Im eternally grateful Snapchat didnt exist when I was meeting boys in the park

Im eternally grateful Snapchat didnt exist when I was meeting boys in the park

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With over 140k Instagram followers, Lala is the anonymous voice helping womankind through every bump in the road. An established sex, dating and relationship educator, she’s had her fair share of relationship drama and shares her wisdom on social media to a loyal army of followers.

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It’s 9.30pm and I’ve got Love Island on in the background. Currently they are completing a task, the women are all dressed as sexy police officers whilst the men are wearing normal swimming shorts.

The women have to strip off whilst doing a writhing routine in water before awkwardly picking a man to handcuff and grope. At this precise moment I’m watching a woman rub a man’s penis through his swimming trunks while the rest of the cast looks on going ‘wooohoo’.

It’s so incredibly cringey, I’m finding it hard to watch. It feels a bit seedy. I’m a thirty-nine-year-old mother and some of these people are young enough to be my children. There is something uncomfortable about watching in on them playing cheesy sex games. It’s ‘chaldish’.

I am very open about sex. I think sex is great and I am not judgemental about what people get up to in the bedroom – no kink shaming round here. However, the spring break, Club 18-30, drink loads and shag as many people as possible, vomit on yourself then kiss twenty strangers, lad culture attitude to sex makes me balk.

For many, it’s seen as a rite of passage, a period of sexual liberation and empowerment. But I don’t believe that it’s a culture that serves or empowers heterosexual women very well. It’s a lad culture that praises quantity over quality and sees women as conquests, using women’s bodies to masturbate with rather than to give pleasure to.

Casual sex in Magaluf or Marbella carries far more risk than reward for women. Not least because of unwanted pregnancy and STIs, but because society still judges women for their sexual history in very different ways to men.

One of the biggest things in life that I am thankful for is the fact that my teenage years happened before camera phones and social media existed. I was making my main sexual mistakes with a pager in my pocket.

I am eternally grateful that Snapchat didn’t exist when I was getting fingered in the park. I feel like making the decision to go on Love Island when you’re 20 means that you won’t be wholly aware of the fact that when you’re 40 you might not want to have footage of you all over the internet having sex on camera. What happens on an 18-30s holiday should stay on an 18-30s holiday, but instead it is now glorified every night on mainstream TV.

I would not sit in a bar in Kavos watching a bunch of people stripping or simulating blow jobs all around me. I would run out of that bar so fast (but not before giving them all a lecture on safe sex, consent, and the orgasm gap). So why am I watching it on TV? It’s kind of painful to watch. And it’s even more painful to know that teenagers are watching on believing that it’s aspirational and that this is how you have to behave if you want fame and money, or to be popular with your crush.

But I don’t actually think that the cringey sex tasks are the most damaging thing about it for young people. I think that the harm runs far deeper than that. The body image thing is an obvious one. We have all seen the huge impact that The Kardashians have had on the way that the world views women’s bodies, the rise of BBL bum surgery and lip fillers is highly connected to the way that the Kardashian family are worshipped, we know that TV and media has a major impact on how people view themselves.

The women on love Island have nearly all had cosmetic work done – there is a lot of lip filler in that house. But not one of the men appears to have had anything done to their lips.

The men are OK with a bit of gym and a haircut, whilst the women are covered in hair extensions, fake tan, make up and Botox. The effort made by the women to attract men is not matched by the men, and there is something sad about that. Not that I want a man with fake lashes and a weave, it’s just a bit grim that we’re still in a time where men can just be themselves whilst TV shows us that we have to enhance in order to be considered beautiful.

Nobody is bigger than a size 10 in the house and none of them wear very many clothes. I know that if I was 20 and watching hot men constantly talk about their type being petite, I would have upped my gym levels and skipped a couple of meals.

It’s not over the top to say that the glorification of one body type can lead to disordered eating and exercise, for both boys and girls. The girls are all obsessed with how tall and muscly the men are – they appear to prioritise that above anything else.

Obsessive gym use and steroid abuse also fall into the category of eating disorders. It effects boys to see one body image being touted as perfect just as much as it effects girls. The lack of diversity is stark, and it’s harmful.

The way they treat Black women is also painful to watch. There are currently two incredibly beautiful Black women in the house Kaz and Rachel, but they have put them in there with a group of men who say that their preferred type is ‘blondes and brunettes’. There are millions of men whose preference is dark skinned Black women, but if you don’t put any of them in the house then you are setting the Black women up to fail.

It would be very easy for the producers to make sure that they know what people’s dating preferences are before going into the house. It would be very easy to find men who would choose Black women over blonde, white women any day of the week, so why not do it? Why put the Black women through the humiliation of not being picked?

As I write this, the weird sexy police officer task ‘Line of Booty’ has just finished, and it has ended in humiliation for a man called Hugo. Hugo is the nice guy of the house, the one who seems more interested in women’s intelligence than their bodies, the sweet kind one. The one who is inevitably the least popular in the house and who therefore shows young men that being the respectful man doesn’t pay off.

During the task the women had to pick a man to grope and kiss. Some men were picked by two different women, but Hugo was picked by no one. The task ended with all the boys locked in a jail cell except Hugo. Hugo was stood alone by the railings feeling the rejection of every woman in the house. He mentioned how humiliating it felt. It was horrible to watch.

The humiliation and rejection seem to be a core part of the show though. Social media starts buzzing about how exciting Love Island is getting when things start kicking off in the house, or when someone gets dumped in favour of someone else.

When they’re all getting along people find it boring, but when the producers are pitting them against each other and people are clearly having their feelings hurt, everyone gets hooked. Why are we like this? Why are we interested in seeing other people’s pain?

We say it’s only a game and that they knew what they were signing up for, and that it’s not that deep. But it is that deep, these are real people. People who will no doubt come out to fame and money, but also to a life of trolling and hate for the way they behaved in the house, for the way they look, and for pretty much anything they do from here on in.

Three people who were associated with Love Island have died by suicide after being on the show. Caroline Flack, Mike Thalassitis, and Sophie Gradon. And whilst it was mental health that killed all three of those people, it was mental ill health that was exacerbated by the pressure of fame that comes with being on the show.

Media circuses and constant public denigration that eventually got too much. The same people who were posting ‘Be Kind’ for 6 weeks after Caroline’s tragic death are now back to tweeting about how much they hate certain contestants. The family of one of the current contestants, Chloe, who has become unpopular because she is going after coupled up men, have had to release a statement because of the trolling and death threats that she has been receiving.

The worst thing about it is that she has probably been set up and encouraged to behave in that way. That’s another reason why I dislike Love island – if the only good reason to watch it is to observe the psychology and dynamics of people thrown into that situation – then the fact that a lot of it is manipulated by producers means that we aren’t observing anything interesting at all apart from the inner workings of the producer’s minds.

I spoke to an ex-Love Islander who said: "It is staged, not completely but it isn’t genuine at all. You are made to ‘re do’ scenes. The producers have words with you and basically prompt you on how to act/what to do next… and this was even back in an early season, so it’s probably a lot worse now!

"They manipulate you/push you into saying things that sound shocking and dramatic. Hence that girl who has gone viral this season already for saying she had an affair with her boss, she definitely would have been pressured into that as it’s juicy.

"I literally cried every night I was on there, I kept saying I wanted to leave, I was miserable, and the producers kept telling me everything was fine, it wasn’t that bad blah blah. Basically, kept me on there when I was so sad and then I just so happened to get ‘dumped off the island’ about two days later.

"They don’t care about anything other than making good headlines and viewing figures. I had to have a warning before I was handed back my phone at how much hate and trolling I got online… I was just a naive 20 year old. I got no support whatsoever after the show finished.

"The abuse online was mainly from women making fun of my looks. I suffered really badly with body dysmorphia after the show and ended up on anti-depressants and in long term therapy.

"When you google my name, all you can see is stuff about my Love Island days, I wish I could move on from it and make it all go away. If I had known the outcome, I would never have done it."

The thing that I find most surprising is that it is so popular even though we know the harm that it causes. I have amazing, smart, woke friends who tune in every night, and I truly believe that it’s only because everyone else is watching it.

I think that ITV have cleverly created so much social media buzz around Love Island that we end up experiencing FOMO if we choose not to watch. I genuinely cannot believe that anyone over the age of 13 could really find it truly entertaining.

The conversations are banal drivel, like, Boy: “What I look for in a person is someone who can have a laugh.” Girl: “Oh my God, that’s crazy, I like someone who can have a laugh too.” Boy: “That’s mad. Can’t believe we’ve got so much in common.”

We are really out here watching basic conversations, seedy sex tasks, frequent rejection and humiliation manipulated by producers, played out by people who will soon be influencing our kids into buying stuff on the internet, and who are already making our daughters believe that their lips need to touch their noses to be desirable.

Having said all of that, I have watched a few seasons in previous years and got hooked. But something feels different this year. I think that after the sixteen months of hell that we have all been through, the world has changed. We have realised that life is short, and that health is wealth, and that love, and human connection are vital to our survival.

Watching a show that claims to be about love but that is far more about looks, division, and competition, is not really what we need right now. I’m not judging anyone who watches it, but I do think that if we all demanded better from it then we could alleviate some of the harm. I want to see people of all shapes and sizes, ages and races, with different body types and disabilities.

I want to see real love blossom, not contrived hate. I want to hear interesting conversations and to see women lift each other up instead of being encouraged to tear each other down in the pursuit of men. It’s 2021 – we need better than this and we will only get it if we vote with our feet. Take the buzz away from Love Island until it does better.

For more of Lala’s wisdom follow @Lalalaletmeexplain on Instagram.

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