Don’t knock Love Island – it’s teaching a generation about respect

Viewers who saw Maura stand up to Tom after his misguided comments - or have watched the way Anton treats his female friends - may learn some important lessons, says Emma Powell

Maura Love Island ©ITV

I’m not going to let anyone talk about me like a piece of garbage.” Meet Maura.

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The Irish grid girl this week took the baton from 2018’s Rosie Williams when she confronted Tom in front of their fellow Islanders, and the nation, over a snide comment he made about her being “all mouth” ahead of their night in the Hideaway.

In a twist more excruciatingly painful than a Shakespearean tragedy, Maura overheard the comment and proceeded to brand him a “dickhead” who she told to “go f*** yourself”.  

For all the stick Love Island gets – some of it rightly so when it comes to diversity and body types – what you can’t ignore is how much the show highlights, intentionally or not, the lack of respect some men have for women.

“We’re in 2019. Why is it such a big deal when a girl talks about sex? Why is it such a big deal?” Maura asked. “Me talking about sex doesn’t mean I’m going to jump on top of you.” 

Quite right.

Tom’s massive faux pas was assuming he had the authority to make that remark about Maura because she hasn’t shied away from talking about how much she loves a flirt and enjoys sex. But somehow her refreshing honesty has led the boys to assume she would never say no. 

Viewers were treated to a similar lesson in respect when Rosie became the bastion of female empowerment after dragging Adam Collard last year. The Geordie lad bad-mouthed Rosie to Megan Barton Hanson as he tried and failed to make a move on her before making out that Rosie had pushed him away when she confronted him.

Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid accused Adam of “gaslighting” – emotionally manipulating someone to alter their perception of events. The show faced accusations of depicting emotional abuse for entertainment – but it also highlighted that gaslighting happens.

Love Island is a microcosm, albeit heightened, of the dating landscape. It’s a cultural talking point which provides a platform to discuss and question certain behaviours by holding a mirror up to all of us.

A recent survey carried out by charity Brook and student service Dig-In found that 56% of the UK students who took part had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour including “inappropriate touching, explicit messages, cat-calling, being followed and, or being forced into sex or sexual acts”. 

With impressionable teens and students making up the show’s primary demographic (16-34-year olds), watching toxic relationships and unacceptable comments play out on screen could motivate us to call out the perpetrators and question our own behaviour.

It’s important to make clear that this isn’t a disgruntled rant at men, because Love Island by no means stereotypes all men as being incapable of respecting women – or all women as whiter than white.

Unlucky-in-love singleton Anton has spent so much time mediating and making cups of tea that he appears to have forgotten the aim of the show.

Meanwhile, Maura may have been lauded for her take down of Tom, but it must also be noted that her awkward attempts to seduce Tommy were an invasion of his space and quite frankly uncomfortable to watch.  

Love Island episode 9 - Rosie Williams
Rosie Williams took on Adam Collard after he bad-mouthed her and hit on another Islander in 2018 (ITV)

And the treatment of Lucie by the girls who seem incapable of understanding male-female friendships, Amber and Anna’s cringeworthy heckling of Maura and Elma, and their childish dismissal of Danny after he kissed Arabella, may force some viewers to question their own bitchy behaviour.

Love Island is in no way a behavioural code of conduct or the Bible for how relationships should blossom – the process can be savage, with existing Islanders dropped for incoming bombshells, and couples ripped apart more frequently than Anton’s mother shaves his behind. But don’t be so quick to shelve it as nothing more than entertainment.

As Rosie herself said: “I’m not just doing this for me. I’m doing this for every girl that’s been played.” 

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Love Island continues weeknights and Sundays at 9pm on ITV2