WARNING: Some NSFW images follow, obviously.
Nudity means nothing to me now. Nipples, testicles, armpits, groins. They are all the same. Skin-coloured cells arranged in the vague ghostly shape of something formerly horny. I have seen dozens of people naked now, thousands. A hundred-thousand naked shapes. A writhing mass of sex. I have seen every ratio of penis:foreskin, from floppy right down to taut. Every shape of titty. Every configuration of hair, zero to 100.
My sexuality lays there, smoking, in ruins. I will never be horny again. My sexuality, previously: (a large immovable boulder in the shallows of the ocean). My sexuality, now: (sand eroded to dust by the sea). I have seen a gooch piercing, man. A hoop. Through a gooch. A hoop. Through a gooch. Nudity means nothing to me now. Naked Attraction has made it so I'll never get horny again.
Naked Attraction is a TV show on Channel (obviously) 4 (obviously). Anna Richardson hosts. If we are to analyse Naked Attraction’s place in the canon of light entertainment and dating TV, it lands somewhere weird and off-piste and alien, somewhere zigged violently to the left: somewhere halfway between a science experiment and a PSHE class, the closest analogue to Japanese TV formats we sometimes see, mangled and mistranslated and mocked, over on Western TV.
What I am saying is: sometimes, Naked Attraction is genuinely difficult to watch. What I am saying is: Naked Attraction is as much a TV show as it is a pamphlet about normal ball size handed out to teenagers during a GP appointment. What I am saying is: I do not know how a show with so many visible bell-pieces ever got made.
The format is this: a single human person enters into a cheerily-lit dungeon. In front of them: six pod-like chambers, glowing in CBBC-presenter nursery rhyme colours, the monstrous grey faint outlines of six naked humans lurking within, monsters in a tube. The single person will tell Anna Richardson they are looking for love. "Why are you looking for a date naked?" Anna Richardson will ask (*1). They normally have a reason. Anna slightly raises the screens on those chambers, revealing a buffet of dicks, vaginas, or dicks and vaginas. "There you go," she may as well be saying. "Have a bang on that."
It goes on like this for a while. The screen door rises two more times, each round a naked person being eliminated as they go. At the end, the six nudes are whittled down to two. The single person, fully clothed at the start of the date, slips backstage to de-robe. Then there are three naked people there. Everyone hugs in this special way so their genitals don’t touch. The single person (naked) picks from the two naked people (also naked) to go on a date with (clothed). The producers check in again between three to five weeks later to see how it’s going. I… is this getting through to you, at all? Like: you see their vagina! On TV! No censor bar!
A TREATISE ON THE HORNINESS OF 'NAKED ATTRACTION', THE CHANNEL 4 TV SHOW HOSTED BY ANNA RICHARDSON W/ ALL THE DICK AND VAGINA IN IT
Is Naked Attraction a horny show? No, no, terribly terribly not. It is: not a horny show. I would actually posit that the show busts through the entire gamut of the horniness spectrum, cycling down from "hmm… pretty horny" to "I am horny neutral" to "I am unhorny, I am anti-horny" in less than a second of the opening sequence.
You see so many breasts and balls, in such a short space of time, all of them presented so artlessly, like sausages behind a butcher's sneezeguard, that you can not be horny about it at all. Nudity, normally, is quite a charged, electric, sexy little thing, but here it is diagrammatic. Essentially: I did not know nudity had a Saturation Point, before this show, an invisible moment on the scale where nudity tips from being "sexy" to "absolutely too much", and that is Naked Attraction, that is the entire show. Naked Attraction is sexy like a computer keyboard is, or a photograph of six hummingbirds, or an electric drill without any batteries in it. It is as sexy as a cloud, or a slightly too large shoe. It is so, so, so unsexy. I did not know it was possible to look at buff girls naked and feel nothing.
Crucially, within this, there is a granular, perceptible mood to Naked Attraction that occasionally makes it border on the unwatchable. We're back in the dungeon, Anna Richardson gazing at a platter of cocks: "Which one do you want to look at first?" she asks the guest. They sidle over to a sturdy pair of legs, a smaller-than-average penis, a thin smattering of pubes. "What do you make of the hair?"
Occasionally, it feels like you’re on a first date with someone at an art gallery, gazing up desperately at some modern masterpiece and trying to say anything. "I like… neat pubes," says literally everyone, stammering and beading lightly with sweat. The faceless legs and cock bounce slightly on their heels. We Are All Too British For This. "Yeah, I don’t mind hair but… groomed." Anna Richardson nods. This is like that fever nightmare you had when you had to watch a sex-ed video with your mum.
This is when it becomes unwatchable – and by that, I mean, "to me, a normal person riddled with sexual squeamishness and a fear of confrontation" – because at the legs-and-cocks stage the single person has to choose someone to send home. And based on… what? Do you send home the guy with the smallest penis? The messiest pubes? The sturdiest legs? How can you decide not to fuck someone based on their legs?
But then, you can play along at home and already, in your head, you are guessing one step ahead of the single person: you'd shag orange, for sure, or you’d wait on pink's chest to be revealed to see whether you’d throw them a fuck, too. You, in your head, are mentally shagging and unshagging people’s ankles. And it is absolutely a wacky thing to say, and this is knowledge that is only known now because of the show Naked Attraction, but: I can tell whether I want to have sex with you based on looking at your legs up to the top of your junk, and that’s about it. That’s all I need. Am I an animal, or are you? Are we all animals? Is that what this is about? Are we just beasts, rutting against the dying of the sun? Is Naked Attraction the only art that shows us our truth?
BRIEF ASIDE WHERE WE PROFILE EVERY TYPE OF PERSON WHO GOES ON 'NAKED ATTRACTION', THE SHOW WHERE YOU ARE CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGED TO SHOW THE NATION YOUR RAM, WITHOUT REALLY INTERROGATING WHY
— Cheerful survivor of a disease!;
— Lad who lost weight but is still inhabited by the ghost of his former body;
— A Bisexual;
— For some reason: every couple of episodes there is a posh boy whose inherent poshness stands in the way of him ever having sex, so he decides to look at six naked people to… get over it? Unsure;
— A bouncer;
— A girl with a series of intricate leg tattoos (people on this show fit into an exact binary – "I don’t like tattoos" and "Yeah, I don’t mind tattoos" – and every tattoo leg girl takes a risk when she reveals her legs to someone, and that risk is: they will walk their tattooed legs right out of there, resolutely unshagged)!
— Lad with a gym-honed body and three inspiring words carved in ink on his chest ("Failure Is Lesson" or some shit like that) who has only gone on there to big dog all the other, smaller dicked lads, and to be honest it usually works;
— Very Nervous Man Of 40;
— Often: an outsider to our country, a Canadian or a Spaniard or something, someone so resolutely comfortable and chill about being on TV naked that it is actively unsettling for e.g. me;
— Weirdly high number of: receptionists, students, veterinary nurses, all from Cheshire;
— And then your very standard human filler, the person you swipe past on Tinder and the dozens of them who litter your train, when life runs out of interesting people to present to you it stuffs and fills the gaps with these, and you don’t even notice them because you see so many of them every day, you don’t even notice that they are all the same – same satchel, same ill-fitted trousers, same little blazer thing, same uneasy discomfort in a dress shirt – but they are there, constantly, your life has a few stars and then a hundred-thousand dog turds, and by that I mean there are a lot of this man: Lad With Beard.
BRIEF ASIDE WHEN WE CONSIDER THE MOTIVATION FOR ANYONE GOING ON THE SHOW 'NAKED ATTRACTION' AND GETTING THEIR LITERAL COCK OUT, LIKE, I’VE BEEN TAKING SCREENSHOTS OF THE SHOW AS I GO ALONG, AND MORE THAN ONCE I’VE GOT SOME JUST VIOLENTLY DIRECT SHOTS OF, LIKE, 'THE EYE OF THE STORM', SO TO SPEAK
Don’t know. I genuinely can’t think of: one reason.
BACK TO IT:
The show itself cannot decide what it is, and that's what I sort of like about it. Is it science or is it fun (it cannot be both). "Do you like a smile, Jack," Anna will ask, off-hand, while a sweating, fully-clothed man nervously tries not to look at ten tits. "Yeah, I— yeah," he says, before we cut to a half-cartoon explaining – with a "Some studies have found…" caveat – that science shows men like smiles. They like pubes, too, and pheromones, and women like strong hands and jaws; older lovers spend longer on foreplay, the cartoons tell us, orgasms explode out of a well-timed thumb in the arse.
Sometimes Naked Attraction is bawdy and cheeky, and sometimes it feels like your parents have turned the TV off and sat you down in the front room because they found a condom in your room, and they want to make sure you know what chlamydia is. Richardson breezes over tits and cocks like a lake being skimmed by a stone. At one point she gets a ruler out and makes the faceless men measure their cocks against it. "The European average is 3.5 inches," she says. "Ooh, 3.7: you’re good." She wipes the ruler on her trousers. What is going on.
Richardson is the glue that holds this show together, because I’ve thought about it a lot and I cannot imagine a single other human being on Earth capable of hosting this show. Imagine Gino d’Acampo showing you six cocks, for example, or Ant from Ant and Dec. Rachel Riley. No. Richardson approaches nudity like your mum’s energetic friend who’s come over to sort out the garden: it feels like she should be wearing a boiler suit and a pair of marigolds and saying "Right then!" with such robust force that you enter a fugue state and find yourself, come to, pulling up cleavers in a borrowed pair of wellies, only with an array of different tits.
It's this energy – at once sexless but knowing, very arched eyebrow, lots of powerful trouser-blouse combos and a bigness of vibe that overrides most guests' inherent British nudity nerves – that keeps Naked Attraction running. Sometimes it feels like looking at six naked people and picking one to date is some necessary trauma that every person has to go through, and Anna Richardson is there to guide. She’s holding your hand to the fire. She’s pushing your feet into the boiling cauldron. Come on, love. Look at these dicks and pick which one you want to take to Cosy Club.
There’s something weirdly wholesome about it all, though. Because think about the times you’ve seen people naked: one-night stands, nude beneath you. Long-time lovers, utilitarian and straightforwardly walking out of the shower. Then all the vile, vile porn you’ve watched: all those hyper-aroused bodies, smeared in lube and oil. When have you seen someone ever just like: naked. Like: just naked. That’s what Naked Attraction does: it shows you real bodies, in every possible shape and configuration, and presents them to you with a plain "There you go."
The diversity of the bodies on display is admirable: you’ve got bodies that have had babies, and bodies that are failing, bodies that are strong and bodies that are lazy, bodies that are tattooed and bodies that are hairy. My body, a sort of shapeless sack of shit with too much leg hair on it, is pretty fairly represented by the show Naked Attraction, and the sort of unflinching stare-into-the-pubes-agog nature of it soon wears off from shock to familiarity. When the single person choosing the naked people goes off to disrobe, the two remaining nudes are encouraged to turn and say positive things about each others' bodies.
In the speaking round (Round #4), every naked person says something empowering about themselves to show off their voices. The weeks-later catch-up with the daters normally shows them still talking and quite often on the precipice of actual Love. This weird system works. They stand there naked, yes, and it's weird, but they are also widely complimented: lovely hands, great legs, lovely... lovely cock, mate. 'Yeah,' you think, watching Naked Attraction, watching genitals bob around and the weirdly fixated shot of a naked bottom striding out of shot. 'Yeah, I guess my dick is… fine? I have a… fine enough dick?'
The show is, politely, batshit insane – I mean come on, come on – but once that wears off it becomes sort of: I don’t know, soothing? 'Yes,' Naked Attraction says, 'everyone has some cellulite and like one in eight dudes have minimum one weird ball. Also, some people's nipples are insane, basically. Get over it.'
Is that… is that a good message? I can’t tell. I’m too busy trying to ever enjoy a tit again to find out.
(*1) Does it seem weird that the host of the show questions the entire format of the show, twice per episode? Normally I would answer this question with the word, "Yes." But this is Naked Attraction, where said host is surrounded by six (soon to be seven) unflinchingly naked people. It would actually seem weird if Anna Richardson, surrounded by half a football team’s-worth of dick, didn’t swivel her head round on a stick and go: why is this happening? Why are you all here?