Let’s talk about sex: 4 essential podcasts
Now that I’ve got your attention, please read this column.
Golden Age The Simpsons references aside, there’s probably not a more universally fascinating subject than human sexuality. Sports, arts, politics, and religion are practically niche subjects compared to the universality of sex. Sex’s power to intrigue holds a lot of sway in the realm of podcasts, which are uniquely positioned to tackle sexuality in a way that broadcast radio and television never really were. Freed from the constraints of the FCC and the sensitivities of a broad audience, podcasts about sex can tackle issues in a far more explicit and frank way than old media ever could.
That’s why, this week, Podspotting will flag up four of the best, most interesting, most edutaining podcasts about sex.
Why four? Isn’t five the more traditional number for lists? Well, yes. But most of the other high-profile, professional podcasts about sex I’ve spent time with—including Sex Is Fun, Sex With Emily, and the Smodcast network’s Having Sex, with Katie Morgan—weren’t up to snuff. All struggled with rambling hosts and a lack of direction or focus, even by podcast standards.
As always with these sort of lists, a few caveats before we start: I’ve chosen to focus on general-interest sexuality podcasts. That means you won’t find any of the hyper-specific sex podcasts (Polyamory Weekly, Masocast). I’ve also elected to highlight podcasts that deal with an array of sexualities and orientations, rather than those that speak primarily to straight, gay, lesbian or transgender audiences. Finally, the podcasts I’ve selected are all, while hardly safe for work, some combination of educational and entertaining. If you’re looking for something more prurient—like, say, some erotic fiction read by someone with a velvety voice over a Quiet Storm soundtrack—you can find it, but not here.
Any discussion of sex and relationship podcasts has to start with the Savage Lovecast, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The long-running podcast—going strong since 2006—from pundit, commentator, editorial director of Seattle’s The Stranger, television host, and author of the Savage Love advice column Dan Savage, routinely tops iTunes’ health chart and is far and away the most popular podcast about sex. There’s a reason for that: Savage’s show is the best there is at what it does. The format is simple: Savage tackles listener-submitted questions about sex, relationships, and sexual politics, with the occasional guest or interview. The magic’s all in the execution.
Savage is witty, erudite, and fun, and his wide listenership means an equally wide variety of questions. And his sex-positive outlook, which is generally inclusive, is by no means universally forgiving: He’s happy to dole out harsh criticism when he considers it justified. You probably won’t always agree with Savage—but then again, he tackles sensitive subjects and Savage shows an impressive ability to engage with listener and reader criticism and admit when he’s dropped the ball.
Sex podcasts don’t come more quick-and-dirty than Kinsey Confidential. Presented by the sex, gender, and reproduction-focused Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, this weekly podcast always clocks in under 10 minutes. But there’s a lot of info crammed into those handful of minutes.
Host Debby Herbenick, a sexual health educator at the institute, fields a couple of questions per episode. Where other podcasts with listener-submitted questions—which is nearly every sex podcast—can ramble on at length, Kinsey Confidential provides succinct, specific answers to questions that are generally clinical in nature. Herbenick addresses inquiries on topics ranging from sexual satisfaction to sexually transmitted infections.
Some of the topics can be fascinatingly unusual; a recent listener suffered from “sexsomnia,” a feature of some sleep disorders in which a person masturbates or initiates sex even while sleeping. Kinsey Confidential could stand to run longer. Despite being a bit a dry, it’s always interesting, and the tone is reliably professional, which is a valuable rarity in the field of sex advice.
Sandra Daugherty’s podcast is part of Chris Hardwick’s ever-expanding Nerdist empire, and much like Hardwick, Daughtery makes for a charismatic, engaged, and almost exhaustingly enthusiastic host. Sex Nerd Sandra is a wide-ranging show that strides across the sex-positive landscape, featuring interviews, commentary, and advice on an expansive cross-section of issues.
Daugherty and her co-host, comedian Dave Ross, chat up everything from pornography to toys to fetishes to sexual politics to safe sex to Fifty Shades of Grey. That adventurousness is the show’s biggest asset; 65 episodes into its run, Sex Nerd Sandra is still tackling new and interesting topics nearly every week.
Timaree Schmitt’s podcast is very much under the radar: It doesn’t boast Audible or Adam & Eve.com sponsorship, nor can you find it on any of the big podcast networks. And to some extent that’s not a surprise; the podcast still has some room to grow. The audio quality can vary, and Schmitt’s guests can run the gamut: Some are excellent, but some of the show’s conversations, given the saucy subject matter, can be surprisingly prosaic.
But there’s a lot of potential here: Schmitt herself holds a Ph.D. in human sexuality studies from Widener University—which houses the only fully accredited doctoral program in human sexuality in the United States. The show, which features Schmitt interviewing a wide range of guests from across the spectrum of sexual topics, is frank and often compelling. And it’s a clear labor of love for Schmitt, who’s a thoughtful, charismatic, and engaged host. With a little more work this could be one of the greats; as it is, it’s still often interesting listening.
If I left out your favorite show about doing the deed, let me know—or better yet, pop into the comments and make the case for it.
Photo via Timaree Schmitt