Sex can be a complicated, uncomfortable topic, but maybe the hardest part (pardon the pun) of the whole knocking uglies thing is that we can't be completely honest with each other about it. We make up anatomical terms for children instead of using the real terms. We treat sex as a competition, measure ourselves against others, and let thoughts like, "I'm doing it wrong!" haunt our brains.
Cleveland comedians Carey Callahan, Tim Cornett, and Ramon Rivas II are debunking the myths and asking the awkward questions at The Awkward Sex Show, a podcast recorded with a live audience every Tuesday night at 9:30 at Reddstone in Battery Park. The show began in May of this year and has been taking off ever since, with over 1,000 listeners for each download and a local following that continues to grow every week. And they're here to share some of their wisdom.
Who came up with the idea of the Awkward Sex Show?
Callahan: I did. We decided to do Awkward Sex because it seemed like we could get a lot of audience participation.
Cornett: I'm sorry, I have to ask a question, too. Why are there rules to the show?
Callahan: When we were talking about the show, I was worried we would get comedians coming up and being like, "I fucked this bitch slut! She was so fucking ugly!" Anyway, I thought we would get a lot of mean stories from people. You can't talk about your former partner's body in a negative way. You can't use your former partners' names, and you can't use the words "bitch," "tranny," or "slut."
Cornett: The rules pretty much disarmed everybody. It makes it safe enough for everyone to come up and tell their stories.
Do you all come from backgrounds where sex was discussed a lot at home?
Callahan: No, my mom is very Catholic and my dad is agnostic, but he just doesn't enjoy talking about it. So it was missing from my life.
Cornett: I come from a southern Baptist background, so you can imagine.
Rivas: I feel I've been very sexualized. My dad was kind of a philanderer and I saw the results of that on my mom. It's been around me, but traditionally, no.
Did you seek any sexual advice from outside sources?
Cornett: I went through a period when I read every sex book I could get my hands on, from manuals to Dr. Phil to everything. None of it helped.
Callahan: I think most sex advice isn't useful. It's about the mechanics instead of teaching what kind of relationships can come from having good sex.
Rivas: I just watched a lot of porn, but it's unrealistic.
Are there particularly juicy stories you've heard during the podcast?
Cornett: One of my favorites is from the "Preggers" episode. This woman is a doula and she worked with this young, Dominican girl. The whole crux of the episode was how the hormones released during orgasm and even nipple stimulation release oxytocin, which brings on labor.
Callahan: Isn't that amazing? So if you want to bring on labor, one of the natural ways to do it is to have a bunch of orgasms!
Cornett: Yeah, so this girl had her whole family waiting for her to give birth. But she was having a lot of complications and she wasn't dilating any further. So it came to nipple stimulation. But this girl had never masturbated before, so this doula had to show her how to do it.
Callahan: But the girl wouldn't do it herself. So the doula had to do it for her...in front of her whole extended family. It was an amazing story. That woman's husband has told good stories, too. They come to most of the shows and they even stop in just to say hi.
Do you think everyone is comfortable with the participation aspect of the show?
Cornett: People in the audience choose their own level of involvement. They can go up there and they are free to say what they want. Carey makes things really comfortable, so things just come up.
Rivas: Humor helps keep the situations light.
Callahan: What I've learned from this show is how hard it is for men to navigate sex. And like, it's been really good for me, frankly. I feel like we've had people on the show where my first gut reaction is, oh no you're gonna say something awful. And then they open up and are really reflective about how they got there and why sex is difficult for them or why intimacy is difficult for them. Or their hopes or what they want. It's so adorable.
Sex is something that's serious and agonized over. Do you think having a sense of humor helps make it better?
Rivas: Having a sense of humor makes the show more honest and there's humor in truth.
Cornett: It seems like if you're open enough to laugh about something, you're open enough to experiment with something. Like if you try anal or whatever and you don't like it, you can laugh it off. You can giggle about how much your butt hurts and move on.
Callahan: Exactly. Keeping a sense of humor about your sex life means you don't view it as a finished product. It's always in motion. Keeping a sense of humor is acknowledging you're a human and you're growing and your partner is human and they're growing.
If there was one thing you could say about sex to make it less nerve-wracking, what would it be?
Rivas: It's all about confidence and not setting the stakes too high.
Cornett: Everyone is in the same boat. Actually, everyone being nervous about it makes me less nervous.
Callahan: Everyone is a nervous fucking wreck. Period.