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VICE Does 'Love Island'

I Spent a Day Living By the Rules of 'Love Island'

No nudity, no wanking, no contact with the outside world whatsoever... how hard could it be?

by Emma Garland; photos by Bekky Lonsdale
17 June 2019, 10:30am

Rule #5: no drunk sex.

Love Island is an endurance test masquerading as reality TV. It may look sleeker than Anton's arse after his mum's gone at it with a Bic, but peer closer and you will find that this fancy Mallorcan retreat is in fact a unique circle of hell.

The whole point of the show is to graduate people into the influencer elite by whipping their public persona into brand-friendly shape. Gone are the days of reality TV nobodies capturing hearts through outrage; Kinga and the wine bottle, or Charlotte Crosby spewing between her spread legs on a beach in Cancún. Love Island represents a new economic era of reality TV – where aspiration trumps relatability and athleisure collaboration deals are won not by doubling down on your personality, but by suppressing it as much as possible. To that end, there are a set of rules in place to make sure the show does its job properly, issued to contestants before they start.

These rules have become increasingly strict over the last few years. Viewers this year have already had to say goodbye to Sherif Lanre, who was booted out of the villa last week. After a cycle of fake stories about wanking, it transpired that Sherif was removed for accidentally kicking Molly Mae in the groin while play-fighting, and then referring to it as a "cunt punt". Apparently that was considered beyond the pale, even though Ellie calling Georgia an "ugly cunt" during a legitimate fight last year was laughed off as girls getting "carried away in. the moment".

Clearly the rules are not consistent, but what exactly are they, and how hard is it to live by them? I decided to subscribe to the villa's regime for one day, and experience for myself what these well-sculpted, fame-hungry hotties must sacrifice in the name of creating solid gold television.

RULE #1: No Nudity

girl clothed shower

This sounds simple enough. Exhibitionism doesn’t really do it for me anyway; it's not like I’m rocking up to work in the traditional Love Island uniform (bikini and heels) and hoping someone from HR pulls me aside for "a chat". The unusual thing about this rule, though, is that, as of 2019, it also applies to the shower. Apparently the villa is considered a public space, which means no stripping off anywhere. So, firstly, I have some questions:

i) Do they have special "showering" swimwear? Knocking about all day in the same clothes you just rinsed your filth off into seems like it would be uncomfortable and possibly generate some sort of bacterial infection.

ii) If islanders are allowed a modicum of privacy on the toilet (where there are also cameras "for safety reasons"), surely that’s precedent enough for them to be allowed privacy in the shower as well? It is my belief that this rule is less about public indecency and more about enforcing the wanking ban, which we’ll get into later.

ii.i) At this point, I think most of us would prefer footage of Anton taking a shit over footage of Anton having yet another chat with a woman in which he confesses to finding her "very attractive".

ii.ii) On that note, remember when this rule wasn’t in place last year and we all saw Adam Collard’s arse crack? Good times.

Anyway, I'm not about to put swimwear on specifically to have a shower. That’s their day clothes, so in the interest of solidarity I thought it was only fair to shower in my day clothes as well. It was not a very enjoyable experience.

RULE #2: No Inappropriate Behaviour Or Language

girl reading book interested

A common rule of thumb in most societies – physical ones, online ones and artificial micro-worlds designed by public service broadcasters – this essentially boils down to: be cool.

Unfortunately, everyone has very different ideas of what this means, so it never really works. But based on what we’ve seen on the show so far, I can call someone a "cunt" – as long as I'm using it as an adjective, not a noun – and maaaaaybe-accidentally-on-purpose spill some wine on their foot, but not go as far as to actually punch them. Got it.

RULE #3: No Prohibited Items

girl hugging lion

The island operates on the same terms as prison when it comes to contraband, so phones, drugs, alcohol and anything deemed dangerous are completely out of bounds. Although, I think there are already holes in this rule, because if there truly was a ban on anything "dangerous", Maura and her hazard level of horniness wouldn’t have been allowed near the villa in the first place.

Islanders are given basic phones to communicate with each other and a small, regulated amount of booze, but if you’ve brought in something personal that isn’t clothing or memory-related, then you can kiss it goodbye. In the first dramatic split of the season so far, Molly Mae was forced to part ways with her stuffed elephant.

I’m 29 and no longer love anything as much as Molly Mae loves her stuffed elephant, but I am quite fond of the massive stuffed lion that has been in the VICE office since I started working here.

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It wasn’t until someone tried to take him away that I realised how much I valued its familiar presence. In reaction, I tried to claim that he was my "large emotional support lion" and yelled something about being oppressed. So fair play to Molly Mae, but as far as difficulty goes this is more like trying to do Veganuary than, say, trying to pick the least bad Tory leadership candidate.

RULE #4: No Excessive Drinking

girl drinking beer upset

According to ex-islander Liana Isadora Van-Riel, contestants are allowed one to two drinks per night, and will typically have two on a "big night" like an eviction. Even then they’re only allowed to drink wine or beer, no spirits. So, in short: they can drink, but not to the point where they get drunk. A new and revolutionary concept that I’d not heard of until now, but I was willing to give it a go.

To be fair, they may only have "one or two", but the wine glasses in that villa are fucking massive and they’re clearly using the continental measuring system (free pouring). Even so, I struggled to see the point of drinking at all when you can’t even polish off a big can without the rules imposing themselves like a controlling boyfriend saying, "Don't you think you’ve had enough?"

Catch me minesweeping next time there’s a Large One around the fire pit.

RULE #5: No Drunk Sex

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I don’t know how things work elsewhere, but here in the UK most first sexual encounters occur while drunk. How many friends have you slept with on a whim? How many one-night-stands that, in the cold light of day, have made you question your judgment? How do you bond over stuff you both hate (a far more reliable indicator of compatibility than "likes" and "interests") without the three drinks required to unlock the confidence to bitch about them in the first place?

First dates especially suffer without the social lubricant of alcohol. When was the last time you met someone off Tinder not in a pub? Hardly anywhere is even open after 6PM that doesn’t revolve entirely around alcohol. Sadly, without the thrill of tipsiness, all you have is two bodies next to each other hoping for the sweet release of death – or for someone to have enough balls to leave.

RULE #6: No Unsafe Sex

girl holding condoms

The bonus of having sex in front of a nationwide audience of several million is that contestants are reportedly STI tested before they enter the villa, so you know he can’t bullshit that he was screened "recently" and then text you a week later with a chlamydia scare. According to an inside source speaking to Glamour, there are also 200 Love Island-branded condoms scattered around the villa, which is a very specific number. They’re in there for eight weeks with about six couples at a time; at least half of them would have to be rutting every day to get through all those.

Anyway, safe sex is important and I’m glad to see this ostensibly horny but fundamentally sexless show encouraging people to bag it up.

RULE #7: Couples Who Have Sex Must See a Therapist Afterwards

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If this was an enforceable public health initiative I think it would be the most effective form of contraception on the market, because no one would fucking bother. Imagine having every sordid shag analysed by a professional asking why, in the heat of the moment, you decided to make a follow-up point regarding an argument you were having beforehand.

RULE #8: No Smoking Unless It's in a Designated Area, Alone

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ITV cracked down on smoking in the villa after receiving "a huge wave of complaints" about it in 2017. A spokesperson for ITV has since said: "We have a designated smoking area outside the villa," and that "Islanders can only use this area alone". So it's the same as reality, with the addition of enforced solitude.

Vaping alone in the rain in Shoreditch definitely has a different kind of romance to it than smoking in a scenic villa with the sun gently roasting you, and is probably much easier by comparison. No one over the age of 18 wants to knock about in a group having a fag on the road, but being carted off to the Med and being told you can’t burn through ten packs of duty free and a carton of Don Simon by the pool? Heartless.

RULE #9: No Contact with the Outside World

Girl wearing a blindfold and earplugs in public

The whole point of Love Island is to isolate the contestants in a bubble of their own design, which really does not inspire confidence in humanity’s forthcoming colonisation of a new planet once we've fucked this one up in ten years. In addition to phones and other personal items being prohibited, islanders are to have "no contact with the outside world" at all. No talking, no listening, no contact with anyone you know whatsoever.

In a way, this sounds… amazing? Like the life I dream of constantly? I don’t just have to try not to look at the news while screaming internally, or waste my life on social media, or hit up a toxic ex at 2AM during a manic episode with information regarding their birth chart – I literally don’t have the option!

Unfortunately, this pre-digital nirvana only lasted for an hour before it became apparent that I’d need to have contact with the outside world to a) do my job and b) actually get to it. Haters and losers said it couldn’t be done, but I stuck in some ear plugs, donned a face mask and, with the help of a benevolent helper, got to my desk and did my job perfectly through touch typing.

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Show me a single new media company at which this wouldn’t pass as quality journalism.

RULE #10: No Masturbating

This is the foundation upon which all other villa laws are built. Without this, the rest will crumble. Without this, what you have is a dozen extremely relaxed 20-somethings having a lush holiday in Spain – and who wants to watch that? If this show has a modus operandi, it is "Instagram: Behind The Gram", not "Instagram: Selected Cuts from a Lovely Family Holiday".

This is a situation in which some of the hottest people in the country are thrown together for the first time, forced to spend 80 percent of their day in swimwear and the other 20 percent sharing a bed, and given absolutely nothing to do besides work out and over-analyse things. A wank ban isn't about public indecency, it’s about removing the last bastion of sanity to generate something worth broadcasting. Intense sexual frustration is the only reason Love Island works at all, and anyone signing up to it is actually competing in the Olympics of edging.

This is an aspect of the show I could actually get into if I was on the island myself; as far as kinks go, it's way more gratifying than flagrant exhibitionism. In the real world, though, this whole experiment would have been over in five minutes.

@emmaggarland

All photos by Bekky Lonsdale.

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