Into that vacuum walks Love Island – a tv show all about sex and relationships with a side of beauty, lust and love as well. A show that was so mainstream it was mentioned on Radio 4 as well as This Morning, Good Morning Britain and every other talk show. 2.9 million people tuned in to watch Sundays final and half of those were aged 16-34.
That’s a lot of people talking about one of the key issues young people want to discuss. And whether we agree with its morals or not, it is teaching young people something and I would strongly suggest that every Christian working with young people or young adults watches it. This is the snapshot caricature of where dating is at in society, the norms that young people and young adults need to navigate and a glimpse into a culture we are trying to reach with our distinctly alien message.
The dating world is different from when I was a teenager with no option to swipe right and hook up. If we are to speak effectively and prophetically to this generation we need to understand the context that we are speaking into and be aware of the challenges that walking out “Christian values” (whatever they are) might present for young people and adults.
One of the biggest changes is how the relationship between love, marriage, sex and romance has developed in society over hundreds of years – from arranged marriages that may or may not have resulted in love, to falling out of love as one of the biggest reasons giving for infidelity and divorce.
This is an infogram entitled the Evolution of Love in the West mapping different approaches to romantic relationships from the norm in pre 1500AD to the sexual revolution in 1960. We could add a new layer for love island:
Sex – Love – Romance – Marriage
Of the 4 final couples, 3 of them slept together, all had “done bits” physically, a different 3 had said they loved each other (the 4th saying they were the “happiest they had ever been”), yet all of them were looking forward to the outside world and a bit of real romance. Going on actual dates, being courted. It appeared as if that romantic side was only safe once the feelings were resolved and the risk of being mugged off decreased. They needed the security of feeling in love before they could be romantic. You may suggest this is because they were locked in a Villa – but when you go to ITVHUB and watch on demand you will see a number of large romantic gestures. These only occurred after couples had experienced physical intimacy, and (eventually) made known their feelings towards each other. Kem asked Amber to be his girlfriend AFTER they had said they loved each other. This marks a massive shift in how dating works that we need to be aware off.
This should change how we discuss the dynamics of dating, of resetting the idea of marriage as a commitment to love rather than a celebration of love, and even our expectations for romanticism within teenagers who are dating.
You have 3 options:
1. Don’t talk to your young people about dating and mating and let Love Island do it for you.
2. Talk to them with no understanding of their world and get written off as old and irrelevant.
3. Listen to, understand and critically evaluate their culture (and love island) with them and use that to have a different discussion on dating relationships (while teaching them how to critical evaluate as an added bonus).
Either way they are desperate to talk about it and it’ll either be you or ITV2 – I know which one I want to be.