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How shows like Netflix’s “Too Hot To Handle” tokenize bisexual women

Netflix’s latest reality dating show, “Too Hot To Handle,” features a group of hilariously vapid contestants tasked with finding love while banned from any sexual contact. It was generally enjoyable, if only to scoff at; but unfortunately, I must report that it has joined the trend of mistreatment of bisexual women on reality dating shows. The last few years have seen a pattern on reality TV: a cast full of conventionally attractive straight contestants, with one feminine bi woman thrown in for diversity points. In reality dating shows, there has been an upswing in the inclusion of queer women in every way possible—except for them finding love on the show with another woman. After all, having only one queer woman means none of the contestants will actually get to explore a queer relationship over the show’s run.

“Too Hot To Handle’s” diversity score was Haley from Florida, a bisexual woman whose time on the show is mostly limited to her kissing another female contestant as a means to break the rules and provoke her fellow players. Haley actually left midway through the season, without finding love, because she admitted she was apathetic about the show’s premise and simply did not care to stay any longer.

Netflix’s “The Circle” featured contestants who were only allowed to communicate through text. It was a genuinely heartwarming show, and lived up to its premise of proving that we are able to form deeper relationships when we are prevented from judging one another based on appearance. The show starred Sammi, a proud bisexual woman who was often decked out in rainbow, as well as Karyn, a butch lesbian often shown in a wife beater. However, neither of the women found queer love on the show.

Cable television suffers from the same problem. In 2016, “The Bachelor” featured Demi Burnett, a conventionally attractive white woman whose off-season relationship with her girlfriend Kristian Haggerty was brought onto the spinoff, “Bachelor in Paradise.” Demi’s and Kristian’s relationship was the first queer relationship featured on The Bachelor, but its significance is dulled by the fact that it conveniently took place outside of the show, and that unlike the other (straight) relationships on the show, it was completely uninitiated by the producers.

Jaimi King was a contestant on Season 21 of “The Bachelor” and was eliminated in episode five. According to an Op-Ed she wrote for Playboy, her bisexuality was merely a talking point, one of the few parts of her conversations with Nick Viall that producers didn’t leave on the cutting room floor. Her bisexuality was only used to stoke salacious interest in the show, proven by the fact that she was quickly eliminated in episode five, and that she was the only queer woman on the show.

This biphobic trend is still in its infancy, and I certainly hope it stays that way before it becomes a genuine trope. With any luck, instead of more straight dating shows with one token bisexual, we will continue to get more queer dating shows like the most recent season of MTV’s “Are You The One?” or “The Bi Life,” which actually allow contestants to explore queer romance in all its messy glory.