The UK’s controversial dating show Naked Attraction — now available on Max — is baffling and captivating American viewers. After Max quietly added all six seasons of the uncensored reality show to its library in September, one Facebook post said, "Back off UK — pushing the envelope on trashy reality TV is our job!" Another commenter showed up in my own feed saying, "Something about this seems gross as hell." But he followed it up with, "I’m definitely going to watch." The Parents Television and Media Council put out a press release demanding the streamer remove the series citing "weak and inefficient" parental controls. Even The View got involved with co-host Whoopi Goldberg exclaiming, “People actually want to see this?" (An audience member can be heard shouting, "Yes!")
Why are Americans freaking out about a naked dating show?
What is Naked Attraction?
Naked Attraction launched in the UK in 2016 and airs on Channel 4 — a UK broadcast network akin to CBS or NBC in the United States. Anna Richardson, the cheeky and quite tactile bisexual host, guides a clothed contestant through six stripped-down singletons standing (if able) in brightly colored pods. After each revealing round, the chooser eliminates a potential date — and meets the whole person on their way out. First, we are shown everyone’s bottom halves. Then, the top halves. After that, we see the faces. The final three singletons are then judged on their voices and accents. Lastly, the chooser disrobes themselves and decides. All the while, Richardson offers colorful commentary and the occasional sex ed interstitial. The nudity concludes with a shot of the newly minted couple’s bums walking off holding hands. Viewers get to witness the two on a (clothed) date the next day, usually at a pub or cafe.
After the date, the pair returns some time later to update the audience about how things are going. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t usually work out. A 2022 report by British tabloid Daily Star revealed that Naked Attraction has a 2 percent success rate for love — though a higher percentage do hook up on their dates. To be fair, often the two do not live close enough to pursue a romantic relationship. "It was fun," is a common quote in the follow-up interviews. As a New Yorker, I wouldn’t want to start a relationship with someone who lives in Baltimore. I get it.
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Can you show nudity on streaming services?
Despite the PTMC’s complaint, uncensored nudity is totally allowed on streaming services. The Federal Communications Commission prohibits "obscene" material from public airways and limits "indecent" material on broadcast TV to certain hours. Naked Attraction’s uncensored style could be allowed as a late night CBS snack, but the U.S. likely won’t leap from an accidental nipple during the Super Bowl to multiple naked bodies anytime soon. Cable TV has more flexibility with sexually explicit or naked material. However, cable and satellite networks answer to advertisers who tend to balk at anything too controversial (unless it’s on Fox News).
Online streamers, however, do not answer to the FCC. Max and others are free to stream whatever they’d like to their paid subscribers.
Are Americans okay with uncensored nudity?
Though nudity is not a new gimmick, American audiences were certainly surprised by tightly cropped cock shots and zoomed in vulva views. A country founded by fleeing puritans is more used to censored nudity like the Discovery Channel’s hit show Naked and Afraid or Dating Naked on VH1. Though the subjects are nude, the cable channels opt to blur all the no-no parts. Even though religious organizations may object to showing "so much skin," audiences seem fine with nude entertainment — as long as they don’t have to really see it.
Sarah Danser, 33, has competed on four seasons of the Naked and Afraid franchise and was "so proud" to bare it all while showing off her survival skills. "I felt like a goddamn rockstar!" But even though the show is widely popular, the Honolulu-based boat captain told Mashable, "Some people can not get past the nudity." Danser’s sailing mentor unfortunately rebuked her after participating in the survivalist competition series. "I told him, ‘You’re going to like it. You’re going to be proud of me.'"
His response to her? "You sold your dignity."
Meanwhile, up north, Canada’s uncensored Naked News existed for years on cable TV without much controversy (though the show is now only available on some PPV channels and at NakedNews.com). "Canada is a pretty open-minded country," says Marina Valmont, who’s been a Naked News anchor for 11 years. When she films topless segments on the streets in Toronto — where it is legal to bare your breasts on public property — the occasional Karen will call the cops on their production team. But she says "the police are very respectful and tell me to continue with my day."
Each of them acknowledges that the nudity is more about marketing than turning people on. "There is nothing sexual about Naked and Afraid," says Danser, who described in detail how gross everyone’s bodies get during the 21-day challenge (I’ll spare you). Both women stressed that the core of each program is not the prospect of seeing a titty. "I think the idea of nakedness is what originally attracted the audience [to Naked and Afraid]," says Danser. "But the interpersonal drama and survivalist techniques are what keeps the audience coming back."
So, why are Americans freaking out about Naked Attraction? "I think America is a conservative country regarding nudity and sexuality," suggests Valmont, who noted that Europe is far more accepting.
Girl On The Net, a 39-year-old pseudonymous sex blogger in the UK, finds it "really funny, but a bit sad" that so many on the other side of the Atlantic would be so weirded out by a naked dating show. She says that Brits have "quite a giggly outlook on nudity." Yes, there was "horror and delight" in her homeland when it first debuted, "but it was more like, ‘Ha Ha! Look, it’s a naked willy!’ Even the more religious Americans must, surely, recognise that the naked human form isn't especially shocking or noteworthy."
Still, there are people who love Naked Attraction, people who are fascinated by all the genitals, and people who can’t believe any of us want to look at bare bodies for 45 minutes. "I think the part that scares most people about this show is that it calls on them to question their own bodies," says Danser.
Is Naked Attraction body-positive?
"I do think there’s something powerful about normalizing nakedness and getting to see a variety of body types," says GOTN. Though the blogger is skeptical about it being done in such a competitive format. "It inevitably invites judgment, which goes against the message [Naked Attraction] seems to shoehorn in, that all bodies are beautiful."
"I do think there’s something powerful about normalizing nakedness and getting to see a variety of body types."
Yes, the point of the show is to pick a date based on naked attraction alone — the opposite of Netflix’s Love is Blind. And yes, the commentary after each round of reveals sometimes puts down a contestant’s boobs or belly or teeth or even their voice. Physical attraction is such a personal thing, and Naked Attraction — by showcasing people’s plethora of preferences — demonstrates that there is no one standard of beauty. Athletic bodies have been knocked out for too much (or too little) chest hair. Big breasted women have been eliminated for funky feet. Big dicks have been eliminated for being, well, big.
I was pleasantly surprised during one episode to see fit men and thin men sent home round after round while a soft-bodied big boy in the blue pod — with whom I identified — remained. Though he was eliminated in the final round of two (what I informally call "the compliments round"), I felt so validated to see my dad bod chosen over bodies I’ve envied for years. I wrote in a previous Mashable piece that "all the representation and affirmations feel empty if people are clapping for your bravery instead of openly drooling in your comments like they do for Megan Fox or Michael B. Jordan." Only on Naked Attraction do I see public, vocalized desires for different bodies — and yes, that includes cover model bodies, too.
Will there be an American version of Naked Attraction?
Executive Producer Darrell Olsen told The Hollywood Reporter that he’d be "excited" to do an American version of Naked Attraction. There had been talks in the past, but they weren’t sure if U.S. audiences were "ready" for it. Despite all the negative reactions, many are loving the show (or at least morbidly fascinated) because it remains in Max’s top 10 Most Popular series since debuting last month.
Naked Attraction has spin-offs all over the world in 11 countries including Germany, Denmark, Russia, Italy, and Poland. The format remains the same wherever the show goes. Olsen would require that an American Naked Attraction do the same. "We wouldn’t want to do a watered-down version," he shares. "So if [a streamer or network] said, ‘Let’s have everyone wearing underwear but they’re topless’ or whatever, that isn’t honoring what this show is about."
The only difference Olsen would consider for filming a season in the United States would be the casting. "If you can round up enough celebrities, that would be a great way to launch a U.S. season, wouldn’t it?"
Imagine Henry Cavill being sent home because his Superman build wasn’t snuggle-friendly.