Sadly, gaslighting defines our dating lives right now
When I think of gender inequality, that big, drooling beast, I envisage it split into two categories. There’s the macro, the big issues, like the gender pay gap, or horrifically high rates of sexual assault.
Then there’s the micro, the smaller indignities that provide a daily background energy drain, like leaving your TV plugged on standby. A lack of female icons on bank notes. Hearing the shrill of a wolf whistle pierce the air as you go about your business. Being constantly lied to by the men in your romantic life…
Love Island 2019 has been particularly defined by romantic lies and gaslighting. First there was Yewande, who spent days politely asking Danny to hold off with his grand declarations of commitment, just until their relationship had progressed further. He didn’t heed this, continued to assure her that his head couldn’t be turned, only for it to be completely spun when a model named Arabella strutted into the villa.
Yewande ended up being dumped, but not before having a calmly furious conversation with Danny about the various untruths he’d spun her. She made explicit requests, saying Danny shouldn’t make promises he couldn’t keep. Leaving the villa, the 23 year-old refused to forgive the betrayal, telling Danny: “What goes around, comes around.”
Occurring in parallel, was the saga of Maura and Tom. Tom, a model from Manchester, was ill-matched with the Irish model from the start: she had spark and he did not.
Necessity drove them together however and upon Maura – a viewer favourite for her refreshingly open attitude to her own sexuality – being awarded a night in the Hideaway (aka private bedroom), she was all prepared to pick Tom – until she caught him telling to boys that it would be “interesting to see if she was all mouth”, when it came to sex.
Tom lied at first, saying he’d only been repeating a question the other boys had asked him, then he buckled due to Maura’s ire and grovelled. Generously, she granted him a second chance to get back into her good books.
Immediately, he squandered the opportunity by branding her ‘OTT’, ‘loud’, and ‘cringy’ to his mate, Jordan. Jordan promptly told his partner, Anna. Anna then promptly told her best mate Maura that something had been uttered but refused to divulge exactly what. Maura, of course, confronted Tom.
“Nah, nothing’s wrong,” he assured her, upon being asked if he was unhappy with the relationship progression between them.
Unconvinced, Maura went straight to the real source, Jordan, who squealed out the whole sorry truth. She went ballistic; called Tom a “bare-faced f*cking liar,” and proceeded to cut things off with him altogether.
“Why can’t people just be honest?” she later sobbed in the diary room. “I was cheated on, I just want someone to be honest with me.”
This is the nub of the issue. What stings about the situations Yewande and Maura found themselves in was not the actions per se, hurtful as they were. It was the lack of respect shown by their male partners by not giving them the dignity of the truth – even when directly asked.
In previous years, little sympathy has been shown for female contestants who find themselves deceived by their partners. It was just “the game.”
But there’s been a sea change in mainstream feminist thought that’s even permeated the walls of the Love Island villa. So when Yewande and Maura suffered the pain of being lied to, being made to feel like fools and then informed they were overreacting (that old hysterical woman trope just won’t die), the other girls were there to say “Urm… no?”
Amber and Anna took Danny to task over his behaviour, explaining repeatedly that, actually, saying one thing and doing another is the definition of a lie. Michael too, backed them up. “You got her to open up and then just shoved it back in her face…” he said, branding the behaviour: “proper dickheady.”
Tommy Fury registered the inherent wrong.
“See what it looks like to everyone -” he told Danny slowly, assessing the lay of the land “- is that you’ve lied.”
As for Maura, she found a united front in every other woman in villa. When Tom tried to deny his initial “all mouth” comment, he was quickly shut down.
“It was a question,” he bleated, pathetically.
“How was it a question?” asked Amy, while Amber reiterated that whatever it was, he “said it” and should have just admitted it instead of trying to weasel out of the situation. Similarly, when Tom found himself in hot water for a second time thanks to his tendency to omit the truth, he was also met with an unyielding reception from the girls – and Jordan.
“You said it though mate,” said Jordan, when Tom tried to rewrite history.
Look, I don’t have answers about why people lie to one another when they’re dating, why they make false promises and go out of their way to convince them the sky is green. It is men doing it in the manner I’m discussing here, but everyone can be guilty of it.
One friend told me it’s because “it’s reverse psychology,” whereas another simply said “We want to be liked but then get scared we’ve overcommitted.” Sad!
Regardless, in the past this casual treatment of the truth has been allowed to flourish and run unchecked. If a woman was ghosted by a man, she would most probably sit there and take it, fretting over the incident to friends but never actually calling out the ghoster in question for his behaviour.
If she found herself being lied to on what seemed a minor level, she would probably forgive it. Passing comments about her sexuality might sting but they would be let go – usually due to the fear that to make a fuss would be to render her shrewish and unlikeable in the man’s eyes. Now however, times have changed.
Small acts of disrespect add up, we’ve realised. On Love Island we’re seeing a new generation of women in action; the ones in their early 20s who’ve grown up with only very hazy memories of when feminism was a dirty word in the Western world.
They recognise that in a romantic partnership, telling the truth is the most basic level of respect. If that’s not happening, even on a small level, don’t excuse it; get out as soon as possible. And if your other half is insistent on denying the reality you perceive, pray you too are surrounded with a group of sunburned, horny singles who can confirm you’re not going mad – you’re just being gaslighted.