Bringing Sexy Back

NYC-based Audio Smut is a combination queer, feminist tutorial and sexual diary in which matters of the bedroom (and any other room, really) are explored shamelessly and with aplomb.  NPR’s Snap Judgement contributors, Kaitlin Prest  and Mitra Kaboli are the producers of this sonic sexcapade that airs on Montreal’s CKUT 90.3 and on BBOX Radio in Brooklyn.   On February 2 the ladies of AS are unveiling their new website and a new season of episodes at Shag, a gallery and event space located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  We spoke with Kaitlin and Mitra about the early days of Audio Smut and the inspiration for the show.

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The Recollective: There are a lot of visual depictions of sex and sexuality. In what ways do you think listening is more powerful or compelling than viewing?

Audio Smut: The rise of visualism can pretty much be pinned to the rise of literacy.  Most forms of expression outside of the visual realm are pretty daring.  If we are talking about sexuality, depictions of sex have been wrapped up in the image since the invention of photography. Porn has become our primary source of sexual content. Who can deny though, that sexual experience is largely about being physical. Sound is very much part of the physical world.  One of the main goals of the show is to produce sexual content that is honest.  We think audio offers the opportunity to capture the nuances and subtleties of sex; breath, atmosphere and dialogue and to show that these things are also sexy.

The Recollective: What inspired you both to produce Audio Smut?

Audio Smut: Sadly, there is a lack of quality non-fiction on the topic of sex and relationships, especially in public radio. It seems that we can’t think of a more creative approach than the call-in advice format. That format is also one that puts sex in terms of the negative.  “What’s wrong with me?” or “Am I normal?” We try to frame our content in the positive and celebrate diversity. Diversity is interesting and when the stories are displayed creatively, they become relatable because we are talking about human experience. Audio Smut is an attempt to sexualize and normalize the range of experiences that are on the margins of mainstream media.

Media, in general, does not distribute information about the different kinds of relationships, gender roles, sexual orientation, preferences, and representations of beauty (body types, ages, races) that exist.  We still have a long way to go before we start seeing a real diversity of experiences and people in the media.

Lastly, with regards to the art of radio production, there is no terrain more amusing and creatively rich than sexuality. It is a topic that is inherently political but much easier to play with audio-wise than other more serious topics.

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Audio Smut producers Mitra Kaboli and Kaitlin Prest

The Recollective:  How long have you been producing Audio Smut?

Audio Smut: The show began in 2006 at CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal, Quebec.  It was started by a group of sex workers. A new team was formed in 2008, 5 women, I (Kaitlin) was one of them. None of us really knew a thing about radio, but we proceeded to create the show anew. From there I proceeded to fall madly in love with the medium.  Jess MG, one of the mainstays of Audio Smut for the first 4 years, and I would spend hours producing radio dramas and weird sound art.  One time she made a contact mic and put it up her hoohah! We learned radio through Audio Smut.

I (Mitra) started in 2010.  Kaitlin and I were working at the same restaurant and she was always talking about Audio Smut and radio.  I had heard of the show but I didn’t know that much about it.  At the time I was involved with a sex-positive publication so naturally, Audio Smut peaked my interest.  Kaitlin invited me to come to the studio and sit in during one of their shows.  I immediately joined the collective and started producing content. Just like Kaitlin, I didn’t know anything about radio production.  I learned everything I know through Audio Smut.

We both moved to New York in 2012; the show was about four years old.  We wanted to bring Audio Smut to the next level. We’ve spent the past year overhauling everything; the internal infrastructure, the final product and overall, the way we produce the show.  And now we’re finally ready to share it with the world!

A glimpse of the Audio Smut live show

A glimpse of the Audio Smut live show

The Recollective: Audio Smut as a program seems like a culmination of professional (making radio) and personal interests (sex, relationships, gender, etc,…).   Can you describe the ways in which those interests align and diverge in the production process?

Audio Smut: Actually it’s always been intertwined. We both developed our professional interest in radio through Audio Smut. I (Kaitlin) have developed something close to an obsession with the medium. At first it was hard trying to work professionally in radio having Audio Smut as the only thing on my resume. The name was enough for some to trash my resume right off the bat.

Audio Smut: While, I (Mitra) am really interested in the science of sound and audio engineering. I still have a lot to learn but Audio Smut has set a really strong foundation for me.  Also of course the FCC is still in the dark ages, there have been a lot of roadblocks there.

In Canada, Audio Smut still airs at 6 PM the first Wednesday of the month on CKUT. We’ve never comprised the integrity of our smut for the sake of being more broadcastable, for better or for worse. Maybe it’s because we don’t have any personal boundaries which is something you might notice if you listen to the show, but we think personal issues have a place in public media.

Regarding the professional entering the personal domain—it’s true. Our recorders have come to bed with us on several occasion.

Audio Smut:  Every person I (Kaitlin) have ever dated has been on Audio Smut. I mostly date sound geeks anyways so recording and producing audio about ourselves is a mutually delighted addition to the relationship and sometimes the very foundation.

The Recollective: Can you give any hints of what to expect from the new website once it is launched?

Audio Smut: First, let us say that the new website designed by our shero, Ida Benedetto. When we were redesigning it, the most important aspect was for us to have a way to display all of our other work, outside of audio.  Our old site isn’t really set up for that.  So now you can check out all of our zany art projects. It’s called the “Experiments” section.
We venture out into the world of the arts a lot; performances, events, installations. We’re just as much an art collective as we are a radio show. But we try to keep the narrative/populist/non fiction qualities of radio incorporated into our art.

SENSORED: Storytelling Through the Senses, a website launch and radio party is on February 2 from 6 to 9 PM at SHAG.  You can RSVP on facebook.

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