Want to know how not to date, how not to perceive love and relationships? Well then, all you’ve got to do is watch the season of The Bachelor Australia that finished up last week.

I’ll admit that I, like most young women (and actually, more young men than I had assumed), was happy to waste a midweek night or two in its presence, laugh about how silly those girls seem, and then dismiss it from my mind. Seems like harmless, meaningless entertainment, right?

No. Because this is the kind of stuff we mean when we talk about how the media shapes our attitudes, too often for the worst. That got me thinking – my younger sisters, ranging in age from naïve 8 to thankfully-more-perceptive 23, had also watched some episodes, or had at least been around. What had I allowed them to be exposed to? What ideas were starting to corrupt their impressionable minds?

So here’s a list of conversation starters, to make sure that the young girls and women in your life take the time to be a little bit more critical of what they’re watching:

Relationships go deeper than looks or money.

Think about the show. 24 girls, all marketed as so unique and different, but all similarly dressed to the nines and dolled up by makeup artists, compete for the affections of one buff, olive-skinned, deep-voiced, presumably wealthy, looks-great-on-paper-too guy who also happens to dress very well. On a basic level, we are getting the message that these material indicators are what the makes the relationship of your dreams a successful one. Not so honey, not so.

Human beings have feelings and relationships have consequences.

To be booted off a game show is one thing, where really, all you probably did is get a question wrong. But these dating shows, where someone has invested their emotions and feelings into another person, are different. A person is not property on the Monopoly board to be bought and sold, and that’s definitely an attitude I wouldn’t want my little sisters to develop towards the males that may come in and out of their lives.

Also, there is such a no-consequences approach. The girls that didn’t get a rose are practically never seen again, while in the real world, you’d have to deal with the consequences of your relationship. It’s not helpful to believe that the end of a relationship means the end of any feelings or aftereffects in your life.  

Polygamy is illegal. 

My catch phrase for this show has become “glorified polygamy”. Would you swoon over a guy that was dating, kissing, and supposedly “falling” for multiple women at the same time? I think not. But suddenly, Australia’s young women spent the season all starry-eyed over a man who was doing just that, and Australia’s young men were looking on and thinking that maybe, that’s not such a bad idea after all. So let me tell you – no matter how glitzed up and glamorous it has been made to look, it’s called cheating and infidelity. No genuine happiness involved. Simple as that.

Women don’t need another reason to compete.

We all know that women are constantly pitted against each other in the media. Who wore this dress better? She’s too skinny, but she’s way too overweight. This show is just another example of this. When it comes to entertainment, I for one am sick of watching women compete. This should not be our natural reaction to another woman! Where’s the sisterhood at, y’all?

Cocktail parties, expensive dates and dazzling gifts are not the best parts of relationships.

But in a show like this, that’s all we see. We don’t see the tired moments after a hard day’s work, or helping each other through the tough moments in life. Relationships require work, and for each person to have an attitude of serving the other. This isn’t apparent in The Bachelor and quite frankly, considering that the “winning” relationship didn’t work out, it just goes to show that even the $50,000+ engagement ring couldn’t save it.

Parents need to be a little more proactive.

How would you feel about your son dating 24 women? Or about your daughter dating the same man as 23 other girls? Hopefully your mouth has dropped open in horror, because it is pretty horrific. I, for one, would not stand for it. And I don’t know whether it was the cameras in their faces, but I hoped for better from the parents that we met in the last few episodes. Dads were won over with one firm handshake, and the one mother who said something along the lines of, “This is a bit of an unusual situation, isn’t it?” was just as easily convinced with a few lines. I’m hopeful that most parents would care a little more before deeming someone worthy of their child. 

We deserve better than imitation love.

All of that was just the actual show itself. As for the aftermath, from the couple breaking up to revelations of the Bachelor’s former life as a stripper to the fact that he’s now officially an item with runner-up number two…well, that mess would need a whole other article. Maybe even a book. Better not to get too into it, I think!

However to sum up, a few things must be said. It’s not natural to get to know someone romantically with cameras in your face, makeup artists aplenty, other competing women, away from your everyday life, and with little to no interaction with your family and friends. Therefore it makes sense that an imitation of getting to know someone, is only going to result in an imitation of love. Don’t let your girls get it confused with the real thing.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.