TV's latest bingeable 'social experiment' Love Is Blind has riled up LGBTIQ+ viewers around the world, all thanks to the handling of one man's bisexuality.
Loved and loathed in equal measure, the Netflix series has been pegged as a “social experiment where single men and women look for love and get engaged, all before meeting in person”.
Basically, it's Married at First Sight but with more, you know, walls.
The show sees contestants voluntarily encase themselves in dating "pods", where they're able to verbally communicate with a potential partner without seeing them face-to-face (it's all about inner beauty!). The lovebirds are then encouraged to propose to each other, after which they're allowed to meet in person for the first time. Couples then test their relationship in the real world to gauge whether or not it's viable, before either getting married or, well, breaking up.
Described by The Guardian as “the final nail in the coffin of civilisation", it's little wonder that the complex subjects of internalised homophobia/biphobia and communicating one's sexuality with potential partners was handled less than gracefully by the two parties involved - a man, Carlton, and a woman, Diamond.
It all began when Carlton, 34, and Diamond, 28, completed their ten days of “pod” dating, with Carlton deciding to propose to his faceless lover. When they met in person for the first time, all was suspiciously good! They still liked each other! Obviously the next step - as in any relationship - was going on a couple's retreat to Mexico with a slew of other newly engaged pairs.
That's where things got a little messy.
While Diamond was “excited to make a beautiful life" with Carlton, there was something he wanted to talk to her about - his bisexuality, which he'd failed to mention during the couple's "pod" dates.
“I really love you, but it’s like certain things are always in the back of my head," he told Diamond after their first night in Mexico. "Like the past.”
Getting emotional, he continued: “It’s just stuff that we have to just discuss because I feel like I’ve always been in situations where people have abandoned me, and have rejected me… I don’t feel like you’re going to want me after this information. In the past… I have dated both genders.”
Carlton's news was met with a telling silence from Diamond, who, after a long moment, said: “It’s a lot to accept, I get it. It’s OK.”
Then, leaning into one of the many damaging stereotypes about bisexuality, Diamond asked: “My question is how do you know I’m the love of your life? Do you ever feel like you need to go date another man?”
Carlton replied: “No, no, that is the biggest misconception in the world for men like me, who are honest. I love people for who they are, to the core.”
Diamond said: “I just need time to think about this. I’m just going to go.”
The next morning, the engaged couple had another talk. But it was Carlton's lack of communication, rather than his sexuality that riled fans, with critics pointing to his attacking behaviour in the hotel room and during his disclosure as creating an envionrment of hostility.
Eventually Diamond tells him he is being “defensive” and “playing the victim”. She then removed her engagement ring and returned it, saying: “You’ve got some serious issues because you led me to believe that you were really into me.
Carlton then throws Diamond's engagement ring it into the pool, calls her a “b***h”, and insults her wig, to which she replied: “F**k you, you f**ker,” throwing a drink in his face.
Messy. Messy. Messy.
While criticism for the story-line has come from all angles, Carlton has been called out by upset viewers for being emotionally abusive and launching a tirade of insults on Diamond.
While there's empathy for the difficult position he was in, and his behaviour was likely the product of his own internalised biphobia, many found his erupting temper to be a frightening reflection of misogyny and manipulation in the dating scene.
"I wouldn't have left Carlton on Love is Blind for being sexually fluid, but the WAY he opened up to Diamond was both uncomfortable and scary," one fan tweeted.
In an article about the challenges of disclosing your bisexuality in the dating world, writer Luis Velasco writes: "If I’m talking to someone romantically, I want them to know that I’m bisexual and that I’ll never compromise that for someone else’s wishes."
He continues: "Being open and honest is the best way to start any relationship, as it’s then much easier to find out if the two of you have a future."
"Ultimately, if you’re on a date with someone who isn’t comfortable with your sexuality, you’re on the wrong date."
To her credit, since the series dropped Diamond has admitted that she regrets the way she handled the news of Carlton's bisexuality - despite the way in which it was delivered.
Speaking to People, she said: “I would change the approach of it. I was trying to be very understanding, but I had questions because I’ve never been with a bisexual man.
Since the series dropped, Diamond has admitted that she regrets the way she handled the news of Carlton's bisexuality.
“I don’t really know that community that well, but I respect the community. I love the community. I just had questions.
“Maybe I should have been more encouraging and maybe start off saying: ‘I’m happy you were able to open up to me. I’m happy you’re able to bring this to my attention at this moment in time.’ Or, ‘I’m happy you came out. I know this is very hard for you to do that.’
“That possibly could have changed that whole outcome of how we were aggressive toward each other.”