Women being judged for how many people they’ve bedded, while their male counterparts are celebrated for their conquests, is nothing new.
Sexism is a tale as old as time, but while we live in an increasingly liberal world, there still seems to be a consensus that a woman’s worth decreases as her sexual partner count rises. Meanwhile, if you own a penis, notches on the bed post are congratulated because, you know, boys will be boys and all that.
If you ever need confirmation that this kind of archaic sexism still exists, all you need to do is watch Love Island, where women are berated for having slept with a mere 11 people, while the men often brag about bedding upwards of 200 women and no one bats a bloody eyelid.
Despite this year being relatively pale in comparison to previous series (we’ll never ever forget Emma-Jane Woodham riding Terry Walsh like a cowgirl with the covers off in full display of the other islanders, soz guys), sex is still at the forefront of the islanders and the public’s minds.
In the very first game of the series, which was aptly called Sliding Into The DMs, the islanders were covered in oil and shoved down a slide into a pool of gunge, before being asked to kiss whichever islander a secret belonged to.
Of course, half the secrets consisted of the islanders revealing how many people they’d slept with, furthering the idea that body count is an important part of who you are as a person.
* Spoiler alert: It doesn’t matter if you’ve slept with five people or 500 people, it’s quite literally no one else’s business. *
The first revelation came when it was revealed Yewande Biala had slept with just one person – something which didn’t seem to come as a surprise to any of the islanders.
Later in the game, a secret was revealed to belong to Amy Hart, that read: ‘I’ve slept with 11 people but can only remember the names of nine,’ to which Anton Danyluk replied: ‘That is awful, man.’
Fast forward a month and a half, and the islanders are playing their own poorly masked version of Mr and Mrs, in which the girls were asked: ‘How many people have your boys slept with?’
Belle Hassan earned herself a point when she correctly guessed Anton had slept with ‘around 60’ people, and I can’t help but question, can you remember the names of all of those 60, Anton? I very much doubt it, and that really would be ‘awful’, wouldn’t it?
In the Beach Hut, Anton later told an unamused Belle ‘no matter how many people I’ve slept with, it’s only you who’s going to reap the benefits of that,’ proving the point that men are seemingly bettering themselves and their skill set by sleeping with as many people as possible, while prospective sexual partners should be grateful for all the moves they’ve learned.
I’m calling bullsh*t on this outdated, old fashioned and quite frankly ridiculous sexism that belongs in the past, along with with arranged marriages and women not being able to work.
Sex is sex, and while I’m no mathematician, when it comes to heterosexual relationships, it takes two (at least) to tango, usually one man and woman, which means berating women for engaging in the same activity we’re celebrating in men is not only ridiculous, but nonsensical. Somewhere along the line, the numbers just don’t add up, which means we can’t win.
When Maura Higgins, who I must say is an absolute f*cking legend, entered the villa, the nation was in absolute turmoil over her open and frank attitude toward sex.
A few weeks later, Maura and Tom Walker, who she was coupled up with at the time, were invited to spend the night in the hideaway, prompting Tom to joke ‘let’s see if she’s all talk’ to the lads, despite the grid girl admitting she’d only slept with six people in the past.
Maura quite rightly kicked the f*ck off and pointed out that a woman expressing her sexual desire doesn’t make her easy, prompting a national conversation about women’s sexuality.
Sex and relationship expert Lucy Beresford told UNILAD:
The more women who are seen to speak out, who like Maura, publicly embrace their sexual confidence, who champion other women who do the same, and who also call out any slut-shaming the more we will see attitudes change.
We learn about the world by copying others, so we just need to see more sexually confident women embracing their sexual potency.
I think Love Island is doing a fabulous job highlighting what is and isn’t acceptable. In doing so, the show enables conversations which challenge the status quo and champion equality in sexual desire.
The take-down of Tom slut-shaming Maura sparked a national debate about why lads think it’s okay to speak about women in such a humiliating way.
It’s fashionable to criticise the show, but my deep fascination with it is precisely because none of us is born knowing how to conduct relationships, so shows like this give us the chance to pick up cues and acquire knowledge about how to (and just as importantly, how not to) conduct our intimate relationships.
But how do we move on from these ageing stereotypes and achieve sexual gender equality once and for all?
Lucy, who regularly appears as an agony aunt on This Morning, continued:
We need to harness women championing the beauty and potency of sex to show how female sex isn’t threatening to other men and women, but empowering to all. It’s what I try to do in my broadcasting work the whole time, and my new podcast is about having such conversations.
As a society we need to become much more comfortable with the idea of anyone having sex, not just women.
In my work as a Sex & Relationships host on radio, it’s clear that many women are nervous about owning their own sexual desires, and that many men often feel threatened by a sexually confident woman, fearing that this will in some way emasculate them.
Schools and the government are terrified about how they teach children at school about sex – they worry they will make children promiscuous.
Instead, what we’re doing is raising generations of people scared to embrace not only their own desires, but also the desires of others.
I’d love to see more work in schools discussing topics like masturbation, desire, sensuality, and self-awareness alongside other important issues such as consent.
There’s absolutely no denying the fact Love Island encourages conversations about sex and relationships, and quite frankly, there needs to be more women like Maura at the forefront of entertainment, teaching women it’s absolutely okay to be confident about your sexuality.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.