Island where all men and women are equal
BEFORE Peter Stringfellow opened his ill-fated lap-dancing club in Dublin, I had the dubious pleasure of being a guest at his flagship venue in London. To say it was a crushing disappointment is an understatement. Surrounded by plush banquettes and predictably naff lighting, beautiful-looking girls in G-stings either danced forlornly on tables or worked their non-existent socks off entreating stupefied-looking men to shell out for private dances.
The atmosphere, a blend of dull corporate conformity and quiet desperation, seemed to mock the reputation of Stringfellow’s clubs as oases of heady sexual liberation. Like Hugh Hefner, Stringfellow, although on a smaller scale, is often hailed as a sexual pioneer who helped rescue his generation from the buttoned-up repression that lingered long after the Victorian era. Before Hefner donned his velvet dressing gown or Stringfellow his leopard-print thong, sex was hidden and illicit, found only in racy novels that were often banned, or between the dog-eared pages of erotic pamphlets.
But as the genie was released from the bottle and sex became more visible, two-dimensional drawings of naked females and dirty books gave way to pagethree girls and soft-porn pinups. Hefner’s Playmates and bunnies, as well as the balloonchested girls who swarmed around Stringfellow raised the bar further on male fantasy material.
SUDDENLY flesh-andblood women from Katie Price, who fashioned her surgically enhanced alter ego Jordan in the 1990s, to Pamela Anderson, could carve careers out of appearing permanently sexually available. No longer had men to content themselves worshipping pin-ups from afar – the advent of sex-kitten celebrities and reality TV stars held out the fantasy of starring in their own X-rated film.
For all that was written about Big Brother as a grand social experiment, studying humans as lab rats under a tightly controlled situation, reality TV is also a symptom of how sex is now mainstream. The first Big Brother was more innocent than its bawdy successors but, even so, the suspense didn’t just hang on Nasty Nick’s skulduggery but on the flirting between the cast.
Love Island, which has no pretensions to do anything other than film ripped and bronzed youngsters couple up and have sex, is the modern equivalent of etchings produced by cavemen designed to titillate. Yet outrage about its explicit scenes and perceived moral bankruptcy suggests that the great sexual revolution spearheaded by Hefner never actually happened and that open displays of sexual intimacy are as much a rarity for us as our great grandparents. Neither of which is true.
The producers of Love Island are commodifying sex and exploiting the desperation of some young men and women for fame to produce a ratings topper. Sex sells better than baking, building house extensions, slimming down en masse or any of the other activities from other reality shows. More youngsters applied for Love Island than for Oxford and Cambridge universities combined. So why the shock at it attracting huge ratings? Why are so many of us behaving like nuns trapped in a proverbial brothel?
NO ONE’S forcing anyone to watch it. All we have to do is make sure children don’t see it because we have a duty to protect them for as long as possible from our sex-saturated culture. The outcry smacks of the same puritanism that was unleashed when Hefner began his Playboy empire – an attitude that at least had the excuse of genuine offence being taken – or from the part of the #MeToo movement that imposes such narrow terms on acceptable behaviour between men and women.
True, the Love Islanders seem terribly shallow and empty-headed, particularly as our Leaving cert students face into their exams. But at least the young men and women are competing on equal terms. Thirty years ago the ‘girls’ would be crowding into a Jacuzzi with one man to see who could win his affection. Love Island is certainly not everyone’s bag but, in terms of gender relations, it is progress.
BBC1, tonight, 9pm Ross is back... cue lots of swooning housewives up and down the country. Ross and Demelza are trying to fight the odds again in the interests of justice and their beloved Cornwall.
Last Laugh In Vegas
TV3, Wednesday, 10pm As luck would have it, I got to see balding deadpan comic Mick Miller, one of the stars of this nostalgia-fest drama, on a cruise ship in the English Channel last month. I couldn’t see Vegas calling then.
Elton John: I’m Still Standing...
RTÉ One, Sat, 10.45pm Elton’s long goodbye is up and running. The Rocket Man takes to the stage himself as well as Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and, alas, Miley Cyrus, Chris Martin and, of course, Ed Sheeran.
FANS of Beyoncé and Jay-Z claim that the family footage shown during their spectacular new show looks suspiciously like a wedding vow renewal ceremony with the superstar couple clad all in white and surrounded by family. Given how, on planet celebrity, the renewal of wedding vows is generally a precursor to divorce, let’s hope their eyes are deceiving them.
HOT on the heels of Ryan Tubridy’s declaration about how much life has improved since he ditched his smartphone, Simon Cowell says he’s a lot happier since he handed his in 10 months ago. It goes without saying that both busy Ryan, pictured, and Simon probably have an army of lackeys to field important calls and make online arrangements on their behalf. It’s not quite so simple unfortunately for mere mortals.