The A.S.S. podcast has been on a hiatus since November of last year. It was not a planned hiatus, and it was not a happy hiatus. Here’s what happened.
Getting the A.S.S. podcast going out here in the Bay Area had been very tough, because I was also trying to establish myself as a person out here, and that’s pretty tough. I had a job last year that didn’t pay a living wage and had to rely on my credit card to meet my monthly expenses. I was trying to learn how to navigate a lot of benevolent transphobia in my social and performance life- what to do with cis men’s new avoidant social reception of me, what to do with my gender being treated as a joke and novelty once the hostility had passed (if it did), what to do with being fetishized in queer and sex-positive spaces, what to do with my own growing agoraphobia and paranoia. So it had already been a tough fall before the episode recording that was the final straw.
On the last A.S.S. podcast we recorded in November, a young man who I really liked, who I really believed was a decent guy and something like the guy I would like to become, began to tell a story about losing his virginity at 13, high, by “running a train” on a girl. Running a train means a gangbang. I cut him off, telling him I was afraid of his story. The moment of sitting up on stage with him, having him tell me and Jenn this awful thing with a little bit of a smile on his face, stretches infinitely in my memory. I thought to myself, slowly, languorously even, “Wow….I did this to myself. Every part of this situation I created myself. I produced the show, I invited him to tell a story, and now here I am having to learn this awful thing about him. I asked for it.”
Time has a cruel habit of slowing down for the moments you desperately need to pass, a phenomenon I have unfortunately experienced in the context of getting raped in college. I didn’t start calling myself a rape survivor until 7 years after that happened. I had been calling myself a “comedian” for 3 years before I took on “survivor.”
I’ve come to believe “survivor” is a much more honest appraisal of who I am than “comedian.” Unlike other, truer worshippers of The Laugh, I believe there are some topics that are truly terrible to laugh about. I believe it’s terrible to laugh at people’s pain while it’s happening. It’s intensely traumatic for the person in pain hearing the laughter, and it’s dehumanizing for the person laughing. People choose to laugh at people in pain when the reality of the suffering is too scary to turn and face. I believe our culture loves a rape joke because our culture is terrified of the widespread, commonplace, devastating harm sexual violence wreaks on us every day. Too many people don’t understand that the aftermath of navigating society after being sexually violated is itself an ongoing litany of violence. In comedy’s recipe of tragedy plus time, survivors never experience the comfort of the past receding, since the crime committed against us is never recognized by the community and our suffering never mourned by the community.
Long story short: I got triggered as fuck by that episode recording. I believe that gives me the distinction of being the only comedian triggered by their own show.
I’ve spent the time since that last episode trying to get to a better place financially, and navigating a very, very intense depressive episode. I thought a lot about what the ethical reaction to him telling the story would be, and I do not know. It was in the distant past. He was 13. He was high. Realistically, the best case scenario is that a young woman’s life was only close to destroyed, and that she somehow was strong and smart enough to keep the shame from killing her. I do not have the tools to explain what rape does to the person who has raped. I am not that smart or strong.
Here is what I have come to understand through this depressive episode- I do not care to entertain. The most important moment of the A.S.S. podcast for me is on an early episode which has since been taken down. A woman who has my unending admiration tells a story about being raped. She didn’t give a warning about what her story would be about. She didn’t ask for permission or give people a chance to leave the room. She refused to give the audience the power to decide whether her story would be heard. She wasn’t seeking to entertain, she was just speaking truth. That was the night I felt that the Awkward Sex Show could be transformational media. That was the night I began to believe the A.S.S. podcast could be a space for people to practice a new discourse about sex- a discourse that prioritized empathy rather than hierarchy. A discourse that prioritized kindness over status.
I have given up on the idea that time will heal my wounds from sexual violence. I guess I have given up on the idea of individual healing. When I have felt as if healing were possible it was when I was witnessing the birth of the community of the A.S.S. podcast.
Since this is the only project I’ve ever done that has given me that hope, I’ve decided to begin again. But I can’t do the podcast the way I was doing it before. Here are some changes I feel fairly certain we’re going to make.
1) We won’t record in bars anymore. Sex is a funny, entertaining subject, and it’s also a deathly serious subject, and having alcohol around when people are likely to get triggered is not something I want on my conscience. Please suggest wheelchair accessible, non bar venues in the East Bay or SF to me.
2) It will be a monthly show rather than a weekly show, to ease the burden of booking and vetting guests.
3) We will be doing a fundraising campaign to buy recording equipment, cover our hosting costs, and cover promotional expenses. These had been being covered out of my pocket and Tim’s pockets, and it was a huge point of stress. If the Awkward Sex Show has been valuable to you, I hope you will show that by both donating and spreading the word about the campaign. Details will be forthcoming.
4) We are not a comedy podcast. I am not a comedian. I am also not a sexpert. I am just a person who is good at asking questions. My obligation to the audience will continue to be to ask interesting questions. I’m letting myself off the hook for being funny.
It will be an uphill battle raising the money we need and regaining the audience we have lost during this hiatus. I hope if you have enjoyed the show you will tell your facebook and twitter followers so. Please retweet, please follow, please ask to be a guest (if you’re in the Bay Area), please suggest show topics, please donate when the campaign begins. Thanks for all the ways you drive this podcast.
All the love in the world to you,
If you are interested in being a storyteller on the A.S.S podcast this fall, here are the dates and show themes for each date! Each show will be at The Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland, at 6 pm every other Sunday afternoon. Please email Carey at email@example.com if you have a great story!
The Awkward Sex Show, the podcast AfterEllen.com calls “a heartfelt gift to comedy”, is recording its first East Bay episode July 24th at the White Horse Bar, and we’re searching for storytellers to tell us their most Awkward sex/love/dating stories related to the theme of “Queer Theory.” This could mean stories of your hottest gender studies professor, late night Judith Butler study sessions leading to library makeouts, or the incredibly complicated romantic dramas of your student radical queer group. Let’s talk about failures of praxis after the initial joy of discovering the queer canon. Please email Carey Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You need to be available to tell your story onstage the evening of July 24th.
Hey A.S.S. Followers,
I’ve been living on the Berkeley/Oakland border for 3 weeks now, and things are good. I don’t have a job or a fiancee yet (currently craigslist-ing for both). But I did plant a tomato plant AND recorded a first episode here, at Eros Safe Sex Club for Men.
Anyone who knows me probably figures I spent these three weeks having a life crisis, and that is cor-RECT, but having the first episode recorded made me feel a million times better. Ken Rowe of Eros gives some funny tips for navigating sex clubs, and talks about why Eros is so special. (Only trans-inclusive men’s sex club in the country, what what!)
Eros is in a part of town where the rents are skyrocketing, known as THE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO, and they are doing a major fund-raising push to keep their space and do some renovations. They’re special not only on the trans-inclusion front, but because they very intentionally serve as a community center in addition to a place to get down. We recorded in the community room and got kicked out for the 6:15 yoga class. They also have affordable massage services, an art gallery, and host sexual health screenings. So they are a rad place with a rad mission, and you should throw some dollars their way.
Comedian/writer Josh Orr hosted with me, and we had very funny guests in storyteller Matt Matthews, Comedian Jessica Sele, and non-pro funny people Jeff, Sho, and Victor. You’ll be glad to hear that I am SOOO awkward compared to people here. Real squirmy.
There’s not an audience for this first show, but I hope to get a regular venue out here soon, so keep an eye out for that.
This website situation is also going to get a major upgrade very soon. Ch-ch-ch-changes!
So I’ve got two favors to ask of you, A.S.S. Lovers:
2) Give me some show theme ideas. What have you been itching in your britches to hear awkward stories about?
Oh, and one more- subscribe to us in itunes if A.S.S. is your go to source for stories of awkward sex! Keep an eye out for the Eros episode soon!
sending lots of awkward love to you and yours and theirs too,
Hello loyal A.S.S. lovers. This is Carey writing at you. We’re about to start our 2013 season, and I’m very excited. I’m excited that Ramon Rivas will be my constant co-host, because he’s funny and his worldview is very mysterious to me. I’m excited we’ll be starting at 9 now. I’m excited for our funny topics. I’m excited for the “panel” shows we’re going to do, which have a different format from our regular shows. We’ll get some ambassadors of different populations and throw questions at them about their sex lives. Our first panel show is about bartenders, and maybe we’ll finally get the mysterious Emily onstage.
I wanted to write to you about our last podcast of 2012, which was the most awkward show we’ve had, and on this show that says A. LOT. This show was awkwardly doomed from the start. We started recording it late because there was a painting class wrapping up in the upstairs room at Reddstone where we record the podcast. Tim and I tried to get the very professional looking young women who attended the painting class to stay for the podcast and failed, because we are both awful at talking to successful looking women.
Ramon and I told our stories of New Year’s Resolutions, and then we only had one guest, who is a comedian named Nell Sinn. Now normally I would’ve mentioned the rules. I didn’t, and I guess it was because it was going to be a shorter show, and I was all off my game from the effort of talking to the artsy ladies.
The thing about the show we recorded is TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING. Nell Sinn shocked me right off the bat by making a joke about murdering trans women. I was totally unprepared. If you listen to the podcast, I think you’ll hear that he tells the joke and I don’t even say anything for like 2 minutes. And then when I do say something all I say is “That seems like an over-reaction.” Which is an obvious under-reaction.
So….the reality of the world we live in is that trans women are the focus of a lot of violence. Trans women are murdered so often, and the investigations of those murders are treated so carelessly by police departments and the media, that we have the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Friends of mine who are trans-feminine have supported me so much and so well this year, and I see how fear of physical violence, and the many “smaller” forms of violence (like job discrimination, street harassment, and the constant misgendering and dehumanization that comes at them from both the sources you’d expect- conservative assholes- and the sources you’d think could get their shit together -“feminist” assholes), create obstacles my friends have to spend their energy on overcoming rather than spending their energy on their passions. And my friends are talented and smart! The world is missing out on the amazing things my friends could create if they didn’t have to spend their time defending their basic human rights.
So…..I really let down my friends in this episode. I still think it’s an important episode to put out there, because it turns into a conversation about why Nell Sinn makes jokes that say things he says he doesn’t believe in. But look, you are gonna have criticisms of how I handle the conversation, and those criticisms are going to be RIGHT ON. And I want to hear your feedback, ok? I’d love for this to spawn conversations about how to handle people making jokes that promote violence. I was caught off guard and failed, hard.
BUT- know that the joke is about murdering a woman. Murdering a woman because for the crime of living in her body. Know that before pressing play. That’s not the kind of joke I want our listeners to have to be prepared to hear. This show is supposed to be a pro-woman space, and this episode is definitely not that.