Much has been written about ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise and its strange portrayal of sexual relationships between the contestants, which it simultaneously exploits and pretends doesn’t exist. As Slate’s Willa Paskin wrote in her masterful takedown last year, “‘The Bachelor’ continues to present itself as romantic, out to find a good man a life partner, a soul mate, a true love — all while behaving like a pimp.”

Though this happens every season, the show truly encapsulated the conundrum on Monday night’s “The Bachelorette: Men Tell All,” the penultimate episode in which the rejected contestants confront the bachelorette. But this year’s special played out differently given it was “the most controversial season in ‘Bachelor’ history,” as host Chris Harrison put it. This time, producers devoted a segment to the horrifying online attacks that Kaitlyn Bristowe has endured ever since she became the first star in franchise history to freely talk about having sex on the show.

In true “Bachelorette” fashion, Harrison used the words “controversial” and “polarizing” at least half a dozen times, though never actually explicitly explained what was so shocking. Instead, he talked around it in the vaguest of terms. Kaitlyn, he said at the beginning of the episode, planned to “address the sometimes harsh criticisms of the decisions she made in her search for love.”

Hmm, what decisions? That she admitted out loud to sleeping with contestant Nick Viall before the end of the season, before the one-on-one fantasy suite dates? That she slept with him in the first place? Harrison would prefer you read between the lines. “Some say she broke some unwritten rules. Others say she’s the victim of an ugly, sexist double standard,” he continued solemnly. “But there’s a case to be made that by exploring each relationship to the fullest, she’s actually the bachelorette that is the most serious.”

Holy euphemism! Unwritten rules about what? No word on what Harrison meant as he continued to talk around the issue when Kaitlyn finally emerged about 90 minutes into the episode. Harrison reminded everyone that “The Bachelor” franchise continually pushes boundaries and embraces questions about gender roles.

“You’ve made some controversial decisions in your path and your journey to find love,” Harrison told Kaitlyn. “Those were your choices. I know you stand by those. And you’re perfectly fine with the discussion around that.”

Kaitlyn nodded — she’s been very vocal about defending her decision to sleep with Nick. Yet she did not sign up to be viciously harassed online for weeks, which is what has occurred.

“I really like to think of myself as a tough, tough person. I’m so fine with people disagreeing with me or having their opinions, that’s okay,” she started. “But spreading hate the way people have been is not okay. And I’m almost in shock. I think the hardest part for me is it affects my family. I can handle it. It doesn’t feel good, but I can handle it. But it’s my family … it’s hard, it’s really hard. It’s hurtful.”

“I like to think that, you know, it doesn’t matter what people think about me, and I’ve always tried to preach that and I’m going to be who I am no matter what,” she continued. “But when it’s thousands and thousands of comments after comments just pouring in of people hating … I get death threats. That hurts.”

From there, Harrison read some examples, including tweets that called Kaitlyn a “whore” and told her to “shut your filthy diseased mouth and f— off.” Then, an email that read in part: “Kaitlyn is a selfish whore with no morals and pathetic excuse for a human being! She should just crawl in a hole and die. I hope the fans break her spirit so that our kids can see that whoring behavior isn’t rewarded.”

The studio audience was stunned into silence — until someone yelled “We still love her!” and Kaitlyn broke down in tears as the audience gave her a long standing ovation. “When I’m reading that, I just don’t understand how someone who is a mother figure can go out of their way to write that for the world to see, for me to see,” Kaitlyn said tearfully. “She’s talking about how I’m teaching bad behavior, yet she’s speaking like that to somebody.”

Harrison tried to comfort her. “I will take you as a role model for my kids over anybody who is a cyberbully and would spew that kind of hate. It’s not acceptable, it’s 100 percent not,” he offered. Then, cut to commercial break: When the show came back, it was time to get on with the proceedings and have Kaitlyn face her rejected suitors, as is “Men Tell All” tradition. “I know that was difficult, but that was something that needed to be done. I’m glad we did that,” Harrison said briskly, moving on.

Was it, though? While it is important to expose the horrible ways women are often treated on the Internet, producers seemed to ignore that the show’s portrayal of Kaitlyn is a large part of why this is happening. Obviously, they edit for maximum drama, and Kaitlyn’s night with Nick has been teased as a huge dramatic moment all season: As was her reveal to Shawn (her other finalist, along with Nick) about what happened. If you’re going to have a star be that frank about her sex life, why wouldn’t the producers eagerly play that up as the season’s most compelling storyline?

But that should only happen if the show is willing to confront the issue head on — or at the very least, even say the word “sex” when trying to have an adult discussion about the “controversy.” While the show deserves credit for addressing online abuse and shaming cyberbullies, a quick segment wedged between the “Men Tell All” blooper reel and other drama isn’t enough. Considering “The Bachelorette” is the reason that Kaitlyn is in this situation in the first place, hopefully the show will take further responsibility for her well-being in the brutal aftermath.

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