Last night, at 10.20pm I received a call from my boyfriend who was beside himself with excitement: “Em EM EM, TURN ON CHANNEL 4 THERE’S A NEW DATING SHOW AND THERE ARE WILLIES AND VAGINAS EVERYWHERE, I’M NOT EVEN JOKING, TURN IT ON NOW NOW NOW, LITERALLY – WILLIES, DID YOU HEAR ME? THERE ARE WILLIES ON THE TELEVISION!!” What he was referring to was of course the new Channel 4 dating show: Naked Attraction in which participants stand totally naked in a box, with five other totally naked people in other boxes and are judged bit by bit by a potential date.
Obviously intrigued I turned the television over, much to the annoyance of my sister and friends who had previously been watching the Hangover. “Guys, this is a serious thing – THERE ARE WILLIES ON THE TV WE NEED TO WATCH THIS NEW SHOW”, there wasn’t much argument after that – willies on the television? Not something to be missed.
The idea of the show is that really we ought to be choosing partners in the primal way, based solely on attraction and as a result, this show aims to help people find love properly, with none of this personality bollocks that we have become so accustomed to seeing on our TV screens.
So basically first things first our singleton steps out and explains what it is that she is looking for in a partner and then the screen is partially lifted on the boxes that our contestants are standing in to reveal their naked bodies from the waist down. They are then judged accordingly and one of them is sent home. (They then need to step out of the box and do an awkward goodbye hug which made me want to die). Then the screens are lifted a little more to reveal the next part of their bodies – their chests. Again, they are judged and one of them is then sent home, queue the awkward hug. It goes on in this manner, next to be revealed is the face and one more is sent home. They are then allowed to speak, at then one more is banished. Finally, the two remaining contestants come out and for some reason our singleton then disappears for a moment and comes back totally naked too. They all just stand there for a bit then and chat, naked, about each other’s naked bodies. Eventually, our singleton chooses their favourite and the pair go on a date. (Incredibly awkward moment after first coupling when Matty, who get’s chosen has to walk off with a semi…)
And that’s the show. We then see an interview with the couple two weeks later to see how they’ve got on, which is basically code for, to find out what it was like when they had the sex, was it easier because they had already seen each other naked? Yes, apparently it is.
Now I honestly didn’t know what to make of this show. As you can imagine while actually watching it we were all totally silly side out, not least of all because mum didn’t have her glasses on and was having to stand a few inches from the television to ensure that she didn’t miss anything. We all had pillows to hand, squealed like children when the willies were revealed and outwardly cringed when the presenter starting asking the singletons what kind of vaginas they liked….
Initially I thought it was ridiculous, just Channel 4 scraping the barrel for viewers, literally willing to do anything at this point to ensure a successful #. But the more I have thought about it, and trust me it did take a fair old while to get all the images of willies out of my head, I think while I love the idea of it, I can’t help feeling that this is just another excuse to body shame.
During the show we chatted about it, in a way that, had the producers of Gogglebox been watching us, would have made us television stars in our own right. We laughed and we screamed but I’m also ashamed to admit that we also body shamed. “Urgh no I don’t think I like that…” “He’s quite hairy…” “Yeh I’d probably go for him, that other guy has a weird body”. We weren’t trying to be mean, of course we weren’t but let’s be honest, the show does kind of invite it.
The whole point of the show is to judge another person based totally on their physical attributes. So even if the world isn’t going out of their way to body shame the contestants, they can’t help but judge and compare them, even if it is just under their breaths.
Having said that, there was an element to this show that I really liked and that was hearing how proud the contestants were of themselves for taking their kit off for the show in the first place. They all left saying that it had helped them feel more confident, that it was weirdly liberating and that after the first couple of minutes they started to feel really comfortable with their naked bodies.
Which is pretty awesome and is something that we could all do with more of. The ability to stand their, totally in the nuddy and be pretty much fine with someone judging us on the shape of our vaginas or how light our nipples are. (Yes that seriously happened).
So on one hand I hate this show for making us even more judgemental than we already are, or at least giving us the opportunity to judge with justification, but on the other hand I really loved it for showing NORMAL people on the television, totally naked. Because that is something that I really have never seen, short of Lena Dunham in Girls of course, but she get’s a bloody hard time for that so that sort of ruins it for me. We NEVER see willies on the TV and that does mean that actually, the only ones we ever see on screens are enormous and are either being passed around the back of the classroom on a hidden phone or on porn-sites, so it was quite refreshing to see them just hanging out, doing their own thing in terms of colour, length and shape.
And so actually the more I think about it, the more I realise that the problem might not actually be the show at all, the problem might just be the people watching it. The judging nation that we have become, that can’t help but compare ourselves to other people and put them down just to make ourselves feel better.
Which would actually mean that we need more of this, to start normalising normal naked bodies again so that one day, we will be able to turn on the TV, see a person without any clothes on and not a) freak out or b) judge the living shit out of them.
I suppose all there is left to do now is congratulate the contestants on that show for being so marvellously brave and opening up a whole new conversation, one that it is about time we had.