Friday, February 26, 2016

Link Roundup!

Another week, another roundup. Take and read.

Briallen Hopper on How to Be Single is hilarious.

Speaking of being single, usually I hate articles about single women or women in general "having it all," and so on (remember when The Atlantic declared “The End of Men”? HAHAHAHAHAHA oh wait, that’s NOT TRUE AT ALL), but Rebecca Traister’s piece in New York magazine was smart and thought provoking. I do wonder if perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we are becoming politically powerful, but Traister herself notes that the world she’s describing is not “likely to happen quickly, especially not with a Republican-led Congress. But it is the beginning of a new kind of relationship between American women and their government. Single women are taking up space in a world that was not designed for them. They make up a new republic, a new category of citizen. If the country is to flourish, we must make room for free women, and let go of the economic and social systems built around the presumption that no woman really counts unless she is married.” A new kind of citizen, eh? It's about damn time, since we've been here the whole time. Roxane Gay also interviewed Traister on the subject, and you can read it here.

Once more, for the single ladies: I had so many thoughts in response to this piece by Briallen Hopper on friendship I could write an essay of my own. Some of it resonated, some of it didn’t, but all of it was very good.

Okay. ENOUGH ABOUT BEING SINGLE. Here’s a recipe for bread you bake while you sleep.

Alya-Monic Mckay on poverty and creativity (especially for women) is right on.
"'Find what you love and let it kill you.'
I wish we could all afford to do so, because I would love to fill the world with artists. Anybody with an extra six hours a day could of course do amazing things. But in a capitalist economy like ours, where profits are more important than people and their passions, we can’t have that. 
Or rather: some people can have that. There are many other people who would also love to rise to Rhodes’ call to creative action, but we can’t.
Unfortunately, we’re too busy being poor."

Speaking of classism, here’s another related piece about millennials and the absurdity of trying to live on minimum wage these days, among other things.

I’ve never been a bike messenger, but as a woman and an urban cyclist, I resonated with a LOT of this story about street harassment.

Jeff O’Neal at Book Riot wrote an excellent response to David Denby’s pearl-clutching about kids not reading enough “literature” -- e.g. books by white guys.

I’m making my way through Syndicate’s Theopoetics symposium right now, and it is solid.

Lunch Ticket tweeted a link to my essay A Few More Miles this week, which reminded me to remind you that you can read it here if you haven’t yet.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 7

I'm working on my Week 8 recap, which will go live on Patreon sometime tomorrow -- read it as soon as it's published by subscribing HERE.

The Pontoon Boat of Love

This week, we went to Warsaw, Indiana, but by the excitement levels you would think we were headed to Paris. In seriousness, I suppose one can understand the women looking forward to this, at least in theory. You can learn a lot about a person by seeing them in the place they grew up, so going to someone's hometown is bound to either propel a relationship forward or possibly bring it to an end. Still, it’s Indiana. And Ben doesn’t even live there anymore.

Lauren’s one-on-one to start the week seemed like further affirmation of Ben's feelings for her, since she's the one who gets the grand tour of Warsaw. His church, his school, the movie theater where he had his first kiss -- and then, the community center where he used to work with kids. Lauren gets to see him in what appears to be his element, and he gets to test her potential as “wife material” by seeing her with kids. They ended the day at Ben’s favorite dive bar, and the clip of him talking about how great it felt to be hanging out there like this was real life “with his girlfriend” was telling.

In contrast to Lauren, JoJo’s one-on-one date wasn't even in Warsaw. Granted, her date was also totally amazing and completely lost on her, initially. The first sign of excitement we saw was when the Mrs. Higgins Cubs uniform showed up. (Just once I'd like a woman on this show to say, hey, actually it's 2016 and I'm not sure I want to change my name. Just once!) Over dinner at Wrigley Field they had one of those classic Bachelor “vulnerable” conversations in which no one says anything specific, and they both feel so much closer as a result. I honestly can’t decided whether I think JoJo will stick around past hometown dates or not.

Amanda, Becca, and Caila’s group date was rough from the start. As Ben explained how the day would go and that only one of them would get to spend the evening with him, all of their faces were so sad. Ben didn't seem to like the situation anymore than the ladies, and yet by this point he must already know to an extent what he wants to do. His body language with Becca said everything about his intentions (or lack thereof), and he just had a second one-on-one with Caila last week. Unless he's really not feeling it with Amanda (but he clearly is) he needs more time with her, and she with him.

Amanda gets the rose, and with it, a trip to...McDonald’s. Now, I love McDonald's. I know I probably shouldn't,'s oddly delicious, not to mention cheap. So, I'm definitely with Ben when it comes to McDonald's breakfast for dinner. But not on a date with someone you've only just started seeing. Clearly this is just a money grab on ABC’s part, a little extended advertising for McDonald's as they try to return to favor and financial success. I couldn't help musing though, that besides the dive bar where Ben took Lauren, this might be the only thing to do in Warsaw after dark. No disrespect to the small town. Heck, my friends and I used to walk to Dunkin Donuts for a wild night in Kalamazoo, MI, so I'm not one to judge. (We also shot off a lot of bottle rockets, purchased in Ben's home state of Indiana, so I feel some small Midwestern kinship here.)

I may be right about the lack of things to do, but the town (slash ABC) came together and threw a carnival just for Ben and Amanda. Amanda and Lauren, as far as I’m concerned, are the two who really got the hometown treatment.

Well, until Emily’s one-on-one. Can we just note that this poor woman had to endure TWO two-on-one dates? I am confident that is a first in 20 years of The Bachelor. But beyond noting that, there's not much to say about this date besides perhaps that it was kind of a dick move on Ben's part to introduce her to his parents when surely he already knew where the day was headed. One-on-one dates can be an affirmation of existing feelings, or they can be a last ditch effort to see if there's anything worth hanging on to, before sending a woman home without the agony of a rose ceremony. In this case, I think Ben relied on his parents to tell him what he already knew. Emily is just too young. Ben wants marriage and children (he says), Emily wants to be… an NFL cheerleader. And, while I don't understand her goals at all, I'm glad she going to go off and pursue them. That's what you should do at 23. Or 33, for that matter.

Ben's mom crying about Ben possibly choosing Emily was the best and worst moment of it all. She was trying so hard to be nice -- a nice Midwestern mom! -- while in so many ways saying, Oh my word Ben, don't mess this up by choosing someone you clearly can't actually marry.

I’m becoming frustrated with Ben’s new tendency to claim he doesn’t know what to do or what he wants. I think what this maybe translates as, rather, is that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. With Becca, he says he didn’t know until moments before what he was going to do, and yet on their date days before he seemed entirely disinterested. Becca herself said she’d felt no affirmation of her feelings that week. Maybe he really is confused, but I think the source of that confusion might have more to do with his desire to make all the women happy at once, to actually be this Perfect Ben, who he can’t actually be, rather than with confusion about his own desires. The teasers for the rest of the season play out the Confused Ben scenario all the way to the final rose, though, so perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Ben is wishing he could bend the rules and continue to date them all until somehow, someday, it magically becomes clear who is really his soulmate.

On that note, I’ll point out that Lauren was the only one not wearing black at the rose ceremony. Oh no. She was wearing white, again. Everyone else appeared to be at the funeral of their relationship with Ben.

The teaser for next week promised high drama, mostly in the form of protective fathers and brothers, and Ben himself will be on trial as potential step father to Amanda’s kids. Hometowns are usually rough for the women, but I think in this case they’ll be equally rough for Ben. He thinks he’s ready for parenthood, but honestly, who is ever ready for that? And one date isn’t actually going to give Amanda, Ben, or the kids, a full sense of what life together would be. Nonetheless, I think that’s what I’m most looking forward to seeing in Week 8. That, and JoJo’s older brothers lecturing Ben about brainwashing women. I usually expect the drama to die down in the final weeks of the season, but Pontoon Boat Ben delivers.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 6

Here is last week's recap, dear readers. As always, I'd like to remind you that if you like reading these columns you can subscribe (and read them a week sooner!) via my Patreon page. With subscriptions starting at $1/column, you can read a whole month's worth for roughly the cost of a latte. I hope you'll consider it. Click HERE to join the club.

Deep Intellectual Things Are My Jam

This was a big week for Bachelor Nation, as we saw what was threatening to turn into one of those seasons with a boring march to the final rose be infused with some unexpected drama by a herd of swimming pigs.

But first, back to the beginning, that is, the end of the week five rose ceremony, when Ben had his little heart to heart with Olivia, while everyone speculated that he might take away her rose. I was convinced from the beginning that he wouldn’t. Ben’s approach seems to be to take what he hears from other women seriously, but also to trust his own experiences one-on-one. Every time he’s heard a rumor about one of the women he has immediately gone to her and talked about it, as we’ve seen with Jubilee, Olivia, and later in this episode, Lauren B. He takes the warnings seriously, but perhaps he’s maintained enough of his sense of normalcy -- and all the ways this scenario is not normal -- to know that the dynamics between the women are fraught, and that they might not be showing their best selves to one another. In that sense, I am glad Ben didn’t take the rose away. But as they talked, and Olivia made her first play of the “I’m smarter than the other women” card, I bristled. On behalf of intelligent women everywhere, I’d rather not have the token smart girl on The Bachelor be someone who quit her job to find a husband and allegedly spent $40,000 on clothes for the process. I hope real life Olivia is smarter than Reality TV Olivia, but I have my doubts. More on that later.

There’s not much to say about Ben and Caila’s date, other than that picking her for a second one-on-one was both an indicator of concerns that Ben wanted a chance to work out, and in the end, a confirmation that yes, he’s very interested in her. People have made a lot of their convoluted conversation about feelings over dinner, but it sounded pretty awkward and human to me, especially given the messed up situation in which this date is occurring. Cailia being unsure of her own feelings after six weeks as part of Ben’s entourage makes perfect sense to me.

Things picked up on the group date. I love this date, because it is SO BEN. He’s such a beautiful man, quite a catch in the stereotypical sense, and yet he can be so clueless, it’s adorable. He really thought this particular group of ladies would love swimming with feral pigs, feeding them hot dogs. Oh, Ben.

JoJo summed the day up best: “Like a bar in Dallas, there are pigs everywhere.”

By evening, Leah started to implode, and of all people, she decided to try to throw Lauren B. under the bus. Leah needed to go home for her own mental health if going after someone who appears to be getting along with everyone, and who Ben so clearly adores, seemed like a way to endear herself to him. When she started primping after the group date to go over to Ben’s hotel room, I thought she was going to do what women usually do in that scenario on this show: share some secret part of herself in effort to prove her vulnerability, and then make out for a while. But no! The implosion continues! All that time primping, only to reiterate her concerns about Lauren B. Bye, Leah.

At this point, Ben broke out the vague religious language again, hearkening perhaps to John’s gospel:  "I'm praying for some light in this, because right now it just feels like a lot of darkness." That might just be the hurricane blowing in off the coast, Ben.

The two-on-one date was predictably awful, despite an outcome that pleased most viewers (myself included). The indignity of directly pitting two women against each other in this scenario is self explanatory, I think. Yes, the whole show is a competition, but it rarely is quite so head-to-head as the dreaded two-on-one date with a single rose. These always make for some of the most awkward viewing of the season, but in this case Olivia took it to another level for me. She started this episode playing the intellectual card to try to set herself apart from the other women, and now she continues, talking about how she likes to read about religion and politics. Fair enough. Ben, as he is wont to do, follows up with questions about what she’s been thinking, about these epiphanies she’s supposedly had in recent weeks. Her response? “I’m in love with you.”

Hey Olivia, I don’t actually think that counts as a new insight into religion or politics.

I completely lack any sort of abstract writerly distance on this one, as most of my readers surely know. Heck, I wrote a master’s thesis, in theology, on love, and suffice it to say I found this whole interaction offensive to actual intellectual women everywhere. Even if Olivia is smart -- and I’d assert that some of these women are smarter than they are portrayed as, beginning with Emily, who is waiting down the beach -- to use that intelligence to insult other women is low indeed. Finally, telling someone you’ve never had a real date with you love him is pretty much the opposite of intelligent. That’s not love, that’s delusion. Or maybe that’s my bias against romantic hogwash talking. Maybe there exist brilliant women who fall in love at first sight.

Whatever Ben thinks of Olivia’s attempts to present herself as an intellectual, in the end he sends her home because he doesn’t love her back. Good ol’ level headed Ben.

We’ve now entered the Canceled Cocktail Party portion of the season. There were no surprises in the rose ceremony, though I think the producers definitely wanted us to think Ben might actually send Lauren B. home. The most interesting thing about the final minutes of this week’s episode were the teaser scenes for the rest of the season. Often times these clips make things seems far more dramatic than they turn out to be in reality (the efforts last season to make it appear as if Chris Soules was actually considering choosing Becca when he was so obviously dead gone on Whitney are a good example). This time I think we might get a bit more of the promised drama, though. On The Right Reasons podcast, after Ben was chosen as Bachelor, Juliet mused that he is so poised, so together and controlled, that he might not be successful in finding a partner (short or long term) on the show. In contrast, what seems to be happening is that to the extent that he’s letting go and getting caught up in the narrative, his own emotions may get the best of him. He’s not prepared to have to break up with women he cares about every single week. He doesn’t know how to be a heartbreaker. He never imagined, I suppose, that he might actually “fall in love” with multiple women -- yet in the way this show, and indeed our wider culture, define “love” it’s no surprise at all that he has. Ben himself probably began this show with a very different idea of the love he seeks than what the show can actually promise him. Manufactured romance, glitz and glamour and impossibly beautiful women will of course produce the kinds of emotions we so often call love. But Ben has always seemed to want something other than that, and even if he thinks he’s found it by the end, I have trouble believing it will last. I don’t think he’ll join the ranks of Sean and Catherine Lowe and other Bachelor Royalty.

Then again, maybe that’s just me getting caught up in the show, too, and my own idea of Ben. That’s what the producers want, after all. For us to believe in a certain manufactured version of Ben, the perfect man. I dare say they are succeeding, leaving a trail of broken hearts behind them.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Link Roundup!

I read some great stuff this week, friends. Enjoy:

Hands down my favorite thing I read this week was Laurie Penny’s “Maybe You Should Just Be Single.” Penny is one of my favorite writers, and this piece was so on point I am about to scurry off to read it again right this minute.

Summer Brennen took 44 unread issues of the New Yorker on vacation with her, and the results are both hilarious and insightful.

I just finished Season 2 of Mozart in the Jungle. I highly recommend the show, in addition to this essay about it in the LA Review of Books.

Kate Bowler’s “Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me” is heartbreaking, and beautiful.

In case you missed it, Apple’s Customer Letter about the FBI’s demand that they create a “backdoor” into the iPhone.

In case you needed a reminder not to write for the Huffington Post, read their UK editor’s comments about why he is proud that they expect writers to work for free.

Watch John Oliver break down voter ID laws.

Did you hear about I’m not saying I’m joining (see above from Laurie Penny), I’m just saying it’s got to be better than Tinder.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Link Roundup!

Happy Friday, y'all. Here's your Femmonite approved recommended reading/viewing/etc, just in time for the weekend.

I should probably just have a Rebecca Solnit link of the week every week. Here she is on The Case of the Missing Perpetrator.

LitHub has Valentines of Badly Drawn Authors and they are wonderful.

I think that, regardless of who you’re voting for in the primary, this essay from a young feminist woman who is voting for Bernie is an important read.

For Ash Wednesday: “40 days — time set aside, not for a great purpose, but for a kind of purposelessness, a time for paying attention to our mundane desires, our ordinary longings, the appetites that are so normal to us that we don’t think twice about them. During Lent, we pose questions to our life, to this flesh of ashes, of earth: What is this body that God has created, my body? And how can it be that God loves it, this piece of earth, this clay, this dust?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 5

I know you're thinking, "Meghan, this is week six of the show, not week five." Well, Patreon subscribers read these posts sooner, so if you're impatient, you should join them!

Villains Gotta Vill

This week we had our first Early Morning Wake-Up Call Date, one of my personal favorite Bachelor traditions. It’s a totally gimickey play on the idea that the women look best without their makeup and that every guy wants the low-maintenance girl-next-door thing, even though the rest of the time they’re all about the fancy, made-up, conventional plastic beauty model. But I still love it, because the women’s reactions are priceless. Perhaps I should feel bad about how embarrassed half of them are to be seen looking totally normal, but mostly I just like finding out who is chill enough to not freak out. Not surprisingly, Amanda took it all in stride. Who knows, maybe she keeps her make-up routine fairly simply ordinarily anyway, what with being a single mom of two (though I’m obviously imposing my own stereotype there), but whatever the reason, I liked that she didn’t freak out. Lauren H., on the other hand, totally lost it, and it was incredible. The best part was Ben’s attempt at calming her: “It’s okay, I wear a retainer at night too.” We know you do Ben, with those perfect pearly whites.

Beyond the dramatic early start, Amanda’s date felt eerily familiar. Waking before sunrise to go on a balloon ride -- we’ve never seen that before.

Oh wait, just kidding, that is exactly what Chris Soules and Britt did last season.

We got to listen in on some more personal conversations between Ben and Amanda about her past marriage, and learn that -- conveniently for the producers -- her ex was a real jerk. Beyond that, not a terribly exciting date.

But oh, the spanish class and cooking group date delivered on the drama. This is the second time Ben has taken the ladies to school, and I can’t say they scored much higher this time around, but we did get to see Jubilee drop some truth when they role played.

Ben: “Te amo”
Jubilee: “You said that to the last four girls.”

What?! HE DID.

The other women were, of course, offended by Jubilee’s logic and humor. A foreshadowing of things to come. But first, the cooking portion of the date! Now, I am all about cooking on dates, especially because, as a woman, I’d like to know whether a guy is totally helpless when it comes to feeding himself, much less cooking for me, sooner rather than later. If we end up together I need to know whether we’re destined for a life of take-out, because I am definitely not cooking every night. But besides that, cooking together is fun.

Cooking in teams of two on a date with ten people, however, is not fun. And cooking because some chef told you that a woman who can cook is ready to get married is really really not fun.

So, this date was destined for failure. The main highlights for me were that, first, Olivia’s dish was awful, and second, JoJo said “Ben already tasted my taco” like she had NO IDEA how that was gonna end up sounding.

The evening portion of the date was rough. For one thing, Ben went off with Lauren B. (who of course wore a white dress again) for what was apparently long enough to really get the other ladies worrying -- who knows how long it actually was, since we get the edited depiction, but considering they left the building so that they couldn’t be interrupted it’s not surprising that things had gone sour by the time they got back.

And then, we had to say goodbye to Jubilee, and all of our hearts broke. I think Ben handled things well insofar as, when she asked him a frank question he gave a frank answer, and broke things off. And yet it was so frustrating, knowing how all the factors of the way the show works are bound to cause most any normal human woman to pull back. So, I wished things couldn’t have been different. It was tough to watch what was, in my mind, the first real breakup of the season, Ben said goodbye to someone he’d actually come to care about, who cared for him, too. From here on out I think the show, as usually happens, will get more difficult to make fun of. Manufactured though the situation may be, everyone is inevitably developing real feelings, and people are going to get hurt.

In comparision, Lauren H.’s fashion date was...boring. They tried on some clothes, they strutted in a fashion show, Lauren expressed that she literally never walks, apparently. (I’m not sure how exactly one gets through daily life without walking once in awhile, but maybe she has super powers.) Over dinner, Lauren wanted Ben to know more about who she is, so she told him how her last boyfriend cheated on her, and I now believe that one of the requirements for being cast on the show is that you’ve been recently cheated on. Heaven forbid anyone’s relationship ended because she just decided she didn’t want to be with the guy for one reason of another -- that wouldn’t indicate that she’s Serious about Love and Commitment. No no, she wanted him to be the one, surely, but he was a lying jerk, so it ended. Now Nice Guy Ben has helped her to “open up” again.

This might sound harsh, but: If the most interesting thing about you is that someone cheated on you once,’re not very interesting.

The biggest drama of the cocktail party was obviously Olivia, who got the rose on the group date. As viewers we’ve been frustrated with Olivia for weeks now, but we haven’t gotten much sense of how the other women perceive her. Certainly none of them have been angry enough to risk confronting Ben about it and coming across as the one who doesn’t play well with others. But this week Olivia crossed a line. In her interviews, she’d already made comments about Amanda’s kids, and how they were clearly an indicator that Ben would want to send her home (which...what? Has she MET Ben? He’s like Mr. I Want to Be a Dad). But at the cocktail party, in response to a story Amanda was telling, Olivia quipped, “That sounds like an episode of Teen Mom.”

Not only Amanda, but all the other women just looked at her in disbelief. Did she really not realize how insulting that came out? First off, let’s not hate on teen moms, but also let’s face it that referencing that show is not something a person does to indicate, “Wow, I really admire how you embraced motherhood at a young age and have built a loving, stable home life for your daughters.” Nevermind that Amanda was in her early 20s when she had her kids.

In the end it was Emily who first approached Ben about what was going on, though Amanda spoke with him too. And this was where Emily -- despite being only 22 -- really started to impress me. As she prepared to be framed as “that girl” who brings up drama, since that’s usually what happens to the woman who brings up stuff like this, she was blunt. Olivia is a bully, and Ben needs to know. “If it offend him, it offends him,” she said. In other words, if Ben can handle knowing the real Olivia, that’s Ben’s problem, not Emily’s. I freaking love her. (But also, Emily, maybe don’t get married at 22? I feel like there are just so many amazing things you could do that getting married now might hinder.)

Now. I don’t actually believe that Ben would take Olivia’s rose away. I think she’s going to cry to him about how she’s “learning a lot about herself” in this process (because when you hurt other people it’s really compassionate to make the situation all about YOU, Olivia) and he’s going to trust her. For at least one more week. But maybe longer.

My question is, will Ben Higgins pull a Ben Flagnik and choose the villain? Pick up some extra bubbly for next week, friends, it’s getting real in Bachelor Nation.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Link Roundup!

I’ve decided to go with “roundup” as the official Femmonite spelling, FYI. Now, on to this week’s recommended reading...

I finished Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Yes, I am still obsessed. However, I’m taking a break from Ferrante this weekend in favor of the just released The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating for...well, a while. But not as long as Chee himself, given that it took him more than a decade to write.

Speaking of Alexander Chee, here’s a delightful interview he did with The Millions.

This is my favorite response to the CDC’s sexist proclamations about women and alcohol.

You need Haikus With Hotties in your life. They're delightful for obvious reasons, but also poignant in the way the project addresses diversity in pop culture and media representation.

This piece from Dissent magazine is a thorough explanation of a variety of factors relating to why we are where we are with respect to the economics of art.

Yoga for Writers. I’m especially fond of the Form Rejection Pose.

Sign up for The Syndicate Weekly right now and you get a free PDF of their most-read symposia. If you’re a theology person, this is a tremendous resource.

Finally, in case you missed it, I'm still writing a column about The Bachelor, and you can still subscribe.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 4

As always, you can subscribe to my Patreon here -- if you enjoy these posts, I hope you'll consider it.

Virgins and Sex Panthers

In week four of his tenure as The Bachelor, Ben Higgins started off the week with a one-on-one date with JoJo. The only interesting part of this date was the first 5-10 minutes, that is, everything that happened on the rooftop helipad.

The prevalence of helicopter dates on The Bachelor is one of my least favorite tropes for a few reasons, all of which come down to the fact that I don’t really understand why it’s considered romantic. Extravagant, maybe, but romantic? First of all, you have to wear those headset things, so they can’t really carry on an ordinary conversation. Second of all, at least half the women go on a helicopter date every season. There’s nothing creative or thoughtful about the gesture of a helicopter date when you know Ben goes on one every single week. The bar is set so low for romance on this shows, guys. (So low in fact that the women went crazy when they arrived in Las Vegas, over a sign that was addressed to all of them, and probably wasn’t even Ben’s idea. Romance? Really?)

All of this to say that Helicopter Date Gone Wrong is one of my favorite moments so far this season. Picture it: Ben and JoJo stand on the rooftop and raise a glass of breakfast champagne. JoJo pretends she doesn’t know a helicopter is coming. They smile, they repeat how excited they are to spend the day together, and turn as the sweet sound of their chopper chariot draws near.

And then -- the table with the champagne blows over, into them, unable to withstand the power of the helicopter’s giant propellers. Nothing like a healthy dose of reality with your “reality” television. But oh, it gets better. When your romantic helicopter date gets off to a rough start, there’s not much else to do besides kneel next to a toppled table and make out, obviously. That’s how I like to start my first dates whenever possible, especially if there are a bunch of other women watching from the windows above.

Here we have a revelation. Olivia apparently has never seen an episode of The Bachelor before, and is shocked -- shocked! -- to see Ben kissing another woman. It seems she really believed that she was the only one Ben had been kissing. Now, no one likes to see her boyfriend kissing someone else, so fair enough, but it’s what they signed up for in this case, it’s how the show works. It’s the entire premise of the show, in fact. Man dates and makes out with twenty five women, gradually narrowing it down to three he wants to spend the night with, and then he proposes to one. That is The Bachelor. Olivia’s reaction to this new knowledge was a foretaste of things to come in week four.

In truth, I don’t have much to say about the Talent Show group date. It falls into the category of Dates Designed to Humiliate Women Whose Only Goal is to Get Married -- ergo, for the most part they don’t, apparently, have any “talents” because they’ve been focused on becoming Wife Material -- and it fulfilled its purpose with flying colors. Given the way these women throw around the phrase Wife Material (uhg), I just want to know what in God’s name Olivia was thinking. As much as I dislike the way the show, and these women, characterize what does or doesn’t make a woman someone Ben would consider building a life with, who really thinks popping out of a cake and all that implies screams “Marry me!” to the Nice Guy from Indiana? Olivia is starting to crack.

Moving on to Ben’s one-on-one wedding date with Becca, who wants to know if Ben got ordained online in order to conduct those ceremonies? Some of us spent years in seminary to earn that right, Ben. In any case, it what sort of endearing how awkward yet serious he was about the whole thing. I think Ben really does want to get married at the end of this, and in the framework of the show Becca definitely qualifies as Wife Material (sorry, I gag every time I write that).

The most interesting part of this date was the surprisingly frank conversation they had about sex. I still can’t make up my mind what to even think of it. On one hand, since both of them on previous seasons had to discuss their sexual history, and since Becca’s virginity has been a point dragged out again and again in both positive and negative ways, it makes sense that Ben decided to bring it up himself. He must know the other women in the house are gossiping about it, and that Becca knows he knows, and no doubt wonders if he has an opinion on the matter. It’s in keeping with Ben’s character to try to keep drama to a minimum by discussing things openly.

Now, this could have gone badly in so many ways. The virgin/whore dichotomy plays out on this show over and over again. The women who admit they’ve never had sex are mocked by most people and put on a pedestal by a few, and women who are open about their sexual desire and activity, like Kaitlyn Bristowe last season, are slut shamed ruthlessly. Women can’t win in The Bachelor universe when it comes to sex. They’ve always had too many or not enough partners. And yet, no one called Nick a slut for sleeping with Kaitlyn on The Bachelorette, while Kaitlyn meanwhile was dragged through the mud. The double standard is so obvious I feel cliche even writing about it, and yet it’s prevalent enough that it bears pointing out once again. Here’s the thing: whether these women have slept with no one or many people or somewhere in between is ultimately their own choice. If Becca wants to wait until she’s married, well, good luck to her. And if Kaitlyn needed to test things out before getting engaged, well, that too is her decision as a grown woman.

So, when Ben brought it up I wasn’t sure what to expect. On one level, he made it clear that it isn’t an “issue” for him -- which, I mean, if it was he’d be a super duper a-hole so, good work not being a jerk, Ben? -- but also wanted to know if it bothered her that he has a different sexual history. This is in keeping with Ben’s two-way-street approach, and was weirdly refreshing, even if the way he tried to push a religious narrative onto Becca’s choice felt strange. Becca never said (on camera at least) that her commitment had to do with faith -- in fact, when she talks about it to me it always sounds more like a romantic notion of only being with one man, the person she’ll spend forever with, in a Happily Ever After kind of way. But faith is a factor for Ben, and he wanted her to know that he respects that, but that also -- as a person who shares this vague faith -- he has chosen a different approach to sexuality. (e.g. he might respect Becca, but he also respects Caila the Sex Panther.)

It was a weird exchange, but compared to how badly the show usually handles such things it was surprisingly non-cringeworthy. Plus we got a chance to hear Ben use the phrase “jump their bones” in reference to sex.

The last thing I want to tackle this week is the two-on-one date with Emily and Haley, aka “The Twins.” Ben tells us how dating sisters has been difficult, and then decides to do something that makes it even more difficult: he takes them out together. Ben is playing into the twin trope. The best thing to do if you really want to get to know them as individuals is to treat them as individuals and take them out separately, a fact that Haley points out to him during their one-on-one time. She basically says, “Dude, we’re not the same person.”

“I wish there was a playbook for dating sisters,” Ben sighs.

Here’s the playbook: DON’T DO IT.

Even commentary on Twitter played into the trope ABC was so clearly playing with in having twins on the show, as people made jokes about how they still couldn’t tell them apart, and asked if Ben really even knew who he was sending home. In reality, if you were paying attention, it’s been pretty clear where this was headed. Emily has had way more camera time, and she’s the more outgoing twin, thus her personality is more conducive to the fast paced reality show form of dating than the more reserved Haley. I was 0% surprised he chose to let Haley go this week, and if you didn’t see it coming, well, perhaps you made the mistake of assuming they’re the same person, and that’s on you, dear readers.

The final cocktail party of the week was the typical montage of kissing and checking in with the women, with the notable highlight of Ben reassuring Jubilee, who noted again that she’s “complicated” and not confident in her status on the show, to which Ben responded, “But do you know that that’s a good thing to be?” Swoon. But despite what he says, I’m not sure Ben is as ready for complicated as he thinks he is.

Going into the rose ceremony I know we all hoped Olivia was going to be heading home, especially when she informed us that she “reads a lot of romance novels where everything comes together.” It wasn’t really surprising that she stuck around though. This week was awkward, but most of Olivia’s worst side Ben has yet to see. But next week! Oh, the teasers for next week are so promising. The time has nearly come for us to say goodbye, Olivia.