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Something incredibly beautiful has come out of watching Embarrassing Bodies.

I’m going to say something. And that something is going to make some people very mad.

I’m obsessed with Embarrassing Bodies and I don’t even feel a little bit guilty about it. 

My mother can’t watch it. My friends think it’s “disgusting”. Some of my colleagues believe it’s exploitative.

The British reality television program first graced our screens almost 10 years ago.

It deals with a variety of medical issues that are misunderstood or widely considered taboo. Patients visit Dr Christian Jensen, Dr Dawn Harper or Dr Pixie McKenna to seek diagnosis and treatment for anything from prolapsed rectums to psoriasis.

Listen to Laura Brodnik and Rosie Waterland battle it out over Embarrassing Bodies.

The irony is not lost on me.

The entire premise of the show is that an individual is too embarrassed to attend their local GP with a severe case of hemorrhoids, so instead they decide to go on international television – with an audience in excess of three million – to have a camera zoom in on their anus.

I often wonder if the patients are recognised. If when they walk into work the next day people say “I saw you on telly last night! Wow – that’s quite the yeast infection you have going on, how’s it going? Dr. Pixie said it had quite the odour, has that subsided? Oh, by the way, can I have an autograph?”

But I digress.

I’m fascinated with the idea of “taboo” and how it changes across time and place. It might be true that no one wants a fungal disease eating away at their armpit, but it isn’t innately ‘revolting’. We shy away from it because in our highly medicalised and sterile environment, such scenes are relegated to private hospital wards.

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And although the show may evoke a visceral reaction in some, the numbers speak volumes. At it’s height, the program was averaging 3.5 million a night during it’s 9pm – 10pm time slot. People bloody love it.

They love it because humans have ubiquitously been fascinated by our bodies. They are complex. Weird. Faulty. And at times miraculously self-healing.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch it primarily because I find it incredibly entertaining. I love the insight it gives me into an unknown world. I’m enthralled by the narrative, and how someone can live with a debilitating illness for 10 years and never think to seek help. It’s sad but redemptive.

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Image via Channel 4.

The Guardian has labelled the program "voyeuristic, sensationalist, revolting..." and perhaps it is all of those things. But, unlike the majority of reality television shows, the graphic and explicit nature of the program exists as a means to an end.

At least 70 per cent of the population suffers from one of the 120 'embarrassing' illnesses explored on the show; excess hair, IBS, alopecia, eczema or varicose veins to name a few.

The tag line "there's no shame, we're all the same", might seem a little bizarre when you're looking at a man with an oozing penis - but the premise still stands.

Everyone's bodies will, at some point, do some weird sh*t. Stuff that scares us. Stuff that makes us worried. And being crippled with embarrassment and shame is what prevents people from going to the goddamn doctor.

A few years ago, a 9-year-old girl named Charlotte visited the clinic, with an extreme case of verrucas (warts on the soles of the feet). Dr Jensen recognised the condition as a sign of weakened immunity, and sent her for a number of tests. It was found that Charlotte required a bone marrow transplant, which would save her life.

After Charlotte's case aired, there was a 4,000% increase in enquiries.

Charlotte's parents thought that her verrucas were just a nuisance. But the cause was far more sinister. Image via Channel 4.
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The Embarrassing Bodies website offers an online STI checker which has been used by well over one million people.

More than 150,000 viewers have taken their online autism spectrum test, which is currently the largest tool of it's kind in the world.

Countless doctors have told of patients who have presented with ailments, from melanoma to incontinence, because they recognised them on television.

I call myself a walking WebMD, because a) I'm an enormous hypochondriac and b) I've watched enough Embarrassing Bodies to know that if it burns when you pee then you most certainly either have a UTI or chlamydia. And both are pretty simple to sort out.

Some might watch it because they're attracted to the to "freak show" element. Others might laugh at the patients. But, at it's core, I don't think that's what the show is about.

Embarrassing Bodies inspires empathy, and is above all incredibly educational.

Embarrassment is not innate.

When the lid is lifted - and we incite a public discussion about conditions that have long been plagued by unwarranted shame - illnesses cease to be embarrassing at all.

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You can listen to the full episode of The Binge below.