reality tv

The concerning scene on Netflix's The Ultimatum no one is ready to talk about.

Netflix's most radical reality concept The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On has returned for another season.

The reality series hosts couples who are at a turning point in their relationship: one person wants to get married, or they want to move on. To find out which direction they should go, the couples are given the opportunity to see if the grass is greener on the other side which means... couple-swapping

Because as we all know, the key to a healthy relationship is reality TV-sanctioned cheating. 

The contestants date each other before settling on a new match who they move in with. After a period of living with a person in another couple, the original couples are reunited before making the ultimate decision: commit to marriage, switch partners, or leave the show alone. 

It's just as chaotic as it sounds.

The first season saw a few couples leave engaged, while two contestants ended up dropping their original partners for new ones. But the most controversial moment came when two contestants (Shanique and Zay) almost had sex while they were couple-swapping.

While none of the swapped partners crossed any sexual lines this season, there was a tense scene where one contestant James appeared to be manipulating, Riah, into sex. 

James was given the ultimatum by his high school sweetheart Ryann while Riah was given the ultimatum by Trey after dating for two years. 

And yes, having two contestants named Riah and Ryann dating each other's spouses is as hard to follow as you would imagine. 


James and Riah hit it off in the dating stage of the show so decided to shack up together. 

Their marriage did not go well. And there was one scene in episode four that did not sit well with me — and viewers on X (Twitter) or TikTok. 

"How do you feel about affection? Do you want affection?" Riah asked James on the couch one evening, after she noticed he barely touched her during their faux marriage. 

"There's no affection between us. We don't hold hands. We don't really hug," Riah said.

To this, James replies, "If we were to sleep together, this is something we can't come back from."

This came out of nowhere.

Later in the convo, James accusatorially said: "It sounds like you do want to get physical." 

Riah set boundaries, telling him "No, I don't. Not like 'physical' physical," she says, once again reiterating she simply means she'd like to hold hands and hug occasionally.

James doesn't get it.

"For me, that's not the only level of intimacy I wanna get out of a marriage. I'll be honest, I don't think married couples only hold hands." 

Image: Netflix. 


As the conversation goes around in circles, James expresses confusion. "You said you weren't interested in anything beyond holding hands and hugging. If that's physical for you, we may as well go back to middle school," he said.

"When I'm married... I'm going to get in the shower with her. I'm gonna make love to this person. That's physical intimacy." 

James then went on to suggest that Riah either commit to anything physical with James — including sex — or she gets nothing, not even a hug, or a handhold. 

"Physicality is on or off in a marriage," he tells her. 

The fight gets heated, and James says: "I don't need to f**k someone to figure out what it would be like to live with them."

By this stage, Riah cannot be any clearer.


"I'm not saying we're f**king... when I say physical, physical does not mean sex." 

The exchange was deeply uncomfortable to watch, resulting in TikToks analysing this scene. And over on Twitter, users were equally confused.

It's worrying for James to equate any physical intimacy with sex, lumping any sort of touch in with sexual acts that require consent. It's also manipulative for James to suggest that Riah can't hope for any sort of hugging, or handholding, unless she wants to also get naked, or have sex. 


This is not how intimacy and consent works. 

On boys' night with Riah's ex Trey, James continued to misunderstand what Riah was wanting from their marriage. 

"In my head, the full experience out of a marriage is sex, it's waking up to each other naked — doing things only a married couple does. Riah said she was open to it," James told the group of boys. 

Based on the scene that viewers saw, this simply isn't true. 

At this point, thankfully Trey cut in to say Riah had FaceTimed him to relay her convo with James. "She's like 'I think James thinks I want to have sex with him,'" he told the group. 

Unfortunately for Riah, she didn't get what the other contestants got out of the experiment, as James failed to grasp the difference between physical intimacy which builds bonds and grows chemistry... and just having sex. 

But fortunately for Riah, she's moved on to bigger and better things: after becoming engaged to Trey in the finale, the couple have just announced that they're expecting a bouncing Ultimatum baby in 2024.

At the very least, something positive has come from this unpleasant reality TV moment. 

Feature image: Netflix. 

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