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Married at First Sight just showed us how dangerous the 'boys club' really is.

Married at First Sight is not a high-brow documentary series. We are entirely aware of this.

But last night’s episode, watched by over two million Australians, struck a unique chord with viewers and generated a heated ethical discussion with implications far beyond the realm of reality television.

Andrew Jones was sculpted as the quintessential jilted groom – a ‘good bloke’ who had been rejected by an indecisive and ultimately cruel woman. His bride, Lauren, left him following their wedding reception. He was given no explanation, and it appeared that for him, a 38-year-old fireman, the experiment had ended before it began.

Andrew braved the first dinner party alone and it was here he met Cheryl, a 25-year-old hairdressers receptionist who was matched with Jonathan. They lacked any emotional connection – a not uncommon outcome for a program that marries strangers.

Listen to Laura Brodnik and Tiffany Dunk explain why we need to call out the men on Married at First Sight on The Binge. Post continues after audio. 

But when Cheryl discovered Jonathan’s ‘texting scandal’, she decided she had been matched with the wrong person from the beginning. It was Andrew she was interested in.

From the moment she made her ‘relationship’ with Andrew known to the other couples, there was unprecedented animosity. Reserved only for Cheryl.

Andrew deserved a second chance, while Cheryl was indecisive, immature, and likely had an ulterior motive.

Over the next few weeks, it became clear that this relationship wasn’t going to work. But it all came to a head on Sunday night, when the men and women separated. The ‘boys night’ was confronting viewing.

Andrew was asked what he makes eye contact with when he talks to Cheryl, and made a joke about “totally, her eyes” while pretending to grope a set of breasts. He mocked her interests, laughing that she only talks about “the Kardashians and hair extensions,” and said “conversation seems too much for Cheryl.”

Andrew speaking to Nick on the boys night. Image via Channel 9.
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He told the boys Lauren was a lot more fun than Cheryl, and that he'd prefer to be with her. While many of the men participated and encouraged the degrading conversation about Cheryl, Sean challenged Andrew, and attempted to derail the cruel taunts. The next day, he told Cheryl that some 'disgusting' remarks were made, warning her that Andrew didn't have her back in an all-boys setting.

Then, at last night's dinner party, Cheryl brought up the boys night, and many of the men had the opportunity to call out Andrew's bad behaviour. Instead, Sean remained the only one brave enough to do so.

What we saw was the ultimate example of gaslighting: both Sean and Cheryl were manipulated into doubting their own view of reality, and in turn, their reactions.

Andrew flatly denied having said anything cruel about Cheryl, telling her, "I think you're so full of sh*t, aye."

"Here's the thing, Cheryl," he said. "You've got no idea what was said on the boys night," before reiterating, "not once have I not had your back."

"You're full of sh*t." Image via Channel 9.

When Sean said he was uncomfortable with Andrew's comments on the night, he was told he was "tripping," and Anthony, the villain of the season, said he mustn't have been there if Cheryl had been attacked.

"I thought it was very light hearted and there was no malice at all," Anthony said. "It was just boys having a bit of a joke."

Michelle also defended Andrew, saying, "Jonesy, I know you, and I know you're an amazing person."

The conversation ended with Andrew saying, "sorry girls, it wasn't about you. The boys were being boys."

And that sentiment, of 'boys being boys,' speaks volumes about toxic masculinity, and the way the culture of boys and men is built on degrading and objectifying women.

The implicit code of silence that exists around men's conversations allows them to maintain their disturbing attitudes towards women. Within the boys club, there's no moral imperative.

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The boys club. Image via Channel 9.

This is Trump's locker room.

This is the 'blokey banter' we're never meant to hear.

This is indicative of a culture that perpetuates misogyny, under the guise of a 'joke.' A joke that women just don't seem to be able to take.

This is an example of hyper masculinity that is systematically rewarded.

This is a display of a brand of manliness that is contingent upon disrespect towards women.

Because this wasn't about Cheryl. This was about women. And the way they're locked out of the incomprehensibly powerful boys club, unless they agree to participate in it.

And we all felt it.

Listen to the latest episode of The Binge. Post continues after audio. 

What we saw last night was a number of men do a disservice to their brothers, fathers, friends and sons, by excusing bad behaviour in the name of 'boys will be boys.'

Boys and men are better than this.

It might have just been an episode of Married at First Sight, a program that matches couples based on questionable 'science' and the pursuit of ratings, but for many viewers, it was so much more than that.

Reality television presents us with new narratives by which to draw meaning and interrogate human behaviour. And this episode, at this time, placed a necessary spotlight on a brand of masculinity we all need to call out.

By broadcasting it on television, in a way, we kicked down the door of the locker room, and gained access to what was inside. It was indeed 'disgusting,' but it's possible for each of us to disrupt these conversations when we hear them, because that's how we rob them of their power.

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