Opinion: Naked Attraction is just what this body-negative world needs

Two naked humans.
Two naked humans. Photo credit: Naked Attraction

OPINION: A naked man with an amputated leg. A transgender woman. A small penis. A woman with one breast. 

Naked bodies in all their human variety and glory is not a regular sight on television.

Soft bellies, weird knees, radical pubes and sheepish grins. An eye-widening elephant tattoo (guess what made up the trunk?). 

Naked Attraction, a British-produced show that drew more than 500 complaints after it screened on New Zealand TV last year, offers all this and more. 

"We like to start where a good date ends - naked," goes the tag line.

And in a media landscape saturated with unrealistic and frankly intimidating images of how we ought to look, this show is just the tonic.

Bob McCoskrie of Family First has said that the show promotes "a porn culture which is harmful to our society". He says it "degrades human relationships".

And yet I see just the opposite. I see men choosing women with hairy underarms, and women taking dad-bods over gym-bods. I see a long overdue demystification and normalisation of what we look like naked.

Yes, it's a bit weird, but it's also rather lovely. Yes, it gets tedious, but don't all dating shows?

In line with more typical dating formats, one contestant gets to select their perfect match from a line up - the difference here is that the line up is completely naked and eventually the contestant will be too. Fair's fair.

Anna Richardson, the charming host of such reality classics as Secret Eaters and Turn Back Your Body Clock, and partner of the Great British Bake Off's Sue Perkins, keeps the tone warm and kind, even as contestants send away their potential soulmate owing to the style in which they keep their pubic hair.

In each episode, Richardson asks the contestants something along the lines of, "Why are you here? Why would you do this?" 

"Men hide," says one contestant. "They hide behind the style they've chosen for themselves. I want to see them with nothing to hide behind, just as they are."

"I've done Tinder, but the pictures can be a bit misleading," says another. "You're not guaranteed to get what you see on your phone."

Depending on their preferences, hopefuls are given five men, five women, or a mix of both to choose from. These five stand naked behind opaque screens and as the show progresses, the screens lift - from thick ankle to hairy groin to soft belly to bashful face. 

This is no catwalk. The bodies are soft, hard, pale, dark, tattooed, transgendered, small, large, disabled, cut and lopsided. 

The whole range of humanity is here, and it's an awesome sight to behold, as well as a cheering reminder that attraction has little to do with physical perfection.

Whether this show is modernising romance or killing it dead is beside the point. It is the most body-positive thing you'll see on TV. And that's just what we need.

So hats off, and the rest, to Naked Attraction.

Maggie Wicks is the features editor for Newshub.