Podcast Bypasses School, Parents for Sex Ed
From “Vagina” episode:
VAGINA: ‘Scuse me, ‘scuse me. Down here!
VAGINA: We need to talk.
GIRL: Yeah, later.
VAGINA: You've been ignoring me all your life and it's not fair. I'm lonely.
GIRL: You're weird and gross.
VAGINA: No I'm not. I'm beautiful. I'm the source of life and good times.
GIRL: Good times are for sluts.
VAGINA: Knowing your body doesn't make you a slut, it makes you awesome.
If these lines from the MTSS's Vagina episode made you uncomfortable, then this monthly video podcast likely isn't for you. The frank teen sex information show is irreverent with heavy doses of bawdy humor. They also appear to be doing something right. According to its creators, the podcast reaches 250,000 unique subscribers a month. Nothing seems off limits and many of the topics the show explores are ones that are requested by the viewers. On the day we meet up, the three main writers and stars of the show – Nikol Hasler, Guy Clark, and Britney Barber – are filming Episode 16: “Sex, Drugs and Alcohol.”
BARBER: My favorite is the “Sniff and Fist”: couple of lines and then…
HASLER: I prefer the “Triple A”: it's Ambien, amaretto and anal.
BARBER: Ooh you know what, we should try the “Robo-Dog”: you drink a full bottle of Robitussin and hump our brains out.
The three spend the day writing and rehearsing and finally taping. 14 hours of work yields a five-minute clip. The topics have ranged from “Fetishes” to “Abstinence” to “Backdoor Business” and “Orgasms.” They'll likely make you blush or laugh out loud, and most are pretty creative. For their “Syphilis” episode, the gang parodies a horror film to run as its Halloween airing. It's entertaining but not heavy on facts, as critics have noted. Barber believes it's just enough to keep teens tuned in.
BARBER: We spend five minutes making a funny, scary movie with three or four little tidbits of information, but who says we have to, you know – it's like why can't we have something really, really fun and entertaining and just like boop boop boop – you know, it makes the information go down smoother.
Hasler agrees, and she points out their intent is not to be educators. The topics are further explored on the discussion boards, where more information, facts and expert resources are shared.
HASLER: I'd say it's ninety-five percent entertainment, and five percent informational. Definitely not educational – that's where you get yourself into trouble once you start saying, “Oh, we're educational.” That's when you kind of have to have that title to back that up.
Critics point out that the
HASLER: I'm talking about people who've been anything, people who have stubbed their toe, send in a question to yahoo answers, and say like “what should I do? I stubbed my toe and it hurts really badly” and you've got ten answers in an hour of people who talk about what happened when they stubbed their toe. We're not reinventing the wheel of sex here (laughing). Sex wheel!
Life experience feeds their segments, they say. Hasler had a child as a teenager and she says not one of the 15 foster home families who raised her brought up sex. It's the impetus behind her involvement in MTSS – she insists teen sex needs to be discussed.
In the “Parents” Episode, Hasler remarks:
HASLER: A lot of people want to know who should be responsible for sex ed? Parents: you should. Where else are they gonna learn about it? A podcast?
She also says in the “Birth Control” show:
HASLER: The method we don't recommend is the “Pull and Pray.” It's the reason I have two of my three children.
The podcast is provocative. Aside from the already controversial subject of teen sex, their cancer, rape, and dead hooker jokes have drawn ire, most recently from sex workers. MySpace censored their “Fetish” episode and YouTube pulled selected videos from its site. Facebook shutdown its group of 2000+ members; according to Hasler and
CLARK: We didn't want to be graphic, but we also wanted to be specific in the act and we want to be honest with the teens watching it, but we don't have graphic sex scenes in our show, we don't have nudity on our show – we don't even have swearing in our show.
Despite the criticism, the show's growing since it started two years ago. It has been featured on Nightline and Hasler's been interviewed by CBS Evening News. Clark and Hasler are working on a book, and they've been offered a pilot deal with a network based on MTSS. They are consistently in the Top 10 most viewed Health Podcasts on iTunes, and their target audience is intently tuning in, says
The mission, to get people talking, is evident…
BARBER: Hey mom?
“MOM”: Yes honey.
BARBER: What's sex?
That's from the “Parents” episode. As Matt, one of 174 viewers who responded to it wrote, it was his favorite joke of the season. He also writes “I just wish it weren't so sadly true. I knew a gal in high school who thought she was pregnant after a night of heavy kissing. Her friends said that wasn't possible, so she called her grandmother, who told her she was indeed pregnant. What's even sadder, I dated that young woman for a couple months. That's not the sad part. The sad part is I couldn't figure out why we were unable to communicate.”
BARBER: Oh, Kip. So, do you want to have sex?
BARBER: Okay... Lalalalala!