels different. I have a great group of guys and I think Bachelor Nation is going to be really excited to watch that and see a change.”
During the group date, the men were also given the platform to share their stories. At the time, Thurston had told THR, “I definitely want diversity in my cast. And I want it to be a platform for these men to be heard. That’s what this is about — their stories, the love and a little less of what everyone else saw before.”
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