So, tonight’s Commitment Ceremony was both fascinating and strangely underwhelming.
We all knew Ines and Sam would be absolute fucknuckles (more on that later) that Martha and Matt would bore us to tears, that Jules and Cam would restore our faith in humanity and that Dino would meditate his way through hearing his wife say she didn’t want to root him.
What I didn’t expect, was to see the contradictions of modern masculinity and femininity play out so clearly in the form of Lauren and Matt.
First teachable moment: you are allowed to break up with someone.
Matt you are not a terrible person for leaving and you have not ruined Lauren’s life.
This is a critical point to make to teens because the real and very legitimate pain of being dumped is often used as an excuse for emotionally blackmailing lovers into staying and even, for post-break-up violence.
Put it this way, women leaving violent relationships are most at risk of homicide at the point of leaving.
Basic lesson: break ups are hard, but do not entitle anyone to hurt anyone else.
CONTRADICTORY GENDER ROLES
Lauren and Matt are fascinating.
Lauren has asked for an old fashioned gentleman who is kind, loving and wants a white picket fence.
She has then turned around less than a fortnight into a relationship and expressed disappointment that her socially anxious and sexually inexperienced partner isn’t “sexually assertive” enough.
Her description of this – and I think Matt has taken her literally – is that she wants to have her clothes ripped off, be thrown on the bed and be dominated.
In some ways Lauren embodies a very old trope of “Madonna / Whore” where women are expected to be both wife and mother – including to their adult male partners – but also, to be sexually available at all times.
Does this mean women must choose a role and stay in it just like the wife v. goomah. I hope not, but I suspect Lauren is wavering between this (false) choice. One the one hand she wants the stability, security, safety and social capital of “the wife” but also wants – rightly – to maintain her sexual independence and expression. One is “old fashioned femininity” and one is “sexual liberation” and she’s confused.
Aren’t we all.
If only Lauren and the rest of us knew that both categories are constructed and therefore de-constructable.
On the one hand, this is an absolute head-fuck for Matt and I feel for him. On the other, can we really blame Lauren for being stuck in the middle of false and limiting dichotomy where ether way she’s punished by being idealised or vulgarised.
(Side note: why does Lauren – and everyone else – describe her as an ex-lesbian? Surely she’s bisexual. It’s a real thing.)
Matt is also struggling with the dual and contradictory nature of modern masculinity.
“Hey Matt, be a nice respectful, loving guy”
“Hey Matt, you’re a bit of a dud root if you’re not prepared to throw me around the apartment two weeks into our televised fake marriage.”
My theory on Matt is that he was – and probably is attracted to Lauren – but got talked out of his version of attraction. I’m guessing - obviously - but I think his thought process might be this:
We are having sex and I am enjoying it, but you say you want me to tear your clothes off and ravage you. You may also want an open relationship and threesomes.
That’s cool, but I can’t see myself doing that.
But you know know more about this stuff than me, so that must be what I’m supposed to want.
Therefore, I must not be attracted to you.
Why the actual fark, didn’t one of the experts say, “Hey Matt, being attracted to someone doesn’t automatically make you sexually assertive and/or into the same things as the other person. Have you considered the idea that you are attracted to Lauren but don’t express your sexuality in the way that she’s used to.”
In short: there are plenty of guys like you, Matt and hey, your sexuality might even evolve AFTER TWO WEEKS.
I also think that maybe Matt thought Lauren wanted him to physically assault her - as opposed to be more assertive and proactive.
Not sure here, but one thing is clear: none of it was communicated well and they were speaking at cross-purposes. Again, if there’s any pretence at all that those experts have a role to play, they should have intervened and helped this discussion.
All of the above are broader social roles that we’re all subject to and find difficult to negotiate on some level. We just haven’t been raised to talk about this stuff properly.
Note also that Matt raised Tinder – very interesting.
He basically said that if he really wanted to just have sex (as Lauren accused him of), he could have used an app – which is true.
This is like a Freudian tell in a way – we are in the so-called age of sexual liberation, but it is firmly framed within a patriarchal and capitalist framework like Tinder where people are commodities.
What I would have told Matt to say at the dinner party: “I am not attracted to Lauren at the moment because I am feeling inadequate and scared and I don’t know what’s going on.”
What I would have told Lauren to say: “Matt, I don’t want to lead all the time. Can we share the roles we’ve been talking about? Can we inhabit different roles at different times in our relationship? Can I be your lover and your friend? Can we keep talking about what makes us both feel fulfilled and safe.”
Ines and Bronson: yes Bronson, crocodile is a good metaphor for Ines (and Sam). She will lay in wait and she will bite your arm off. Someone should call Bindi Irwin to sort this shit out.
Note how easy it is for Ines – and Sam – to play the role they know the experts find acceptable. Many abusive people fool their relationships counsellors, their friends and family. And yes, Ines also cries crocodile tears.
Gendered language: why is Martha an “ice-queen” and Mark not?
Tests: If you keep testing someone (Cyrell), they will eventually fail the exam.
Privacy: Trish – the expert – pushed, manipulated and used her power (that is, bullied) Melissa to disclose how long it has been since she’s had sex. What a disgusting breach of Melissa’s privacy. Again, teachable moment for teenagers, when’s the last time you had sex?: NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.
Sam: he’ll ramp up this week, obviously, but watch him attack - “she’s abandoned me and by the way I don’t want to have sex with her and she keeps force-feeding me Nutella” before he’s exposed. Here’s an idea Sam: stop being a sociopath.
Tomorrow night I’m in Sydney for a gig and will therefore MISS THE SHOW (!). I’ll post a double-blog later in the week. Until then, lay back and think of the Goldcoast.