The reality show, Love Island, is a staple for British summer nights. Young singles from the UK stay in a villa in Majorca, Spain for eight weeks in an attempt to find love, or at the very least, fame. Unfortunately, the misogyny and sexist double standards on Love Island seem to get worse and worse every year and have never been as apparent as in its 8th season, which has been airing on ITV2 every night for the past two months, with the finale having aired on Monday. In this latest season, practically all of the relationships have been toxic, with misogynistic behaviour from essentially all of the men towards all of the women.
The boys in Love Island always treat ‘Casa Amor’ as a lads holiday
‘Casa Amor’ is a significant part of the show that often provides most of the drama of the season. The process, which is labelled as the ultimate relationship test, involves the separation of the girls and the boys after the third week, when either the boys or girls go to a new villa called ‘Casa Amor’. During this process of 3-4 days, they do not have contact with their original partners, but they are joined by new girls and boys. At the end of these few days, they decide whether they want to stay coupled up with their original partners or couple up with someone new.
The boys in Love Island always tend to treat ‘Casa Amor’ as a lads holiday where they act like the norm is to get together with new girls as flings. This was seen in the previous season as well, with Jake encouraging all the boys to hook up with new girls, but was even more prominent in this season.
The boys were all encouraging each other to hook up with new girls, such as when all the boys, especially Dami, got excited when Jacques said that he was not going to hold himself back and was going to properly get to know and kiss other girls, as well as when Dami and Jacques were encouraging each other to kiss under the covers in bed, saying they would do it if the other does it as well.
In ‘Casa Amor’, the boys always act like kids in a candy shop. There’s always a discourse about needing to test themselves and their original relationships by being with another girl in order to understand if they like their original partner. For instance, Jacques explained his actions of kissing and getting to know Cheyanne by saying that Paige had a chance to test herself when she got to know Jay (even though she didn’t get physically intimate with him) and because of this, he had to test himself by hooking up with other girls. While talking with Cheyanne, who said she would understand if he wanted to respect Paige, he literally said he wasn’t going to.
However, for these boys, testing their relationships is not about just getting to know the new girls and exploring new connections, which should normally be enough to understand if you like your original partner. Many of the boys use this as an opportunity to be physically intimate with new girls in the name of testing their original relationships. Jacques, Dami, Andrew and Davide all kissed one or multiple women, multiple times, even though they were all happily coupled up with other girls before Casa Amor.
The fact that all the boys eventually went back to their original partners shows that they hooked up with the new girls just because they could and for fun, without considering the feelings of the new or original girls.
Coco, Summer, Cheyanne and Molly have all said that they thought they had genuine connections with the boys Andrew, Dami, Jacques and Davide respectively. The boys led the girls on in order to get what they wanted from them and once they got back to their original connections, they disregarded the new girls quickly. The new ‘Casa Amor’ women were treated like sexual objects, which is a common dehumanising occurrence towards ‘Casa Amor’ girls throughout the seasons.
Sexist double standards: the girls are judged for doing the minimum and the boys can get away with doing much worse
Dami even said “I’m a guy, man,” to Indiyah as an explanation for why he kissed Summer multiple times, instead of getting to know her without physical contact. During the ‘Movie Night: Mad Movies’ challenge, where the islanders were shown clips of each other, revealing their actions, Dami was shown having a three-way kiss with Summer and Chyna, which he hid from his partner, Indiyah.
Afterwards, Dami was trying to manipulate Indiyah and Summer, to take their attention away from his actions. When Summer called Dami out for leading her on and saying that he shouldn’t have gotten so intimate with her if he still liked Indiyah so much, Dami called Summer fake and told her to shut up.
The sexist double standards were especially apparent during ‘Movie Night’. Whenever something bad the boys have done was shown, Luca was constantly laughing, joking and backing the boys. However, when something bad the girls have done was shown, even though what the boys did were much worse, Luca was instantly blaming the girls. This shows the sexist double standards, where the girls are judged for doing the minimum and the boys can get away with doing much worse.
For example, during ‘Movie Night’, Luca called Dami’s three-way kiss with Summer and Chyna friendly, but he got really angry over Gemma’s flirty banter with Billy. In another example, Luca was annoyed with Gemma for licking and dancing on other boys during the ‘Mile High’ challenge, even though that was the point of the challenge, all the girls were doing similar things and it was literally only a challenge. Luca’s constant overprotective and controlling behaviour towards Gemma, when she hasn’t done anything to break his trust, is problematic and misogynistic.
In addition, the fact that Luca said “I don’t want a bird no one fancies,” after watching the ‘Movie Night’ clip of Gemma and Billy, objectifies Gemma, and the fact that all the boys were saying that Billy wouldn’t have flirted with Gemma if he didn’t think he had a chance reinforces an unrealistic victim-blaming narrative.
The boys constantly made disrespectful comments toward the girls
In general, the boys, especially Luca, Dami and Jacques, have spoken disrespectfully about the girls, especially Tasha and Ekin-Su, often behind their backs. Luca and Dami have been constantly and obsessively picking on and bullying Tasha, undermining her genuineness towards her relationship with Andrew, just because she got to know other people who wanted to get to know her. For example, Luca continued to make snarky comments to her while she was crying, and he kept shouting “Tasha Who!” while a clip of Tasha’s partner Andrew kissing Coco was being shown.
Tasha has been painted out to be evil just because new boys wanted to get to know her and she talked to them, whereas Andrew ended up doing much worse by kissing Coco multiple times and even getting sexually intimate with her. Yet, the boys have kept on making comments about Tasha as if her actions have been worse than Andrew.
The boys on the show (and even many viewers) have insisted that what Andrew did in ‘Casa Amor’ is not so bad and acceptable just because Andrew was angry and hurt by what other girls said about Tasha. However, it is actually worse that Andrew used Coco and hurt her feelings, as well as tried to hurt Tasha through this, just because he was feeling insecure and hurt.
The fact that this may show that he has feelings for Tasha doesn’t make his actions more acceptable, in fact, it does the opposite. Getting to know someone else in order to hurt other people and make yourself better is surely worse than getting to know someone else because you might have a connection with them.
During Ekin-Su and Davide’s relationship, Ekin did make a mistake by kissing Jay and then lying about it, but this happened only three days after they were first coupled up and when Davide was saying that he wasn’t feeling the connection with Ekin-Su and was acting cold towards her. Because of this mistake, Davide thinks that it is okay for him to disrespect her, even though he kissed two other girls during Casa Amor after he and Ekin-Su had rekindled their romance. It might be difficult for Davide to gain that trust back, which is understandable.
However, this doesn’t give him the right to constantly be disrespectful towards her and make snarky comments about her behind her back to the boys, such as calling her a heavyweight. Moreover, when a clip of his comment was shown during ‘Movie Night’ and Ekin-Su asked what it meant and whether it was a reference to her weight, all the boys just laughed in response.
Billy was sexually intimate with Danica, even though he knew that he didn’t have romantic feelings for her, and the day after they were intimate, he didn’t kiss or marry her in the ‘Snog, Marry, Pie’ challenge. Instead, he told her afterwards that he saw her more as a friend. He also told all the boys about their sexual interactions without asking Danica. When Danica confronted him to explain how he made her feel and how he was acting disrespectful, he barely let her talk and was gaslighting her – calling her crazy and dramatic, even though she was sticking up for herself.
Considering Love Island is a reality show, the misogyny it involves can reflect the misogyny that exists in society.
If men can be this disrespectful and controlling towards women when thousands of people are watching them, what do they act like when they are in private?
Moreover, the fact that these behaviours are shown on television without being called out enough portrays very dangerous images for the public to watch. The sexist nature of these behaviours is especially never addressed and most of the time the girls eventually forgive these abusive behaviours and take the boys back.
This gives the message to boys watching that they can act as disrespectful and abusive as they want, and they will not get major consequences and gives the message to girls watching that boys will be boys and they should accept these toxic and sexist behaviours.
Therefore, we need to be aware and critical of these issues while being entertained by all the drama that happens, because often the drama stems from sexist actions.
About the author
Meril Taseli is a 23-year-old, Cypriot journalist, who has recently graduated from MSc Gender, Media and Culture at LSE and previously from BA European Social and Political Studies at UCL.
Her writing interest areas include feminism and pop culture, including TV, films and music, and gender, sexuality and politics.