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Why the blatant slut-shaming on Married at First Sight last night felt so eerily familiar.

Almost everything you've heard about TV show This Is Us is a huge lie.
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The last place I expected to feel genuine emotions this week was on Married at First Sight.

For the most part, the show is… ridiculous. Utterly brilliant, but ridiculous. These people get fake married on TV, after being matched by experts who have a frankly appalling track record when it comes to helping people find love.

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Of 10 couples who began the ‘experiment,’ four have left, and it’s only been going for two weeks. 

But, of course, the talk of this season is Cheryl and Andrew, whose fake marriages collapsed because of a texting scandal and a runaway bride, respectively. In an UNEXPECTED TWIST (that literally everyone saw coming) the two decided to pursue a relationship with each other after getting along at last week’s dinner party.

Listen: The Recap team debriefs on the Married at First Sight drama. (Post continues after audio.)

Why they feel the need to continue this relationship in the context of a TV show that objectively failed them the first time is unclear, but whatever.

On Tuesday night, Cheryl and Andrew officially decided to ‘re-enter the experiment’ and attend their first dinner party together as a couple. They both expected that the other couples might be surprised by their new relationship, but they couldn’t have foreseen the absolutely bizarre reactions that met them as they joined the group.

As they entered the room, the other couples erupted into a chorus of ‘JOOOOONNNNNEEEESSSSSSYYYYY.’ While it took us all a while to translate what was going on, it appears Jonesy is Andrew’s last name, and everyone was super, super excited to have him back. Cheryl on the other hand, well, no one cared. No one.

The repetition of the name ‘Jonesy’ was annoying, but not inherently problematic. Yet.

But after a few moments, anyone watching could sense that something was off. Everyone at this dinner party was feeling really, really angry. And it was all directed at Cheryl.

Can I be 'Chez'?

We thought it was probably because these other couples realised that while they're stuck with someone they probably don't even like, Andrew and Cheryl got to choose each other. And that's not part of the rules. But guys, the rules aren't real. None of this is real. 

But then as the evening progressed, it became extremely obvious what was happening: straight up slut-shaming.

No one could get their head around the fact that a) Cheryl had been fake-married to another man only a week earlier, b) She'd gone on a honeymoon with him, c) She'd broken up with him when she discovered he was not a very nice person and was sending texts to another woman on the show, and d) She'd expressed her interest for Andrew, and initiated a relationship with him.

None of this was okay. Who the hell does she think she is?

What followed was an infuriating timeline:

  • Sharon and Michelle take Andrew away from the party and ask him to be honest with them about Cheryl.
  • They explain that they're just "looking out for him" and don't "want him to get hurt."
Seriously? Image via Giphy.
  • They make it clear that they'll give her a chance, but ONLY BECAUSE he is as interested in her, and if he is interested in her, she must be of some value.
  • Everyone expresses their solidarity with 'Jonesy.'
  • Anthony, who seems the most angry about Cheryl's presence, challenges her about being "upset last week." How could someone be upset one week about being treated badly, and then dating someone else the next?
  • He tells her she "doesn't deserve a second chance."
  • He asks whether Cheryl would date Andrew outside the context of the show, and when she says yes, he says "bullsh*t."
  • Cheryl cries and leaves the room, and everyone else continues to talk to Andrew, encouraging him to "be real" with them and tell them the truth.
  • Andrew explains that he genuinely likes Cheryl and enjoys her company, and everyone says they'll give her the benefit of the doubt if he likes her.
  • When Cheryl returns, Anthony continues to attack Cheryl, and says ominously that this better work, because "You're going to look like a f**king idiot if you get it wrong."
Women... they can't be trusted.

Perhaps the behaviour was so concerning because we see it every single day. 

When a man has an affair with a woman and everyone wonders how she could possibly do that.

When a woman has more than one sexual partner and she's called a slut.

When a woman breaks up with a man and she's called a bitch.

When a woman refuses a man's advances and is called a prude.

Men and women are held to entirely different standards when it comes to dating.  Over and over again, I've seen my friends judged harshly for moving on after a bad relationship. Someone can treat them terribly, but if they move on, they're heartless. I've seen women dehumanised and degraded when they don't navigate their relationships in the way men expect them to. I've seen women called 'dumb' for the people they choose to date, while men's decisions are inherently logical and fair.

Not once did anyone question Andrew's intentions, or belittle him, or threaten him. He too was having a second go at the experiment, but there was no issue of him "looking like a f*cking idiot" if it didn't work out.

Everyone... everyone loves me.

What was also infuriating was the insinuation that the only thing that makes a woman legitimate is a man's endorsement of her. Cheryl is only worth getting to know because 'good bloke' Andrew likes her. Otherwise, she's just another frivolous, empty woman.

There is no female equivalent for a 'good bloke,' and when it comes to relationships, especially those involving young women who happen to be attractive, women are viewed with unprecedented suspicion. The idea of a man being hurt troubles everyone - but the reality of Cheryl being hurt a week prior because the man she was with objectively betrayed her trust was entirely ignored. It just wasn't important.

She was told by Anthony that she didn't really give her relationship with Jonathan "a go," even though she married him, went on a honeymoon with him, and waited long enough for him to actually say he wished he was matched with someone else and start texting another woman. Jonathan wasn't met with any outward judgement or anger from the other couples when he initiated a relationship with another woman who was still fake married (yes, I'm aware how ridiculous this all sounds) and preceded to be rude to the woman he was with. His behaviour wasn't up for discussion - but Cheryl's on the other hand, was everyone's business.

This TV show acts like a microcosm, providing a profound insight into what goes on in the real world. When women don't behave in the way men want them to, they're humiliated, belittled and threatened. And while I'm the first one to have a laugh at the ridiculousness of Married at First Sight, last night's dinner party wasn't funny. It was very, very sad.

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