Category Archives: Love on Television

Are You There, Universe? It’s Me, Hayley.


The Internet is a strange place. It’s even more bizarre that people, like myself, pen blogs divulging personal information, secret feelings and urges, and intimate meanderings for strangers, like yourself, to read. It’s a little like my theory about one-night stands: It’s easier to throw yourself into wild abandon with a stranger rather than a constant partner because there’s no expectations, and you’ll—god willing—never seen this anonymous bedfellow again. Basically you can get as freaky as you want with no judgment, repercussions, or issues to plague your performance. But you also run the risk of leaving the tryst orgasm free—but that’s a whole other story …

What is it about the anonymity of the Internet that makes us so brave? Why can we bear our soul, our fantasies, our insecurities, and our fears to a cacophony of mouse clicks and faceless screens? This idea makes me think of a televised obsession of mine, the cult-favorite MTV show Catfish. In case you haven’t watched this ubiquitous small screen phenom—which is an offshoot of a documentary with the same name—this show profiles aspiring lovers who meet on the Internet and have yet to connect face-to-face. They share secrets and desires with each other using the Internet as their conduit, confiding in each other like a normal, non-cyber partnership. The catch? Many of these Internet relationships are founded on lies.

Hidden or fake identities, picture stealing, and general dishonesty inform these Catfish tales, resulting in broken hearts and dashed dreams. Fueled by insecurity, jealously, or curiosity, the duplicitous lover-to-be or “catfish” assumes a different Internet-only identity and peruses the web seeking a potential mark—er, mate. My husband and I watch as these safe-from-a-distance virtual relationships unfurl into a deeply human discourse about loneliness, alienation, and the need for connections and communication. Why is it so hard to just reach out and touch a corporeal being rather than hide behind a photoshopped avatar?

After a brief hiatus I am back to blogging. Part of the reason why I stopped was because I wasn’t even sure if I was helping people connect to a deeper understanding of themselves as holistically sensual beings—the real purpose behind my blog—or if anyone was even reading it at all. WordPress can feel alienating. Much like the nature of relationships, the things that attracted me to the Internet or the perceived anonymity of blogging are also the things that repelled me. I crave connections, feedback, a community of like-minded men and women to delve into the deeper issues. While I might get a “like” or a comment here and there, sometimes I feel like I am writing in a vacuum. Is anyone out there?

That was until I logged back in to post about a friend’s amazing lingerie company and realized that my humble blog had taken on a life of its own. Despite my absence, Venus in Heels continuously attracts visitors—who cares that much of the traffic comes from unsavory keywords or sexed-up searches. While the search term “blowjobs” or “brothel girl” might bring them to my blog, they actually stay for a while and continue to navigate. So, thank you for coming—in whatever capacity.

The Lost Art of Matchmaking and Why Patti Stanger is a Fraud

Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker

It should come as no surprise that I am irrationally obsessed with sex and romance. In addition to writing tirelessly and reading voraciously about all-things amorous, I also enjoy watching television programs that tackle the strange and wild world of dating and love. From The Bachelor to all of those awful reality TV celeb-dating fiascos (I even wrote an article about reality TV dating tips because I am so obsessed!), I spend a considerable amount of my time glued to the small screen, fully immersed in televised romantic highs and woes. Two shows that I am particularly taken with are Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker and VH1’s Tough Love. Both programs focus on successful matchmakers who help eligible singles break their bad dating habits and then subsequently set up these rough and tumble singles with their “perfect match.” The premise of both shows is slightly similar: Tough Love deals with everyday women who want to break free from their hang-ups caused by past relationships, while Millionaire Matchmaker is much like what its name suggests; A millionaire is paired with less financially fortunate arm candy in the hopes of forging a legitimate romantic connection. I was instantly drawn to both shows because I consider myself to be very intuitive when it comes to who will pair well with whom. While I am not a practicing matchmaker, I do instinctively understand the intangible elements to consider when hooking two people up. I became interested in studying these two self-proclaimed matchmakers and paid close attention to the rules and tricks they preached to their single clients.

I don’t love either show, but I am always captivated by these two relationship “experts,” Tough Love’s Steve Ward, and Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger, who have basically made a lucrative career out of something that interests me. Steve Ward went on to expand his Tough Love brand to Tough Love Couples, a show that forced troubled twosomes to confront their issues from intimacy and trust, to fighting and lack of sex. While flawed, I found Tough Love Couples to be honest, endearing, and actually kind of helpful in a vacuously superficial TV kind of way. While it’s hard to achieve depth on reality television, Steve Ward has a way of breaking people (and their terrible conceptions of love and romance) down only to build them up better. And it’s his big heart, not his sound bite-worthy tough insults, that keep me coming back to the show season after season. I’m not positive that his matchmaking skills are perfect—it’s really hard to gauge what his success rate is in a 12-episode season—but you get the sense that this guy cares about connecting people and making their existing relationships blossom.

Patti Stanger and Steve Ward.

On the other hand, Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger seems like she’s just out to capitalize on the chronic relationship problems of the rich. Similar to Steve Ward, Patti Stanger dishes out some pretty hurtful and harsh tidbits to both her millionaire clients and their would-be daters. While she claims to be a dating guru, the emphasis she places on looks, money, and just superficiality in general, calls into question whether she should be the person dolling out advice. It’s obvious that a huge part of what makes us attracted to members of the opposite (or same) sex is based on physical appearance, but there is obviously so much more than that. Recently a good friend of mine was complaining about how people just match her up with “good on paper” single guys that seem like a great catch, but have nothing in common with her as a person. This reminds me of Patti’s approach. Her mantra “the penis does the picking” might ring true in the sense that sexual attraction is a huge factor in all of our romantic relationships. But what happens after the sex?

This brings to mind my dad’s great dating theory. He once told me that when he was single he would meet a lot of women who he would connect with physically, but he couldn’t imagine the thought of having breakfast with them the next morning. His system of figuring out who he was compatible with involved finding a girl he could stand to take out for a meal post-coitus. He recounts that when he met my mother—after getting hit by what he calls “the thunderbolt”—he wanted to take her out to breakfast, then lunch, then dinner, and the rest is history. My big problem with Patti’s system of matchmaking has to do with her inability to spot true magnetism between two people that’s deeper than just hormone-based attraction. Instead she’s bound by rules that only apply to the superficial set, who aren’t in search of a long-term partner and instead are beckoned by the promise of a quick fix.

Sure, I get it. These guys are millionaires and they want the biggest, best, and most ostentatious thing available (read: breast implants, big Barbie hair, and a size-2 frame with a brain). But isn’t that the very reason that these guys (and gals) are in fact single? Their unrealistic wants, expectations, and insecurities have informed their physical type, versus looking for real compatibility or connection. Unfortunately, instead of toning down these very surfaced tendencies, Patti plays up to them by rooting out potential suitors based solely on looks and nit-picky rules that only exist in Patti’s narrow-minded world. Patti champions unrealistic ideals, asks women to change their looks to tailor to the millionaire’s specific taste, and even tries to dictate how they should dress to her exclusive cocktail mixers. I have seen her bring women to tears, rip apart perfectly attractive people, and dish out cold-hearted advice during her “screening sessions.” In addition, while she verbally assaults the single women who hope to be paired with a millionaire by constantly telling them they’re not pretty, skinny, or stylish enough, Patti treats the men who are auditioning to be matched with a female millionaire like her own personal Chippendales dancers. She has no qualms about asking men to take off their shirts as she giggles like a schoolgirl at their perfectly sculpted abs, and flirts with them relentlessly until a new group of bachelors are ushered in for their screening. Perhaps it’s this kind of subconscious sexism that impedes her process—she’s so caught up in enforcing her arbitrary rules and reinforcing archaic notions of romance that she can’t spot a real, honest love connection.

Patti is also doing these men and women a disservice by playing into antiquated gender roles. By reinforcing this old fashioned notion of relationships and dating, she is forcing people to play by a code that no longer applies to modern society. She has a strict rule of making the man plan the date, and forbids sex before monogamy, which is one thing I completely agree with. But the vulgarity in which she conveys her strong feelings on abstinence (“Not in here,” as she points to her mouth, conveying oral sex, “or in here, or here,” alluding grotesquely to anal and vaginal intercourse by pointing like a child to the corresponding orifices.) This is a great lesson that we can all try to stick to—don’t have sex before you really think the courtship has a strong foundation and a future—but when Patti is basically prepping all of the girls to be blow-up dolls with a pulse, how can these millionaires NOT think about sex? Her system is deeply flawed and surfaced, and her hotheaded temper may make for good TV, but it gets in the way of the true purpose of the show, which is to create matches and make people happy.

What’s the Temperature of Your Sex Life?

Photo by Diane Arbus

It goes without saying that sex is an integral part of any healthy relationship. But after watching this week’s intimacy-themed episode of Tough Love Couples on VH1, I was completely blown away by how many people (on the show and beyond) are dissatisfied with the all-important sexual component of their partnerships. Some of the couples never have sex (one boyfriend described his sex life as “ice cold”), and one very unlucky woman has never experienced an orgasm—which is not surprising seeing as recent studies report that around 10% of women have never had one. The bottom line: when the sex isn’t working there’s definitely larger issues at hand.

The sex-related problems of these televised twosomes range from trust issues and infidelity to communication and the understanding of each other’s unique desires, but something that struck me as odd was the fact that the couple dubbed the “Dramaramas,” who notoriously fight dirty, were the pair with the most successful sex life. Funnily enough, my boyfriend and I thought that comical title would be most apt for our own love story. While we are both lovers, we are also fighters, but this seems more like a personality thing rather than a fatal flaw—if you ask anyone they’d describe both of us as opinionated hot heads.

"Tough Love Couples" cast members, courtesy of VH1

In some cases though, frequent verbal sparring might be covering up for something lacking in the bedroom—I am always telling people that if I’m not fucking, I’m fighting—or it’s an indication that perhaps the romance is over and it’s time to move on. But honestly, I am really convinced that a healthy dose of conflict helps to keep you interested. Love and hate are so closely linked, and when you get your tempers enflamed it’s hard not to get all fired up, if you know what I mean. They didn’t call it “hate sex” for nothing.

While fighting isn’t a solution by any means, it is a good gauge for seeing the dynamics of a relationship. It forces you to ask questions like, “is there enough fire here to maintain this?” and “what exactly is the glue that’s holding us together?” If there’s still love and attraction between a couple the conflict most likely stems from sexual tension—I know this from experience. And, in reality, if I find myself in a situation with someone where all we do is fight and everything about them annoys me (which seems like the case with the couples on the show) then it’s obvious that there’s nothing left but animosity between us.

I did find myself in this situation with my ex-boyfriend of three-years. It became apparent that I was using him as a placeholder until I could come up with a better plan, or find a better man. It got to the point where the thought of having sex with him would literally turn my stomach (why did he always smell like sweaty balls?), and we would maybe see each other once a week for an awkward dinner outing and a chaste goodbye kiss in his car. When I finally broke it off with him, he was so blindsided it was painful for me to watch, but ultimately I knew that neither of us were growing or moving forward and I, myself, was far from happy.

I guess what I am really trying to say is that I think everyone benefits from taking action. Whether this means taking positive action and making an effort to love and respect your partner in a way that will make you both happier, learning to communicate what you both want so you will spend more time satisfied in the sack than fighting it out verbally, or to stand up and address what you truly want and need and if your needs aren’t being met then leave, dammit! It’s like what a wise man once told me, it’s better to be alone and happy then with someone and miserable