I downloaded ITV Hub to do what I have done for the past 3 summers prior to the pandemic: obsessively watch bikini-clad women fight over men in swimwear. It’s truly exhilarating, isn’t it? The drama, the romance, the sexual tension and all of the little bloopers in between. But I was quite shocked to have a revelation from watching this season of Love Island that I had not before.
I am living life as a Christian but separating my consumption from my Christianity.
I really want to tell this in story mode and say that I had an issue of integrity on my hands, but in truth, I still have an issue of integrity on my hands and I need God to help me through it. I think that God likes to ease us into convictions and brings out what we are mature enough to fix in due time (hence why it took this long). Why am I so bothered? Because I can stand outside the Student’s Union’s bar at 3am talking to the drunk girl who’s crying over her cheating boyfriend but then egg on the cheating boyfriend who’s having the time of his life in Casa Amor. But it’s not reality, right? It’s just light entertainment and they’re just in it for the PLT contracts, no?
I was challenged greatly by this. Why did I feel nothing when poor Amy from the 2019 cohort was crying her eyes out over Curtis? Why did I join the chorus of Twitter trolls to mock her? Why was it funny that someone was being publicly embarrassed? I think I’ve hidden from any sense of empathy by simply acting as if these characters aren’t real people who are very broken and in turn break each other more. I’ve had guys I’ve been seeing romantically go and embarrass me in the past – how would I feel if my experiences were immortalised through television and memes? I know people are going to say “it’s not that deep Cheyenne, they signed up to it!”, but I’m not telling you how to feel, I’m saying that personally I can’t be indifferent to it anymore.
My consumption reveals my struggle with lust. Not only that, but my unwillingness to fight back or to flee from it.
As someone who has only been Christian for four years, I’m going to say that I’m not shaming people who watch shows like this for the attractive people. They are attractive and it would be a bald-faced lie to deny that. But I think as someone who has struggled with lustful thoughts upon becoming Christian and someone who is eager to do what Jesus instructs me in denying myself and taking up my cross (Matthew 16:24), it’s not helpful for me to be consuming endless hours of shirtless men and challenges crafted to build sexual tension on set. A friend of mine called Jemima (IG: @curiouslions) posted on her story that we’re consuming roughly 40-60 hours of Love Island this summer alone and proposed that a group be started where people use those hours to do something constructive like exercise or start a new hobby or learn a new language at basic level When put like that, I had to challenge myself, asking: “Why are you investing so much time into something that draws you further away from God?”
I only speak for myself here, as not every Christian carries the same cross and not everyone struggles with lust or even has any form of sexual attraction. But as someone who does and doesn’t want it, I’m doing myself a great disservice. It even leaks into my interactions with others because the people I’m often getting to know romantically won’t live up to the level of charisma, sexual allure or spontaneity that these on-screen personas have. It’s not fair that I should expect anyone to live up to that and as a Christian, that shouldn’t even be the yardstick that I set for a partner in my life.
My thoughts on Love Island reflect some bitterness that I am yet to deal with.
Seeing Kaz be treated in the same way that Yewande and Samira were treated in previous years unearthed something that I thought I had dealt with when I became a Christian. I thought that I was over the way black women are treated. I thought that I would never again speak to the men that used me and were ashamed of me because of my race. I thought I was healed.
The bleak reality of the situation is that I very much am not.
The bleak reality of the situation is that whenever the black girl gets picked last or dropped for the blonde and blue-eyed girl, a part of me goes back to the awful feeling of inadequacy that used to gnaw at me when I was in my teens. I return to that suspicion that the person in my own life showing interest is once again using me as a plaything until they get their actual type.
The bleak reality of the situation is that black women are expected to be strong and independent when we are put down from every side, even by black men.
But as bleak as it is, reality also tells me that I don’t have to return to those feelings.
At the most basic level, I don’t need to return to those feelings because I don’t have to watch this season or any more seasons of Love Island. But if we take this at the spiritual level, I don’t have to feel inadequate. I don’t have to succumb to lustful thoughts. And I don’t have to be apathetic. I can feel everything without losing anything. Because in the grand scheme, these things that hold me back really do not matter. All that matters is Jesus and His will for my life. I can take to God these feelings of inadequacy and speak about how the world is broken by racism and colourism and find solace in the fact that I am not defined by my race or ethnic background. I can use that time to speak to God about my struggles and trust in His word that says that my worldly passions and desires have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 5:24). I have a Spirit in me that calls me into a family where I can mourn with those who are mourning and rejoice with those who rejoicing (Romans 12:15). I can feel these things because I am human after all, but where applicable I must fight these things. I need to wrestle with these thoughts, bringing them into submission to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:5); in that I can find peace.
It then occurred to me that 60 hours is a lot of time to do some serious soul searching. As much as I cringed at the thought of hopping on the trend of Christian TikTokers, I guess I am embarking on a Proverbs 31 summer after all.