Sun, sea and sexualisation: Love Island's damaging representation

With the rise of 'fanny flutters' and cheeky romps in the hideout, does the sexualisation of those on Love Island aim to empower or dishearten viewers?

Lyndsey Sleator
14th February 2023
Image credit: IMDB
Love Island is back! Let's take a quick trip to the island of bombshells and lap dances to discover if the effects of this "one size does not fit all" model of love and sex: is it more damaging than good?

Whether you are a lover or a hater of the show, you can’t deny that Love Island is everywhere right now. Bombarding both our TV screens and social media with the highly anticipated new cast and presenter Maya Jama, its influence is inescapable. However, with over half of Love Island's viewers being aged 16 to 30, the show's young audience paired with its narrow portrayal of what is "sexy" makes me questions the effects of its sexualisation on its viewers.

From the show's first advertisement presenting Maya Jama on a velvet bull saying "Grab love by the horns", it is clear that this season will follow its predecessors in its sexualisation of those on screen. This is great in many senses! Sex should be something which is celebrated and empowering. TV coverage showing normal conversations about sex such as Maura Higgins' hilarious "fanny flutters" conversation in 2019 are integral in promoting open conversations about a topic which should not be off-limits or "taboo".

conversations about sex are integral in promoting open conversations about a topic which should not be off-limits or "taboo"

And lets be real, who doesn't love watching love and flirty drama on TV? It is clear that the show's concept of sending singles to a swanky villa is part of the show's success. We need this romantic escapism in the gloomy English months of January and February. However, while this year is new in many senses, it has followed its typical tradition of presenting a narrow view of love and sex.

Every year there is a buzz with the reveal of the new cast, and I like many watch in hope of someone who a looks a little more like me. But of course, like every year preceding, these "sexy" singles have no diversity in body shape, leaving viewers with the dangerous message that this body type is the only one deemed desirable or worthy of love.

On the surface, bikinis and topless men on screen is amazing in promoting body positivity, however this is only achieved when all bodies are represented!

Raunchy challenges such as the "heart monitor challenge" where contestants perform a lap dance for the group, further sexualise the contestants, and with a more diverse cast this would be great! However, the lack of diversity, not only regarding body types, but also sexuality and gender, wrongly illuminate that only a picture-perfect female and a toned man are desirable in raising sexual heat - see the problem?

Until Love Island expands its presentation of what is "sexy", the sexualisation of its cast is always going to be problematic. Every type of love and body is sexy. Just as there is no such thing as a "bikini body", there is also no "one size fits all" model of love and sex. Shows such as Love Island need to represent the diversity of the real world more closely: watch with caution!

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