Megan Barton Hanson: A bisexual Love Island, OnlyFans, and empowering yourself
Following her talk at the Cambridge Union, The Tab had an exclusive conversation with Megan
After interviewing Megan, I check her Instagram story – it’s an image of King’s Parade in the sunshine. Speaking at the Union last night, Megan said that her Instagram stories are where she tries to show the “natural me,” “the good days and the bad days.” I can’t help but think about how, although she describes herself as “introverted,” Megan came to the Union alone, warmly asked my name before the interview, and answered all of my questions with a smile.
Far from the tabloid headlines of sex, plastic surgery, and scandal, Megan spoke with warmth and strength last night. From discussing female sexual empowerment and gay representation in her interview with me to exploring mental wellbeing and social media in her talk at the Union, Megan uses her platform to raise awareness of a range of issues.
A bisexual season on Love Island?
It’s less than 24 hours after Megan’s talk at the Union, and already the tabloids are splashed with headlines like “Bisexual Megan Barton Hanson says she’d ‘definitely’ return to Love Island if they did a ‘gay season’.”
In our talk last night, far from the gossip of these headlines, Megan explained to me why she thinks same-sex coupling is so rare on Love Island. She says that, given some of the producers and camera crew were gay, she doesn’t “think it’s from any kind of judgement”. Instead, it has a lot to do with “logistics.” She highlights how Love Island falls behind in many areas of representation: “They say they’re going to put a plus-sized model in [but,] I still haven’t seen anyone massively diverse.” She reiterates that ultimately these decisions are up to the producers.
When it comes to gay representation, Megan urges the audience to go to Twitter, “keep talking about,” and say “that’s what we want to see.” She suggests that “producers do pay attention to what the audience wants to see” and that with other shows, such as Celebs Go Dating and Strictly Come Dancing, taking same-sex couples into account, there seems to be a real momentum for change.
Megan is also personally calling for a “bisexual season” of Love Island. Speaking at the Union, she argued that “it wouldn’t work just chucking a couple gay guys and girls into a season.” Instead, she is calling for a total rehaul of the Love Island casting for the series. Talking to me, she jokingly adds that you can probably imagine “kinds of bed-hopping” that would occur.
OnlyFans and Female empowerment
For Megan, feminism is “supporting women no matter what they choose to do with their body.”
Hence, when I asked her about how OnlyFans empowers women, she quickly responded that it does so “massively.” Megan describes how in the glamour industry, when posing for lad mags like FHM and Zoo, your control is quickly taken away from you as they would “dictate”: “You need to be topless,” or “You need to shoot implied or fully nude.” She has also experienced photographers “selling your pictures and you seeing none of the profit.”
However, Megan describes that with OnlyFans you feel “completely in power, and in control of your images and your body.” She suggests that it is because “you’ve got full ownership of the pictures and know exactly where they’re going.” Megan also highlights how important it is financially to those affected by industry closures due to Covid-19: “I think it’s a great platform and I don’t know why it’s seen as so seedy.”
I see parallels between Megan’s discussion of OnlyFans as putting “all the power back into the model’s hands” and her conversation with the Union about female masturbation. Megan described that with female masturbation it is about taking back “female pleasure” so that it is no longer a product of the “male gaze.” She discusses how “for years men have made money off [women] being sexy,” and encourages women to take back power themselves through “learning their bodies.”
As such, Megan has her podcast You Come First, interviewing figures like Scarlett Howard about her experiences with OnlyFans, and singer Lily Allen about the launch of her new sex toy. Speaking to the Union about Lelo’s sex toys, Megan said that although she would have been “bright red” mentioning it four years ago, masturbation is “the most natural thing you can do.” Her mission is to make it “everyday and casual,” highlighting acts of pleasure in her own Vice column, as well as speaking about the importance of discussing it in schools and health benefits for easing menstruation cramps and helping sleeping.
Megan’s talk at the Union went far beyond sex and Love Island – she also discussed the importance of mental wellbeing, especially around social media. Having struggled with her mental health before entering the villa, Megan highlighted the importance of breaking the “stigma around therapy in the UK.” Particularly praising cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), she argues that if you train your body, “why not train your mind?”
Her discussion of mental health extended into her “love–hate relationship with social media.” Though Megan acknowledges the “great community online”, she is also highly aware of the “unrealistic expectations” that it perpetuates. She has learnt that many social media accounts are a “polished pristine outside shell” and that comparing yourself to these can be “the biggest thief of joy.” Therefore, although “a lot of hours go into [her] grid posts,” she says that on her stories she is “honest.” “I will post when I feel like shit,” she adds.
Last night Megan said that as a feminist, you celebrate women being “strong and empowered.” After her talk at the Union, that is exactly what I see within her. She is quietly strong in all of her choices as she works against societal stigmas with the philosophy: “Try not to overthink anything. Just do it.”
You can watch Megan’s full interview with the Cambridge Union here.
Feature image credits: Nordin Ćatić