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The Men Of 2019’s Dating Shows Are The Worst We’ve Ever Seen

It's high time we talk about it

First off, let’s start by reaffirming: Yes, reality television is fake. Yes, reality television is made to spark drama and ‘spice’. Yes, the portrayals on reality television are often exaggerated. But, the toxic masculinity, disrespect and portrayal of coercive control to hit out screens in 2019 are at an all-time high and it’s time we discussed it. 

Series like Married At First Sight and Bachelor In Paradise have chosen to portray men that disrespect women, refer to them as “territory” and “bigger than I usually go for”, as well as claim our “biology” was not meant for certain situations. It’s not good. At all. 

On reality television, we’re often used to seeing signs of manipulation employed by either contestants or producers. Gaslighting is the most commonly portrayed and became a staple on Married At First Sight this year. The manipulation tactic saw groom Sam Ball gaslight wife Elizabeth Sobinoff by mocking her, belittling her and making her feel like she’d done something wrong (when in fact, she hadn’t). On top of the persistent gaslighting, the day Sam met his wife Elizabeth at the alter he proceeded to comment on her weight and insisted he’d “get her out for a run”. 

RELATED: This Scene On ‘Married At First Sight’ Proves How Damaging Gaslighting Can Be

sam ball

It was sentences like “you’re so angry”, “just relax”, “you’ve got to calm down” that Sam continually strung together to make it seem like Elizabeth was the one in the wrong, when in fact she had remained perfectly calm and reasonable throughout the entire ordeal (despite a few sassy hair flicks and eye rolls, but hey we’re only human). 

The most damaging thing though, is that emotional abuse such as gaslighting is often hard to see in the moment, while networks tend to forget the triggering affects seeing these forms of behaviours can have. “It can have the potential to normalise or even promote emotionally abusive behaviour for attention or fame,” says Lysn psychologist Tahnee Schulz. “It’s important to understand that this behaviour is NOT normal, and whilst emotional abuse does happen in some relationships, it should not be considered an acceptable way to treat a person or encouraged as ‘entertainment’.”

Then came Mike Gunner. Mike’s stint on Nine’s MAFS will arguably remain one of the most blatant and outright displays of toxic masculinity that will forever be ingrained in our brains – unless of course, you happened to miss Mike’s stunning performance and if that is the case, lucky you. 

Throughout his time on the social experiment, Mike continually gaslights wife Heidi, shames her for trying to emotionally open up to him about her past as a foster child with the now infamous “I’m not your therapist, sweetheart” line, to downright defending a man who had cheated on his wife. Then who could forget Mike’s claims that women, biologically, don’t “cope under pressure”.  

When asked to reflect on his comments following the episode’s airing, Mike claimed it was “toxic feminism” that had labelled him and that he had “no regrets” over the entire situation. Not one? 

Mike has now begun a podcast where he evidently, hasn’t learnt a single lesson. In the first episode he spends 40 minutes reading out comments from users, mainly women of course, who praise him and think he’s “hot”. At one point he refers to a woman born in 1979 as a ’79 model. As in, a car model. 

RELATED: Why Do We Continue To Glorify Female Rivalry?


When MAFS finished we thought we’d seen the last of toxic male behaviour on our television screens. But alas, it’s not a perfect world. Bachelor In Paradise, while normally an easy-to-watch albeit cringy series to binge on your Tuesday night’s, has been an eye-opening experience into Australian culture. From Ivan Krslovic’s terrifying obsession with Tenille Favios to Paddy Colliar’s fetishisation of bisexuality and Bill Goldsmith’s penchant for a little white lie. It’s been enlightening, to say the least.

The series starts out by introducing a love triangle between Alex Nation, Brooke Blurton and Bill Goldsmith. While Alex and Brooke decide to go on a date, instead of Channel Ten using the history-making moment to highlight the inclusion of the LGBTQI community on the franchise, it hit us with Paddy’s objectifying comments playing on the straight male trope of fetishising bisexual women as though they exist purely for male entertainment. “I hope there’s oil and like massages and that and that we get to watch it back,” Paddy said openly. “I’d love to be a fly on the wall for those two. You can pause live TV now. I’d love to pause it on that.” Ick. 

paddy colliar

Then we’re introduced to Ivan, who couldn’t comprehend that Tenille wasn’t his “property” to be claimed. Actual quotes from Ivan include: “She’s mine”, “She’s my territory to mark”, “I don’t want anyone talking to her” and the real kicker, “Nathan needs to stop playing with my stuff”. 

“Nathan needs to stop playing with my stuff.” 

That is a direct quote. 

It’s important to note that Ivan has apologised for his portrayal on the show, admitting he didn’t “notice his behaviour” at the time. Which is possibly one of the most damning things to come out of this series, that often men aren’t aware that they’re being possessive or manipulative until its played out in front of 539,000 Australian viewers. 


It gets worse when Bill decides to attempt to *work* both Alex and Florence at the same time. From calling one woman a “salty b*tch” to lying to the next about what had really happened, Bill has proved time and time again he’s out for himself. In a matter of hours, Bill had emotionally abused and undermined Florence to breaking point and convinced Alex that she was crazy for believing her. Both the women were none the wiser until of course, they were able to watch it play out onscreen. 

Not to seem like a scathing indictment on all Aussie men, but seriously – what’s going on? 

Perhaps we’re more aware in recent years that we’re noticing the toxic behaviour as soon as it hits, or maybe thanks to movements like #MeToo we’re gaining the confidence to speak out as soon as we see it. 

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