Sunday 20 January 2019

Naked truth is here - and it's not pretty

A new dating show on Channel 4 features naked guests in glass cases. For Sarah Carey, the Apocalypse is nigh

THE NAKED HORSEMEN AND WOMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Presenter Anna Richardson with a pair of contestants on show like at a horse fair. Photo: Channel 4/PA Wire
THE NAKED HORSEMEN AND WOMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE: Presenter Anna Richardson with a pair of contestants on show like at a horse fair. Photo: Channel 4/PA Wire

Sarah Carey

Memo to the boss: I want double the usual fee for this column because I've just had to watch the most execrable muck so I can make the following important announcement to our readers: "It's official. The End of Days has come."

If you're into divine intervention, then the great purge must be upon us soon. If you take a humanistic approach, then our self-immolation may take a little longer. If the global warming or gluttony doesn't get us, perhaps it'll be some sexually transmitted plague. The means is unimportant. The point is: civilisation is over. The Apocalypse isn't merely inevitable; it's necessary.

What has prompted this declaration? The editor requested that I watch a programme called Naked Attraction on Channel 4. I can't believe it exists. I can't believe it got 1.4 million viewers, not including all the playbacks on the website. Including mine. I feel dirty.

Here's how it works. Do you remember Blind Date? A candidate interviewed potential dates hidden behind a screen and picked one based on personality. This is the opposite. This is Full Frontal Date.

On Naked Attraction, six potential dates are displayed in glass cases. They have no clothes on. Totally starkers. I'm talking willies and labia here folks. A screen is gradually raised to expose their bodies, bit by bit. We get the bottom half first. The presenter Anna Richardson, and the man or woman looking for a date, peer into the cases to examine the genitalia of each candidate. The dates are asked to turn around so we can examine their bottoms and repeat the process.

The screens are raised again to reveal their chests and nipples. Finally, we get to see their faces and the dates actually get to speak! About what? Why? Their bodies of course!

At each stage, candidates are rejected until two remain, and one is picked. Then for a few seconds at the end, we see the pair on a date - with their clothes on - looking all perky and nervous.

Do you know what it reminded me of? Slave auctions. I think I saw one on Roots, that old television series about slavery, when the bidders examined the merchandise as if they were animals. They'd look at their teeth, like horses. It was disgusting.

Read more: There's a new dating show called Love At First Kiss and it looks very disturbing

Read more: 'I cannot believe this programme was aired' - Twitter reacts to Channel 4's Naked Attraction

This is not to say that I think the human body is disgusting. But this show is not about liberating us from bodily shame. It's about intensifying bodily shame. It's about objectification, narcissism and the poisonous idea that sexual attraction is based entirely and exclusively on how one looks.

A good sex life is important and, as anyone with any experience of life will tell you, the best sex in the world is not with the best looking person in the world. It's with the person you fell in love with, and people fall in love for all kinds of reasons. It's the meeting of souls, not bodies, that raises making love above the drunken bonks. Not that the odd drunken bonk can't be a bit of craic. But for great sex, you have to give yourself up, and that's about trust and intimacy and smell and not the shape of your labia.

Anyway, one reviewer described Naked Attraction as a meat locker, and that's exactly what this programme tells us about society. We've become meat.

People have been talking about the pornification of society. It means that the norms of porn have become mainstream. It's why young women get boob jobs and young men develop that weird small head syndrome. It's from exercising so much at the gym that their chests have outgrown their heads.

That's probably a neat metaphor for the problem. Big boobs and over-developed chests dwarfing the only thing that separates us from the animal kingdom: our brains.

Let no one think I've any issues with nudity. I'm the woman who visited a nudist colony last year and felt thoroughly liberated parading around in the nip whilst philosophically musing on our attitudes to the human form and getting my bottom tanned.

There are three political points about being naked when everyone is naked. The first is that the nakedness is entirely desexualised. It's a thoroughly non-erotic experience. The second is that perfection becomes freakish. The supposed flaws of the standard human body become the norm in astonishing contrast to the perfected image we're brainwashed into believing is normal by various media.

The third is that it shows how social norms can be created very quickly. In a nudist colony, wearing clothes is offensive. In the clothed world, nudity is offensive. So there's nothing intrinsically offensive about the human body - its appearance just has a context. In a nudist colony: grand. In a glass case on the telly: gross.

I'm not sure there's any way to fight back against this. The availability of porn on the internet means an entire generation has grown up thinking, just as Victorians did, that women have no pubic hair.

Apparently men are turned on by the smell of fake tan because it reminds them of one-night stands. A GP told me recently that the people most at risk from sexually transmitted diseases are men who aren't gay but who have sex with other men anyway.

And prime-time television consists of faceless people standing in glass cases being rejected because their genitalia are the wrong shape. It's Sodom and Gomorrah time.

There's no other solution. Someone, pass me the Kool Aid because it can't be long now.

Sunday Independent

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