An average of five penises and two vaginas per minute were on show in the debut episode of Naked Attraction last year, leading to a barrage of complaints for “exploitative nudity” and making it one of the most controversial series of 2016. I wouldn’t usually begin an article for the Radio Times with stats on genitalia, but Naked Attraction doesn’t beat around the bush, so to speak, so neither will I.
For those lucky enough to have missed its first run, Naked Attraction is a Channel 4 dating show (returning tonight for series two) wherein five people stand in glass boxes with their bits out and get eliminated one by one by a salivating singleton. After an initial fascination with the concept pulled in 1.79 million viewers, these figures plummeted by half a million by the end of the first series.
The show’s mantra is thus: “We like to start where a good date ends… naked.” Call me a prude, but if a good date ends with a leering stranger critiquing your fanny on national television, then all hope for the human race is well and truly lost.
It’s understandable how for the first series, participants might not have fully understood the implications of what they were signing up for and joined the show in a blind and desperate panic to find love. But who in their right minds would watch it on television and then willingly apply? I’ll tell you who. In tonight’s episode, Dominic is signed up by his mother. Her reasoning is that her son doesn’t suit the modern dating game and that he’s an old soul. I find this rationale very troubling and misguided. Izzy is the second participant. She likes “feminism, eggs and gin”. She’s one of those. One of those people who lists their interests on Tinder with full stops in between and one of them always includes gin. She can’t be trusted.
Participants aside, I can’t help but wonder what possesses Anna Richardson (partner of Sue Perkins) to present Naked Attraction. She seems genuinely perplexed when she wonders aloud: “Why do you want to choose a date naked?” Plus she looks physically pained when she asks: “Which mini do you want to go and have a look at?”
To which Dominic’s nauseating reply is: “All of them!”
This is just one of many exchanges that demonstrates how degrading and objectifying Naked Attraction is. Just because it’s diverse – and it undeniably is – it doesn’t mean it’s right. The fact it’s inclusive simply means it’s degrading to people of all colours, genders, shapes and sexualities. When it comes to sleaziness, it doesn’t discriminate.
For starters, the boxes that the five naked people stand in are almost identical to the one in Taken when Liam Neeson’s daughter is being auctioned off as a prostitute. And yes, they rotate too. Plus, in tonight’s show, Dominic tells a really, really funny joke where he says he could rest a tray of brandies on a girl’s bum. After all, what’s the point in a woman if she can’t be re-purposed as a piece of furniture? This girl is then rejected by Dominic because he decides her arse is too big and then she complains that she has been sent off purely for the way she looks. She doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the show.
There is one argument that Naked Attraction could improve body confidence as it shows normal bodies on TV as opposed to air brushed super models. For the viewers at home perhaps this is true – but for the contestants themselves isn’t it hugely damaging to their self worth? The vitriol on Twitter last year about the appearance of people (and their pubes) was horrifying. And two contestants in the series two debut get the boot because they’re too slender. I can’t help thinking that if this was the other way around and people were eliminated for being overweight, then this show wouldn’t be allowed on TV.
Finally, there’s a major fault in the format of Naked Attraction. There’s all this carry on about which lucky naked person in a box will win the date with the ogling perv – but who’s to say they even fancy them? They get no say in the matter. I accept that Blind Date also has this conundrum, but the fact it’s based on people’s personalities and not their undercarriages gives it a head start. Meanwhile on Take Me Out, both sides have a choice of who they run off to the Isle of Fernando’s with, and on First Dates neither person knows what they’re in for. But for Naked Attraction to give one person all the choosing power? Like picking a cut of meat at the butcher’s? It just doesn’t work.
Oh, and one last thing: it’s very difficult to watch it and eat at the same time, which I resent.
Naked Attraction returns on Thursday 29th June at 10pm on Channel 4