Love Island’s brutal dating game shows us men are vulnerable too | Gaby Hinsliff

Modern masculinity is usually shown as toxic or threatening but the TV hit offers a surprising insight into men’s softer side

Women have no idea what men talk about when we are not in the room. Well, how could we? By definition, the conversation changes when we walk in. But most women have their suspicions. Locker room talk had a grim reputation even before Donald Trump. At best, women tend to assume that it’s secretly rather boring: all sport and cars, light on emotions.

And that’s where the return of Love Island, ITV2’s spectacularly vacuous hit reality show, has proved unexpectedly interesting. For those readers sadly unfamiliar with the oeuvre, imagine Big Brother minus most of the clothes and all the intellectual pretensions. What’s left is a bunch of swishy-haired young women in skimpy bikinis and heels, thrown together somewhere around a swimming pool with a bunch of improbably muscled hunks in trunks. It’s about as deep as a puddle in a summer drought, the last place on Earth you’d expect to find men’s innermost feelings laid bare. But while the rather seedy hook is the prospect of people trying to cop off with each other while under 24-hour surveillance, the TV gold here is in the endless conversations.

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