Podcasts are great! And legion! With this weekly feature, I point you in the direction of some great ones you might be missing.
Bang! Pow! Podcasts Aren’t Just Serial Anymore: New York Magazine’s Sex Lives
Where to Find It: Panoply.com
The Players: A trio of (almost always) present hosts, Maureen O’Connor, David Wallace-Wells, and Allison Davis.
What Is It: To paraphrase the hosts themselves, the podcast take on issue of dating, technology, relationships and sex and makes them completely unsexy.
Actually, I think they are being unfair to themselves. Sex Lives is not, generally speaking, sexy but it is not because the hosts are making it boring or gross. Instead, they approach nearly every issue with a casualness that sets the listener at ease and removes the anxiety around the topic. The sexiness goes away too, but the point is not titillation, so that is appropriate to the format.
Like most “issues of the day” based podcasts featuring three host (see also: the Slate family of podcast, progenitors of Panoply and this format), the podcast is divided into 2-3 segments. In this case, the show typically goes a roundtable discussion amongst the three hosts inspired by one of the two women’s pieces for New York Magazine and/or The Cut, and interview with someone or a few someones about their research, their own recent writings, their website, etc (essentially an interview with someone who is sort a sex related newsmaker, and a listener voicemail segment (a relative new addition).
In addition to the hosts’ largely unsqueamish attitudes to nearly every topic they cover, the show is buoyed by their obvious comfort and chemistry with one another while representing different points of view. Wallace-Wells is married and has been for some time while his co-hosts are single and dating with differing approaches and desires regarding that pursuit. They have great interplay and are largely willing to expose aspects of themselves to fuel and push forward the conversation (Wallace-Wells is a notable exception here which is perhaps understandable as he would be talking about someone who see daily and will continue to see daily and the women are largely discussing exes.)
Overall, it is a quick smart podcast about modern sex and dating that is neither “the sky is falling” declinist nor “everything is great” Pollyanna-ish. It is fun but serious about its aims and rarely mocks nor gazes askance at its subject matter.
Key episodes: “Introducing the Threesome Matchmaker”- one of the few times the hosts lose control of their reactions and can’t help but express their disgust and creeped outness about a duo of threesome website proprietors. It’s a great study in how to interview those who make your skin crawl—the hosts never break during the interview—and the reality of how an interviewer might feel with their post-interview roundtable where they all but retch.
For an episode more reflective of their typical shows, check out “Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask An Online Dating Ghostwriter” which has a great discussion about when women like to be objectified, a woman who writers other people’s dating profiles for a living, and a voicemail about long distance dating shipwrecking most awkwardly.