Which leads us to the big question: Is it possible to lie naked in a leafy lean-to with a well-put-together member of the opposite sex, and share body heat all night long, without dissolving into carnality? Answer: Yes, if there are enough ass-biting bugs. Or if, as Honora tells Matt in Season Three, amid the dazzling and fatal dunes of northern Brazil, “we are biologically predisposed to fucking hate each other.” (Honora, who will shortly be carried off the show unconscious, doesn’t like the way Matt smells.)
Dating Naked, now concluding its second season, is garish and horrendous. See the naked dates bask and glint in their boozy pool, heavy-eyed with lust. But there is power in it too, power in that moment on the beach, that dawn-of-the-world coming-together, when the naked dates first glimpse each other and their blurred genitals drone with recognition. Ah, romping children of the universe. What will happen when they go on the horrible date-encounter fabricated by the producers, and make a clay pot together (the echoes of Ghost are entirely deliberate), or do a bit of bicycling, or strap themselves onto a zip line? “I’m just a really chill, down-to-earth person,” says Season One’s Camille. “I like to relax. I don’t know, what about you?” “I’m into sci-fi a lot,” replies Julian. “Like, alien shit.” They are recovering from their yoga date, during which Julian, stimulated by wobbly yogic contact with Camille, was unable to hide his arousal: His genital blur elongated, gained shape, became a floating sword of blurdom. “Julian is very excited,” Camille confided to an offscreen interlocutor. “It’s an awkward situation.”
But for all this, romance still haunts the magic island. The discourse of true love, of finding the right person, etc., winds bizarrely and distractingly through Dating Naked, past the yoga boners and the lewd poolside fondlings. “I wanna try dating naked,” announces Kerri at the start of Season Two, “because I do wanna find a guy who forces me to open up and love again.” For all the bare-assedness, there is a tendency to speak in fully clothed platitudes. “I feel, in my experience, you don’t appreciate the love until you experience the heartbreak,” says tiny, naked Chuck in Season One. “That’s … ,” begins glitteringly naked Kristen, and for a second we savor the wild possibility that she will say such bullshit. But no. “Wow, I like that.”
And so they wander on, the paired-up naked people, with a goblin orchestra of TV technicians crouched just outside the frame. Season One of Dating Naked, in addition to blurring genitals, also blurred bottoms—a piece of fastidiousness reversed for Season Two, when the asses are buoyantly visible. (The best ass on any of these shows, incidentally, belonged to a Special Forces officer named Bo who appeared on Season Four of Naked and Afraid. Bo and his partner were doing 21 days in the Rupununi Wetlands of Guyana; one look at his bared twin ass-grenadoes and you knew they were going to make it.) A participant on the first season of Dating Naked sued Viacom and the producers for a momentary deblurring, or misplacing of the blur, that occurred while she and her date were wrestling on the beach. Her genitals were momentarily exposed, she claimed, and she demanded $10 million. She’d signed a contract, said Viacom and the show’s producers, and besides, the misblurring was accidental. The case was dismissed.
But clearly the day will come when all reality shows are naked: full-on, full-frontal. Naked date and naked date, zonked on cocktails, silhouetted against the dragon-door of sunset; insect-maddened man and woman, in your leaking hovel; bland nudist at the shiny open house: Stand ready, and tauten your parts. The hour of your unblurring is at hand.