There isn’t a single viewer, I don’t believe, who would tell you they were cool with Romy Poulier‘s behaviour during last night’s episode of The Bachelor Australia. The villain of the show’s 2018 season went in on Tenille Favios, badgering her about some alleged comments she made regarding kissing on the first date, leading to Tenille running off set before breaking down in tears.

Romy’s sly needling of Tenille was repulsive. She’s now shown multiple times that she is masterful at pressing people’s buttons, harassing her chosen victim until they inevitably burst into tears or storm off humiliated. And she always does it in front of a group, providing maximum humiliation. It’s bullying, plain and simple. And while we should all acknowledge that part of the appeal of reality TV like The Bachelor is the cattiness and bitchiness, there’s snark – and then there’s destroying someone on camera, in a group setting, on purpose.

All the talk around last night’s episode has centred on Romy and her bullying of Tenille. It’s a good conversation to have. We should be calling out nasty behaviour. It’s important that we continue to acknowledge the line between a heated convo and downright public humiliation.

But the thing that concerns me is that the uproar over Romy’s bullying has allowed another, arguably more damaging moment to slip away, unnoticed: Tenille’s comments about kissing on the first date.

The Bachelor is a reality TV show centred around a quest for love. A bunch of women vie for the affections of one man. Like it or not, what we’re essentially watching is a competition, in which women try to outdo each other. Their goal? Staying in the game until the very end. Being the woman that Nick Cummins deems to be his perfect match.

Making women compete for a man means everyone is, in some way, playing a game of sorts. For some like Cat and Romy, the ideal end result is leaving with some notoriety. For others, they seem to honestly find out if they have a connection with Nick – but that doesn’t mean game-playing goes out the window.

These women want to be a “wifey”, to take the now-iconic term from UnREAL. And to do that, they casually play into some seriously damaging dating stereotypes.

Tenille is one of those women. At the beginning of the episode, she stressed multiple times that she would not kiss Nick on her first date. That’s fine – personal preferences are personal preferences. The beauty of women being able to do whatever they want to with their bodies is that it’s okay to hold back, just like it should be okay to lean in to any chemistry you feel, if it’s reciprocated.

However, when Tenille sits down with Nick after their bee-keeping date, she actually does end up kissing him. This is also fine! Women get to change their minds, too. But her reaction to this change of mind is one of frustration with herself. There’s a lot of groaning and head-shaking, and this stuff:


Basically, she acts like she gave up something too soon. Like she broke some moral code within herself. And THAT, to me, is problematic when we consider that this show is about separating the girls that will end up as serious contenders and the ones who won’t, based on how they behave.

Tenille’s behaviour hints at a deep-seated belief that kissing on the first date is slutty. Whether she consciously believes that or not, it was the message that was being sent last night, through both her insistence that she doesn’t kiss on first dates, and then her embarrassment at having done so. It’s also one of the messages of the bullshit virgin/whore dichotomy that is STILL incredibly prevalent in dating culture. Women are still being slut-shamed, every day. We might be able to have sex outside of marriage and not be treated as pariahs, but dating-wise, there’s still very much the stereotype of the ‘girl next door’, who doesn’t sexually interact with dates ‘too soon’. We’re still debating with friends about when the right time is to sleep with a man – not for our own sake, but in an effort to not ‘push them away’.

It’s not like we’re all walking around with this idea that kissing on the first date is slutty. It’s that in general, we should be trying to continually break down ideas that police women’s expressions of sexuality and desire, where promiscuity is seen as making them slutty and undeserving of love, or a date, or whatever. The idea that women must refrain from anything sexual in order to be deemed worthy of dating is horseshit. And any slut-shaming whatsoever is problematic.

There’s also Tenille’s take that kissing a man who had kissed several other women recently was a no-go for her. She mentions this twice during the episode as another reasoning behind her no-first-date-kiss rule. Again, personal preference is fine – but surely we can acknowledge that this attitude is firmly rooted in this idea of being “not like the other girls”? That as a society we still consider the woman who holds out to be worthy of long-term commitment, while the women who allows herself to explore chemistry with a man early on is taken less seriously?

Here’s the thing. Women can do whatever they want with their bodies – within the parameters of consent and safe sex, obviously. They can personally decide they like to wait to sexually connect with someone, or they can have a zillion one-night stands if they like. The issue is how we perceive these women as a society. Because as a society, we’re still uncomfortable with the idea of a woman who expresses her sexuality freely. There’s something toxic about how we unconsciously write Tenille up as a ‘good girl’, when actually she’s perpetuating the toxic cultural assumptions that women who ‘give it away’ too early are less desirable.

The way fans see Romy is interesting when considering these stereotypes as well. She’s overtly sexual. She has no issue showing off her body, for one – she regularly and confidently wears low cut outfits that showcase her cleavage. She also interacts with Nick in a flirtatious and confident manner, and she makes no secret of her physical attraction to him. There’s also THAT date moment – I personally feel she went too far and started crossing a consent line with her ear pashing, but the internet was already ridiculing her when she was cosying up to Nick on the couch, angling for a kiss.

And really, Romy had a point when she went in on Tenille. The woman was up on a high horse about kissing on the first date, then changed her mind, and instead of owning it she bragged about the kiss and then pretended she never said judgy stuff in the first place. ABSOLUTELY, Romy should have gone about calling Tenille out a different way. And I don’t think her intentions were pure, anyway. Romy has consistently shown she’s happy to get attention on this show by taking other women out. But basically, she was calling Tenille out for her slut-shaming and subsequent hypocrisy.

My take? Romy’s behaviour is gross. It’s rank, and it’s good we are all acknowledging that. Potentially, the show should have booted her long ago for previous acts of bullying and shit-stirring taken too far. But it shouldn’t overshadow the problematic dating stereotypes this episode perpetuated, allowing them to go unnoticed.

We NEED to call these misogynistic stereotypes out when they’re presented on TV, because it’s the way women behave when it comes to dating on these shows that will continue to influence our culture for the worse. THAT’s the shit we are taking away from reality TV dating shows – the way the ‘good girls’ behave. Not the obvious villains and their nasty words. We know they’re abominable. The show doesn’t glorify their behaviour. They glorify the behaviour of the women who go on to be chosen seriously by Nick Cummins. The “good girls” are the ones that often play into destructive stereotypes, keeping women in a box, allowing those stereotypes to persist.

So don’t just call out the bullies. Call out the bullshit, too.

Image: Network Ten