We are – all of us, when it all boils down, when our flesh is melted from our bones and our brains are shot through to pulp – we are, all of us, little more than a set of dick and balls and/or a titty. Anna Richardson knows. Anna Richardson knows this.
And so to Naked Attraction, the most Channel-4-in-the-90s Channel 4 show of all time, where contestants take all their clothes off and stand goosepimpled in front of each other in an effort to win a date. This is 2016 and this is how we date now. Dating apps and dating websites have got us absolutely twisted to fuck. The only way we can find a life partner it to look at them in the following order: junk, tit area, face, voice.
It is the opening sequence, and "modern dating is complicated", we are told, while a load of girls with eyebrows and dudes with man-buns tell us Tinder is hard. With respect, Tinder isn't that hard, is it? I mean, an app where you can rapidly swipe through hundreds of people and instantly judge them on their face isn't that difficult in comparison to – AND I AM JUST PLUCKING AN EXAMPLE RANDOMLY OUT OF THE AIR – getting your dick and/or tit out on a television dating show. I just feel like the contestants on this show haven't fully explored every dating opportunity available to them. You very much feel that a lot of these application forms were filled in on a Wednesday after they'd all used up their super likes for the week and realised loneliness is inevitable.
Our first dater is Aina. Aina is 32 and harder than me. I can tell this. I can tell this immediately. Aina can Fuck Me Up. There is a montage where she giggles in a bar with a friend – "she's a strong girl so she'll need a strong man" – does some freaky yoga shit and listens to a song on large padded headphones in a dimly lit studio. This is the shape of the person we will come to know. This is everything Aina is. She likes music and strength. She wants a man who likes music and strength.
(I'll be honest: these dating show montages always freak me the fuck out, because if they had to make one about me, what would it be like? "Joel, 29, is a writer," a voiceover says, while I just sit in the reception area at work [can't sit near my colleagues] and just hold my head in my hands, then flick to Twitter. "And when he's not writing, he's—" what? What do I do? Would a tightly-edited two-minute video of me playing Rocket League, avoiding cleaning the bathroom and trying to fit into my trousers turn potentials dates on or off? It is impossible to know.)
"So why do you want to choose a date naked?" host Anna Richardson asks, possibly the most legitimate question ever asked by anyone in history. Anna explains that, after whittling the six potential dates down to two, Aina will have to herself get naked, and they'll all stand around in this curious nude safe space and say what they like about their bodies. Aina is nervous about getting naked but is going to do it anyway. "If it frightens you, go and do it," she says. Aina is a nihilist. She is immediately confronted with six dicks:
There's a curious undulating indelicacy going on, for what is such a cock and titty-heavy programme: Richardson ushers in the dicks with the words, "Can we please reveal... the bottom half of the bodies," which seems oddly distant and shy. Basically, what I am saying is that this show would be improved one-thousandfold if Anna just said, "SHOW ME THE JUNK!" in a "CAN YOU START THE FANS, PLEASE!" voice, but alas.
The bizarre balance between being frank and coy continues as Aina takes a few steps forward to really get some eyes on some dicks. "Nice willy," she says, of one. "Nice form, nice shape." Anna takes on a warning tone. "That's a very large appendage," she says. Aina, however, has seen some shit. "You think?" A guy with a not-even-complex elephant tattoo around his dick also has a prosthetic limb. "Let's discuss the leg!" Anna says breezily. It's so hard to tell what the tone of this show is: smutty, electrically charged, weird, funny, goofy? Let's discuss the leg? They discuss pubes. Aina has some. A small interstitial shows a whole mess of pubes forming the word "pheromones". Aina eliminates the dude w/ the smallest dick and says it's because his "stance" isn't strong enough. It isn't. It's because his dick isn't strong enough. Already, this show – which is about as erotic as watching a sex education tape on a big VHS player in a classroom with a teacher you once called "mum" – is amazing.
The first guy out, Muhammad, then does this weird sort of glamour pose in the middle of the studio, alone and fragile and naked, then says he had a great time, that he is confident now, loves his self and loves his body, and all I can think of throughout is: 'THIS DUDE IS GOING HOME AND HE BASICALLY GOT HIS DICK OUT ON TV FOR LITERALLY NO REASON. ALL HE SAID WAS "GOODBYE". THAT'S IT. I HAVE SEEN YOUR DICK, MUHAMMAD.'
Maxwell is next to go. Maxwell, a trainee zookeeper with the kind of eyebrows that can get your drinks bought for you all night if you put on a nice frock and take them to Aintree:
Still, the half-educational, half-cheeky sex chat continues apace. There's a moment where Aina and Anna stand and discuss bad kissing in front of a clearly naked and sleep deprived man, and he just smiles and nods along like he's trying to insert himself into a conversation at a party. Every man leaves and has to do a fully nude, don't-get-your-genitals-on-my-trousers hug with Aina. Anna tells them before they leave what Aina liked about them ("She liked your juicy bum") even though they have literally just heard everything she has said about them.
More and more, reality TV feels to me like some sort of peek at a vision of the future, a little glimpse of government-mandated dating in 2050, lining up the proles by their tit and dick size and telling them to have at it however they want. More and more, Naked Ambition feels like a precursor to two or three years in the future, where Kay Burley is stood in a hyper-CGI Sky studio reviewing intrusive camera footage of a potential love partner, asking Darren, 24, from Ashbourne, "And what do you think of her urethra?"
Weird thing is that everyone more or less says they had a great experience. That they do their genitals-apart hug and lingering-bum-shot walk out of frame, then go to a green room, where they are smiling, saying that even through they didn't get picked they had fun, that actually they'd never been all that comfortable with their bodies before today, that standing there with their dicks out and face obscured was liberating, almost, freeing. Nobody mentions what the smell in the boxes must be like, but I know already that it is "extremely savoury".
Aina, meanwhile, has whittled it down to two: Matty, a one-legged, elephant-dicked artist, and Rob, a self-deprecatingly funny dance teacher. She reveals herself nude to them both. Matty, on Aina: "Absolutely beautiful. Lovely curves. I love the hips, the breasts." I'm pretty sure this is no longer a dating show and is just a complex job interview for a role doing the headlines on the Sidebar of Shame.
It's really weird watching people make v. practical movements while totally naked: everyone here looks like they are assessing a boiler or a fucked fridge, squinting at bums, doing hand-on-face rigorous assessments of bellends, pubic musings. Anna asks the boys what they think of Aina's pubes and armpit hair. "You can do what you want with your own body," Matty barks. "If you're proud of it, you can do what you want." This is so fucking weird, man.
Eventually Aina picks Matty, and they have a clothes-on date in a bar. Unfortunately, Matty dresses like shit. Everyone on the show dresses like shit. Suddenly you see the appeal of a nude reality dating show to them: with every over-ripped jean and wooden necklace, you see why they are so comfortable being undressed. If there is a moral to this TV show, it's "take a chance on the badly dressed, they quite often have absolutely kicking bodies".
Second half and we meet Mel, who I'm pretty sure was Kingsley's girlfriend in series two of Fresh Meat. Mel is bisexual, which makes this show interesting: now she can play "Deal or No Deal but with fresh junk" with a combination of men and women.
As they walk around, Anna engages in half-sisterly, half-educational "have you ever had too big a willy?" chat, making the whole thing feel weirdly like unasked-for sex-ed with a very bombastic auntie. It's Christmas, mum's just packed all the dinner away. Dad's in front of the telly. Your fun aunt, Anna Richardson, is on her second bottle of red wine. You are 13 and just trying to work out where all the smells and hairs are coming from. And Anna Richardson sits opposite you, fag on the go, and asks: "NOW, DO YOU KNOW ABOUT ANALINGUS?" Back to the show, and Mel is two body parts in and really feeling the girl on the end in the green cage. "I am attracted to the tattoos on green," she says. Anna pauses. "Anything about the tits?"
Ruben is sent home because his dick's too big, and he makes this face about it:
As before, all of the post-bin off to-camera pieces are very #bodyposi, with everyone saying what a great time they had, what a babe their potential date was, how they're so happy they did this show, what an experience it was. Apart from Mark, who is an estate agent, and as such a dickhead. "She's very good looking," he says of Mel, who rejects him, "but I didn't like her legs." DRIVE A BRANDED MINI ABOUT IT, MATE.
They all have to stand and say what they like and don't like about their bodies at the end, which is very #solidarity, but leads to some really weird conversations – like literally never-had-before-in-the-history-of-the-earth conversations, such as this one, between Anna and two potential dates, as they wait for Mel to make her naked appearance:
"What do you think Mel will look like naked: pubes or no pubes?"
"I think she'll have pubes, but they'll be very well groomed"
Mel chooses Rebecca, all tats and tits, from the green box, and they have a laughter-and-tequila date at the same bar as before. Once again, everyone is thrilled they took their clothes off on Channel 4. "I wasn't thinking about every body part and wondering if she was judging each body part," Rebecca says of her date, "because she's already seen my body parts." In one-month-later vignettes, both couples are still together and look really loved up. Could... I mean... this insane system works. What in the fuck.
Remember the 90s? Blind Date and people saying mildly cheeky innuendos to Cilla Black's big pink face, and then Take Me Out happened, a human meat market with some bawdy Saturday night banter, and we thought: how bad can it get, how bad can it get? And now, both Undressed and this: people just straight up taking their clothes off on television – I mean, we are talking flaps and all – and somehow finding love that way.
Are we all broken inside? Are we so desensitised now – so porned up, so horned out, we've all seen so many dick pics we can't function – that this is the only way millennials can date? Or is it something deeper: that we are all so desperately searching for love, some holy once-in-a-universe connection with something real, that we'll do anything to find it; that we'll let Anna Richardson talk frankly about our bush? I don't know. I will be watching episode two of Naked Attraction to find out.
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