You may have seen a clip going around Twitter this week, in which a British woman stands before six sets of male genitalia and evaluates the meat and two veg in unsparing terms. “I like smooth balls because they are easier to suck on,” she says, sizing up one guy’s junk. Regarding another’s dick: “I’m liking the helmet ‘cause there’s something that I don’t like and it’s called a dolphin dick, where you have no difference between the helmet and the shaft so it’s all one smooth penis.” Got that?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the clip is embedded below. Like other clips and screen shots in this post, it is NSFW.
It comes from a British dating show called Naked Attraction, which debuted on the U.K.’s Channel 4 in 2016, somewhat sensationally. The clip above is amusing but hardly outstanding on a show that is never less than...cheeky about its outrageousness. (Host Anna Richardson refers to Naked Attraction as, “the show where you can find love in your birthday suit, any day of the year,” and in the intro explains: “We like to start when a good date ends: NAKED.”)
The premise literally reduces people to body parts: Over the course of three rounds, six contestants are revealed from the bottom up, with one being eliminated on sight each round by the person one of them will eventually go out on a date with. Richardson talks them through it rather colorfully. “Vagina! Talk to me!” she said to coax out a vag-critique from a woman who was looking to date women on a recent episode.
Without any visible flinching, Naked Attraction features an array of sexualities—straight, gay, bi (literally, there have been panels made up of men and women). Once a couple used Naked Attraction to shop for a third. You could interpret the show as progressive and egalitarian, or you could just assume that it’s so horny as a pop-culture entity that it will take and exploit whatever it can get. Both are probably true to some degree.
Similarly, you could watch the show as a celebration of the human body (especially because the contestants rarely adhere to body standards of conventional perfection), or as a particularly lurid form of dehumanization in which the parts dismantle the whole. Both are probably true, as well.
Why would anyone participate in this? Well, don’t take it from me...
I will say that no form of formalized IRL dating/matchmaking I’ve encountered quite nails the experience of essentially shopping for people parts online in the way that Naked Attraction does, for better or worse. This is particularly true in the realm of apps that cater primarily to men who have sex with men, like Grindr, where in fact sometimes you do actually see someone’s dick before his face. Complicating the show’s overall commodification of flesh is that it reportedly doesn’t pay its contestants. Clearly, they could and should be paid by this big company that’s producing clearly a dirt-cheap show. Naked Attraction must qualify among the draftiest volunteer work the Western world offers.
It is, of course, absurd, and full of humor about fannies and willies and bums and the like. It’s superficial, yes, but is it more superficial than rejecting someone on an app because he works at Starbucks or is wearing pleated khakis in his profile pic? Eh. Sometimes it all comes down to a fire-dancer and a taxi driver, two professions that could be disqualifying in snootier contexts. What I like about this show, besides all the dicks, is how unpretentious it is about giving people what they want (which, oftentimes is dicks). No one really knows what they’re doing when it comes to finding a match; this way is just as potentially effective as trolling the internet for someone to sit across from you while you talk about your cats. After pairing the contestants, the show runs footage of their dates and then updates some weeks later. Many of these indicate that when it comes to selecting a totally nude partner, the means justifies the end, and not the other way around.
Also, the show is full of fun facts.
And colorful personalities.
Upon his elimination, David, a flight attendant from Spain, said, “If I be brave to be naked, I can do whatever you want, yeah? Whatever you want!” That’s beautiful, David. Not as beautiful as your penis, but beautiful all the same.
For non-U.K. residents, Naked Attraction is, ahem, around online if you know where to look for it. Jezebel endorses it.