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Why I Stopped and why I’m Starting Again

Mar 14 2014
Carey Callahan

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,
Carey