Jana Hocking: Is The Bachelor’s no STD rule for contestants discrimination

There’s one “scary” test that contestants of The Bachelor have to take before going on the show – but is it on in 2021?

A million lifetimes ago, I was a date producer on The Bachelor, and before that I was part of the casting team for the show.

It was a tough gig, scouring bars, sports games and anywhere an alpha male may choose to hang out, in search of the perfect man to launch the first ever season of The Bachelor in Australia.

It was my job to approach said alpha and ask if he would be interested in applying for the lead role in a very exciting reality show, that would have women flocking to him.

I’ve always considered myself fairly competitive, so I took the job very seriously. There was no hot bloke I was afraid to approach. I wanted to hold the grand casting trophy at the end of it all, screaming, “Me! I found the dream man!” (to give to someone else).

Upon reflection, 20-something-Jana was fairly shallow when it came to what defined a dream man. He must be buff, have a sparkle in his eye, a chiselled jaw and a deep voice. That was it.

So when it came time for the executive producer and other big wigs to go deeper into the casting process, I thought my blokes were clear front runners.

What I didn’t consider was a few important aspects, like … can they string a proper sentence together? Will they treat the girls with respect? Are they actually looking for love?

Although I felt dismay at not having found ‘The Bachelor’, it quickly turned into joy when I realised that in Tim Robards they had cast a bloke who not only met the ‘va va voom’ criteria, but also was intelligent, sensitive and knew what he was looking for.

Yes, the first series of The Bachelor Australia hit the jackpot!

Looking back, it was a dream job and a brilliant case study on how women act when put in a ridiculous romantic setting with a suitor who looks like he has come straight off the set of Days of our Lives.

And here’s a tid bit of goss for you: We ALWAYS knew Tim was going to pick Anna. Yep, the sparkle in his eye was hard to disguise every time she walked into a room.

In fact, there may have been a few crisis meetings about it. Why? Because when it came to picking a girl for the next date, the answer was always the same … Anna!

So successful was that series, that a few years on, I found myself in Italy cheering the happy couple on as they got married. Along with a fair few of the girls from that series, who had become fast friends.

As the series have progressed over the years, I’ve always wondered if my happy experience working on the show was similar to the one felt by women who appeared on the show.

So, for this week’s Kinda Sorta Dating podcast, I decided to reach out to a friend, Juliette Herrera, who was on a more recent series to ask her every question we’ve been dying to know about what actually happens behind the scenes on The Bachelor.

Yep, we covered everything! From the new audition process, what happens when the cameras are turned off, how much contact they have with the outside world and fights that never made it to air. Juliette spilt it all.

And all I can sway is… wow!

One thing that surprised me most about our chat was the STD test that applicants are required to take.

Juliette explained what that the next step after a group casting call is. “They send you a medical form, which is 20 pages long! It’s a blood test, an STD check, are you healthy? How’s your heart? An assessment from a doctor,” said Juliette.

When I asked Juliette if someone fails the STD test are they automatically out of the running, Juliette responded that she thinks so, because whoever passes the STD test goes through to the next round of auditions.

I did a deep dive into the statistics, and according to the government health website, in Australia it is estimated that three-quarters of Australian adults are infected with herpes, with one in 10 having the HSV2 strain that affects the genital areas.

That’s a lot of adults! So if you are one of those people who’s caught herpes at some stage of your life, well… you need not apply to The Bachelor.

What’s scary is that many people don’t actually know they have it! Yep, on the US series of The Bachelor, Ben Hatta, who was the creator’s assistant told the LA Times that, “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.’”

Now, knock on wood, thanks to a staunch stance on condoms, and probably a touch of luck, I have never been diagnosed with an STD, but when I pondered on it, I know quite a few friends who have.

I guess what I’m wondering is: in 2021 is it OK to say anyone who has an STD can’t be cast in a reality TV show? Seems a little out of touch with the modern world!

Thanks to strong women in the media who have shared their own sexual health journeys, is the stigma around STDs residing? Because let’s face it… should everyone be wearing condoms if they’re casually dating? Yes! Are they? Nope, not always.

In fact, sometimes it feels like a real struggle to convince your partner to put one on.

Add to this, that many experts are predicting a ‘hot vax summer’ once lockdown ends, and that can only mean one thing… a definite rise in STD rates.

If, from a health stand-point, herpes and HPV are fairly common, it seems puzzling that it’s one of the main reasons a person is deemed ineligible for a reality TV show. Especially one, that we now know has a strict rule on no going ‘all the way’.

Perhaps it’s a duty of care from the production team, but is it not also subtly saying to everyone “if you’ve got an STD, best try your luck in love elsewhere.” Something to ponder …

Jana Hocking is a podcaster and collector of kind-of-boyfriends | @jana_hocking

Read related topics:Dating AdviceJana Hocking

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