In one of my first ever posts (link here) I questioned the idea of modern masculinity, and lamented the fact that much of it seemed to focused on how much cashish you have in the bank, how big your biceps are, how many women you’ve slept with, and how much beer you can sink in a single sitting without toppling over and falling into the gutter of broken dreams.
This is something I’ve pondered a lot over the past year of writing, and it was brought back into my focus by an episode of Love Island UK that I watched last night (episode 21 FYI). The brazen, and let’s be honest, somewhat frighteningly frisky, Maura looked on in shock as her chosen ‘Hideaway’ bedmate for the night, Tom, chauvinistically declared to the rest of the boys:
“It will be interesting to see if she’s all talk or not”
Oh Tom. After Maura’s endless stream of provocative chat and innuendo, we were all thinking it, but don’t bloody say it, to a group of lads, in a house you can’t leave, which is surrounded by cameras and microphones, whilst the person in question is within earshot. Silly, silly boy.
Maura’s response was typically blunt, and brutally fantastic. In no uncertain terms, Tom was told to “go f**k himself”, she was clearly no longer feeling frisky, and that was seemingly the end of that. He was five seconds away from getting what he desired, and blew it, in favour of showing off to his new mates. It was a spectacular display of self-sabotage. Most of us have witnessed someone blow it before, but not like this, on the screen, in front of millions. It was a beautiful mix of being both hilarious and painful to watch.
So what will we take from this? (For starters let’s ignore the fact that I’m watching this voyeuristic trash despite being 35 years old and supposedly educated) I’m sure Maura will be fine, she’s got undeniable spirit, a potty mouth, comedic timing and good looks. I’m fairly sure she’s my favourite character on the show. And Tom? He’s young, he’s also good looking (obviously, they all are), but from what I can tell he lacks a bit of self-confidence. One obvious mistake he made: there is a big difference between someone talking about sex, and wanting to have sex with you. Seduction is rarely that simple. I’ve learnt that the hard way. Multiple times. Hopefully he will too. However, the thing that struck me most about the whole situation was Tom’s desire to impress the other men, that comment he made was solely designed to big himself up in their eyes, it certainly wasn’t meant for Maura’s ears. I’m not judging too harshly, I get it, we all do this to some extent. He’s not a monster, he’s a red-blooded male who was riding the crest of a Maura-shaped wave. He certainly wasn’t thinking logically, he was trying to be funny. Since the dawn of time men have lost their minds, and their game, trying to woo women. The old adage of “try, try, and try again” is only approach that works when it comes to chatting up the opposite sex.
In this villa, how much money you have and how much beer you can drink don’t count for much, given everything is paid for, and alcohol is rationed. They have no control over what they do, or where they go, so there is little room for leadership or spontaneity. They all have rippling physiques, and so I would argue that the primary tool available to most of these chaps to assert their masculinity – is their ability to pull a woman. Admittedly there are tiny alternative opportunities; like how hard they can punch Tommy Fury’s (brother of Tyson) open palms; or how fast they can swim the length of the pool whilst keeping a bucket hat on. However, it seems to me, in this situation, that the most obvious method for these men to prove themselves to be men, is by winning the woman they fancy. It is a corrupt, fabricated system, designed to create drama like the one seen on episode 21. I have some sympathy for Tom here, he was bragging about getting the girl, sure it was premature, naive, and crass, and it also reduced the fiery and extremely likeable Maura to a sexual object to be conquered, BUT it was exactly what the producers of the show sent him in to do. Yes he made a mistake, yes he turned her off, but I also think he genuinely likes her. That point should not be ignored in the furore of his laddish bravado. IMHO.
My sister text me last night to say her MVP on the show was Curtis, and I understand the appeal. Somewhat effeminate professional ballroom dancer, Curtis, is a wise, yet flamboyant head on relatively young shoulders. It is obvious that the other household guests really rely on his council and wisdom. You wouldn’t describe Curtis as particularly ‘masculine’, but he coupled up with the slightly ‘challenging’ Amy early on in the process, and so hasn’t needed to prove anything in that arena. Instead, he adds value with his purpose in the house, which is clear; he is the stable foundation upon which the others lean in times of uncertainty. He may be camp AF, his sexuality has doubt been questioned on sofas across the land, but he’s also a leader. For the others, I’m not sure how else they are supposed to express their manliness. If swimming the length of a tiny pool in the quickest time, whilst keeping a hat on your head, is the way to prove you’re the man, then I’m closing down the blog, cancelling my gym membership and off to buy some speedos.
This piece is not really about a young man on a British reality TV show making an error of judgement, it’s about what it means to be a man, in 2019. But there are some similarities, which I’ll explore in a part two.
To be continued.
Footnote: You may have noticed the blog has a new name, and a new URL. I’m toying around with some new ideas as I approach a period of doing something different with my life. The old www.redesigningmybestself.com url will continue to function for a while. Watch this space.