Ashley Iaconetti, a former contestant on "The Bachelor," was outspoken about being a virgin on season 19, prompting a conversation about virginity in Bachelor nation. Iaconetti is now engaged to another former Bachelor contestant, Jared Haibon, and has a podcast with another Bachelor alum, Ben Higgins, called "The Ben and Ashley I. Almost Famous Podcast."
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In this personal essay, she discusses what it was like to open up about her virginity on national television and her thoughts on Colton Underwood's season so far.
When I was in graduate school, whenever the topic of sex would come up with my friends, I would try to change the subject immediately.
When girl talk went into R-rated territory, I would go to the bathroom. I never wanted anyone to ask why I never added to those conversations, because the answer would be, “I’m a virgin.”
On Monday's episode of "The Bachelor," bachelor Colton Underwood shared a story that was similar to many of my own.
An NFL teammate of his asked him how many women he’s had sex with. Colton said that his mind searched frantically for a lie, but the truth popped out of his mouth.
“Zero,” he replied. His teammate said that was cool.
When I was asked face-to-face like that, my friends would respond similarly. So why did I always get so squirmy around the topic? I was never ashamed. But, more so, I felt left behind.
I think a lot of virgins feel it’s their deep, dark secret because they fear people will think there’s something wrong with them — like they are social failures. Adult virgins may worry those who find out will think that they’re awkward around those they’re attracted to or wonder if there’s an underlying reason people don’t want to sleep with them.
I dreaded being asked how I ended up being a virgin in my mid-20s because the reasoning was hard to pinpoint.
The main explanation was that I was a hopeless romantic waiting for a committed relationship with someone I felt comfortable with and attracted to. (Pretty much the same scenario Colton says he imagines.)
I once partially joked with a guy I was dating that I was still a virgin because I was a Jonas Brothers fan. To be honest, the Jonas Brothers, who said they waiting for marriage to have sex at the time, made me feel a lot less like an outcast. I think that today "The Bachelor" is having a similar effect.
“”I dreaded being asked how I ended up being a virgin in my mid-twenties because the reasoning was hard to pinpoint.
At 26 years old, Colton is the first Bachelor lead to be open about his virginity. He’s also the show’s first male participant to declare himself a virgin. (Season 17’s Sean Lowe was a born-again virgin who never addressed his status on the show in 2013.)
I was one of the more prominent outspoken female virgins in the show’s history.
You may be wondering how I went from dodging sex talk with my friends to discussing my lack of a sex life on primetime TV. Well, allow me to quote Cameron Diaz’s character in "The Holiday": “Sex makes everything more complicated. Even not having it, because the not having it...makes it complicated.”
“”I think a lot of virgins feel it’s their deep, dark secret because they fear people will think there’s something wrong with them, like they are social failures.
At 26-years-old, I was starting to think my virginity was turning guys off. I started thinking that it made them believe I wasn't someone they could have fun with. Dating me was serious. Most men respected it, but said it put a lot of pressure on them. Regardless of whether they thought my virginity was attractive or not, it was affecting my dating life to a certain degree.
I also shamelessly knew that mentioning it in my application for "The Bachelor" would set me apart from the pack and boost my odds of making the final crop of women.
Speaking about my inexperience on camera and with my love interests on the show was never among the most comfortable moments. However, it enabled me to practice emotional intimacy and helped me feel secure with my life choices.
I went from dreading the thoughts of my dad seeing press articles about my V-card to being able to speak with anyone who asked about it.
My willingness to talk candidly about the matter allowed some people to feel more secure with their virginity. I say this because four years after “coming out” as a virgin on "The Bachelor," I still get people in public telling me that my openness empowered their decisions. All the times that I felt awkward were well worth it!
Now it’s Colton's turn to talk about his virginity more than he ever imagined he would. He’s a handsome man and an ex-professional athlete, which makes his virginity even more of a novelty.
My fear is that "The Bachelor" season harps on Colton’s virginity so much it causes virgins and young people to think that it’s weird to abstain.
My hope is that those people who are waiting to have sex — for whatever reasons they have — will be able to see Colton and feel less alone.
While the first two episodes have included a lot of innuendo and focused more on Colton finding his “first” and less on him finding his wife, like previous seasons, I believe the season as a whole will be a positive conversation starter.