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Calling Love Island's Maura a 'sex pest' is absurd - and sexually backward

Love Island
Maura

Tommy Fury, an amateur boxer who weighs 98 kilograms, brother to heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, has this week become a major cause of concern in the Love Island villa.

Thousands of viewers have taken to social media to express anxiety that he may be under threat. In fact so menaced was his physical safety and mental well-being, that over 800 viewers wrote in to television regulatory body Ofcom.

His oppressor? Fellow contestant Maura, a five-foot-six, 28-year-old ring girl and model from Ireland, whose heaviest physical attribute is her lip gloss.

But viewers have described her as "predatory", a "sex pest" and called for her to be taken off the ITV show and added to the sex offenders registry, after she tried repeatedly to kiss Fury on the lips (while he refused on principle of not betraying the girl he was already ‘coupled up’ with), and fervently sucked an ice lolly in his direction.

The Twitter diatribe, (led by majority men, which says volumes about the twisted bitterness some men feel post MeToo), argued Tommy had not given his consent to be kissed.

She knows what she wants: Maura Credit: ITV

An argument that is misjudged, overblown and damaging to the inroads we have made with the MeToo movement and our understanding of the nuanced and complicated nature of consent.

In fact, it is reminiscent of last year’s accusation from a writer against comedian Asiz Ansari for sexual misconduct, after she had willingly gone home with Ansari, entered consensual sex that she then found uncomfortable, uttered no verbal cues for her discomfort until right at the end, at which point Ansari instantly stopped.

The writer was widely criticised for making the MeToo movement seem melodramatic and irrational, for giving sexists the right to dismiss other valid accusations. “Aziz Ansari is guilty of not being a mind reader,” a New York Times op-ed headline read.

But can Maura even be blamed for that? After all, Fury made his feelings for Maura quite clear – no mind reading necessary. “I’m hugely attracted to you,” he said to her, twice, while lying in bed with her one evening. “What if I asked you to kiss me?” she teased. “I’d kiss you,” he responded, smiling. Later that day, Tommy went to share his thoughts privately with the camera. “God it’s so sexy though I couldn’t keep myself together,” he said of Maura’s advances, his expression blissful and... clearly aroused. “She’s a dream at the end of the day. The connection’s just there.”

Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae competing in a Love Island food challenge Credit: ITV

So it makes sense really, considering the only way to Love Island’s £50,000 cash prize is to secure a relationship, that Maura, having had all of her flirtations reciprocated, might try and seal the deal with a kiss. The only thing stopping Tommy from accepting it was his fear of upsetting his dictatorial "villa partner" Molly-Mae, who, frankly, could frighten any man into subservient loyalty. And when Tommy resisted – by playfully turning away his face – Maura good-naturedly left him alone. Where, exactly, is the problem?

Viewers will argue that if the roles were reversed, Tommy would have been kicked off the show. But to take this stance is to ignore the significant power imbalance that exists between almost every man and woman, and which could not be starker here. Were Tommy to exert physical sexual pressure on Maura, she’d have 216 pounds to contend with. Physically, she’d be helpless. But Tommy could flick Maura metres across the room with little more than a finger. Apart from in extreme cases such as involving domestic violence, you’d be hard pressed to find a man who has ever genuinely feared for his physical safety around a woman. 

Love Island 2019 Credit: ITV

But of course, certain men have been praying for their own MeToo movement since Harvey Weinstein; for an excuse to shift the blame and play the victim. Holding their tattered masculinity to their chests, they want retribution. 

The other issue, naturally, is not Maura’s advances, but her sexuality. This is a woman unafraid of talking about sex, of voicing her desires plainly. She is guilty of nothing more than refusing to pander to archaic values of feminine virtue, modesty and passivity. When, in one episode, Maura told Tommy she felt “fanny flutters” – an admission he was clearly excited by – the internet went berserk. Because apparently, women are only allowed to have fairy dust and rainbows in their knickers. “I don’t even have a fanny,” Molly-Mae would probably have blushed.

In last night’s episode, Tommy, after much deliberation, chose Molly-Mae over Maura. Taking her rejection with grace, Maura went on a date with new male contestant Tom. She flirted boldly, as usual, aware that she was one of the only two girls in the villa left uncoupled. Hours later, however, Maura looked exhausted. “I don’t wanna have to lay it on with someone again,” she told Lucie, wearily. “My self esteem has come crashing down.”

Suitably reassured by this display of vulnerability, viewers calmed their fury, their trembling fingers going slack at their keyboards. Insecurity! They sighed with relief. So she really is a woman after all.