The Strictly “curse” strikes again and yet, this time, it feels different. There feels like a very real gap between the way that the kiss between Seann Walsh and Katya Jones is being discussed and how people feel. It is almost with a sense of the inevitable that we see these images of two already-partnered people kissing each other. Some of the coverage has reflected what feels like a collective shrug across the nation but there IS real harm and hurt behind all of this and so much of that is, I suspect, due to the all too common lack of communication between long term partners about how to manage monogamy.
For those who do not know, the show is a dance competition which sees British actors and TV personalities learning to dance with experienced dance partners. Now in its 8th year, this year’s cast includes Lee Ryan of Blue, Susanna Constantine of Trinny and Susannah and Seann Walsh, a comedian and actor. He was partnered with Katya Jones, who is married to another dancer. Seann has a live-in girlfriend called Rebecca Humphries who was celebrating her birthday on the day the kiss happened.
Given the show’s reputation, it would seem sensible to have a conversation before the process begins to discuss how one might communicate attraction and desire. Maybe the couple did this but I suspect that, instead of an honest and open discussion about the possibilities and imagined scenarios, there were, instead, either heart-felt but hollow promises and reassurances or silence.
Why promise that you won’t be attracted to your super fit and meant-to-be-attractive dance partner who one will be physically close to for hours a day? Discussing the possibility gives space for imagining and sharing how one might feel and talking through the boundaries as well as the consequences if something happens.
I suspect that for Rebecca the main issue is humiliation. The very public nature of the incident and coverage, as well as the fact that it happened on her birthday, must feel mortifying but, again, if they had discussed it beforehand they might have felt more able to handle it when it happened.
Katya saying of her and her husband of five years “we are fine” suggests that, within that marriage at least, there is an understanding that connection and attraction happens, that a kiss is okay and, perhaps, even, to be expected. It seems that they have an understanding that the bond they share is not affected by a moment of desire being acted upon. The reference by panel judge Arlene Philips to open relationships shows that, within the dance world at least, there is perhaps an awareness of what the environment tends to foster in terms of chemistry and desire.
The role of alcohol is an interesting one and not one I will be exploring today but, here, it has acted, as it often does, to ease an act of desire that may not have happened had those involved been sober.
The shaming of Seann is typical of the mainstream press narrative around this type of thing and, as it sells papers, it’s hardly surprising that the moment was captured on camera. His insistence that he is not how is being portrayed as well as the comment about the relationship being far from perfect (whose is?) show us the human reality of relationships. All too often we load our closest relationships with expectations that are out of kilter with the reality of human nature, a human nature we can learn to understand and accept rather than punish. People do make mistakes and, while I am not excusing the breaking of agreements, the more we demonise rather than try to understand, the harder we make it for all of us to be fully ourselves in our relationships with others. Counter intuitively, owning our desires and needs, our human-ness, can be the key to relationships success as I think the experience of Katya and Neil shows.
Let’s hope that how they all choose to act moving forwards shows some awareness that desire can pop up in all sorts of places and that it need not be the end but perhaps the start of a new and more conscious one about the reality of long term relationships.