Once you’ve seen Channel 4’s Naked Attraction, you can’t unsee it. A contestant is presented with six boxes containing six naked people. The boxes lift from the ground up, in stages. First come the goolies; second the torso; third the face. Our hero then chooses one of these bodies to go on a date with. This, we are told, injects some honesty into modern relationships. The real revelation, however, is just how ridiculous human beings look naked, that devoid of mood music and soft lighting, we’re all about as sexy as a butcher’s shop window.
That said, Naked Attraction is also an important reminder of what a liar the libido is. A case in point: Leah, a 30-year-old fashion designer from London. She has tattoos, describes herself as “edgy” and is into both men and women (smart girl: keep yer options open). But all she really wants, it turns out, is someone who’ll give good hugs and be nice to her dog. Aww.
So, who does she pick? A fat one? A thin one? One with big piercings? Or what about a tubby lass who looks like she was made for cuddlin’ and describes Leah and her dog as her dream come true?
Oh, don’t be naïve. Leah chooses Greg, a customer services manager who happens to have the body of a Greek god. And would you believe, this fledging romance doesn’t work out? They go on a date. They sleep together. But then, says Leah, “Greg got a bit distant.” Four weeks later they film a recap for the show. “I normally date girls who are a bit thicker,” says Greg, meaning all hips and boobs. Leah asks why he didn’t raise this earlier. “I’ll still be friends with you if you want me to,” says Greg, flashing those puppy dog eyes. “Bon voyage,” says Leah. “Don’t come back.”
It’s sad, but predictable. If your first meeting with a potential partner is in the raw, at least one half of the couple is going to assume that this is about fun, not about marriage. Why? Well, because you are naked – and naked signals play, not commitment. If men married every woman who took their clothes off in the first five minutes, there would be a lot of very happy ex-strippers out there, but life doesn’t work that way.
And far from Naked Attraction offering an alternative to contemporary dating culture, it’s actually the same culture sped up and broadcast as cheap TV. Tinder, Grindr, all these dating apps encourage their users to pick and choose each other by first looks. Yes, a hook up may well follow; possibly a courtship; maybe even a partnership. But when the data comes back in a hundred years’ time, I’m willing to bet that we find the relationships of this era have a shorter shelf life than those of our grandparents.
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