Two things this week contains something REALLY AWESOME in the form of Woodhull SFS16 and something truly terrible in the form of Channel 4 show ‘Naked Attraction.’ Let’s do the fun bit first…
The good: Woodhull SFS16
I’m currently sitting in a pile of clothes, travel documents and Maltesers as I try and work out what the hell to pack to go over to Woodhull SFS16. So I thought this’d be an awesome opportunity to tell you about it, as well as see if there are any specific things you’d like me to report back on.
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit is an annual conference where people get together to discuss all things to do with sexual freedom. Sharing knowledge, discussing human rights issues and campaigns, and a whole bunch more stuff besides including this sexy storytelling night which I am massively excited about. Obviously I’m interested in anything to do with human rights and sex, and I’m also incredibly excited/nervous because I’ll get to meet some seriously awesome US sex bloggers (and even JoEllen Notte – talking about social media and how to do it well).
Basically: YAY. I am very excited about this. On top of all the fun of the conference, I literally get to BE IN AMERICA, which is exciting in and of itself. I’m going to try (TRY REALLY HARD) to get at least a short blog post up every day while I’m there to give you updates. If there are particular things you’d like me to report back on, check out the summit schedule and let me know via email. I will take many many notes.
I would not be able to get on a plane and fly all the way to America if it weren’t for one amazing company – Doxy. They are kindly sponsoring me to go to Woodhull SFS16, and so without them this wouldn’t be possible. Please show them all of your love by following them on Twitter/Facebook, going to their website, and buying some of their amazing toys (most notably this one which is my favourite sex toy in the entire world ever and if you try to take it from me I will fight you).
The bad: Channel 4’s Naked Attraction
I have two words for Channel 4 about their new show ‘Naked Attraction’, in which someone selects a person to date based purely on judgments about their naked body. Those words are ‘oh’ and ‘dear.’ As in: ‘oh dear God what have you done?’ and ‘oh dear sainted fuck who approved this?’
Channel 4’s ‘Naked Attraction‘ is – in its own words – “a daring new dating series that starts where some good dates might end – naked.” Or in the words of my other half, it is “the most Channel 4 show that ever Channel 4’d.”
When I heard that there was a dating show which involved one person looking longingly at a line-up of dicks and muffs, I hunted it down with excitement in my heart and one hand rummaging eagerly in my knickers. When I’d heard that it had received some complaints it made me only more keen to see it – I assumed that it was because of the sheer number of genitals on display.
It got pulled from the schedules last night when I tried to watch it on repeat (perhaps due to the sheer amount of criticism?) so I found it on All4, and sat down to watch. All ready to have a moan about the Sort Of People Who Complain To Ofcom and how silly they are to moan about a light-hearted genitals-based programme. Turns out, though, the complainers are right.
Far from being a fun thing, Naked Attraction is one of the worst things to hit TV screens since before Nintendo started putting safety straps on Wiimotes.
Here’s a summary, in case you haven’t seen it:
Six people stand butt-naked in coloured boxes. One person, clothed, stares at the people in the boxes as the coloured screens lift and gradually reveal bits of their body. First they see the bottom half (i.e. the bit with the genitals), and they are encouraged to make judgments about which of the people they might like based purely on the sight of their genitals. Then the screens raise a bit more, so they can see the mid-section: more judgments are forthcoming. If they are not forthcoming, the host – Anna Richardson – will ask pointed, often rude questions of our clothed participant to try and encourage them to say something. For example: “do you like a lady with a fuller bush, or do you prefer her to shave it?” or “how do you feel about a bit of podge?” or – asked of a guy with a prosthetic leg – “we HAVE to talk about the leg thing, don’t we? How do you feel about that?” Eventually, after eliminating some people based on these judgments, and a quick round where they get to hear the voices of the remaining contestants, the clothed person narrows it down to two. For the grand finale, the person who’s been clothed up until this point gets their kit off, the two ‘finalists’ are encouraged to make a few judgments of their own (“perky boobs. Very nice.”), and two of them are paired off on a date.
So where exactly do we start with this? Judging whether you’ll get on with someone based purely on what their bum looks like is clearly not the ideal way to begin a relationship, and the people picking dates seem to know that – sometimes they’ll use bodily details as a way to try and guess at their personality. For instance, the first episode had a man with a giant elephant’s head tattooed around his penis, and the contestant used it to discern that this guy ‘might have a sense of humour.’ Sure. Or he might have made powerful enemies in the tattoo-artist community. Who knows?
But compatibility isn’t really the main issue here, because it takes a certain type of person to wilfully strip off on national TV, so the contestants all have that in common to start with. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll hit it off on a date, but surely more useful than swiping right on someone’s Tinder profile because they’ve got a particularly cute dog.
No, what bothers me more about it is the judgment aspect, obviously. The contestants are actively encouraged to state preferences on anything from cock size to BMI to freckles. The ‘look’ of one woman’s vulva was commented on in detail. The perkiness of breasts. The hairiness of bum cracks. The style of their pubic hair. Their tattoos, muscles, areolas: every single inch came under explicit scrutiny, and received either a ‘yay’ or a ‘nay.’ Like a visit from Gok Wan’s evil twin, first thing on a Monday morning when he’s in a particularly shitty mood.
I’m not saying people don’t have preferences, or even that it’s bad to discuss them. But what I am saying is that this format takes any semblance of sexiness out of dating. Putting individuals under that level of scrutiny, on national TV, is cringe-inducingly awful. If it were possible to die of embarrassment, I would have been a goner in the first five minutes. It’s cruel, unnecessary, and guaranteed to add a huge pile of bodily hang-ups to almost anyone who watches it. While they clearly try to end each rejection on a positive note (‘oh she loved your curves! She said they were like Botticelli!’) they fail spectacularly (‘But this time it’s a no because you’re just TOO curvy’), any good intentions that may have momentarily crossed their minds sink into the depths of the fetid swamp of their criticism.
But it’s not cringeingly awful for the people who are naked, in my opinion: it’s the one making the choices that I feel truly appalled for. Before I watched the programme, I thought ‘fucking hell, I – as a very body-conscious person – would find it humiliating to be totally naked on national TV.’ But having watched it, I can tell you there’s one thing I would find much worse: being the person who has to dish out the decisions. The person who has to sift, sort, judge and scrutinise six complete strangers. How humiliating to be the linchpin around which the show revolves: the person who has to stand, grinning with smug satisfaction, while Anna Richardson makes jokes about your preference for juicy tits.