Ever since US Weekly printed the front page story, “The Virgin Bachelor,” which described Sean Lowe’s born-again virginity and commitment to wait until his marriage night to have sex, there has been no shortage of conversation percolating throughout the blogosphere.
Apparently sexual self-control from any quadrant, whether The Bachelor or elsewhere, is front page news. The Bachelor is an American reality television series in which an eligible man is introduced to 25 or 30 potential romantic interests. The women compete for his affections and are gradually eliminated as the Bachelor gets closer to finding a wife.
A guilty pleasure of mine, watching this latest season has been a different experience than before. Not because of the absence of bikinis, muscles, cocktail-induced drama, or premature proclamations of love, but because of the absence of…. well, the “fantasy suite,” if you know what I mean. Contrary to the many surfacing opinions that doom Sean to perpetual “unhappily ever after”, I would like to offer a note of thanks.
Sean’s witness of sexual self-control carries with it a surprising twist. Here is no socially awkward, glasses-clad chap with hair parted down the middle, proudly advocating for bodily restraint – or in the words of Pete Monash in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, “guarding the carnal treasure.” By all appearances Sean is a successful business owner, comes from a great family, and is fun-loving, adventurous, and easy on the eyes. His historic dating repertoire includes notable figures of equal calibre. Still, his example challenges broader society to re-examine abstinent stereotypes (so often embodied in the likes of George Michael’s bland girlfriend, Ann — not Pam, or Ham, or Yam — on Arrested Development, or the cringe-worthy stories depicted in TLC’s Virgin Diaries).
For me, it’s about time. Abstinence doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all type of person and it’s great to see a broader array of characters coming into focus in the media. Social scientist Donna Freitas in her book, Sex and the Soul, speaks about the pluralistic ignorance associated with the hook-up culture. Far fewer people are hooking up today than is perceived by their peers, and of those who do, far fewer are enjoying it.
In the words of Tobias Fuecke, “There are dozens of us!” But of those who do hook-up, Freitas describes widespread dissatisfaction lurking in the undercurrents. Promised “all that and a bed of roses” since the sexual revolution, young adults have inherited nearly 50 years of deep-seated misconceptions about how to approach romance. Freitas, who conducted a nationwide survey on the subject, found that many young adults confessed an abiding sense of hollowness and a lingering feeling of coming up short. In the end, she finds, millennials who set out in search of romance and fulfilment are instead finding sex that brings, in the famous words of Mick Jagger, “no satisfaction.”
Regardless of the outcome of The Bachelor for Sean, he has managed to dust off the old model of sexual restraint that has been offered to us so often by the media– someone grim and stuffy, who no one in their right mind would want to imitate. Instead, we have a polished new model to consider. And while I hardly anticipate hoards of viewers rushing out to try abstinence because of Sean, he still deserves a note of thanks for having the courage of his convictions and balancing out the media presentation of self-control, if only slightly. Even while 8 million watch.
Ashley Crouch graduated with a degree in Theology from the University of Dallas. She is the PR Manager and Contributing Editor at Verily Magazine and sits on the Junior Advisory Board at the Love and Fidelity Network.