Inside the Exclusive World of All-Male 'Bachelorette' Watch Parties
Inside a crowded apartment in New York City’s East Village, it’s Monday night, which means one thing: The Bachelor. Like he does every week, Doyle Stack, 29, has invited a bunch of former fraternity bros to his watch party. Sometimes it’s just a handful of dudes, but on a good night, he’ll squeeze eight of his buddies onto his massive couch.
Where you’d expect cans of Natty Ice, there’s a bottle of red wine. Where the obligatory pizza boxes should be, there are bento boxes of sushi. The situation requires a bit more class—and a lot more commitment—than the average beer-and-big-game get-together.
Crowded around the TV, Stack and his friends ask the same questions floating around every Bachelor watch party across the country: Would you date them? Is she really into him? What is he/she thinking? The only thing that makes this party remarkably different from the ones we’re used to hearing about is that the guest list is made up entirely of straight men. Girls aren’t even invited.
For all of The Bachelor franchise’s reign, the popular narrative has always been that the product is made for straight women. Look no further than the fairy-tale tropes—castles, horse-drawn carriages, formal gowns—that appear every season. It’s basically Cinderella with tequila shots. But that long-held assumption about who comprises Bachelor Nation just isn’t true.
A representative from ABC told Cosmo that over the past 10 seasons, somewhere between 25 and 27 percent of the audience has been male. And recently, the show has started blatantly marketing to its male fan base: launching an official fantasy league in 2017 and choosing to show men at those watch parties that Chris Harrison surprise-visits during live episodes.
So why are so many guys watching? I asked 14 men who are devout citizens of Bachelor Nation. Only five said they joined the fandom on their own, without being introduced to the show by a woman close to them. Daniel Gardunio, a 31-year-old Brooklynite, started watching in 2012 because “so many of the funny people I followed would live-tweet The Bachelor and I started getting FOMO.”
Everyone else was lured in by a girlfriend or, sometimes, their family. Conor McKeon, 32, is a lifelong fan. He started watching with his mom (and dad) as a teen, and the three still text after the show. (Cell network providers must love The Bachelor, come to think of it—even Stack and his friends are “texting in the group thread well into the night and for the next few days,” he says.) “I’m very wary of anyone who is immediately dismissive of it,” McKeon says. “It’s like being dismissive of pro wrestling or college sports.”
For some, the appeal is more romantic. “When there’s a real connection, it’s really sweet to watch and it makes me happy,” says Jake Geer, a 28-year-old in Raleigh, N.C. “I’m really empathetic to the breakups because I had a horrible one at the end of college that put me in misery for months, and I can feel exactly what they’re feeling when they’re heartbroken,” he says.
Travis Halff, a 28-year-old in Austin, Texas, is entering his ninth season of fantasy league. For two seasons, he won what his league calls the Chris Harrison Award for Excellence in Matchmaking, a trophy granted to the player with the best guesses for the season. Yes, it’s an actual trophy. His name is engraved on it, along with other winners’.
As for now, the men are split on new Bachelorette Hannah B.
“I’m expecting a lot of immature, cocky 23-year-old frat boys, so that should be painful and entertaining,” says Adam Scouse, a 31-year-old in Raleigh, N.C. Others, like Stack, worry she’ll get overwhelmed. They all plan to tune in. “I can’t help it—the show makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside,” says Stack.
McKeon agrees. “People say, ‘How can you watch that show? It’s just a bunch of attractive people going on TV and proclaiming their undying love for someone they haven’t met!’” he says. “And I’m like, how can you not watch that? That’s so fucking fascinating!”
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