Memo to the hook-up culture on the naked truth about love

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By Loredana Vuoto

VH1 believes love is skin deep.

That’s the only way to explain its decision to launch “Naked Dating,” a one-hour weekly series that uncovers dating and romance — naked style.

Susan Levison
Susan Levison

Every episode will follow one man and one woman as they each date two different suitors. At the end of the episode, they will assess their matches and decide if they want to continue pursuing their potential love interests. The twist: everyone will be naked.

The series is more than just “a noisy, provocative hook,” and is, in fact, “about something that we can all relate to — the search for true love,” claims Susan Levison, VH1’s executive vice president for original programming and production. The network is billing the series as exploring “the art of romance free of pre-conceived notions, stereotypes — and clothes.”

Yet, romance has nothing to do with lust and exposed flesh. It is about getting to know the heart and soul of your mate, regardless of his or her physical attributes. It is about men and women treating one another with respect, as gentlemen and ladies, not hard bodies. It is about virtue and nobility — a heroic selflessness that places your loved one above personal gratification. It transcends the flesh to woo the spirit.

The renowned English novelist of romantic fiction, Jane Austen, is surely rolling in her grave at this twisted show concept.

This “fun and entertaining” “social experiment,” as Howard Schultz, president of Lighthearted Entertainment which created and produced “Naked Dating,” described it, is symptomatic of a hook-up culture obsessed with the flesh. Casual sex or having “friends with benefits” is prevalent in college culture, replacing the old-fashioned notion of dating.

According to sociologist Paula England of Stanford University who has been surveying more than 17,000 students from 20 colleges and universities since 2005, by senior year, 72 percent of both sexes report having at least one hook-up, with the average of 9.7 for men and 7.1 for women. These students also do not consider that they are in a relationship with someone, even if they have hooked-up with them several times.

As Kathleen Bogle, author of “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus” (2008) has argued, the widespread use of birth control in the 1970s promulgated a hook-up culture which eventually disassociated dating from marriage. Easy access to birth control also had the negative consequence of rewriting dating norms. Unlike for centuries before, couples became physical first and then got to know one another later. With marriage no longer the focal point of dating, the average age people that tied the knot increased.

But the hook-up culture extends beyond college campuses. The entertainment industry is saturated with images of sex without commitment.

Although claiming otherwise, shows like “Naked Dating,” and ABC’s “The Bachelor,” foster the skewed perception that when it comes to love, the physical trumps the spiritual. The emphasis is no longer on character but on physical attraction which supersedes lifelong compatability.

This view of relationships contrasts with thousands of youth who desire commitment and eternal unions. Recently, Pope Francis invited thousands of engaged couples to the Vatican for a special Valentine’s Day celebration. Approximately 25,000 betrothed from 30 countries gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear the pope’s wisdom on love.

The pontiff warned couples about a “throwaway culture” that is opposed to lifelong commitment. This fad leads many to embrace marriage only “as long as love lasts.” Instead, he affirmed the permanence of unconditional love in spite of human imperfection.

Regardless of what the entertainment industry spews, the human heart longs for a real connection — for permanent relationships rooted in the dignity of the human person. This love goes beyond coarse physical chemistry. Instead, it grows and matures as the bloom of youth fades.

VH1’s promotion of setting aside preconceived ideas of dating is utter foolishness. “Merely having an open mind is nothing,” noted the English writer G.K Chesterton. “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

VH1’s quicksand philosophy of basing relationships on sex and lust must be rejected. The impermeable truth of love is best summed by Jane Austen’s profound advice in her classic novel, “Emma”: “Let his behavior be the guide of your sensations.” With this foundation, couples have a greater chance at forming and keeping lasting relationships.

“A faithful and fruitful marriage will bring you happiness,” Pope Francis tweeted.

Now, that’s the naked truth!

Loredana Vuoto is a former speechwriter for Sen. Rick Santorum. She was assistant national editor and an editorial writer at The Washington Times.