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Image / Editorial

Love Island’s Maura gives a masterclass in how to deal with slut-shaming


by Erin Lindsay
24th Jun 2019

An ode to Maura, the unlikeliest of heroes from this year’s Love Island.


As a previously staunch abstainer from all things Love Island, I was as surprised as anyone to find myself hooked on 2019’s series. What started as a casual observation from the sidelines has now turned into a fully-fledged dedication, with weekday evenings at 9 pm benchmarked for laughing (and mostly cringing) at the villa’s residents.

I can’t pretend that the show isn’t everything I had previously thought it to be — vacuous, self-obsessed, often problematic — but many things actually pleasantly surprised me about Love Island; namely, the Longford-born unlikely fan favourite, Maura Higgins, who has won the hearts of the UK and Ireland, with her straight-talking, sex-positive and craic-filled personality.

Maura, who was a late addition to the Love Island villa, has been praised as ‘saving the show’ this year, which had been a particularly uneventful series before her arrival. From her first night, Maura was completely uninterested in being palatable to the public and was not afraid to be honest about her intentions in the house, however X-rated. Her unabashed honesty and confidence about her sexuality took many viewers aback at first, but has now cemented her as one of the best characters of the series, with fans praising her candour and refreshing lack of shame around sex and relationships — a topic that is all too often seen as crude or vulgar when being discussed by women.

‘Flirty banter’

But before we go any further in praising Maura as some sort of an example in modern feminism, I have to address the elephant in the room; Maura’s behaviour towards Tommy. The Irish contestant did not initially enter the villa to a warm reception from fans, as the over-the-top stalking of her prey (namely, fellow contestant Tommy Fury) attracted outrage — a particular incident involving Tommy physically dodging kisses as Maura lay on top of him was undoubtedly a low point.

Let me be clear; non-consensual sexual acts are never acceptable, and Maura’s behaviour towards Tommy was not okay. As sex-positive and honest as she is, it does not give her an excuse to force herself on someone, and although she may pass it off as flirty banter, the social media mob’s point still stands — if the roles were reversed, and a man had forced himself on top of a woman in the house in the name of flirting, it would be absolutely unacceptable, and Maura should be no different.

“That was a d*ckhead comment”

But while Maura’s overtly sexual personality does not give her the freedom to pressure someone into sex, it also does not give others the freedom to label or slut-shame her. On last night’s episode,  Maura was given the chance to spend a night in a separate villa alone with her current Love Island partner Tom. While both were excited to finally get some alone time, Tom took it upon himself to give it the big one and indulge in some typically vomit-inducing laddish behaviour with the other men in the house (presumably making the most of the most airtime he’s been given in over a week).

As Maura called Tom over for a chat before their night in the villa, Tom turned to the rest of the male cast and said: “let’s see if she’s all mouth” — incredibly believing that Maura would not hear, or worse still, assuming that she wouldn’t react.

But react she did — Maura immediately confronted Tom and delivered one of the best lines in the series as a rebuttal: “Go f*ck yourself”. TV gold, and a masterclass in confronting misogyny. Watch the entire clip here:

Apart from being absolutely delighted that Tom’s cringe-worthy ‘swagger’ was sliced in half by a take-no-shit Irish woman, I also had an internal cheer for this small example of shutting down slut-shaming. Maura is a very sexual person, it’s true, but in no world does that mean that her body is open season for every man she smiles at. Talking about sex is not the same as having sex — and having sex is not the same as ‘being a slut’. She is under no obligation to sleep with anyone, especially when they blatantly disrespect her in front of a captive audience.

Banter and flirting is one thing, but publicly slagging a girl off for being sexual, and then assuming that you’ll get away with it, is a very important lesson for male viewers of the show. Tom dived headfirst into the ‘lad’ stereotype that, in 2019, should be dead and buried — and last night, Maura happily grabbed the shovel.

I’m not saying that Maura is some beacon of modern feminism for telling a silly man to go f*ck himself — it’s hardly the Female Eunuch here. But with a viewership of almost 4 million people, many of them teenagers, it does give a lesson in the importance of not tolerating slut-shaming in any form. Women like Maura will always be shamed by men — but hopefully, last night’s episode will inspire them to be a little less polite about it.


Read more: I watched ‘Love Island’ for the first time and here’s what I thought…

Read more: The real reason we are so addicted to Love Island

Read more: The Hills is getting a reboot and we feel weirdly emotional about it

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