Colton Underwood vs. Sean Lowe: Comparing the Celibate Bachelors
By Jennifer Drysdale
There's nothing quite like a virgin Bachelor -- really.
Colton Underwood made history on Tuesday morning as he was announced as the next Bachelor, being the first virgin to hold the coveted spot. It was a surprising choice given the show's sexy nature, but not exactly uncharted territory. Bachelor No. 17, Sean Lowe, was a born-again virgin and celibate while he appeared on the show in 2013 and didn't have sex again until he married his final pick, Catherine, in 2014.
After 22 seasons, Sean remains the only Bachelor so far to marry the woman he proposed to in his finale (Jason Mesnick married his runner-up, Molly Malaney, in 2010, and Arie Luyendyk Jr. is set to wed his runner-up, Lauren Burnham, in January). It's possible that producers saw the similarities between Sean and Colton (both buff, blond, beautiful and abstinent) and decided to try to get lightning to strike twice -- despite concern from fans.
"Producers definitely expected some backlash from certain fans, but that always happens and they think Colton will make for a good season," a source told ET on Tuesday, shortly after his announcement as the Bachelor. "Colton's whole narrative was just too good to pass up... He's a virgin, he's handsome. He's a former football player who now runs a charity."
"He knows how to bring the drama and tears and proved that over and over on both Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise," the source noted. "And he's been a pretty good guy to work with for them."
But will Colton's virginity be the key to him actually finding a wife on The Bachelor? Here's how he and Sean compare.
Sean Wasn't Really a Virgin Bachelor, Despite Being Labeled One
Sean lost his virginity in his early 20s, after college. He was celibate for years before he became the Bachelor, and even appeared on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette -- people just didn't know it. It wasn't until he revealed to reporters that he and Catherine were waiting to have sex until their wedding that insanity (and curiosity) erupted.
"From that moment forward, it was just a firestorm… I mean, every tabloid had me on the cover and labeled me as the ‘Virgin Bachelor,'" he recalled in a 2014 interview with I Am Second.
The 26-year-old former NFL player revealed his virginity to millions of viewers during Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette, even though he had yet to actually tell his father.
"Because it could be a potential roadblock for us. It's one of those things that is hard for me to talk about, because I haven't talked about it very often, and it's something that I struggle with articulating... I did only have one serious relationship coming into this, and I haven't had that many girlfriends or that many dates because of sports," he said during the pair's romantic dinner. "And because of that, I am a virgin."
"Really?" a baffled Becca asked.
"Yeah. It was tough," he replied.
Sean Chose to Be Celibate for Religious Reasons
In his interview with I Am Second, Sean shared that it was his religion that helped usher him back into celibacy.
"I didn’t have sex in college. And honestly, I don’t even know if I knew at that time why I took that stance. After graduating college, I moved back to Dallas. I was dating other girls and I started having sex, and I would feel extremely guilty afterward. But after that guilt faded, then I’d start talking to some other girl and go down that same path of destruction," he explained. "At the age of 24, I finally became a man. I said, ‘OK Jesus, let’s do it again.’"
Colton Just Hasn't Found His Person
Colton, meanwhile, isn't necessarily waiting for marriage to do the deed. While speaking with ET at The Bachelorette: Men Tell All taping in July, he confessed that he was "waiting for the right heart."
"It sounds a little cheesy," he admitted. "I'm waiting for someone to match my intensity, someone that's going to be into me as much as I am into them, somebody that I am so madly in love with and that I can share that special moment with. That's what I'm waiting for and that's what I'm looking forward to."
Sean Felt Like an Outsider
All that tabloid scrutiny wasn't easy for Sean. "I was labeled as an outsider," he told I Am Second, even though he did exactly what The Bachelor asks of its leads: he fell in love, got down on one knee and found his wife.
Sean and Catherine's January 2014 wedding was televised, with fans witnessing his and Catherine's road to the altar, as well as getting a view inside the romantic suite where they would spend their first night together as a married couple. After that, the attention seemed to die down.
And So Did Colton
Social media wasn't the beast it is now when Sean's season of The Bachelor aired in 2013 -- and he certainly wasn't subjected to nasty comments from his Bachelorette co-stars. Colton's virginity was called out by Jean Blanc on the Men Tell All special, after which Colton told ET that with Blanc's "disrespectful" jab and the criticism he's faced online has forced him to approach the situation "with nothing but love."
'The Bachelorette' Star Colton Underwood on What It Would Take for Him to Lose His Virginity
"I can respect that they have their opinion. I hope that at least I started a dialogue and I started a conversation in which they can understand what makes me, me. And I'm not here to prove a point, I'm not here to defend myself, I'm not here to say I'm better than anybody else," he explained. "What I am here to do is be true to who I am, and The Bachelorette has helped me do that. So I can't thank them enough."
"This has been so good for me and so therapeutic for me," Colton added. "I can't tell you how many athletes and players and former teammates have reached out to me and said, 'Man, I wish I knew you were going through this. I was going through something similar.' And for me to hear that means the world, because that is where I felt the deepest and the darkest is at those times."
Colton's journey to find love kicks off in the coming weeks and will air on ABC in January. See more in the video below.
What do you think of his role as the new Bachelor? Let us know at ET's Bachelor Nation Facebook group here.