Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 1, 2022

Naked Attraction

While there are a variety of reasons why people travel - a break from work, visiting friends and relatives and so on - high on the list must be to have new experiences. Husband Art and I have visited some of the well-known attractions - Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate - but in recent years, we are more likely to enjoy things we just stumble on. This is a story about one of the latter.

That stumbling part began at home. Art often reads online versions of English newspapers and several months ago, he came across an article that left him shaking his head. Despite the item appearing in The Guardian, perhaps Britain's most respected newspaper, he suspected the story was either overly dramatic or was an example of how television will do absolutely anything to secure eyeballs for sponsors.

Doing a little searching, he found several episodes online and watched them. Then, one day when I dropped by his work, he asked me to watch them. We both assumed that would be the end of it. Then, while we were in Berlin, Art was clicking through the channels looking for shows in English and discovered a German version of the British program. When we later traveled to Britain, we encountered the original. We have now watched a number of episodes, joined at various times times by other family members.

So what is the show? It's a dating game called "Naked Attraction" and bills itself as "The daring dating series that starts where some good dates might end - naked."

It begins with a "chooser," who is looking for a date. The introduction includes such matters as where they live, their occupation and what sort of dating success they have had in the past.

Then the chooser, along with the host, faces six cubicles, each containing a completely naked person. The sides are frosted so the person inside can only be faintly seen. Each of the persons has been screened to "match" the chooser's basic requirements ... appropriate gender and so on.

Then the front panel of each cubicle is raised to waist level and, based alone on what the chooser can see, one person is rejected. Then the panel is raised to neck level and the process repeated. This is followed by totally raising the panel and another rejection.

With three options remaining, each is asked a similar rather neutral question so that the chooser can hear the contestant's voice. One more is then dispatched.

Things take a twist at that point as the chooser then exits and returns sans clothing. With the three people together, all naked as the day they were born, the contestants then share their reactions to the chooser.

Then the chooser makes the final selection. The couple then leaves on a "proper date" - meaning with clothes on - while being videoed. In two-to-six weeks, the couple returns and discusses what has happened in the intervening time. Participants are only paid for expenses.

The show poses the question: can two people find a good partner based solely on physical attraction? From the episodes we watched, the results appear to confirm what I had suspected from the start. While "can" may be interpreted as asking whether it is possible, the answer appears to be that it is unlikely. "No chemistry" seems to be a common conclusion, while others find that if the two live any considerable distance apart, there is really little opportunity to get to know the other person. Of the approximately 50 episodes, two couples are talking marriage, but one of those met while being candidates for selection.

While the couples may not be experiencing much success, it appears ITV - the television folks who produce the show - is. The program is now in its sixth year and has prompted similar shows in nine European countries. The show initially garnered some strong objections from some members of the public, but because it airs late, contains no sexual activity, and presents factual information about sexually-related matters, regulating agencies have let the shows continue.

So why have I watched several episodes? I had initially assumed the show would be an example of television doing anything to garner viewers and that the success rate of such a dating approach would be nil. Nothing has altered those views.

Yet I did discover an unexpected positive. As a born-and-bred farm girl from America's Bible Belt, I couldn't imagine taking my clothes off to then be broadcast coast-to-coast in such a state. But why did I feel like that? The short answer might be habit. We are raised from an early age that being nude in another person's presence is just something you shouldn't be, with the exception of your spouse.

But a more significant aspect relates to the fact that the show's participants are largely average people - no Adonises or Aphrodites - with a wide variety of ordinary bodies - fat, skinny, short, tall, toned, flabby, etc. One episode had an army veteran who had lost both legs to a bomb ... and he was the one ultimately chosen. These contestants, for those of us with some apprehension about our own looks, send a reassuring "we�re OK" message.

A few rejected contestants told of having their confidence take a hit, but many more said that it was an experience that greatly enhanced their feelings about themselves ... an increase in body positivity, in today's jargon. Just as we see a far greater numbers of models today who look like the ordinary people we might meet on the street or even in our bedroom mirror, the show may play a role in helping us ordinary folks in the self-esteem department.

I have always found planned travel to iconic destinations most enjoyable. Yet I doubt any of those have caused me to look at myself in a different light the way this stumbled-upon experience has.

Host Anna Richardson serves as guide for the chooser and candidates on ITV's controversial dating program. (Photo from program's website.)

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