reality tv

MAFS' Melissa is 41 and likes sex. Why does that make people so uncomfortable?

Married At First Sight bride Melissa Sheppard is a self-confessed 'freak in the sheets'.

In a recent interview with Nine Entertainmentthe 41-year-old hairdresser and mum-of-one said she hopes to take away the taboo around discussing sex. 

"If I could leave anything with all the women in the world, it’s to own your sexuality and embrace it," Melissa said.

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Video via Channel Nine.

Embracing sex positivity is a great cause to get behind, and while many MAFS viewers are enjoying her refreshing honesty, some find her overt love of sex, problematic. Especially when compared with Josh who holds very different values. Aside from their differences and their main storyline, I've noticed a distinct thread in the commentary about Melissa.

Rather than being slut shamed by certain corners of the internet like other female sex positive reality stars that have come before her, there's a subtle subtext of 'ick' and cringe in the response to Melissa's portrayal on the show. 


The 41-year-old is being labelled as a 'hornbag', a 'frisky mum-of-one', and a 'cougar', and I believe these cringe-heavy descriptors are less about Melissa's love of sex and more about her being 'old'. 

After all, would she be given the same labels if she was a younger contestant?

To simply exist as an older woman in the public eye is exhausting. 

Too much work done to our faces? We've gone too far. 

Put on weight or showing signs of ageing? We've let ourselves go. 

No kids? We must be so sad.

Embracing our sexuality like Melissa? We're embarrassing or 'ick'.

The wedding of Melissa and Josh. Image: Nine.


There are worse things that can happen to a human than being labelled a 'hornbag' after going on a reality TV show and Melissa is clearly a smart woman with a strong sense of self who will rise above it.

But as someone two years older than Melissa, the sly ageism just hits different.

It makes me uncomfortable because I know what it's like to be an 'older' woman in 2023. Yes, I too can rise above trashy commentary and ageist tropes, but I feel it deep in my bones and I'll be honest, it hurts.

On top of that, it's disappointing that a 41-year-old is still considered the 'old one' on a mainstream reality television show in 2023. 

What does that say about our culture and reality TV shows like MAFS? Why isn't there more diversity from an age perspective? 

Are women over 40 just not applying to take part, or is it more about what an audience wants in this image-heavy, curated world? 


In the same way we are used to looking at youthful female faces in magazines or on the big screen, do we (or the suits making the decisions) just not want to look at older women on the small screen?

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Let's be clear, 41 is not old. (Especially if you're a man.) 

In real life, Melissa wouldn't stand out for being 'old' if you passed her on the street on any given Monday, but on a reality show like MAFS, her age still pushes boundaries in 2023. And this desperately needs to change on screen if we want attitudes to change in real life.

Because if MAFS viewers are watching and judging 41-year-old Melissa while soaking in the commentary that reinforces her 'old bride', 'hornbag' TV persona, it supports our own negative feelings towards ageing. 

In 2023, it's time to mix up the representation of ages on the small screens. 

Because you know what is old? 

The tropes about being a woman over 40.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Nine. 

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