If you’ve been hiding under a rock—or just busy with your kids—let me catch you up on the biggest pop culture story of the week. "Bachelor in Paradise" (BiP), the hook-up heavy spin-off of "The Bachelor," suspended production indefinitely following an alleged sexual assault. The future of the series is in limbo as the sordid, and possibly criminal, details unfold.
Corinne Olympios, who vied for Nick Viall’s heart on the last season of "The Bachelor," has accused DeMario Jackson—recently kicked off "The Bachelorette" for lying to Rachel about having a girlfriend—of engaging in sexual relations with her while she was too drunk to consent. The problem for BiP is that this incident allegedly occurred while cameras were rolling, and the crew did nothing to stop it.
I can't say I'm surprised.
As a former producer of reality shows for FOX, MTV and ABC, including "The Bachelor," I know firsthand how sketchy the set of a competition dating show can be. Producers are under pressure to deliver an exciting and provocative storyline. A sexual encounter is considered TV “gold” and crew are trained to “just keep rolling” tape—even in questionable situations.
Contestants—who have already signed thick contracts outlining the many ways in which producers are allowed to deceive them, exploit them and spy on them—are plied with alcohol to lower their inhibitions. And the lawyers are rarely there at 2 a.m., when the bikini tops hit the floor.
I don’t consider myself a bad person, but I can tell you straight up that during my years producing reality shows, I often encouraged risky sexual behavior from my cast members. I can remember standing in the control room watching on a monitor as a drunk young woman got naked in front of her romantic interest, the camera operator, the sound engineer, the producer and a few dozen others, and you know what I did? I cheered. Because ratings.
While I'm saddened by the details of this account, it's easy for me to imagine how it could have happened.
Whenever this sort of thing happened, here’s how I justified my role in it: 1) Homegirl signed up for this! She knew what she was getting into. She wants to be on TV and she wants to be famous. She’ll definitely be the star of this episode, so mission accomplished. 2) It’s not like we’re going to show her boobs on TV, since they'll be "tastefully" blurred. 3) Everyone here is a professional and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. 4) This episode is a slam dunk and the promos are going to write themselves. 5) My job is secure for another season.
Naked girls are big business, dontcha know?
Although I frequently felt like a porn producer, the TV trysts I presided over always seemed consensual (though perhaps regrettable, later). I don’t think anything approaching sexual assault ever occurred on my watch, and I’d like to think that if it had, I would have stopped it immediately. That’s what I hope. But I also can’t recall ever being counseled by network or studio executives about what to do if the situation arose.
And that's a problem.
Corinne says she was in a blackout drunk state and had no idea what was happening to her during her pool hook-up with DeMario. Although DeMario maintains his innocence, a BiP crew member told The Daily Mail that Corinne’s body “seemed to go limp” and that she may have been unconscious during intercourse. If that's the case, it must have been horrifying to hear, later, that no one tried to intervene.
While I'm saddened by the details of this account, it's easy for me to imagine how it could have happened. The two cast members were encouraged to hook up—that is, after all, the premise of the show. Corinne was likely lulled into a false sense of security by the very fact that she was surrounded by crew members. Perhaps she allowed herself to drink more than she normally would on a Saturday night at her local bar. It's certainly easy to over-serve yourself when the drinks are free and free-flowing.
So when things got dicey, why didn’t anyone help her?
One problem may have been that Corinne was cast as a villain. During Nick’s season of "The Bachelor," she was given the notorious “bitch edit,” feuding with other girls, bragging about her wealth and aggressively using her sexuality to pursue Nick (the whipped-cream bikini episode comes to mind). Perhaps the producers saw her naked in the pool and wrongfully wrote it off as “Oh, that’s just Corinne being Corinne.”
If a different cast member was in a compromising situation—maybe one of the virgins that "The Bachelor" franchises are so fond of—I wonder if there would have been more intervention from the crew. This madonna/whore crap never ends.
If there is footage of the encounter, as some outlets are reporting, then the truth will eventually be revealed. No matter what the outcome of this terrible situation, reality shows will finally be forced to address the real danger of sexual assault and develop protocols to prevent it—and that's something I think we can all get behind.