Channel 4 has reached a new low by producing Naked Attraction. This reduces human interaction to its minimal parts. Naked Attraction takes out any of the ‘courtship’ or ‘dating’ between people. Instead, participants get to choose someone on the basis of their male or female genitals. This is supposedly ‘feminism’ because females get to objectify male bodies.
The premise of the show is that one can identify a suitable romantic partner by evaluating their body-parts one by one.
The male or female ‘judge’, looking for a partner, stands in front of six ‘contestants’ whose naked bodies are slowly revealed.
First shown are their legs and genitals, then their backsides, their chest, and finally their face and voice. At each stage, the presenter Anna Richardson invites the ‘judge’ to act as a voyeur, providing a commentary about what they like or do not like about these strangers’ bodies. Then, the ‘judge’ has to discard a contestant, with the reasons given as superficial as excessive pubic hair, or an insufficient thigh gap.
This is presented as being ‘objective’: avoiding how ‘status symbols, online profiles and the clothes we wear’ can prevent us ‘from finding our perfect mate’, the show’s introduction explains.
This is not simply finding the body which you would most like to use to mediate your sexual pleasure; it is supposedly a route to ‘true love’.
The contestant in the position of ‘judge’ thus assesses the bodies of his or her potential date in isolation from all else- their personality, their history, their values, occupation, and their name. Rather than expressing part of their personhood, these are presented as obstacles to finding out who someone really is. As one contestant puts it, ‘when you remove the clothes, I think you get to know the real person’.
This, then, is dating at its most egocentric: what do I like, and who can best fulfil my desires?
The show does not merely capitalise on the objectification of bodies, but legitimises it.
Moreover, Anna Richardson asks about how the relationship history of the contestant in the role of judge bears on their comments about each individual body-part. For instance, in one episode, Rebecca says that she broke up with a man for having too small a penis, even though he ‘treated [her] like a princess’ while Dan describes ending a relationship with a man for having too large a penis. Likewise, Sapphire describes a ‘difficult experience’ where she ‘met this girl, got back to the bedroom, she took her pants off and it was like the 80s all over again’.
Objectification of women’s bodies is notoriously widespread. But the answer is not to encourage women as well as men to survey others with a similarly objectifying gaze. For this egocentric way of relating denies both parties the reciprocal, personal interactions they need to thrive. Moreover, it leaves untouched the unequal power structures which normalise gender-based discrimination, the oppressive standards of the beauty industry, and consumeristic ways of seeing the world and all it contains. Naked Attraction may see itself as boundary-pushing and forward-thinking. But to my mind, it is utterly regressive, and all humans deserve better than to treated as commodities.
Florence Gildea is a contributing writer and has a BA in History and a Mphil in Sociology from the University of Cambridge.