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Why is TV full of people stripping off?

"The barriers are down, everything is open, nothing is hidden," says Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds

Published: Monday, 25th July 2016 at 2:50 pm

Well, would you Adam and Eve it? Recently 3,000 people took their clothes off, painted themselves blue and lay around the not-so-tropical city of Hull in varieties of heaps. All, of course, in the name of art.


Actually, I thought it was quite funny. I saw it on my phone while enjoying two days at the General Synod talking about sex. So it seemed both timely and amusing.

What is it with nakedness at the moment? You can hardly turn on the telly without finding someone wanting to take their clothes off. I thought Big Brother was embarrassing, but clearly that was just the appetiser for Love Island, Life Stripped Bare and new series Naked Attraction. At least the new paradise-building Eden (Channel 4) has the islanders keeping their clothes on – probably wise, given the climate.

We’ll come back to that in a minute. First, though, it might be worth correcting one or two misapprehensions about religion, bodies and nakedness. The story in the Old Testament book of Genesis has Adam and Eve (man and woman) doing a naughty and then realising that they are naked. So they run away and hide in the bushes in the garden. Which is reasonable.

But the point of this is not that they are naked – that is, clothes- free; it is that they realise they are transparent, or, as we might put it, they know they can be seen through. And this transparency is felt to be threatening rather than promising.

So they hide. And funnily enough it is God who comes looking for them (not the other way around) to make sure they are OK for the future despite the mess they have got themselves into.

What is odd these days, however, is that some people seem to jump at any opportunity to get their kit off. Especially if there is a camera nearby. What is it that drives people to want to have not only their body, but also their character, habits and personality laid bare for an audience of voyeurs to criticise? What curious motivation lies deep within them that makes exhibitionism seem an attractive option?

I guess what lies behind these questions is the blurring of the lines between what used to be called the private and the public. There were once conventions about what should be legitimately exposed and what should be kept private, but it seems that contemporary society has binned these and invited the beautiful people to bare more than their souls in the name of the great god Entertainment.

And now it’s not just the glitzy, model types. The telly is full of programmes about all sorts of people trying to cover up dodgy tattoos, operations that went wrong, weird people trying to make themselves attractive. And all in full public gaze. Why?

Maybe the ubiquity of social media has something to do with it? If breakfast used to be a matter of private interest, now the whole of Twitter needs to know what I eat. Obviously. The barriers are down, everything is open, nothing is hidden. Politicians and others in public life have their lives shredded by a prurient and ruthless media monster, insatiable in its appetite for flesh.

I am not sure this is entirely healthy. If the internet has given our kids open access to all sorts of distorted views of what it is to be human – that “beautiful” and idealised bodies are to be valued above all else – then perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at some of the identity and self-esteem problems faced by them as they grow through adolescence towards adulthood.

In which case, Naked Attraction lies at one extreme of exhibitionist fantasy, whereas at least the Hull nudists were just ordinary people with ordinary bodies in ordinary shapes and sizes.

Still, there must be some places where it still is right to shout, “Get yer kit on!”


Naked Attraction is on tonight at 10:00pm on Channel 4


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