This story contains details of sexual assault.
An upcoming TVNZ reality show called FBoy Island is under fire after contestant Wayde Moore previously took advantage of a drunk and vulnerable teenager, putting his hand over her mouth as she called for help.
First reported by the Herald on Sunday, Moore was charged with suffocation but was found not guilty in court last year, and following this revelation TVNZ announced it was editing Moore out of the show.
But sexual assault prevention advocates say problems with the show run much deeper.
Jahla Tran-Lawrence researches, advocates, and works in sexual violence prevention. She says the premise of FBoy Island is “horrific” in many ways, and on many levels.
In the show, there are 20 men and three women. Ten of the men are self-described “nice guys” while the other 10 are “FBoys” - better known as fuck boys.
If chosen by one of the women at the end of the season, a nice guy shares a cash prize with her but if she chooses an FBoy, he has the option of keeping the cash for himself.
The men hide which group they are part of as the women date and eliminate men each episode. In the second half of the season, the men reveal which groups they’re in and the women pursue relationships with the people they have made connections with.
At its core, she says the show normalises the toxic, coercive and manipulative behaviours at the heart of rape culture.
“There are so many people across generations and sectors mobilising against sexuxal violence. It is a kick in the guts for this to be condoned on a national stage.”- YouTube
The trailer for the first season of the US version of FBoy Island
Reality TV and rape culture
Tran-Lawrence says the premise of the show perpetuates different aspects of rape culture.
Both the “nice guy” and “FBoy” labels are problematic and people who call themselves nice guys can be more harmful than fuck boys, she says.
“Fuckboys can often be more honest about seeking no-strings-attached sex or not wanting any emotional connection. 'Nice guys' often pretend their friendly behaviour is in service of respect for women, but is usually covering a deep and much more insidious belief that they are entitled to sex.”
“Believing you are entitled to sex is one of the most common beliefs of people who have sexually harmful behaviours,” Tran-Lawrence says.
Jahla Tran-Lawrence (Photo: Supplied)
The show also perpetuates the idea it's the woman's job to navigate men’s toxic behaviours in order to identify healthy and respectful behaviours towards women, Tran-Lawrence says.
Jahla says this is an expectation women are burdened with in the real world - that a woman’s role is to emotionally support and guide men to act appropriately in sex and relationships, instead of men doing that work on themselves.
And the women competing can never really win, with the fuck boy either taking the whole prize for himself or a nice guy “sharing” it with her, she says.
“This is a perfect example of the real world assumption that women can support or partner on men's success, but can never succeed on their own.”
The reality of Reality TV
Director of Rape Prevention Education NZ Debbi Tohill says the messaging of this show and other dating reality shows is impacting the behaviour of people in society.
“The premise of this show is absolutely what leads to a culture where unconsensual sex is okay, where deceiving people is okay, where presenting a false impression of yourself to get a girl into bed is okay.”
Whether consciously or unconsciously, Tohill says people do model their behaviour on the people they see on these shows.
“Young people are learning how to have relationships by watching programmes like this. It’s really concerning. Are these the behaviours we want to see modelled?”
She says TVNZ has a responsibility to make sure the people on the show didn’t have histories of problematic sexual behaviours.
But she says they also have a responsibility to be socially responsible with the messaging they broadcast to the people of Aotearoa.
TVNZ manager of local content Nevak Rogers says the production company carried out psychological and Ministry of Justice checks on all contestants prior to filming the series, which is standard for this type of commissioned content.
In response to the claim the show perpetuates behaviours and mentalities that reinforce rape culture, Rogers says “FBoy Island is an international format that takes a light-hearted look at modern day dating”.
“Beyond the salacious title, the format puts the power into the hands of the female contestants and emphasises aspects of current dating culture.”
“TVNZ is always conscious of our role in both reflecting and leading conversations that matter in New Zealand. FBoy Island is an entertainment show first and foremost targeted at a younger audience. Due to the provocative title we anticipated some level of conversation around the show.”
Should you watch it?
Tran-Lawrence says instead of telling people not to watch shows, “we need to equip all people, especially young people, with the tools to watch things with a critical lens”.
“This is not real, it is not representative. You can be entertained by it but there are no life lessons there. They should not learn anything from it.”
Re: News is owned by TVNZ.
Where to get help:
- 24 hour nationwide helpline Safe2Talk: 0800 044 334
- 24/7 helpline Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP: 04 801 6655
- 24/7 helpline HELP Auckland: 0800 623 1700
- RapeCrisis directory to services across the country: www.rapecrisisnz.org.nz
- (Not for crisis support): For education programs around preventing sexual violence: RespectEd
- Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa: www.malesurvivor.nz
- To report your experience to the police, call 111 or the non-emergency line 105
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