These podcasts are provoking serious conversations around sex, parenting, pregnancy and getting what you want.
If you’ve somehow managed to dodge the podcast craze until now (if that’s the case, I really want to know what your commute and/or exercise routines look like), here are three to start with — all hosted by folks who aren’t afraid to dive headfirst into topics around reproductive and sexual health that are seldom talked about, or are seldom discussed with honesty, vulnerability, and guts.
Pregnant Pause with Zak and Shira
Shira Heisler, 30, and Zak Rosen, 32, have been together for ten years, and recently got married. On Pregnant Pause, they’re tackling the issue of whether or not to have kids, which in itself is provocative question. Heisler knows she wants to kids; doing the podcast has solidified it for her, she’s just waiting for Rosen to “get there.” Rosen needs to be persuaded, and so the two are talking to everyone they know about parenting — people who have kids on how and why they do it; parents on what it has meant for their relationship with their partner; teenagers who test their parents sanity on the daily; and on an upcoming episode, people who aren’t going to have kids.
For many couples, having kids isn’t an “if,” but a “when,” but Heisler and Rosen are interrogating the decision, looking at the parts that are hard and ugly and laying it all bare. They also openly discuss the especially terrible moments that make parents question whether or not it was worth it.
Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure
Miscarriages are common. IVF is exhausting and painful and expensive. These are things we theoretically know, even if we haven’t experienced them ourselves, but knowing it doesn’t mean we don’t harbor stigma around them. In Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure, Doree Shafrir, executive editor at BuzzFeed and author of the novel STARTUP, and her husband, comedian and writer Matt Mira, document their experiences with IVF. The podcast starts at the beginning of the sixth month of trying to get pregnant with no avail. This time mark was also when the couple started investigating Matt’s low sperm count (which he has no issue with: “I don’t get what the stigma is,” he said), through embryo fertilization, genetic testing, and egg retrieval. Along the way, they get even more honest and talk about money (you need a lot of it for IVF), what the process has done to their relationship, how it changes sex, and how to talk to pregnant people when you desperately want to be one of them.
The uniqueness of Shafrir and Mira’s podcast isn’t just its content, but how the content itself questions why these topics have been stigmatized in the first place. “Women go into secret internet forums and talk about it there, but they won’t talk about it in public,” said Shafrir. “You would assume women would be more open about it, but they’re not. I started talking about it publicly, and every time I do, a new person texts me and says, I did IVF, so if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here.”
Look, sometimes sex is not great, and that can be true for lots of reasons, most of which include the fact that women are socialized to feel badly about being sexual. In Unscrewed, writer and speaker Jaclyn Friedman and her guests, change-makers like Hanne Blank, Therese Schechter, and Elle Chase talk about masturbation, (not) faking orgasms, consent, virginity, having sex that you want and enjoying it, and more, all in the name of “unscrewing the sexual culture.”
What’s revolutionary about Unscrewed is how it emphasizes things we think about but are afraid to really look at, especially when they’re shrouded in shame and fear of being abnormal. Is it okay to end a relationship because of differences in sexual desire that you can’t negotiate around, as opposed to staying in it even though you’re not getting what you need? (“It’s not just sex,” says Friedman, “it’s sex.”) Can you be a feminist and still have rape fantasies? What if monogamy isn’t working for you?
Friedman goes into corners you might not even have known about exist, and interrogates what makes people tick, taking apart not just the social context around issues, but the lives we’re living and how they shape our sexuality and happiness.