Debate rages over children’s Naked Education
The UK has a new headline-grabbing reality show, but with a focus on education. Photo: Channel 4
A British show has drawn complaints for bringing children face to face with naked adults in the name of education and body positivity.
Channel 4’s Naked Education, which premiered on April 4, aims to “normalise all body types, champion our differences and break down stereotypes”.
Part of fulfilling this mission includes having adults disrobe in front of children as young as 14 to begin discussions on topics ranging from body hair to what happens to bodies as they age.
One clip sees four adult men standing naked in front of a group of teenagers sitting at school-style desks.
Some of the teenagers appear to initially have trouble looking at the men, and some dissolve into fits of giggles.
“Just don’t look at anything, just [make] eye contact and look away,” 15-year-old Elliot says in a side interview.
“It’s just a lot to process … Naked men, in real life, we’ve never really seen it,” 14-year-old Amelia exclaims in the studio.
The teens are then asked to select which of the men has the average-sized penis, before a calm and educational discussion proceeds about size and circumcision.
Yinka Bokinni, UK TV personality and Naked Education co-host, said she hoped that what children took away from the show was that “no body is out of place”.
“That you can fit in, you can stand out, but that is all OK,” she said.
Although the show’s setting appears formal and education-focused, some viewers were left uncomfortable at seeing children in the same room as naked adults.
An episode that aired on April 4 prompted 930 complaints from viewers to Britain’s broadcast regulator, Ofcom.
Ofcom said complaints related to nudity before the late-night timeslot, and the nudity “presented to participants in the program aged 14 to 16”.
A spokesperson said Ofcom would assess the complaints against its broadcasting rules before deciding whether to investigate.
Online reactions clash
Some online commentators have condemned the show for putting children in the same space as naked adult strangers.
“A new series on channel 4 called Naked Education where children are exposed to naked men, women & trans adults. How did any adult think that it’s acceptable to get naked in front of children? Vile,” one Twitter user posted.
“Why are some adults so keen to get naked in front of kids? I’m not buying the “it’s education” line. [It’s] just plain creepy,” another wrote.
Others have spoken out in the show’s defence.
“Watching #NakedEducation. These are real bodies. Not your Instagram filtered poses, sucked-in stomachs and zero cellulite,” a Twitter user said.
“The media, fashion industry and social media platforms need to pay attention. This is empowering, real and honest.”
Another wrote, “There’s nothing sexual about it. It’s in a really educational context, with honest conversations about insecurities and self acceptance. I wish there’d been more of this when I was a teen.”
Body positivity for adults
The show appears to be not just about educating young people about the human body, but helping adult participants reconcile themselves with their own bodies and body issues.
In one episode, there’s a group nude photo shoot of adult participants featuring their bodies painted with the insults they’ve had thrown at them, to help retake ownership.
Another episode features 26-year-old Bethany, who has body and facial hair as a consequence of polycystic ovary syndrome. She talks to the teens about how she’s come to accept her appearance.
Channel 4 said all teenage participants took part with appropriate consent.
“They and their guardians were fully aware and prepared to take part in the item about body taboos and all had support throughout,” a spokesperson said.
The past few years have brought a rise in nude reality shows, including dating show Naked Attraction (also produced by Channel 4 and hosted by Naked Education co-host Anna Richardson), and US reality survival show Naked and Afraid.
The debut show may have drawn its fair share of eyes and headlines, but it remains to be seen whether it will be aired in Australia as Naked Attraction and Naked and Afraid, were – or whether the format will be duplicated locally, as with recent UK imports Taskmaster and Would I Lie to You?