Watching the new series of ITV2’s bleakly satisfying Love Island, it’s clear that sex has changed since I was a single man. I’m 25 and have been in a relationship for five years, living in each other’s pockets like penny change, and thoroughly enjoying every second of our long term, love struck life. However, I can’t help but look hungrily at the screen, craving the reality of their ‘scripted reality’, whilst thinking to myself “What happened to my youth?”
If you are yet to see Love Island, then here is the low down: a collection of impossibly good looking individuals, some grotesquely posh, some overbearingly ‘ordinary’, are marooned on an island stocked only with the bare essentials - torrents of prosecco, and a luxury villa haunted by cameras that watch their every waking indulgence, and sexual deed. If they pair up, they stay in. If they don’t, they are packed off back to actual reality. Tough Love.
If, like me, this sounds like the kind of sci-fi madness you want a piece of, then we are in the same boat; drifting in a lonely sea of stable relationships, looking back at a cocksure mainland hell bent on hedonism, and hitting double digits. If it wasn’t for that pesky ‘Person I love’ who snared me, then who knows? I could well be harbouring a 12 pack abdomen, in place of the multipack, margarine tub one I’m sitting with right now.
Still firmly in my mid twenties, I never dreamed that, in place of living it up in a sun drenched villa, sexing my way to infinity in a glass walled pool, I would instead be buried alive in a second hand sofa, loosing my hair, whilst watching other, more attractive 25 year olds living the dream.
I am awestruck by the contestants’ complete lack of anxiety when it comes to negotiating sex. Since my bachelor years it appears that the art of courting has evolved substantially. To the bright young love islanders flirting plays out like the acquisition of a used car. I revel as they list conquests like spotted trains without justification or excuse. When they casually shift from one bod to another with no hint of paranoia, guilt or shame, I scream at the TV like a millennial King Lear, consumed by confusion at the world erupting around me.
These Love Island pioneers have done away with the agonising etiquette of flirting to the point where they can simply enjoy the act. And after all, in this shining digital age, why would anyone not want to have sex that wasn’t shaped up nice by an editor’s busy scissors, then broadcast to the nation? How then would anyone know it had happened? How else would my lover and I remember the act in the autumn of our love?
My only recourse is to think that, unlike mine, their relationships are shallow, and unfulfilling; that when my own tryst inevitably breaks down, and I dent a locket or punch plaster board, it’s a sign that I just cannot help but love hard, and too damn fast!
But, alas, they’ve even bettered me here; when the islanders own toned heartstrings snap, they bawl and wail like feral animals, so eaten up by passion and lies that it puts my lengthy, break-up emails to shame.
I suppose this is the modern world, and I should therefore get used to Modern Love. Though actually, in truth, I think the fleeting, casual ‘cracks’ of the Island, are not modern at all, but as archaic as anything inked up by Austen. Sex, love & marriage as simple transactions, future business opportunities or grips for the social climb. The wealth, and media opps’ these contestants pocket post-show is evidence enough that it pays to lay, and that it is not bad business to get ‘involved’ whilst sunning yourself senseless on ITV2.
Perhaps this is my last bastion of hope? That these past five years of my happy, ordinary coupling have not been in vein….Oh, but I yearn!