It’s been dubbed the ‘nude photo controversy’ or, the ‘nude photo scandal of the season.’ News.com.au went so far as to call it an ‘X-rated storyline.’ Married At First Sight’s Domenica Calarco ‘exposed’ by a fellow Bride contestant for having an account on the adults-only subscription website OnlyFans.
Earlier this week, MAFS producers forced the 29-year old Sydney make-up artist to shut down her account after one of her pictures (labelled ‘racy snaps’ by The Daily Mail) was discovered by another bride.
The photo was apparently shared amongst the cast without Calarco’s knowledge or consent, and widely believed to be an act of revenge by fellow contestant Bride, Olivia Frazer.
An aggrieved Olivia, (who’s already spent a significant chunk of the season bullying Dom for having a voice too loud and not expressing herself well enough– another plot line slammed by hundreds on social media as casual racism toward migrant Australians), was apparently trying to dig up more dirt on Domenica when she discovered her OnlyFans account, “and saw it as a way to humiliate her rival”.
“Olivia is just trying to tarnish Dom’s reputation and paint her as the bad guy to save herself,” one contestant told Channel Nine.
And while we’re used to the term ‘scandal’ being used more and more loosely across the reality TV diaspora, this particular storyline is so tired, so backward, so depressing to run the week after International Women’s Day, that it needs to be commented on.
In a particularly infuriating clip from tonight’s much anticipated dinner party, contestant groom Cody Bromley (a man described by his own blood uncle as a 30 year-old with the brain of an 18 year-old) is shown berating 29-yo Domenica about the issue: “We’ve all seen an image of you pretty much naked… does Jack know you had an OnlyFans?” referring to Jack Millar, Calarco’s on-screen groom.
The judgemental line of questioning continues, with the majority of the table turning on Domenica over her life and financial choices. Choices that she, as a contemporary adult woman, has made on her own terms and with her own agency.
Of course, Bromley’s question is more of an accusation than anything else. It suggests Calarco should be ashamed of her OnlyFans account, and afraid of her fake husband’s judgement; that she ought to expect Jack’s value of her to diminish after this piece of her lifestyle is ‘exposed’.
The money Calarco was making was apparently needed to pay for her rent, but the producers of the show were adamant she take down her account — they also allegedly convinced her the controversy would be ‘good for her.’
Observing the way a woman’s actions and behaviours are adjudicated online can be a very searing (often unwelcome) confirmation of our collective inability to value a woman on her own terms.
The lesson young women and girls are learning with such egregious storytelling is that a young woman should be made to feel her worth is diminished if she chooses to monetise her body on her own terms.
More than just an issue of sexual liberation and our collective discomfort with women seeking it, it’s society’s measurement and policing of a woman’s worth — that we still deem women with proud sexual agency as less worthy, less valuable, less eligible of our respect– that’s most gruelling in this plot line.