Defending Nick Viall (Or, The Guy Whom “The Bachelorette” Dumped)

When the guy whom Andi Dorfman didn’t pick revealed their sexual tryst to millions of at-home viewers, he seemed to be questioning her propriety. Does he deserve to be called a “slut shamer,” then? I’m not convinced.

Before Andi Dorfman ended her journey on “The Bachelorette” by picking Josh Murray, she had to dump Nick Viall, The Other Guy. After hearing the news that he’d pulled the thorn end of the stick, he reacted by asking a question that sparked choruses of “duh” across The Bachelor Nation: “Is there someone else?” His second reaction — given during a taping of “After The Final Rose” — was less laughable to viewers. “I just don’t understand,” he said to Dorfman (along with the millions watching at home). “If you weren’t in love with me, then why did you make love to me?”

Was he implying that Dorfman shouldn’t have slept with so many men? Was he suggesting that she’s unladylike for having had multiple partners? Was he ultimately calling her a slut? Judging by fan reactions, the answer to all three questions would be yes. In fact, from the show’s fans to its critics, it seems that people from every channel — on-air and off — have been popping up to shame Viall as a “slut shamer.” But is that a fair and accurate assessment? I don’t think so, and before you assume that I’m a prude who shops at Hobby Lobby, let me put on my Feminist (capital “F”) hat and explain.

It’s true: too often, we wrongly judge others’ conduct using unequal standards based on gender. (Consider, too, that if Viall’s question had been posed by last year’s “scorned woman,” Clare, to Juan Pablo, “The Bachelor,” it might not have been so widely perceived as offensive). However, as someone who sees men and women as equals, I hold out hope that, sometimes, we judge individuals equally, outside those standards. In the case of Viall and Dorfman, it seems (to me, at least) that just that happened — that, in other words, Viall’s question wasn’t delivered down from one gender to another, but posed “on the level” by someone who was, at one point, under the impression that they were sharing a certain level of intimacy with someone else. As I see it, Viall wasn’t upset about the quantity of Dorfman’s sexual partners; instead, he was hurt by her failure to disclose what she saw as his quality to her.

If Viall was implying or suggesting anything, it might be this:

Sleep with as many people as you want, but if and when you do, have the courtesy to tell each of your partners that they’re not the only one. It might seem obvious that, when you’re among the final two (or three) ‘contestants’ on a show like “The Bachelorette,” you aren’t; then again, it might not. Most members of the final two see themselves as the only one (e.g., “Is there someone else?”), and both deserve to know if they’re not (even if it’s just in that regard). Although it might seem awkward to disclose that information on the threshold of The Fantasy Suite (or, conversely, in front of millions watching at home), it’s important to remember: feeling awkward is a product of feeling shame, and if you’re doing what you want and doing it honestly, then there’s no reason to be ashamed … That’s equally true whether you’re a woman or a man.

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