A sex podcast, where once taboo topics are front and center and you can learn about the psychology behind human sexuality on your morning commute?
How about one created by a mother-daughter duo where the focus is on busting common misconceptions and providing others with the tools to talk about a tricky but important topic?
That’s the idea behind “Sex Ed Debunked”, a podcast by local residents Christine and Shannon Curley. Every week, the mother-daughter team tackles a new topic trying to fill in the gaps and educate their audience on topics that aren’t often covered in your average high school sex ed class. Each thirty-minute episode focuses on a different “myth,” with the hosts sharing their own experiences and sometimes calling in experts before declaring the myth “put to bed.”
Christine, who lives in North Kingstown, and Shannon, who grew up in North Kingstown and now lives in Providence, say they didn’t always talk so openly about sex to each other. Growing up, Shannon says, her mother didn’t broach the subject except for a memorable dinner when they went out together so Christine could talk “about birds and bees” with her daughter.
“It was something I didn’t really know about and I was very uncomfortable with it,” Shannon says.
“I wish I had better tools when my kids were ten, twelve, thirteen, sixteen, seventeen,” adds Christine. “I think our home was supportive, but the conversations about sex and relationships didn’t happen regularly.”
It wasn’t until Shannon, now 28, came out to her mum that she was gay in 2014 that sex became something they could comfortably handle. She talks about her experience of coming out in the fourth episode, “Myth #4: Coming Out Can Be Easy”.
Fifty-five-year-old Christine explains that part of her reluctance to broach the subject was due to her lack of sex education. Originally from Long Island, she was raised in a conservative Catholic family where sex was not a regular topic of discussion. She then moved to Rhode Island and became a lawyer, a traditionally conservative career field.
About six years ago, however, his view of the subject would change dramatically. In 2016, she decided to change careers and returned to school to study psychology. She graduated from Rhode Island College with a master’s degree in psychology and now teaches at RIC and the University of Connecticut. She is also pursuing a doctorate in social psychology. Her thesis focuses on the link between sexual satisfaction and well-being in women and men.
“As I was telling people about my research and teaching students, I realized there was a huge gap,” she says. “Even when talking to adults, people are like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re researching this. It’s so important to talk about positive sex and how important it is. ”
Shannon, meanwhile, was pursuing a career in branding and marketing, including as a consultant for Providence-based Trailblaze Marketing. Last summer, the company approached her to create a podcast on a topic of her choice. It was during a day at the beach at Goddard Park that the two realized they could combine their interests.
“As we sat on the beach baking in the sun, the conversation turned into what you were doing at school,” Shannon tells her mother. “Halfway through this conversation, we both stopped and said, ‘Huh. It could make a really good podcast. ”
The podcast, which launched in September, covers topics such as consent, arousal and why it’s best to communicate with your partner about sex. Sometimes the content veers into controversial territory — their most talked-about episode was about whether parents should be able to opt out of school-based sex ed for their children — but Shannon and Christine say their focus is not not to shock or scandalize. Instead, they say, they’re two intellectually curious people looking to talk about sex with open-minded listeners looking to learn.
“It’s really not that edgy. It’s only pissed off because we’re talking about sex,” Christine says.
“It’s less avant-garde and more educational,” adds Shannon.
Along the way, they integrate academic research and chat with guests who work in related fields. Christine says one of her goals is to provide the kind of tools she would like to have when her children were teenagers.
“Sex education should be lifelong. We’ve had people say is it for the kids, is it for the parents? We said no, it’s for human beings who want to be sexual and have sex positive,” Shannon says.
The podcast features a catchy theme song and promotional artwork inspired by 1990s sitcoms like “Full House” and “Saved by the Bell.” Christine and Shannon say they thought it would be fun to give it a “nerdy sitcom vibe” to play on the mother-daughter theme and because sex was such a scandalous subject when discussed on these shows.
“It’s a great episode that everyone remembers when they talk about sex,” Shannon says.
Eventually, they hope to expand their podcast into a community with events and host a booth at Rhode Island PrideFest. The series has twenty episodes to date, with new ones released every Wednesday.
“Sex is a really interesting subject for people. Whether they approve of it or not, people always learn something new from it,” Shannon says.
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