Many, many women have been mugged off in the Love Island villa. From loyal and committed to whipped within weeks, then shellshocked by their boy’s behaviour in Casa Amor – see everyone from Amy Hart to Laura Anderson – there are endless cautionary tales of why putting all your eggs in the same basket in the villa is a recipe for disaster.
But this season, most women have played their cards with much less predictability – and we don’t just mean this series's saboteur Ekin Su Cülcüloğlu. Whether Luca Bish and Gemma Owen, Paige Thorne and Jacques O’Neill or Andrew Le Page and Tasha Ghouri, all of the men are worried about the same thing: ‘What if I like her more than she likes me.’
Mostly, this concern is astute. Tasha has flip-flopped from all in to wholly uninterested in Andrew, dipping a toe in the dangerous waters of 'getting to know the latest bombshell boy' before running back to safety. Meanwhile, when Luca told Gemma he was ‘obsessed’ with her after three weeks in the villa she looked, justifiably, terrified. Even Paige, who was seriously into Jacques for a while, still pulled Jay Younger for a chat to make clear she was open to getting to know him.
This new power dynamic is refreshing. It’s novel to see the men in the Love Island villa fretting for once. Yet, the reaction to female agency has not been positive: Luca basically keeps Gemma in an amorous head lock to stop her from straying and Jacques actually shouted at Paige for eating a brioche without alerting him at one particularly insecure moment.
Online, this has been celebrated: ‘The Love Island tables have been turned. All the boys are WHIPPED this season,’ wrote one elated viewer. ‘They need to send the girls to Casa Amor this year. I need to see Luca howling at the moon,’ added another. ‘The girls this season are beating their boys at their own game and they HATE IT,’ said a third.
Luca admitted to Jacques in the most recent episode of the show that he doesn’t want to be with Gemma if her feelings for him aren’t as strong as his. Evidently, he’s either too proud or too scared to place himself in a vulnerable position. Similarly, Jacques broke down in the middle of the night, telling Paige that he can’t stand to see her with someone else (despite offering her round like a tray of canapés just days before) after finally letting his feelings out.
But neither of those sentiments are romantic, they’re filled with pride — a possessiveness disguised as love. All Luca has done since Gemma admitted her head could be turned if her soul mate walked into the show is bully her into reciprocating his emotions: ‘If you don’t feel how I feel, then we’re not on the same page,’ he said, with no awareness of the fact that it might be worth simply giving Gemma the opportunity to catch up.
When women display this amount of intensity, they're made to feel crazy. As Davide told Ekin-Su when she bluntly asked him how he really felt about her after just four days on the show: 'What are you expecting...that I marry you?'
For once, the Love Island men have caught feels quicker than the girls and are ready to jump into relationships feet first. But rather than embrace the nervousness that comes with really, really liking someone, they’ve engaged in emotional warfare instead. From love bombing to manipulation, they're pulling out every tool they have to win that power back.