Ashley Cunningham ‘16, always felt people should be more open about sex. After all, her honors thesis was about sexual positivity and stress free pleasure for women. Her passion for sex education continues in The Wet Seat, a new podcast focusing on taboo topics and stigmas surrounding sex, which Cunningham launched two months ago with former classmates Susannah Wilson ‘16 and Billy Cowles ‘16.
There are six episodes currently available for listening, with titles like “Period Sex, Queefing, & Blow Jobs,” “Chasing the Magic Penis,” and “Sex-iety.” The podcast begins with a piano tune as hosts Cunningham and Wilson introduce themselves and their featured guest. Each episode is 20 to 40 minutes long and comes out every two to three weeks. Cowles serves as the editor and producer of the podcast.
Cunningham, who graduated with a degree in marketing communication, didn't always have sympathy for such sensual subjects; the Arkansas native had an abstinence-based sexual education throughout her adolescence.
“In sixth grade I had to sign an abstinence card that said on the back reasons why you shouldn’t have sex,” Cunningham said. “Because of the shame and stigma and repression of truth, it led me to have an unhealthy relationship with my sexuality.”
As someone who had a long term relationship in high school, Wilson had a decidedly different relationship with sex. When she came to college, she found others who had been having sex for years, like herself, and those who had never kissed anyone.
“There is a pretty diverse crowd of people at Emerson with varying sexualities or gender expressions, and that means a lot of people who have had different experiences,” Wilson said. “I’m interested in hearing those different experiences.”
Cowles, a performing arts alumnus, said that each founding member brings a different perspective to the podcast.
“I look at it more from a storytelling perspective, and I’m a little bit more concerned about the narrative, whereas Ashley is always looking more at the takeaways from the episode for your mental health and your life,” Cowles said. “I think those two things complement each other.”
As friends, all three loved talking with each other about their intimate experiences. According to Wilson, also a performing arts alumna, the idea of actually recording their conversations came from Cowles.
“Ashley and I became [closer] friends in sophomore year while we were at [Kasteel Well], and the basis of our friendship at that point was around conversations about sex,” Wilson said. “At some point, Billy had started throwing around the idea that it would be fun to start a podcast, and the topic just came naturally.”
The trio began working on the podcast a year ago and have been building an audience via word-of-mouth and Facebook. They’ve accrued more than 1,600 listens on Soundcloud and are available on a variety of podcast hosting websites.
“The idea and the name came a year ago, and we did a pilot episode,” Cunningham said.
She said they were prepared to launch six months later once they had found their branding artist, Rebecca Todaro, who designed the logo and makes the thumbnails for each new episode.
“At the end of the day, what takes this podcast away from other sex positive podcasts is that ours is all about bringing on regular people telling their stories because someone else out there has probably had the same experience and didn’t know how to navigate it,” Cunningham said.
All three agreed that they didn’t set out to make The Wet Seat a hugely popular podcast. Wilson said that the goal was to tell stories about things that they wish people had told them when they were younger.
“I think anyone who has ever felt like they had sexual experiences that they never felt comfortable speaking to someone else about should listen to the podcast and see if they learn something new about themselves and see if other people have experienced what they have experienced,” Cunningham said.