Watching Hannah Brown stand up to slut-shaming Bachelorette contestant Luke Parker was arguably the best pop culture moment of 2019. It elevated Brown from a fan-favorite reality TV star to a full-fledged cultural icon, and it marked a turning point in the franchise’s handling of topics like religion and sexual stigma. Hearing Brown tell Parker, “I’ve had sex, and Jesus still loves me,” resonated with fans who have experienced similar shame about their past. And when you hear Hannah Brown's ex's reported comment about sex, her perspective on female sexuality starts to make even more sense.
In an October 2019 interview with Marie Claire, Brown revealed that before she auditioned for The Bachelor, she had been in two serious relationships. The first was with a man she thought for sure she’d eventually marry — and she lost her virginity to him. They broke up after four years together, and she went on to date another man seriously (whom she also slept with). Yet, she couldn’t shake the feeling that her first love was the one, so she went back to him to confess her lingering feelings. But instead of welcoming her back (or at least having a serious conversation about their relationship), Brown said her ex told her that because she had slept with someone else, she could no longer be his future wife.
Brown said the allegation “crippled her,” and it also shaped the way she thought about sex from that point forward. When Parker told her on The Bachelorette that he wouldn’t date her if she slept with other contestants, it brought her right back to that moment with her ex. “To feel wrong or that I was bad or dirty from a man who had just told me that he loved me? It killed me. And then made me mad. But also it killed me because it put me back in a place,” Brown told Marie Claire. “But then I also had this sense of strength and power. And the strength won. And I’m really proud of that.”
Despite what she’s been through, Brown has come to see sexuality as something every individual should own. “Just because everybody knows that I’ve had sex in a windmill does not mean that the value of the love that I’m going to have later on in life is going to be any less,” she explained, referring to the now-famous windmill sex she had with Peter Weber during fantasy suite dates. “Hey, it’s OK if you want to have sex. Hey, it’s OK if you don't. But it doesn’t make you any less or more of a person, regardless.”
Brown didn’t find the love of her life on The Bachelorette, but she knows that her story was significant and personal to many viewers. “I’m not this sex goddess. But I’m okay with talking about sex,” she explained. Her openness to share her own experience drew widespread praise and gave the show its highest ratings in years. Now, Brown is moving on as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars, and she isn’t romantically linked to anyone — other than by eager social media fans shipping her and DWTS partner Alan Bernsten. “I am totally okay on my own,” Brown told Marie Claire. “I don’t want to have to have a man to feel whole. It’s not that I need that to feel like I have a full life. No, I have a full life. Welcome into my life.”
Still, Brown might have lingering feelings for a few of her former Bachelorette suitors, namely Tyler Cameron and Peter Weber, who both made it to the final three. Cameron and Brown were spotted out together the week the show’s finale aired, after Brown had asked her runner-up out for drinks on live television. But Cameron has since been reportedly dating Gigi Hadid (though some reports say they've split). And Weber was recently named the new Bachelor. Brown told Marie Claire that she had hoped Mike Johnson would be chosen as the show’s new lead, “because it’d be easier.” (Johnson was eliminated a few weeks before Weber.) Still, she’s happy to see Weber follow his heart. “I think everybody deserves to have the opportunity to find somebody,” she noted, “and so I’m supportive of that.”
Whatever happens in her future, Brown’s commitment to her personal growth is a testament to her strength. Despite what must feel like enormous pressure to find a new relationship, she’s doing her own thing. “I will not settle,” she assured. “It doesn’t matter how lonely it might feel on a Saturday night by myself when I see my friends posting pictures with their husbands or out with the guy they’re dating. I don’t care. I would rather protect [my heart].” Frankly, everyone could use this kind of soul-affirming advice. Brown has learned from past experiences about what matters most in her future — and shame has no place in that narrative.