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New Book Reveals How Contestants With Herpes Are Treated By Producers Of 'The Bachelor' — And It Only Makes The Stigma Worse

Photo: Variety
The Way Producers Of 'The Bachelor' Handle Herpes Only Makes The Stigma Of STIs Worse

As a ride or die fan of all things "Bachelor," I was delighted to learn about Los Angeles Times writer Amy Kaufman's upcoming tell-all about the franchise, Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, set to be released on March 6, 2018. Kaufman's book is expected to reveal tons of secrets about the show, courtesy of the insider access she was granted by veterans of the show's cast and production team. 

A chance for more dirt on TV's dirtiest show? Yes please! 

However, news of the book dropping has been overshadowed by the outcries from fans who were infuriated to learn the insider secret that hopeful Bachelor and Bachelorette contenders are automatically rejected if it turns out they have herpes.


RELATED: What Happened When I Got Herpes In College And Had To Tell My Sex Partner I Had An STD


As someone with the herpes (like most of the sexually active adults I know), it was disheartening to the extreme to learn about these details about the casting process in an excerpt from the book.

Initially, "after filling out an extensive application and submitting five to 15 pictures of themselves, applicants must produce a 'well-lit' video of themselves 'dressed as if going to a nice dinner,' showing off their apartment, their pets, and talking about what their ultimate fantasy date would be."

If producers are interested, applicants move on to an audition weekend in Los Angeles.

On Friday of their audition weekend, hopefuls fill out a "150-question personality test [filled] with multiple-choice and true-or-false questions: Do you have out-of-body experiences? Do you think you can control things with your mind? Have you ever wanted to kill someone? Some of these questions would be asked several times, with different wording."

On Saturday, "they would be escorted to a room to have a one-on-one interview with a producer... After 20 minutes of speaking with the producer privately, they would be walked to an adjoining room, where they would be greeted by roughly two dozen producers sitting stadium-style. The producers would have the potential contestants sit down and would start asking them questions, rapid-fire... Just as the questions started to become more outlandish, the producers would wrap up the session and a handler would take the person to meet with the show’s therapist. [She] would be in possession of the personality test they had previously filled out and would spend roughly an hour asking questions about it... Next, the handler would bring them to a private investigator. This person would be trained to dig up any skeletons in the closet — partly to use for their storyline but also to get ahead of any tabloid stories that could come to the surface if they were on the show."

Now, here comes the fun part.

"Finally, the potential contestant would be taken for a medical examination. Samples of their blood and urine would be collected. These samples would be tested for drugs and sexually transmitted diseases...

If it turned out the person had an STD, they would be taken out of the running immediately. And apparently, that’s the top reason applicants don’t make it onto the show.

'As soon as the medical tests came back, you’d see that herpes was the biggest thing,' said Ben Hatta, [creator and executive producer] Mike Fleiss’s old assistant. 'And sometimes you’d be the first person to tell a contestant that they had herpes. You’d be like, ‘Uh, you should call your doctor.’ Why? ‘We’re not going to be able to have you on our show, but you should call your doctor.’" 

"Then they’d realize they’d been denied from ‘The Bachelor’ and now a bunch of people knew they had herpes.'”

That is just straight-up not okay. I'm sorry but it's not.


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The entire premise of both "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette", at least if you buy into what they are selling (and I'm embarrassed to admit that I totally have), is the people on the show are real human beings who are looking for a lasting, authentic love and a happy, life-long marriage.

Are you really going to entirely discount each and every person who has an incurable but not life-threatening STD from that romantic pursuit? Really?

Everyone is entitled to their own personal set of relationship deal breakers, and if someone decides for themselves that possible exposure to an STD is theirs, that is entirely their choice. But knowing a Television production company and/or network has ruled out close to half of the population because they may occasionally get blisters, even if those blisters are on a delicate region of the body, strikes me as superficial, sex-negative, Puritanical, and, oh yeah, judgmental.

Just this month, the New York Times reported that roughly half (48 percent) of Americans between the ages of 14-49 have been identified as positive for HSV-1 (oral herpes), while 12 percent of all Americans in the same age range have been identified as positive for HSV-2 (genital herpes).

Additionally, the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library explains, "Whether you call it a cold sore or a fever blister, oral herpes is a common infection of the mouth area that is caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). 50 percent to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 90 percent of adults have been exposed to the virus by age 50."

While we stigmatize those who have "genital" herpes more than we do those with "oral" herpes, both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be transmitted via sexual activity, and the location on the body in which a break out first appears is not necessarily a fail-proof way to determine which viral strain someone has. And while someone who is infected with one or the other may never experience symptoms, the CDC does note that "both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis," and actually, such complications are MORE likely for people with oral herpes than people with genital herpes, so...

I understand that people can read all of the statistics and that I can tell them all about how having herpes bears no significant impact on my life, and on and on and, but the very possibility of "catching" any STD, especially an "incurable" one, may still be terrifying.

That is what they tried so desperately and effectively to tell us in school and in church and pretty much everyone else all of our lives, after all.

And that is exactly why safety is key. It's the very reason that using condoms, practicing safe sex, and communication with transparency with our partners about our sexual health is so important.

There are plenty of reasons to dismiss a person as a potential romantic partner, but I honestly do not believe that doing so based on whether or not they have herpes should be considered one of them.

At the very least, I would hope they would allow it to be each individual Bachelor and Bachelorette's decision!

Think of the drama that might ensue with that storyline as a potential plot point!

"Her secret could rock their very foundation..."

That wouldn't just make for good TV, it would promote a healthy dialogue around sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual health! You want reality TV?! You got it!

In closing, I simply say this: if you truly expect me to believe that not one single lead Bachelor in the history of the show's 22 seasons has had herpes when half of the U.S. population does, you are 100 percent out of your mind.


RELATED: 10 Reasons Most 'Bachelor' Relationships Don't Work Out


Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the love and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

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