Opinion: How ‘The Bachelor’ Could Harm Sex Workers

As school and work continues to steam ahead with full force, so does this year's new season of The Bachelor starring Matt James. This season is full of extravagant dates, love, and of course, drama. As an avid viewer myself, watching The Bachelor while scrolling through Twitter has become an essential part of my Monday routine. A couple of weeks ago, episode four was released and the teased drama surrounded the cocktail party after one of the dates. The drama began when one of the women, Anna Redman, claimed that another contestant Brittany Galvin was “entertaining men for money. Brittany may be an escort. She may be having a transactional relationship with wealthy men.”  Redman said this to another contestant, Victoria, to which she replied, “I can see her playing with Matt if that's what she is used to doing with men to get what she wants.” After hearing these comments, I was slightly taken aback by their response and went to see what other people were saying online. What I found was a conversation about escorts and what it means to be a sex worker in the first place. Many voiced their support for sex workers and pointed out Redman used the term escort to mean something negative or scandalous.

iPhone with Twitter logo Photo by Sara Kurfeb from Unsplash

Part of this scandalous factor may be coming from the stigma that surrounds sex work. In the United States, buying and selling sex is illegal (besides Nevada). While it may be illegal, that doesn’t mean there aren’t agencies and places of business across the country that provide services relating to paid consenual sex. In an article written by Anna North for Vox, she explains how sex workers that are found can be penelized in a multitude of ways: arrested, incacerceted, fined, and in a state like Louisiana, can be registered as sex offenders. With this growing conversation taking place around the world, organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called on governments to decriminalize “consensual adult sex work.” This call for decriminalization has entered the political arena here in the United States, especially in cities such as New York and D.C. Recently in December of 2020, the Whitman-Walker Institute, The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and HIPS published a joint report titled, Improving Laws and Policies to Protect Sex Workers and Promote Health and Wellbeing: A Report on Criminilization of Sex Work in the District of Columbia. This report fully discusses sex work in D.C, details what current legislation is in place, and describes policies surrounding sex work that need to be reevaluated. It is clear that this issue is in constant conversation and is becoming more publicly discussed. So, bringing us back from all this information, if it is beginning to be discussed on the political level, why does it matter when it’s mentioned on a show like The Bachelor?  ABC/Craig Sjodin

The Bachelor, while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, is a very public platform with an audience of all age ranges. When an important issue, like sex work, is brought up without any context or any information, this could possibly be dangerous. In recent years there has been a growing movement to change the narrative around sex workers and to decriminalize sex work in general. This comes in the form of using the general term “sex work” instead of other demeaning words which amplifies the message that consensual sex work is a type of real work. In an interview from USA Today,  a former sex worker named Natalie McLennan answered several questions about her experiences. She says one of the  misconceptions about the industry “ is that that’s all it is- that’s it’s all glamorous or it’s all dirty, and it’s all of the above. It’s a well-rounded industry.” I realized after reading this interview and after doing research, that this is what I was taught by the media. Growing up watching movies or television shows, it lead me to believe the narrative that sex workers were either glamorous or considered sluts. However, this Hollywoodization of sex work isn’t an accurate or fair representation. So when watching this episode of The Bachelor, I saw how the language being used and how it supported this narrative that sex workers are dirty. Also, in some ways, unworthy of the money that they earn. 

While it is great to enjoy reality TV such as The Bachelor, it is important to remember that things can often be dramatized or portrayed in a certain way which may or may not be true. Since this episode aired,  Galvin-- the girl who was accused of being an escort-- took to social media and expressed her support of sex workers. She even mentioned the support and acceptance of OnlyFans and how it’s ironic that people would judge some people over others. Overall, there is a long way to go with normalizing the conversation around sex work and sex workers, however, the continued work by those in politics and on social media are moving us in the right direction. 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Photos: Her Campus Media Library