Last Tuesday, viewers around the country gathered around their screens, eager to watch the drama unfold: Some were watching the Democratic presidential debates, some were tuned in to the season finale of ABC's The Bachelorette.
Throughout this season, Hannah Brown, 24, has tried to find Mr. Right from a group of 22 men in front of millions of viewers — and an exchange with one contestant went viral. It happened in an episode from mid-July when Luke P., described in his Bachelorette bio as "a good Christian boy from Gainesville, Ga.," questioned Brown's morality in light of her past sexual relationships. She responded: "I have had sex ... and Jesus still loves me."
The exchange sparked a conversation about sex positivity and "slut shaming." Brown tells NPR she's received a lot of support — as well as a lot of criticism. "I'm excited to be able to use my platform to continue talking to people about these topics that I had to deal with on national television," she says.
On how her Christian background informs her views on sexuality
It's tough, because my faith is really important to me, and I do know the Bible, and I do know what it says, and I still stand by what I said. But a lot of people will try to sway what it actually means. I just feel like it was a big topic to take on for this girl. But I'm in it, and I will continue to talk about it.
On premarital sex
When I said I've had sex and Jesus still loves me, I don't mean that I don't have a moral code, and I can do whatever I want, with whoever I want, at whatever time I want, and I can just lean back on, "Oh, he forgives me. Jesus still loves me." ... I'm not perfect, and I think for a long time, anytime I made a mistake, I would put guilt and shame on myself. ...
I do believe that the Lord intended for sex to be in the confines of marriage, but that's not so for a lot of people. And I used to carry a lot of shame because I had had sex before. And in that moment, [being questioned by Luke P.], I felt like I was right back in church, just feeling like I was not enough. And that's what I meant. Well you know what, I have had sex, but, like, I know my relationship with the Lord, I know that he forgives me. He loves me. And I'm not alone in that. And that doesn't make me any less worthy of his love or love from somebody who wants to spend the rest of my life with me.
On "slut shaming"
[Before this episode], I've never been called a slut in my entire life. ... It's been hard, but then I started thinking, once I started being called that: Why do we even use that word anyway? Like, why are women talking to women this way and why are men talking about women in this way? Because I think sex and faith are all very individual relationships, and what I might feel comfortable doing sexually is not the same as the next girl, but that doesn't make her any less worthy.
On standing firm in her values
I have an audience of one, and that's the Lord and we've had plenty of talks, let me tell you. And I know my heart's in the right place, and so I just have to stand firm on that.