It’s our first pop culture breakdown, in which we look at how sex and sexuality are depicted on screen!
My guest is pop culture critic Kristen Meinzer.
We’re talking about:
You can find Kristen at:
LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk About Sex. I am sex and intimacy coach, Leah Carey. And this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!
LEAH: Hey, friends. For the first time today, I am bringing you a conversation about the intersection of sexuality and pop culture. This is something that I’m really passionate about. I have loved pop culture ever since I can remember. In fact, I used to work in the entertainment industry. I was a professional stage manager managing venues around the country for a while.
Entertainment, whether it’s movies or television or theater or books, has always been a really big part of my life. Ever since I started talking about sexuality, it’s almost impossible to take in any type of entertainment and not see the depictions of sexuality, gender expectations, gender norms, how people are breaking gender expectations and norms, people exploring their sexuality. There are just so many ways that this shows up.
And so, I’m really excited to start talking about this in a way that I hope is really accessible to you. Assuming that I am organized enough, which may or may not always be the case, but I will try to give you notice in the previous episode for what we’re going to talk about in the next episode.
So, two weeks ago, I told you that today, we would be talking about an episode from the third season of Ted Lasso and an episode from the fourth season of Never Have I ever. And we’re going to talk about things that happen in those shows that may contain spoilers because you can’t talk about sexuality unless you’re talking about what’s actually going on on the screen, what the characters’ motivations are, what their backgrounds are, how they actually respond to things. All of those things are tied up in what has happened in the story.
So, if you have not watched these shows and you want to watch them before you listen to this episode, please go do that and come back. If you have not watched these shows and you don’t mind hearing the spoilers, then absolutely please do that. I think that there are things to be learned from every one of these conversations regardless of whether it’s a show that you watch or not.
So, my companion in this conversation today, and hopefully in many future conversations, is Kristen Meinzer. If you are a fan of the NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, she’s a frequent guest there. She is a pop culture critic as well as an official Royal watcher. So, anytime something happens with the Royal family, you can hear her all over the place commenting on what’s going on with the Royals.
She has the show, How to Be Fine, with her co-host Jolenta. They’re not trying to help you be amazing and fantastic and sunshine and rainbows. Their goal is to help you be just a little more fine, which is really fun. And then, she also has the show, The Daily Fail, which is a critical look at The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid.
She’s also written two books. One, So You Want to Start a Podcast for all you potential podcasters out there. It is a fantastic resource. And also, the book with Jolenta, How to Be Fine.
I am absolutely thrilled to have Kristen here. And I really hope you enjoy this conversation, please, please, please, please, please let me know so that I know this is something that you want to be hearing. You can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. You can DM me on Instagram @goodgirlstalk. You can call the listener line at 720-GOOD-SEX. However you want to get in touch with me, please do. I would love to know if this is something that you want to keep hearing. So, now, onto the conversation.
LEAH: Kristen, I’m so excited to have you here today. We were just chatting before we hit record. And Kristen said, “Yes, I really enjoy talking about very low-brow things.”
LEAH: So, Kristen, welcome. Thank you for being here.
KRISTEN: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me. And just clarification for anybody who thinks I’m using the term low-brow in a condescending or derogatory way, I’m absolutely not. When I say low-brow, I mean, it’s not highfalutin. No offense to the opera. No offense to the symphony. Those are great things.
But I think that what really speaks to our values, what speaks to how we see ourselves, how we see the world is really the stuff that is consumed on a mass level, including movies, including tabloids, including reality TV.
LEAH: Exactly. I could not agree more. A lot of my friends, when they see me commenting on social media about something like The Bachelor or Bachelorette are like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that you watch that trash. And that’s so antifem.” And I’m like, “Honestly, I feel like those are some of the places where we see people actually being people.”
And yes, they’re being produced and they’re being put in situations where their worst selves will come out. Absolutely. But they’re also interacting without a script.
Several years ago, there was a scene where a woman had a date with a guy at a pool and she leaned in to kiss him and he backed off. And she got really weirded out and pulled all the way back and started to walk away. And he started to grab her and be like, “Hey, what just happened?” But him grabbing her triggered her flight response because she’d been in an abusive relationship before. It was so real. It was ugly and it was painful. But in my mind, it was such a real example of things that happen every day and where else are you going to see that in quite that way?
KRISTEN: Yeah, I think that’s a great example. And on just a more surface level, we see on reality shows all the time what it feels like to maybe be compared to other people. Because a lot of times, people are being pit against each other for the affections of one person. What does it feel like to try and be your “best” self or “most desirable” self? What does it feel like to walk through this fake world where you’re having real, genuine feelings? So, I think everything you’re saying is totally true.
LEAH: I love it. I’m so excited for this conversation.
KRISTEN: Me too.
LEAH: Okay. So, we have chosen episodes from two shows that are both relatively recently-released. So, hopefully, people in the audience will have seen them as well. We’ll be talking about Ted Lasso, season three, episode eight, We’ll Never Have Paris. And this is the one in which one of Keeley’s sex tapes has been released publicly.
And then, we’re going to talk about Never Have I Ever, season four, episode one, which is Never Have I Ever Lost My Virginity, in which Devi is in the aftermath of having had sex for the first time. So, Kristen, where would you like to start?
KRISTEN: Oh my gosh. I love both of these shows so much. I’m not saying either show is perfect, but I think that’s part of why I love both the shows too. You see little missteps they make, things they could do better, and conversations we could all have around these topics. But I vote that we start with Never Have I Ever.
LEAH: Can you tell me why you love the show so much? Because you introduced me to it. I had not watched it at all. And then over the last, what has it been, 10 days, I binged all four seasons. And I’m completely in love.
KRISTEN: Oh my gosh. You told me that you watched a bunch. I didn’t realize you’d watched all four seasons. Wow.
LEAH: The whole thing. Although, I am still hoarding those last two episodes because I don’t want it to be over.
KRISTEN: It is a special show. It centers on Devi, who is a misfit. She recently lost her dad. She’s being raised by her mother. Her grandmother’s in the picture. Her older, much sexier, more successful adult cousin is also in the picture. So, she’s surrounded by these women in her life. Her mother is also very beautiful and successful.
And meanwhile, she’s a nerd. She’s awkward. Her two best friends are weirdos. One is a robotics enthusiast and the other is a theater nerd. And these three girls, when the show starts off in season one, they just want to go out and be popular, get laid, be noticed. And it’s so fun to see girls have that appetite to unapologetically say, “I want to make out with hot guys. That guy over there, that’s the one who I want to take off my pants with.”
KRISTEN: And back when I was growing up, we didn’t get to see a lot of depictions of female desire in teens. We were usually, as girls, chased after. We had to say yes or no. We were gatekeepers. And if we did desire sex, it was usually something we would be punished for later in the TV show or the movie for that.
And I love that this show just right off the bat makes it clear these are nerd girls who want to get laid and who have to learn to navigate certain things with each other with regard to who they date or don’t date with their families and so on. So, I think it’s a really fun show to those of us who were nerds ourselves or who maybe didn’t look back on high school as the greatest time of our lives.
LEAH: Yeah, I completely agree. And I also love that all three of these girls are women of color. And one of them is queer. And one of them has a very difficult relationship with her mother. Just so many interesting pieces of this whole puzzle.
KRISTEN: I also want to add that the boys they lust after aren’t necessarily all white. The main object of affection off and on throughout the show, he’s half Japanese. And he’s the hottest guy in school, this Japanese kid. And I appreciate that.
And then, there are other characters who maybe wouldn’t normally be objects of lust, who definitely are in this case, including one guy who is very nerdy, who happens to be the one that Devi has sex with for the first time in this episode that we’re talking about today.
LEAH: In the first season, Devi is just a complete mess. And she’s lusting after all these people and not getting much in return, except all of a sudden, something shifts in her. She allows herself to be more visible, where she allows herself to show up more. And suddenly, people start paying attention to her. She even gets to the place of where she’s seeing the most popular guy in school. And these other girls say, “Oh, she must be having sex with him because there’s no way that he would stay with a girl who’s not having sex with him.”
So then, she goes through that whole process of, but I don’t think I’m actually ready to have sex. You were saying like the depictions of how young women are allowed to be sexual, they allow her to be horny and to be all up in her feelings and also to say, “I want to go this far, but I’m not ready to go further,” and to create boundary and maintain it.
KRISTEN: And she gets to do that and her friends get to do other things because one girl’s story is not every girl’s story. And I love that her friends are so different. Her friend, Eleanor, her theater nerd friend, she’s ready for anything.
KRISTEN: She’ll do it all. She’ll do it in the broom closet at school. She will do it and I love that Eleanor has her way of doing things and Devi has her way of doing things. They all have different ways of doing things. And nobody’s right or wrong.
LEAH: Mm-hmm. The other thing that just came to mind is Fabiola.
KRISTEN: The robotics nerd, yes.
LEAH: The robotics nerd and the queer character. And she also says that she has had sex with her girlfriend at one point. And they don’t have a conversation about what does that mean? Which I think is fascinating because for so many people, for people of my generation, the conversation about, “Oh, yes, I had sex with my girlfriend,” would’ve immediately been followed by, “How do two women have sex? That’s not a thing. You don’t have a thing to put into another thing. How does that work?” But this generation, that’s just not even a thought. They understand that pleasure is pleasure and sex can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
KRISTEN: Yeah, I have so much hope because of this generation. I know that it’s always popular for older people to deride younger people, but I don’t feel that way about our younger generation. I’m like, “You go, you’re making the world a better place.”
LEAH: I so agree. The way that they view sex, relationships, and gender, it makes me really hopeful.
KRISTEN: Me too.
LEAH: Okay. So, now, all of the preface to, okay, Devi has sex.
KRISTEN: Yes, we’re in season four, episode one. And what happens? She’s very, very disappointed. This is not fireworks. It’s not orgasms. It’s not even like, “This is special.” It’s none of those things. It’s just, “Oh, God, now what do we do? Am I supposed to leave now?” And he’s like, “Yeah, get out of here.” Because he’s just as awkward as she is. He’s not comforting her and saying the right thing. Nobody’s saying the right thing here. And everybody feels terrible afterward.
And what I really appreciate about this is a few things. One, I think it’s really accurate. When you have two teenagers having sex for the first time, the idea that it’s going to be like any of those great romantic stories that we’ve been fed in the past, Blue Lagoon, even like, oh, it’s so magical. Look at us in paradise having sex for the first time.
More often than not, it’s not going to be like that. There is going to be some awkwardness. There’s going to be like, “Does this go here? How does this feel? I don’t know. Is my arm falling asleep?” There’s a lot of things that are happening and ways that we’re using our body for the first time when we are having sex with somebody else.
Even if it’s like the first time as a 40-year-old having sex with somebody, even if you’re not a teenager, but you’re just getting into bed for the first time with somebody as somebody who’s had sex thousands of times. It’s always going to come with certain like, “Oh, is this working? Do you like this?” And I like that that is shown. I love that it’s not shown as being this magic, all right, Devi has arrived. This is it.
The other thing I really like about this is that the fact that it’s awkward, the fact that it’s not orgasmic, that when she talks about it with her friends, her friends are like, “Yeah, whatever.” They don’t put any expectations on her. They don’t shame her in any way for this. They’re just like, “Yeah, first time sucks.” And they also don’t put so much value on it like, “This will define you for the rest of your life.”
Because I think a lot of us were fed the storyline in the past, in past decades that the first time has to be with somebody you would love forever, is the somebody that you’re going to have pure magic with. The first time is something you’re going to think about every day for the rest of your life, so it better be the best version of first-time sex you can have.
And there was so much value put on the first time, your first partner, and this idea that it really will be defining for who you are as a person, as a woman, as a sexual being. And it doesn’t have to be. And I like that the show doesn’t treat it like that. The first time you have sex doesn’t stain you with good or bad value for the rest of your life. And the show gets that right in my opinion.
LEAH: Yeah, and she’s not emotionally scarred by it in any way. It’s just like, “That happened.”
KRISTEN: Thank you. She doesn’t have to explain it away. She doesn’t have to rationalize anything. She doesn’t have to tell herself lies. It’s just like, “That was that.”
LEAH: Yeah. And I don’t remember her ever saying, “Oh, it must have been because I did something wrong. It’s not like I was a bad lover or I didn’t please him.” It’s like, “Nah, that was not great.”
LEAH: So, people who listen to the show regularly will know that I talk a lot about the STARS conversation, which is the pre-sex conversation. So, one of the things that I noticed in this episode was how helpful it would have been for Devi and Ben to have a pre-sex conversation and one of the elements of that conversation.
So, Kristen, because I assume you have not heard this before, the elements of the STARS conversation are what’s your STI status so that everybody knows what their health risks are upfront and what their risk tolerances are? What are your turn-ons? What are your avoids or turnoffs? What are your relationship expectations and what are your safety protocols?
So, if you can cover those five things before you have sex, and it doesn’t need to be a long, painful conversation, it can really happen in 10 or 15 minutes. But if Devi and Ben had had a conversation about their relationship expectations before they climbed in bed together, that whole thing might have gone differently.
Because, like you said, they finish having sex and they’re both lying there like, “I don’t know what just happened, but this is really awkward and weird.” And one of them makes that suggestion like, “Oh, I guess it’s time to go now.” And the other one is like, “Oh, I guess so,” because they’re just agreeing with what the other person has said because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’ve just had sex for the first time is agree.
KRISTEN: Just be agreeable. Be agreeable.
LEAH: Yeah. And that then sets up them having a whole summer of awkwardness. If they had had a conversation where one or the other of them had been able to say, “I really want to have sex. I really want to just feel somebody touching my skin. Are you up for that? And I don’t need it to be any more than this or, “Hey, I like you and I would like to see where this could go,” that could have really smoothed out everything that happened after.
KRISTEN: Yeah. I also think that that is probably not super common with teenagers having sex the first time, the STARS conversation.
LEAH: Not at all.
LEAH: And that’s actually something that the woman who is popularizing this conversation, her name is Dr. Evelin Dacker, and her goal is to get this being taught probably not in high school because high schools are still struggling with whether they can teach anything other than abstinence, but certainly in colleges.
KRISTEN: High school, honestly. But yeah, you’re right. They’re never going to teach that.
LEAH: Yeah, but it was just another example for me of how impactful that conversation can be because you can see how wrong it goes when people aren’t communicating about sex and what it means to them.
KRISTEN: I think that the whole show does a good job with sex for the most part. I really do.
LEAH: Yeah. I totally agree. So huge thumbs up for me. Recommendation to watch Never Have I Ever on Netflix.
LEAH: Do you stop yourself from initiating cuddles or kisses because you’re afraid it will automatically lead to sex that you don’t really want? You are not alone. I’ve heard it from countless women. How would it feel to know that you could kiss or touch or cuddle your partner and also know that there is no expectation of sex, that you could get to set the pace and call the shots?
With one client recently, I have bene workshopping how she can tell her partner that she wants to be able to interact with him without it automatically becoming sex. In the middle of our conversation, her eyes got wide and she said, “Oh, wow. He’s not the one who expects it to turn into sex. I do. I think what’s I’m supposed to do, so I’m the one who keeps driving us there. I’ve been blaming all of this on him, but maybe it’s not actually his fault.”
The conversation she wanted to have with him suddenly changed. As we gamed out the words she now wanted to say, I asked her how she was feeling about talking with him. And while before, she had said she was completely terrified, now she said she was feeling excited about the possibilities.
This is the kind of shift that’s possible when you have a guide who can see the bigger picture and help you navigate the self-sabotage your brain has created believing it was keeping you safe. I would be honored to be your guide on this path. I am queer, kinky, and non-monogamy friendly.
For more information and to schedule your free discovery call, visit www.leahcarey.com/coaching and we can find out if we’re a good fit. Again, book your free discovery call at www.leahcarey.com/coaching. And that link is in the episode description on the app you’re listening on now. Back to the show!
LEAH: Shall we move on to Ted Lasso?
KRISTEN: Yes, let’s do it. Let’s do it.
LEAH: Do you want to set us up for this episode?
KRISTEN: Yes. So, for those who aren’t familiar with Ted Lasso, it tells the story of a man named Ted Lasso who was coaching American college football, NFL-style football, and gets recruited to coach football, aka soccer. This coach brings so much heart to the team. This team, which is very diverse, which has members from Nigeria, from, South America, from all over the world.
He has players. And players who have different personalities, some who are very cocky, some who are very amiable, some who are very dramatic. And Ted Lasso manages to bring them together to not just be a team, but to be better humans, better individuals in the world.
And throughout the show, we see different ways that that plays out, how they help each other or don’t help each other, how they work together on the field or sabotage each other off the field, and so on.
And in the episode that we’re talking about today, we see how far these guys have come as far as their conversations around women and sex with women. And it’s revealed early on in the episode that Keeley, who’s essentially the PR person for the soccer team, that a short little video that she made for an ex-boyfriend at one point, that video got leaked to the world. And she’s being shamed. She’s being asked to apologize, not by the football team itself, but by investors that she works with for her PR company.
And the question comes up, who actually should be ashamed here? Who did something wrong? Who didn’t? And the captain of the team, Isaac actually asks everybody on the football team, “Do you have videos or photos that could put somebody in a compromising position? Who are the women that you have kept images of that could hurt them later if your phone was hacked? And I want everybody around this locker room right now to delete those images off your phone, to permanently put them in the trash, and then empty the trash. We’re never going to have something like this happen again from any of us.”
And while that is happening, we see the different men on the team. Some of them sad about it like, “Oh, I loved that mother and daughter that one night. I loved those twin sisters. Oh, that one night in Amsterdam. Oh, it was the best.” We hear them being the stereotype of athletes who sleep with a lot of women.
We hear evidence of that, the way they talk about it, but we also hear them talking respectfully about, “Yeah, we wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.” And then, there’s a moment where one of the players is being a little bit more withdrawn. And Isaac is like, “Hey, dude, what is going on? Why are you not deleting images of women off your phone? Who are these women? Why won’t you delete them?”
And he grabs Colin’s phone. Now, at this point in the show, the viewer knows that Colin is gay. And he is not out to the rest of the team. And Colin has a partner who we’ve seen on the show up until now. But Isaac doesn’t know this. And what we see happen is Isaac grabbing the phone, and then walking away in what looks like disgust and we’re led to believe it could be a couple of things.
It could be that Isaac is homophobic. It could be that he just wishes that Colin would’ve been more forthright with him. By the end of the episode, we see a few different things happen. One, it’s revealed how Keeley’s video got out into the world. It was one of the players who she used to date. He didn’t empty his trash. He had deleted it years ago, but it was still in his trash can.
We see Keeley’s off and on boyfriend, Roy Kent. Now, off at this point, we see Roy Kent trying to support Keeley to a certain extent, but then also revealing some ownership and jealousy over her by asking, “But who did you make the tape for?” And she is like, “Nope, not going to play this game with you.” And he realizes at that moment, “Whoa, I really did the wrong thing there.”
We also see that Keeley’s girlfriend at this point, who is also her primary investor of her PR company, pushing Keeley to publicly apologize again and again and again to the point where their relationship is going to dissolve over this.
And Keeley doesn’t feel like she has anything to apologize for. She didn’t do anything wrong. Somebody hacked her video and sent it out into the world. That’s something that they should apologize for. The hackers, not Keeley. And then, we circle back to Isaac and Colin. And the episode ends with Isaac going to Colin’s house and apologizing and saying, “I can’t believe that you didn’t trust me enough to be honest about who you are with me. Aren’t we best friends? Why did you lie to me? Why this whole time did you not let me know?” And they resolve things and are buddies again and end up playing a video game. And that’s pretty much how the episode ends.
And there’s a lot to talk about in this episode in my opinion, both good and bad about how they handle things. That last scene, which is supposed to be feel good in particular, really rubs me the wrong way. First of all, up until this point on Ted Lasso, we don’t know that Isaac and Colin are best friends.
They present it in this episode as if they’ve always been best friends and that we’ve seen lots of heart-to-heart moments between the two. We haven’t. So, why would Isaac expect that Colin would reveal all to him when up until now, we’ve barely seen them alone in a scene together?
Two, it’s not anybody’s right to know somebody else’s sexual orientation. It’s not Isaac’s right? Even though Isaac in this one episode is being presented as Colin’s best friend, which we’ve never seen before, it is not Isaac’s right to know this information. Yes, obviously we would like all of our friends to love us and trust us enough to share who they are with us, but he’s not entitled to this information.
This is information that Colin can choose to reveal in his own time if he wants to. But not everybody feels safe doing that. And it totally makes sense that Colin would not necessarily feel safe doing that because he’s in the world of masculine sports.
Okay. Masculine sports do not have a great track record for loving, embracing, and celebrating their gay male athletes. Soccer, which is considered the height of masculine sports in Europe, why would we presume that everyone’s going to feel comfortable coming out to their teammates?
Not everybody is going to. And to see it as an offense, something to give somebody the cold shoulder, to give them the silent treatment, to glare at them in team meetings for the rest of the episode over this, to me, that’s not a good enough reason or a heartwarming reason to end things like, “Sorry, I didn’t tell you. I should have told you, Isaac.” And it’s like, no, Colin shouldn’t have to apologize for not saying anything. Yeah.
LEAH: Right. Yeah, I completely agree with you. Nobody should ever feel pressured to come out. That is absolutely their choice. Now, we have seen in previous episodes that Colin is nervous to come out because he is afraid of the backlash. So, it’s not that Colin necessarily wants to, for privacy reasons, hold it. He is scared.
And also, that doesn’t mean that any of his teammates have the right to out him or to grab his phone. It is a privacy violation regardless of why he keeps it private. It doesn’t make the privacy violation okay, just because Isaac is like, “Oh, I’m fine with it. I would’ve been fine if you had told me two years ago.”
None of that is appropriate. I actually rewatched this episode this morning and wrote down a bunch of lines from it because there’s so much I want to talk about. But I want to ask you, what are your thoughts about deleting pictures from previous relationships?
This becomes a really big thing for these guys as if you are required to remove old relationships from your digital memories. And I’m curious what you think about that.
KRISTEN: I’ve been with my husband now for almost nine years and he’s had a rule from the get-go. He’s like, “I have to keep any hotness about you in my brain and never on film.” And he said, “That’s my cardinal rule. I will never photograph you with a digital camera or take videos of you because it’s just too easy for those to get out.”
And he’s a chief technology officer. He’s a computer guy. And he’s just like, “It’s just way too easy for those to get out. It’s way too easy. I would never have you text me a photo. I would never take a video of you. I just wouldn’t do it.” So, in my personal life, there haven’t been any of those for nine years. Prior to my husband, have there? Yes. And some of those were Polaroids, so they weren’t the same thing as easy. They weren’t as easy to get out as digital content.
And other things that people have sent to me, I don’t know how those would get out in the world at this point. Would they? Maybe. I don’t know. But it’s honestly something I haven’t given much thought to since I’ve been with my husband, just because he’s had this rule all along. So, I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine. I can live with or without videos or photos. That’s totally fine.”
LEAH: And what about let’s imagine that 10 or 12 years ago, you had sent a digital video or picture to someone. When that relationship ended, would you have expected them to delete that so that they no longer had access to it?
KRISTEN: I think it would be great if they did, but I absolutely wouldn’t expect them to. And I’m going to sound a little bit like I’m stereotyping people here, but I am going to stereotype people.
KRISTEN: In my experience, more men hold onto artifacts of exes than women. Most women I know are fine letting artifacts of exes go. And more men I know just have a harder time letting those artifacts go. And so, I’m like, it’d be great if they deleted those. But I would also think that they’d be less likely to than women to delete those.
LEAH: That’s fascinating.
KRISTEN: And again, that’s speaking in generalizations. It’s just based on the people I know in life. Yeah. And I will absolutely be corrected from other people out there who think I’m totally wrong about this.
KRISTEN: But in my experience, that’s absolutely been the case. Men are way more likely in my experience to hold onto artifacts.
LEAH: So, I am the opposite. I am somebody who holds onto everything because I don’t trust my memory necessarily to hold onto things. I am somebody who’s very sentimental. I want to hold onto memories. So, when I break up with somebody, for instance, there’s a guy who I was in a relationship with in 2006. I still have the pictures that he and I took together. I have pictures of his dog.
He is not someone I ever want to see or speak to again. But it is a moment from my life and I don’t want to lose access to that moment from my life. Now, I am not somebody who has ever sent or received sexy stuff, images, unless somebody sent it to me without my request unsolicited.
KRISTEN: Oh, yes. If you’re a woman, you probably have.
LEAH: Absolutely. S, this is not something that’s necessarily an act of concern for me. And especially, now that I work in this field of female sexuality, I’m very careful because I think women in my position are actually in great danger of, “Of course we can share her pictures. She’s a sex educator.” That’s just carte blanche to do anything you want with her sexual image.
So, I have taken a couple of pictures that show my body for my current partner, that show my body, but I would never have my face and my body in the same picture. With that said, I don’t think I would expect him to delete those if we were to ever part ways. I don’t think that that is my prerogative to tell him that he has to.
It’s an interesting question to me. And I thought it was really interesting how they depicted this whole team of guys who were like, “Yeah, we got to get rid of these.” And I appreciated that they were talking about it in terms of protecting the women in their lives. But I also thought I’m not sure how realistic I think that is.
KRISTEN: Yeah, I think in their case, they were talking about we are public figures. Somebody on our team, our PR person has already been hacked. Any of us can get hacked next. And so, I think under the circumstances, it made sense to do what they could to get ahead of it if they could. If everybody knows that there’s a chance that they’ll be hacked next to get ahead of that and we know that Jamie Tartt was hacked.
We know partway through the episode that he was. So, of course, it makes sense to just, let’s take care of this before more scandal hits, but not just more scandal. We don’t want anyone to feel the way Keeley does because they all love Keeley. They think so highly of her and they’re like, “We don’t want anyone else to feel violated the way Keeley has felt violated by this.”
And, of course, it’s not their fault for consensually receiving or sending those kinds of images. It’s the fault of the hackers. Absolutely. Consensually sending and receiving images is not a crime unless you are underage or your subject is underage or if it’s not consensual. But, yeah, I think it’s interesting. So, you’re okay with your photos being out in the world. Do you think that’s partly because your face is not in the photos?
LEAH: I would feel very differently if my face were in them. Yeah. I would not be okay. But that’s why I choose not to take them in the first place. So, I worked as a journalist for a while. And my very firm belief is now I will not put anything online. I will not put anything into any sort of digital form that I’m not okay seeing on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper because I know what we did in order to get stories. And so, if I would not be okay seeing my face and nude body on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper, it’s not something that I’m going to record. That’s just my life policy.
KRISTEN: Yeah. And I should say here, I have been a nude model for artistic purposes before. I’ve been photographed and I’ve been painted nude, but I don’t consider that even in the same category as I’m sending photos to titillate or to remind you of certain acts that have taken place between us. That’s not the same thing as I’m going to lay here in a pile of rags while somebody does a still life of me. It’s not the same thing.
LEAH: Same. I have also done some artistic nudes and I feel exactly the same way, which is it brings up an interesting point because one of the things that Keeley says is, “There are tons of topless photos of me online, but those were my choice and this is not.” And that’s a huge distinction. It is the question of consent.
KRISTEN: Yeah, because before she was a PR rep, she actually was a reality star personality/model. And a lot of her modeling involved being page three girl or being that wacky character on Love Island. She did a lot of stuff like that. And so, sometimes she’s not wearing a lot of clothes in her past life. And she was fine with that because she chose it.
LEAH: And probably she was paid for it as well, which is a big distinction. Something else that I wanted to talk about, the conversation that happens between Rebecca and Keeley. And they are one of my favorite relationships on the show. So much of the show is I think about men’s relationship and men’s mental health, but the relationship, the bestfriendship between Keeley and Rebecca is so special.
KRISTEN: And Rebecca, by the way, is the owner of the team.
LEAH: Oh, thank you. Yes. And I would love to grow up and be Rebecca someday. I would love to be that elegant and classy and smart.
LEAH: So, Keeley goes to Rebecca when this all happens for moral support and to talk it out. And Rebecca says, “Is there anything that I can do to help?” And Keeley’s response is, “You could restructure society, so women aren’t constantly sexualized while simultaneously being crucified for being sexual.” And I thought, what a brilliant distillation of what women experience.
KRISTEN: Yes. Absolutely because that really is the fix. The fix isn’t, “I’m here for you. Let’s have a glass of wine.” That’s helpful to a certain extent in the moment, but doesn’t fix the overall issue, the bigger issue that causes these kinds of things to happen in the first place.
LEAH: Yeah. And that Rebecca is so clear. “This is not a you problem. This is a hacker doing illegal things problem. And you should never have to apologize for the fact that you did something that you wanted to do.”
And I think she is the one who crystallizes that message the best for Keeley, who then actually loses her investor funding because she won’t make the apology that she has been told to make, in which she’s supposed to say that “I’m going to learn and grow from this experience. And I’m so embarrassed and I’ll never do this again,” which is just take it to its base level, that’s pure and simple slut shaming it. It is them asking her to slut shame herself, which is simply not appropriate.
KRISTEN: Yeah. So, I would give an A plus to Keeley and Rebecca in this episode and not give an A plus to Isaac and his story aligned with Colin in this episode. Maybe a D. What would you give the grade for Isaac and Colin?
LEAH: For Colin, I have no problem with Colin, but for Isaac pulling that phone out of his hand, I’d say that’s a D for sure, if not an F. Yeah.
LEAH: That is such a great example of the various responses that people can have to something. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dan Savage.
KRISTEN: Yeah, from the Savage Lovecast. From Savage Love. Yes.
LEAH: Exactly, the sex and relationship guru. And one of the things that he says is that we are getting to a point where digital technology is so pervasive that nudes and sex tapes are going to be a non-issue because everybody’s going to have them. But we’re not quite there yet. And so, they can still be used to disgrace politicians, et cetera.
And there was one recently, I don’t remember the circumstances, but I remember hearing about one recently where the guy was like, “Yeah. I’m a sex-positive politician. That’s why you should vote for me.” And I certainly hope that that’s where we’re going.
KRISTEN: It’s just a question of, how much content is there out there about each of us? I love the idea of that, but at this point in history, I still feel that women are disproportionately punished and abused through these images. So, it’s not a fair playing field at this point. Not at all.
LEAH: Agreed. So, there’s one other thing I wanted to ask you about and I am completely going off script for this. We didn’t talk about this in advance, so you’re welcome to tell me to shove it if you would like.
LEAH: But when we were talking a couple of weeks ago, the subject of the Duggars came up and you said you watched the Duggars pretty faithfully. And curious in terms of consent in how we think about consent in our society today, what do you think about putting children on camera when the children, first of all, some of them are literally just coming out of the womb when they’re first shown on screen? But before children can even walk or talk, let alone give appropriate consent, what are your thoughts?
KRISTEN: I have thoughts, but the things that I’m critical about, I’m also complicit in because I watch these TV shows. So, my fascination with the Duggars is partly because I have a great fascination with the Christian patriarchy. And years ago, I used to be an associate research scholar at the Center for Religion and Media at NYU. I have a great deal of curiosity about the Quiverfull Movement, about how the far-right Christian Family Movement has seeped its way into politics, about how policy is affected by the normalization of families like the Duggars who are a part of the Institute and Basic Life Principles cult.
And they might say that their IBLP education is actually just life coaching with a biblical stance. But it’s not just life coaching with a biblical stance. It is deemed a cult by those who’ve escaped it. And so, 19 kids and counting, prior to that, 17 kids and counting, 16 kids and counting, all the iterations, counting on all of these shows, while I watch them and have a great deal of fascination with how this stuff is presented to the world, what messages are being put out there, also, again, I’m complicit here.
I don’t know if kids that age should be pushed into being on TV. And there should be more safety regulations in place. As far as safety regulations on a movie set or in scripted shows, they’re much safer with children than they are on reality shows, unfortunately. And it’s also unfortunate that in the case of the Duggars, again, you’re filming a cult and acting like it’s normal. And you’re trying to depict these children as, isn’t it amazing how well-behaved they are? Look, Michelle has 19 kids. And yet, they’re so obedient.
But what are they not showing? They’re not showing the physical abuse, the way these children are belittled. They’re not showing the blanket training. That’s something you do with an infant, that you put them on a blanket. And if they try to get off the blanket, you hit them. And the Duggars and other members of the IBLP, there’s they follow these rules about blanket training. They follow spare the rod, spoil the child.
They believe strongly in you can be anywhere from 3 days old to 20 years old, but if you live under my roof, I can physically assault you until you behave the way I want you to as my child, I am the head of this household. And so, there’s a lot of abuse, but also in the IBLP there’s financial abuse as with all cults.
So, all of these children who appear on screen on 19 Kids and Counting, they never got paid. And they were the main draw of the show. People were watching either out of the kind of fascination that I had with the show, but more often than not because the kids were adorable. And look at these old-fashioned values and you could watch the show and think, oh, this is an escape from the things I worry about with my own family.
I worry about my kids sexting each other and these kids, they’re never going to sext anyone. They don’t even have access to cell phones. And it almost was like for a lot of people watching Little House on the Prairie, like, oh, we could have those values today. My kid isn’t going to watch online porn. Spoiler. Yes, he is and much, much worse. He’s going to watch much, much worse stuff online.
The oldest Duggar child is currently incarcerated for child sexual assault imagery, owning and distributing and receiving. So, there’s that fantasy there on the show that I think a lot of people found comfort in. The world is scary. There are a lot of things that I don’t know what my kids are up to. What are they doing on Snapchat? What are they doing on their computers? What are they doing after hours? And you can watch the Duggars and think, oh, there’s another way. Look at this. This is so safe. This is so comforting.
But that safety and that comfort comes at the cost of huge abuse. And those children are not getting paid. The Duggars who have come out and talked to the press about it have said that they didn’t get any money for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of hours they gave to this show.
LEAH: Yeah. I highly recommend the Amazon Prime documentary Shiny Happy People, which is my entry into the Duggar world. I had not watched the Duggars before this, but I am deep down that rabbit hole right now of learning about this whole thing.
I have a particular fascination in cults and people who have managed to get out of cults. So, listening to Jill Duggar, she says that at some point, when she and her now husband, Derek came forward and said, “We haven’t been paid.” They weren’t even paid for Counting On, which was the show that focuses on them. All of that money was still being paid to the father. And they went to the father and said, “We need money. You need to give us our share of the money.” And he said, “Okay, I’ll pay you minimum wage for the hours that you were on camera.” Minimum wage. Are you kidding me?
KRISTEN: They were going to food pantries for food. Meanwhile, the father of the Duggar family, Jim Bob was a millionaire, a multi-millionaire. And he was appearing on camera only a tiny bit. Meanwhile, Jill and Derek are in every episode. And why are they the ones going to the food pantry?
LEAH: Did they ever show them going to the food pantry on the show?
KRISTEN: Oh, God, no. No.
LEAH: Yeah. I didn’t think so.
LEAH: Yeah, I’m really torn about this question of children appearing on camera in this kind of situation because it means that a part of their life is out in the public realm that they can never get back. When they grow up, 20, 30 years from now, they’re never going to be able to get away from the fact that they were shown as a two-year-old having a temper tantrum. They were shown as a five-year-old punching their brother or whatever the thing is that those things live in the public realm and they had absolutely no say in that.
There was one child who they literally showed the birth. And the child came out blue, I think. And that child, that’s going to live in the public memory forever. And that doesn’t seem okay to me. And then I think is it different if the child is being paid because it’s a professional child actor? And that feels different except that there are plenty of child actors who are doing it not because they want to, but because mommy or daddy wants them too. And that’s another level of coercion. So, it’s a really complicated issue for me because it’s not that I think that there should be no children in show business. I worked in show business. I knew plenty of kids who absolutely craved being on stage, but then there were also some who were there because their parents wanted them there and not so much because they wanted to do it.
KRISTEN: Yeah. And I don’t know if the Duggar children ever were able to even process, do I want this or not want this? Because most of their life, they didn’t get to ask that question about anything. Do I get to believe in science or not? Do I get to wear clothes that show my knees or not?
They had no choice and no option to ask questions of their parents or of themselves or of their religion at any point. And so, when you raise people to be completely compliant and obedient and not ask questions, not push back, it’s easy to just push them into doing your bidding, whether that’s proselytizing your cult, being on TV, putting your name on self-help books, Growing Up Duggar was a bestselling book that the Duggar daughters wrote supposedly.
LEAH: Supposedly. I like that caveat. Yes.
KRISTEN: Yeah. I’m guessing they had ghost writers help them. None of the kids is very well-educated. They were all homeschooled with a curriculum that has been revealed to not be very educational, I’ll put it that way.
LEAH: Yeah. We have dived into many different subjects today.
LEAH: It’s been quite a wide-ranging conversation. Thank you so much for doing this, Kristen. I really love talking to you.
KRISTEN: Oh, thanks so much for having me on, Leah. I really appreciate it.
LEAH: Yeah. Absolutely. You want to tell people where to find you?
KRISTEN: You can find me on both of those podcasts, How to Be Fine and The Daily Fail. And you can find out more about me on my website, kristenmeinzer.com or on Twitter for as long as Twitter exists @kristenmeinzer or Instagram and Threads at k10meinzer. That’s k10meinzer.
LEAH: I will put all of those links in the show notes. Kristen, thank you so much. I hope we can do this again soon.
KRISTEN: Oh, I would love that. Thanks so much.
LEAH: That’s it for today. Before we go, I want to remind you that the things you may have heard about your sexuality aren’t true. You are worthy. You are desirable. You are not broken. As a sex and intimacy coach, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours no matter what it looks like.
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