Opinion: Love Island’s new masculinity is plain old misogyny

Love Island, ‘new’ masculinity and the tears of young men | Soho House

Are this year’s tears for real or just a smokescreen for destructive, delusional and coercive behaviour?

Saturday 23 July   By George Chesterton

There’s nothing particularly special about the current group of men on Love Island. And that’s the problem. What they provide is a glimpse of the template that shapes young men in the post #MeToo world. Which is pretty much the same as the pre #MeToo world – only with added tears.
So why isn’t the sight of a young man crying and showing his sensitive side a welcome sign of change? The psychology of many young men now inhabits the worst of all worlds – a combination of pre-historic misogyny and ultra-modern emotional incontinence. 

Pressure from the entirely justified militancy of women and the cultural fetishisation of mental health issues (i.e. talking about them rather than tackling them) has left many young men feeling obliged to express their feelings. The trouble is, they are feelings of angry children. Love Island has a well-documented problematic history with mental health issues, but it’s a fair guess that this is not solely to do with the unforgiving nature of social media.
On Love Island, the (admittedly contrived) psychodramas of jealousy, paranoia and fear of rejection are played out over emosh music with sad lyrics sung in a baby voice. There’s no need to single anyone out, but at least three of the ‘boys’ have been heard grizzling at a perceived injustice. As episode after episode inside the Villa and Casa Amor rolled on with the grinding repetition of a shift in a high-street nail salon, it became clear it’s the young men who are the most destructive and delusional.
Let me be the 10,000th person to exclusively reveal that men bottle up their emotions and are always told to be tough. Love Island shows how a lot of young men can’t decide whether to be tough or open up. A combination of the two is just awful. For the men, birds are still birds, loyalty only works one way and double standards come as standard. It’s the boys who talk of being ‘authentic’ and ‘saying what everyone else is thinking’, which is code for sulking and manipulation.

Love Island, ‘new’ masculinity and the tears of young men | Soho House

A shiny young man walks into the Villa proclaiming his alpha status and within a few days he’s crying that an act of ‘betrayal’ by a woman he’s known for at least two minutes has left him mortally wounded. This is Love Island, mate, not Tristan and Isolde.
Women’s charities Refuge and Women’s Aid have raised the subject of misogyny in this series of Love Island already, alleging that the men are exhibiting signs of coercive behaviour. Criticism of how Luca, Dami, Jacques and Andrew have interacted with the women has been growing. Women’s Aid also claimed that Adam, who appeared in series four as well as this one, showed signs of gaslighting a previous contestant.
It’s absurd to make a categorical link between the show and the broader challenges of gender relations, but there is a tangential one. Love Island is not a fantasy. It’s a game of exaggeration and if you roll back that exaggeration you will find an accurate portrait of the prevailing male mindset. For while we have made some progress among the young on racism and homophobia, with allies and self-policing making overt prejudice less prevalent, this is not the case with misogyny.
Women face threats at home, at work and on the streets, ranging from everyday sexism to domestic abuse and sexual assault. You can see why feminists feel embattled when there is so much emphasis placed on righting historic structural prejudices and injustice, while the fight against misogyny remains at the back of the queue. 

Love Island, ‘new’ masculinity and the tears of young men | Soho House

That is in no way to suggest the men on Love Island have anything to do with the heavy stuff, but their attitudes do add weight to the evidence – statistical and anecdotal – that the majority of young men today see women in much the same way they did 25 or even 50 years ago. 

It’s accepted that boys are always less mature (I don’t think I was a ‘real’ adult until I was 35), but what we are talking about here is an infantilisation that has created a new version of men in whom misogyny has not been usurped by emotional openness, but enhanced by it.
I once interviewed therapists who specialised in abusive male behaviour and they revealed that in their practices they found a correlation between the misogyny and self-pity of their patients. In other words, the more abusive a man is the more likely he is to end up curled up on the floor complaining that he’s the victim.

Did these lads not mean to go on Love Island? Perhaps they sent off their application videos for the celibacy workshop of their local Augustinian monastery (introductory seminar: ‘Women are the root of all evil’) and it ended up on the desks of ITV Studio producers by mistake. 
Ideally, at some point one of the men will shout ‘I’ve got a text!’ and read out: ‘Boys, the public have decided that crying doesn’t automatically make you a sympathetic character’ #stopbeingsuchababy #womenarenotfromvenus. Then they can all go back to making connections and doing that creepy thing when they touch each other’s faces when they’re kissing. It’s just a reality show. You shouldn’t read too much into it. 

If you need support on any of the issues here, contact the national domestic abuse helpline, run by refuge.org.uk

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