It’s 2018 and Love Island Hysteria has nearly reached it’s climax. By the time I would have published this article, Jack and Dani would have been crowned the winners of Love Island 2018 and Stormzy will be crying in the wings, wondering as to why he didn’t even get a cameo spot in Love Island this season. And while watching a bunch of twenty somethings make out, have sex, fall in love (and in lust) is a major draw to any hit TV show, it is the deeper sociological insight into key evolutionary paradigms such as a ‘reversal in gender roles’, the gendered portrayal of ‘casual dating’ and how we approach the ‘concept of cheating’ and ‘marital affairs’ that makes Love Island all the more fascinating. I suppose I should start from the beginning; hooked from Season 2, I delighted in reveling in the x-rated romps of house mates, blown away by how Love Island transformed from a show that nobody had even heard of, to a full blown phenomenon, where each cast member was guaranteed to get at least 100’s of thousands of followers overnight, channeling their ‘celebrity’ after their season ended to secure booking deals, night club performances, sponsorships with brands and in some cases their own TV shows. We saw Chris and Kem being labelled as the ‘Bromance’ of Season 3 and Jack and Dani being ‘virtually crowned’ the winners of Love Island ’18 before the first week was even over. Despite the trials and tribulations that each couple has faced, it is what Love Island has taught me about casual dating that has surprised me the most.
I was always a ‘relationship type of girl’ from the moment I had first started dating and while I have had ‘hook-ups’ and one night stands, the majority of the sex I have has always been in relationships. Which is why at first, despite my positivity around ‘sex talk’ the concept of casual dating had always been something that I had struggled to understand because I didn’t ‘get’ how people could be satisfied by what I would call a ‘pancake relationship’. Essentially when you go looking for your pancake- irrespective of gender- you are looking for a pancake that resembles what you are looking for in a ‘future relationship’ but with no strings dating, so in a sense they become a practice partner, which was never something I was entirely into. But that’s not to say that others are not into pancake relationships; arguably you could say that Jack Fincham’s ex ‘Ellie Jones’ was a pancake version of Dani, because the qualities that he liked in Ellie i.e. bubbly, friendly and a good sense of humor, was amplified in his future relationship with Dani, who as she quotes ‘was the girl who changed him’, and he admitted to being a bit of a f**kboy at times’, especially in his previous relationship with Ellie. So it seems that not only is Love Island a ‘matchmaker of hearts’ but it also seems that magically capturing f**kboys that try and escape away in their little f**kmobile and transforming them into Princes who give you foot massages seems to be all part of their gameshow. But what has Love Island taught me about Casual Dating?
Casual Dating Can Show You Exactly What You Do And Do Not Want From A Relationship
To me no other girl but Laura Anderson would win ‘friend of the year’, who not only forgave Wes for coupling up with Megan, not only forgave Georgia for Kissing Jack, but also consoled the ‘New Laura’ who supplanted her place in Jack’s affections and remained happy for all the ‘friends’ who had put her through heartache and pain. Which is where casual dating shows you what you don’t want in a relationship; in Wes’s and Jack’s case they highlighted that age and location would stop them from being able to work with ‘Laura’ on the outside, whereas Laura surmised that eventually their immaturity and ‘personality differences’ would have caused more problems in the real world and resulted in the breakdown in the relationship. In this sense Laura’s first two pancake relationships showed her as to what she should try and avoid when trying to romance new boy ‘Paul’ who at 31 was someone she felt was more mature and ‘reliable’ as opposed to 20 year old Wes and 22 year old Jack, who on the outside while ‘funny’ and ‘charming’ might not be the best choices for long term relationships because they are constantly trying to ‘find something that could make them happier. Although in all fairness Wes and Meg do make a sweet couple and are clearly better suited than Laura and Wes were as they share a similar sense of humour, have a physical and emotional attraction and are able to see past each others ‘facades’ or ‘bravados’.
And while Laura has constantly been trolled on social media for being the oldest female at 29- because God forbid that we be allowed to date people who are younger or older than we are- at the same time she has become a symbol of ‘girl power’ who every heartbroken girl can relate to and lord knows I have had my own fair share of f**kboys (although she was far more mature in the way that she handled things than I ever was)! Living vicariously through Laura’s public ‘casual dating break-ups’ has in turn exemplified what I personally look for in a relationship in comparison to if I was casually dating someone. In a relationship I would want someone to look at me the way that Jack looks at Dani, have banter and a physical attraction like Megan and Wes and be able to keep them guessing just like Josh and Kas. I would want someone who is committed to me and only me, who would treat me right and stand by my side through any obstacles. After all isn’t that what any girl is dreaming of?
There Is A Difference Between Casual Dating And Friends With Benefits
As a secret resident mentor at Do Bits Central it is safe to say that I have sampled a range of f**kboys, gentlemen and In-Betweeners during my dating years, but even I did not realize that there was actually a difference between casual dating and friends with benefits, believing that they were one and the same. When you are proposing a ‘Friends With Benefits’ arrangement it is because you are looking for ‘fun’ (or to get your ‘D’ and ‘V’ wet) without the promise or need to think about a relationship on the horizon, whereas casual dating is where you are ‘seeing each other’ because things are heading in the right direction and if ‘things go well’ you will move into the ‘relationship mould’. Take Love Island as an example, arguably we could suggest that Season 2’s Olivia Buckland (now engaged to Alex Bowen) had a friends with benefits arrangement with Rykard, who ended up leaving the villa to be with Rachel, the ‘one he wanted’ all along. Whereas Paul and Laura are ‘casually dating’ because while they have only been together two weeks, they feel like they would like a relationship on the outside and exhibit all the typical traits of a couple i.e. public displays of affection. Basically if your boo is not holding your hand and only wants to get ‘all up in your grill’ when he needs to scratch an itch so to speak, then he is probably not interested in moving into the ‘casual dating’ zone.
Often a good indication of someone who is just interested in being friends with benefits is a lack of interest in your ‘personal life’, the need to get into their ‘shag pad’ as quickly as possible and skipping dinner altogether, downing as many tequila shots as you can possibly fathom before slipping into bed with some guy who is just interested in riding the train all the way to bone town. But what if I want to go to Love Central? Of course there is nothing wrong with casual dating or friends with benefits. As long as you are open and honest with each other, understanding that you are both on the same page then you can both take pleasure from the arrangement . Let’s take my own love life as an example; when I came out of a long term relationship, my reasons for ending the relationship was because I was not only ‘attracted to someone else’ and didn’t feel like it was fair to string someone along but also because I felt like he was not making as much effort as before and to put it bluntly wanted to just stay home and ‘have sex’ instead of making time to get to know me and my loved ones. So when I broke up with this particular ex, I began seeing the new guy I was attracted to, to see whether we were compatible as a couple or whether it was physical attraction. We only ended up being together two months, one of which was ‘casual dating’ but when we were in a relationship and put ‘labels’ on how we felt about each other, ultimately the relationship came to a stand still. And yes this is the same guy who did drugs, cheated on me with five other girls-one of which was my friend- and was the first and only guy I dated to be younger than me.
The point I am trying to make is that this second guy was an example of someone who was clearly more invested in being friends with benefits than actually dating me, which can draw parallels to how Jack was with Laura or Josh was with Georgia, before they coupled with Megan and Kaz respectively. So in a way, looking back at ‘casual relationships’ that you might have had might show you whether they have the potential to move into relationship territory or not.
Casual Dates Can Allow You To Explore Sexuality And Navigate The ‘So Called Confines’ Of Your ‘Gender Roles’
Isn’t it funny how when women date casually they are labelled as derogatory terms like ‘sluts’, ‘slags’ and ‘w****s’ and yet men who sleep with multiple women are labelled as ‘legends’. And don’t even get me started on the stigmatization surrounding the discourse of casual dating in LGBTQ couples, especially those who are gender-fluid, Bi or Trans. Isn’t it time that became less judgmental about the way that people choose to have sex and instead chose to be more supportive and less intrusive towards the decisions that men and women make in how they choose to navigate their own sex lives. Let’s take Love Island as a prime example: in Season 2 Zara Holland was stripped of her Miss Great Britain Title for having sex on TV (which apparently makes her bad role model) whereas Alex was given no flack whatsoever, the late Sophie Gradon had a bisexual fling with Katie Salmon and was given negative press in the media and even Megan from this years Love Island bore the brunt of ‘trolling on social media’ who made negative comments about how she chose to have sex casually with multiple guys, when Wes was doing exactly the same and had half of the repercussions.
The great thing about Love Island however is that even when women are being given such a hard time on how they choose to have sex, it creates a discourse around casual dating and normalizes us being able to express ourselves sexually as well as mentally and emotionally. It challenges our pre-conceived notions around casual dating by showing us that actually we should be allowed to have sex with more than one person, should be allowed to have fun and be sexually adventurous. When Adam Collard claimed to have slept with over 200ish women, his remarks were met with laughter, but imagine the contrast when Megan said she had slept with 20 and people took to Twitter to call her all the colourful names under the sun, including proclamations of disbelief stating that ‘surely she must have slept with more people’ as though 20 is a ridiculous comparison to 200 women. I mean come on, get over yourself.
With the guys creating the ‘Do Bit’s Society’ the women started the ‘dry hump society’ showing that yes ‘women like to have fun too’ and are just as open to talking about their sex lives as their partners. But arguably the best example of contestants navigating the so called confines of their gender roles, was shown through Sophie Gradon’s powerful speech on ‘women and sex’, who not only demonstrated why women having sex is nothing to be ashamed of but that also we should not be punished for wanting to have fun. And she’s right, women like to have sex just as much as men so why should we be ostracized or scolded for having natural urges. After all we are not cardboard cut out characters from the 1900’s whose only supposed purpose was to have children, get married and cook and clean are we?
Sex Is No Longer Defined As Having A Specific Purpose In Casual Dating Or Relationships
Before we might have defined sex as being an indicator of ‘love’, something to be had after marriage or because we want to reproduce. But here is the thing, we need to stop thinking that sex-whether it is casual or is in a relationship- needs to have a specific purpose. In Love Island plenty of couples have sex before they are ‘romantically involved’ are seeing each other or even casually dating and its the same in the real world. Love Island has taught me that there is nothing shameful or negative about wanting to be in a casual relationship, just as there should not be a need to define sex as having a particular purpose. If you want to have sex just for the sake of having sex then as long as you are practicing safe sex there is nothing to worry about. In some instances we can say that sex can help us see as to whether we have an intimate and physical attraction to someone, whereas the difference between having sex with someone who is a hook up and someone who is potential ‘partner material’ is like the difference between a cheese toastie and a chickpea curry. While you might love both forms of sex- which are both for pleasure and give satisfaction- ultimately the curry has spice, flavour with ups and downs that cement the mark of a great relationship. And seeing as it is a main meal, it is more filling than a cheese toastie, no matter how delicious that cheese toastie is. And yes I am talking about the difference between a ‘hook up’ and a blossoming relationship; it all boils down to a matter of personal preference.
So naturally when it comes to having sex every single person has a different reason as to why they like to ‘fool around’. For example sex with a new crush can be exciting and flirtatious but sex with someone you are in love as opposed to ‘in lust to’ can take on a new meaning, where it spells out as to what your future might hold. So in Love Island Rykard said that having sex with Olivia was to give her ‘comfort and reassurance’ but they were clear that they were ‘just friends’ whereas sex with their future partners Alex and Rachel was to show that they ‘loved and was attracted to each other’, spelling out the differences between both forms of sex. It can be said that despite our willingness to be more open about sex talk, still as women we have anxieties around sex for fear of being labelled, seen as a negative role model or being seen in a bad light. But its 2018, isn’t it about time that we realized that WOMEN LIKE TO HAVE SEX?
Casual Dating Can Boost Your Self Confidence Especially When You Have Been ‘Rejected’
Living in a swipe right and swipe left culture has ultimately made rejection something that both men and women have to face on a daily basis and ultimately it is disheartening. After all knowing that the guy you like has currently got his tongue down someone else’s throat is never a welcoming feeling and neither is being dumped for your friend, which believe me 95% of the female population knows exactly what I am talking about. But this feeling of rejection or dejection is not just limited to the real world; even reality shows that are designed to create ‘simulations of love’ like The Bacherlor/The Bacherlorette/ Love Island has its fair share of backstabbing, dramas and ‘couple swapping’. If we look at Laura and Alex as prime examples, we can see two sides of the ‘gender coin’ and how they chose to deal with rejection, before meeting ‘Alexandra’ and ‘Paul’ who helped them get their ‘confidence back’ and elevated their sense of self, because they were made to feel wanted and unconditionally desired. Unfortunately for Alex Squared, Alexendra’s affection ended up being one sided and Alex became more interested in dating his new Ferrari as opposed to the beautiful woman that was riding beside him. But Laura who had been ‘dumped twice in the villa’ finally met her Prince Charming who made her feel every inch as beautiful as she is inside and out.
Of course not all ‘casual dating scenarios’ – simulated or not- leads to relationships in the real world, as shown by how (excluding the current season) there are only five couples still together from Love Island (Dom Levers and Jess Shears, Camilla Thurlow and Jamie Hewitt,Nathan Massey and Cara De La Hoyde, Alex Bowen and Olivia Buckland and Cally Jane Beech and Luis Morrison). But regardless of whether a casual dating relationship can blossom from a ‘pancake into a full Vegetarian English Breakfast’ , even if things do not work out, there is nothing more flattering than knowing that you are desired, wanted and appreciated by your chickpea curry. And yes I know there is a lot of food puns but come on, you know I am always hungry! From personal experience I know how difficult it can be to deal with rejection, especially when you question your own self-worth and why you have not find the right right person for you, but believe me, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason so what will be will be. That cute guy who said he would take you out on a date but bailed on you last minute?Don’t even waste any tears on him he probably has a secret girlfriend. That guy who shouted out another girls name during sex? Steer well clear of him, he’s still with his ‘ex’. That dude who seems too cool for school and makes zero effort? GOODBYE ALAN.
There Is Such Thing As A ‘Hollywood Complex’ That Affects The Way That We View Casual Dating
I have watched enough ‘Rom-Coms’ to know that there is such thing as a ‘Hollywood Complex’ both in real life and in ‘reality TV shows’ that affects the way that we ‘view casual dating’ through rose tinted lenses that romanticize or ‘sentimentalize’ how we see our ‘casual dating scenario’ panning out in the future. When we ‘buy into’ the Hollywood Complex, we tend to look for someone who is ‘perfect’ who will sweep us off our feet,have no faults, never do anything wrong and be terminally delightful, as though they are a Robot automated without any other emotions. But here is the thing… perfection does not exist and the more that we look for a caricature of reality that is only relevant in our head the less likely we are to be able to get to grips with the real world of dating, especially in adult relationships. I remember when I was younger how ‘easy dating seemed’ to be, I would look for someone who would make me feel wanted and ultimately help me mask my own insecurities as I was scared of being seen as ‘single and alone’, because God forbid you not have a boyfriend when you were at school. I was convinced that being single made me a loser and aired my insecurities on full blast to all my peers, who in my mind were probably ridiculing me behind my back. So naturally when I was casual dating or in semi-serious relationships that had no destination but Doomsday Central, it was inevitable that things were going to crash and burn because I was drawn to people who I might have had all the ‘aesthetic’ qualities that I found attractive in a guy but ultimately were people that I was incompatiable with.
There was the guy who I dated who was older than me and had a great sense of humor, as well as a talented musician , but I ignored all the red flags that included us being only compatible on a physical level, the fact that he was not ambitious and had little direction in life as well as his lack of maturity which are all big turn offs for me. And it’s the same with Love Island; when Meg coupled up with Eyal over Alex, she went with the physical connection that she had with Eyal and what she looked for in previous relationships as opposed to what she should avoid from past mistakes. And yet when she tried something different with Wes, despite their rocky start, they ended up flourishing into a ‘proper boyfriend and girlfriend’ couple, because she was able to go outside her ‘box of ideal men’ and go for someone who made her laugh, shared similar values in life and allowed her to let her walls own. Plus those hips don’t lie; find me a man that dances as well as Wes does. I will wait…
What Are Your Thoughts On Casual Dating? Did You Watch Love Island?
Please note this is a collaborative post but all thoughts and opinions are my own.