Fantasy suites week is an intense time on The Bachelor franchise, as the lead narrows down to the final three people who may ultimately win their heart. This season, things took an emotional turn when Madison Prewett expressed to Peter Weber that if he had sex with the other contestants, she would have difficulty continuing their relationship. Fans on Twitter noticed this moment was reminiscent of one notable conflict in recent Bachelor history: a conversation between Hannah Brown and Luke Parker on the 2019 season of The Bachelorette. But despite the obvious parallels, Madison and Luke P.’s views on sex are different from each other in one really crucial way, and they highlight an important facet of navigating differences in expectations regarding sex in relationships. The way you talk about your beliefs speaks volumes about how you value the other person.
Before the final three women headed to Australia for fantasy suite dates, Madison pulled Peter aside to tell him something that was bothering her. “I want to be honest about who I am and how I feel,” she said. “If next week you were to sleep with somebody else, it would be really hard for me to really move forward in this.”
Peter asked her for clarification. “So if I were to spend the night with someone else, this is not something you could do?” he asked. “I feel like it’s not necessarily fair to the [other] relationships I have in there, but I don’t want that to get you down in any way.”
Madison told him she didn’t want to give him an ultimatum, but that “actions speak louder than words." Peter assured her that she meant a lot to him, and their conversation ended on this ambiguous note.
Fast forward to the end of the week, when Madison and Peter had the third and final fantasy suite date. Peter asked again for Madison to state her feelings clearly. “For me personally, I wouldn’t be able to say yes to an engagement, and continue to move forward, if you have slept with the other women,” she said. Peter confessed that he had been "intimate" earlier that week, and Madison got up from the table. Peter followed her and begged her, "Don’t walk away.”
It was a brutally awkward and difficult conversation, and it called to mind one critical moment from Hannah Brown’s Bachelorette season. Fans will remember Luke P., the assertive, devoutly Christian contestant who had a contentious relationship with Hannah from day one. During their fantasy suites dinner, Luke told Hannah he would leave if he found out she’d had sex with anyone else. “Sex is an incredible thing and it’s a beautiful thing, but only when it’s within the guidelines of marriage,” he said. He told her he’d been studying the book of Hebrews, and learning about how “the marriage bed should be kept pure.” He then laid out his ultimatum for her. “I just want to make sure you’re not going to be sexually intimate with the other relationships here,” he said. “If you told me you were having sex or you had sex with one or multiple of these guys, I would be wanting to go home.”
If a person believes their partner should completely abstain from physical intimacy with others, The Bachelor is probably not the right place to pursue a lifelong relationship.
Hannah appeared to get visibly upset, and told Luke, “the things you’re saying are not OK.” She explained that she was “not strapped to a man right now,” and that since Luke wasn’t her husband, he had no right to judge her. She ended up sending him home that night, and telling him, “I have had sex, and Jesus still loves me.”
Bachelor fans watching Peter’s season were quick to point out the similarities between Madison and Luke P.’s beliefs. Their expectations regarding abstinence are somewhat antithetical to the premise of the show. As Madison’s fellow contestant Hannah Ann Sluss noted on the show, “We knew what we signed up for.” If a person believes their partner should completely abstain from physical intimacy with others, The Bachelor is probably not the right place to pursue a lifelong relationship.
But others on Twitter observed that people comparing Luke P. and Madison are missing one really crucial distinction. Look at the way Madison broached the subject with Peter: by talking about herself. By stating how she felt and what she believed, she opened the door for honest conversation rather than hostility. She also didn’t assume that Peter would be on the same page as her. Luke P., on the other hand, made a blanket statement about how people "should" regard sex. By bringing up the idea of sexual “purity,” he implied that those who do have premarital sex are wrong or lesser than those who abstain. He held the belief that Hannah would feel the same as him, saying, "I am very confident that we're on the same page with our morals, and I just want to hear it from your mouth."
When discussing religious beliefs with a partner, openness and curiosity are essential. “For someone who does have strong faith beliefs, I think it’s important that they advocate for themselves,” explains Becca Hirsch, LMFT, a relationship and sex therapist with experience working with interfaith couples. “What I would advocate for people is to open up a dialogue about it, and say, ‘This is where I’m at, this is what I believe in. These are my boundaries when it comes to faith and physical intimacy. How do you feel about that?’” This is how Madison addressed the issue, saying, "For me, growing up, I made a commitment to myself. I decided that I wanted to save myself for marriage ... Not both people are going to have made the same life decisions, and I don't expect that for you or for anybody."
Hirsch tells Elite Daily that two people can’t expect they’ll understand one another intuitively. “Have a dialogue about it before you jump to any conclusions,” she says. She suggests that both partners ask each other about the “why” behind their beliefs, saying, “Tell me more about that. Why is this important to your faith? Why is this important to you?” This allows the space for each person to feel heard and understood rather than shamed or accused.
“How you communicate about [sex] beforehand is really, really important,” Hirsch explains. Even people from similar faith backgrounds may have different expectations regarding physical boundaries. “Sometimes people are OK with kissing and they’re not OK with anything else,” Hirsch notes. “Sometimes they’re okay with oral sex or manual sex or pretty much everything but vaginal sex.” This is why it’s helpful to get specific with your partner, even if it’s an uncomfortable conversation in the moment. “Ask more questions, too, like ‘What does that mean to you? Are there ways we can still be physically intimate that are within your boundaries?,’” Hirsch suggests. “Make sure that it’s a conversation that’s really respectful, and not pushing their boundaries.”
Hirsch explains that it’s typical for couples to have different expectations and feelings regarding sex. “That’s really common, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that in itself would make you incompatible," she says. Instead, it’s how couples communicate about it that matters the most. “If it has more of a judgmental tone, that’s going to shut the conversation down a lot faster,” she explains. Avoiding the issue doesn’t help couples get anywhere, either.
Ultimately, a couple may decide after this conversation that they are not a good fit for each other. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. “If they decide, ‘Hey, we’re too different. My expectations of physical intimacy, I personally don’t think I can get from this relationship,’ then that’s a decision that people are allowed to make,” Hirsch says. “But I think the openness around it and the willingness to talk about it is always a good sign.”
During their second one-on-one date, Peter told Madison that he hasn't practiced his religion much recently. This, combined with their differing values when it comes to sex, could be a challenge for them later on in their relationship, if they choose to stay together. But whereas Luke P. was invoking antiquated patriarchal norms to suggest that Hannah was “less than” him, Madison was telling Peter that she would end the relationship if their beliefs didn’t match. This isn’t inherently problematic, and it’s not a means of control. Madison cannot be faulted for honestly speaking her truth.
This tough conversation between Madison and Peter highlighted an important distinction between judging your partner and expressing your feelings honestly with them. Communication is the foundation of any successful long-term bond, and part of loving someone is allowing them the space to be fully themselves — whether or not the relationship ends up being the right one for life.