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"Study" by u/Papa200034
"Study" by u/Papa200034

TL;DL (Too Long; Didn’t Listen)

Audio erotica is blowing up right now, from Silicon Valley-backed startups to the rise of ASMR — not to mention a huge growth in podcasts. But the hub for audio erotica can be found on Reddit in a community of more than 300,000 devoted fans and amateur performers. We dive into this world to understand audio erotica’s surprising moment in the cultural spotlight and the unexpected ways it’s transforming people’s lives.
Thanks to Redditor u/Papa200034 for this week's episode art, "Study." You can find more of his work on Instagram @_afnan.art.

We feature audio in this episode from Redditors u/Eves-garden, u/wasawaynowimback, u/The__Other__Guy, u/everdistant_utopia, u/garden_slumber, u/igrokyou, u/AnAudioDilletante, u/LoveAtFirstMoan, u/Skitty_GWA, u/Xyta_Midnyte, u/Crescent_Spoon, u/tarkustrooper, u/heartdamage, and u/AuralHoney.

Special shoutouts to u/notwhorosethinks, u/AnonWidow214, u/Black_Mamba866, u/DressedToKillXXX, u/ThrowAwayYourLust, u/TheHuntsman1880, u/LadyBonerThrow86, and u/SennaSaysHi.

Trigger warning: this episode contains talk about explicit sexual material and sexual assault. It also contains audio of ASMR, or those kinds of sounds that kind of make your spine tingle. If you’d rather not hear these things, maybe go listen to one of our other episodes. 

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Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text. 

Amory Sivertson: Today, Ben and I have an appointment with a sex therapist.

Receptionist: Umm it'll be another 20 seconds and you will be connected to Dr. Suzy. So here we go. 

(swanky hold music begins to play)

Ben Brock Johnson: As far as sex therapists go, Dr. Susan Block, or Dr. Suzy for short, stands out. She’s been on TV talk shows, radio shows, even some HBO specials. But we are calling her up because she is an innovator.

Dr. Suzy: Hello. 

Amory: Back in the 1990s, Dr. Suzy was producing sex tapes. Not like Pamela Anderson, Dustin Diamond, Kim Kardashian sex tapes. This was a whole other kind of sex tape.

Excerpt from Dr. Suzy's recording: Just be open, get comfortable, and get ready to enter the erotic theater of the mind.

Dr. Suzy: One of them is called The Great Erotic Train Ride. Then I have a series of office sex fantasies that are pretty wild. And I have another series about sex in a hotel, including sex in an elevator. 

Excerpt from elevator recording: Ohh look at this elevator. Isn’t it gorgeous? So big, so ornate, so elegante!

Dr. Suzy: Anyway, this is a series of, I guess you could say they're my fantasies. Of course it’s all a fantasy because it’s an audio erotica tape. And in those days, yes, we used tapes. 

Ben: What Suzy was doing wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill classic fantasy stuff though. It was topical! When the US was ramping up to Desert Storm in 1991, Suzy, who is very anti-war started sending her sex tapes to soldiers deployed in the Persian Gulf.

Excerpt from anti-war recording: I am an American spirit in the Arabian desert. My name is Desert Susan.

Dr. Suzy: I felt like the troops were not to blame for this. And they must feel horny. So I made these tapes that are erotic, Desert Susan 1 and 2. I was trying to impart to them that they don't have to be killing machines. They're human beings. They are sexual beautiful creatures and they should shoot the gun between their legs.

Excerpt from anti-war recording: Be strong, stay safe, keep your eyes open and your gun clean. That’s all for now.

Amory: These tapes were very well received according to Suzy.

Ben: You don’t say.

Amory: I do say. And maybe more importantly, they were part of her professional oeuvre, as head of the Dr. Susan Block Institute for the Erotic Arts and Sciences. Dr. Suzy is a celebrated phone sex therapist.

Ben: A phone sex therapist who was pushing forward a kind pornographic medium that, because of the internet, is in the middle of an explosive growth. Audio Erotica.

Amory: Explosive growth. Noice.

Ben: And while audio erotica may have been around for decades, this new interest can be traced to the OG free amateur audio porn community of the internet.

Amory: We were pretty blown away when we found this community. There were more than 3 hundred thousand members. They’re doing all kinds of stuff.

Excerpt from sex trivia audio: Hello and welcome to another episode of the XXX Files, your trivia game show with all the sex trivia you never knew you needed.

Excerpt from Britney Spears cover: My loneliness is killing me and I, I must confess. I still believe, I still believe!

Ben: Amory, do you still believe?

Amory: More than ever, Ben. Well, we’re going to dig into this unique internet community. A community that has inspired the creation of tech startups, created some truly strange Star Trek fan fiction, and has even served as a form of therapy for users.

Ben and Amory (together): Today’s Episode, Gone Wild Audio!

Ben: I’m Ben Brock Johnson

Amory: I’m Amory Sivertson, and you’re listening to Endless Thread.

Ben: The show featuring stories found in the vast ecosystem of online communities called Reddit.

Amory: We’re coming to you from WBUR, Boston’s NPR station.

Ben: I don’t remember how I came across Gone Wild Audio.

Amory: Surrre.

Ben: No I’m being honest! I legit do not remember. But, as we like to say on our show, as the internet goes, so goes Reddit. There is a lot of pornography on the internet. And Reddit ... is on the internet.

None of this is surprising. What’s surprising is the setup of this community. How it works. Like I knew about erotic literature, you know, your Penthouse Letters, your 50 Shades of Grey. But audio erotica is different. It’s audio-only porn, no visuals, performed and acted out in a million different scenarios with the *listener* often as the focus of the action — a key part of the plot. And on Gone Wild Audio, there’s this free and vibrant exchange of ideas ... about exchanging fluids.

Amory: It’s true. GWA, as it’s commonly referred to, is this kind of sexytime ecosystem, buzzing with people who are making requests for certain scenarios, people writing scripts including those scenarios, and other people, performers, recording them. Also many dedicated fans. And it’s all free. Also, in true Reddit fashion, it’s self-moderated.

Ben: And while it may look like a lot of Reddit communities, with people upvoting things and commenting on posts. It sounds totally different.

Gone Wild Audio clip montage: Alright, c’mon, you can come sleep in my room tonight because you’re scared ... I think the last employee just left the library. I don’t even think they realized we were here … So I know that you’re used to the other nurses or the doctor doing your genital exam … You are sitting at that vanity in my favorite outfit, almost nothing ... My parents got themselves a little alone time for the weekend so I have the house to myself … J’adore cette position … Engaged to be married? ... It is me! Your teddy bear ... OK, so my name is Dr. West and I’m the chief wank technician of this wank facility … When my spaceship crashed everything was a blur … I found some bibles and I even got a highlighter … I would describe myself as a succubus ...

Ben: It is also part of a bigger trend that is happening way beyond the Not-Safe-For-Work corners of the internet. Remember the Michelob Ultra Super Bowl commercial? The one with Zoe Kravitz making intimate sounds into a set of stereo microphones?

Super Bowl commercial: Let’s all experience something, together (bottle sound) (finger tapping)

Amory: This is something a little different than audio erotica. It’s called ASMR, for autonomous sensory meridian response. And depending on who you are, the sounds can feel calming, or euphoric, or kinda weird or even off-putting. And there’s a lot of debate about whether ASMR is inherently erotic, or whether the more explicitly erotic ASMR should be separate from the other stuff.

Ben: As an internet trend, ASMR is almost old news now. I mean, once it makes it into a Super Bowl ad you know it’s mainstream. Videos with closely-recorded intimate sounds are everywhere! So the question is why is intimae audio, for lack of a better term, blowing up?

Jess Joho: I think a lot of I think a lot of digital age content is on this chase for authenticity. 

Ben: This is Jess Joho. She writes about intimacy in the digital age for Mashable, so she’s reported on this trend. And part of her thesis about intimate sound is that podcasts are sexy. Is she talking about us? Obviously. Not.

Amory: But she did say we had nice, authoritative NPR voices. So we’ll take it. Also she says we sound, (whispery voice) close to her.

Jess: You sound fantastic. I mean, that is the cachet of audio content, is that you more than anything feel like a certain authenticity and intimacy in the relationship established between a listener and the content producer.

Amory: Jess says audio really does provide an intimacy that even in the world of the self-made internet star, is hard to find.

Jess: People are becoming more and more frustrated by how the line is blurring between what it is authentic and what is a mimicry of authenticity. And the more that we seek porn or erotica that is based off of an authentic feeling, the more that audio porn will rise.

Ben: As podcasting becomes more mainstream, and amateur audio porn sites like Gone Wild Audio continue to grow, certain types of people start to pay attention.

Jess: Basically Silicon Valley and startup culture is interested in audio porn now. So that is saying to me that there is actual revenue to be made here. 

Ben: It’s true. There’s Dipsea, an audio porn mobile app that started a few years back. It’s currently valued at almost 17 million dollars.

Amory: And then there’s a startup called Quinn, which launched just a few months ago. It’s a website for audio porn and erotic literature only. No visuals. Launched by Caroline Spiegel. Whose name might sound familiar, because her brother Evan started a little company called Snapchat!

Jess: There is also now the Vibe-Ease smart vibrator, which will let you not only listen in tandem with music but also with audiobooks, specifically, you know, they have their own library of erotic audio.

Ben: The one thing all these new audio porn companies and products have in common? They’re all marketed towards the same demographics. Which Jess describes as women and other groups that are traditionally underserved by the porn industry.

Amory: So. Audio porn is booming in 2019. But let’s introduce you to another woman, who was ahead of the curve.

Eve: Professionally, I'm a writer and a photographer but I've had it like my training has been in journalism. 

Amory: This is Eve. Who was getting ladyboners from audio back in 2014.

Eve: I heard an audiobook with a guy once who had a very sexy voice. I just was really surprised at how sexy he sounded. And I remember thinking, I wonder if there are any guys out there who have recorded something specifically for women because they sound sexy. 

Ben: So Eve starts poking around online, and eventually discovers Gone Wild Audio on Reddit. Which at the time, was already arguably the biggest home for audio erotica on the internet. With its own community, culture, and strictly enforced rules.

Eve: It’s always been a nice place to just know that you're kind of free to just play, really. It's play for adults within within a safe kind of system.

Amory: Some of the biggest rules on GWA have to do with the way its content is tagged. Tags like improvisation. Or cuddling. Or office sex.

Ben: Tags in porn are pretty common, because people are usually looking for specific kinds of content. But on GWA, they’re a little more nuanced. They can be everything from details about the story, the intended audience, and recording techniques used to the different types of sex acts and any potential triggers. You can also filter some of the most explicit content out of the homepage so you don’t ever have to see it.

Eve: It's just a kind of a protective thing for people. 

Ben: That's interesting because you know I've done some reporting on tagging in visual pornography. There are a lot of sort of negative cultural implications of tagging there, like kind of reinforces stereotypes: MILF, asian. And it sounds like tagging in this world is actually markedly different.

Eve: It is, it's not meant to be some glib throwaway thing. Suppose for example you did enjoy audios from an Asian-sounding voice or the storyline was about an Asian person. If you're tagging that, they might say you know in the Japanese language, for example, or they might say you know I'm from Japan or something like that. So it's a it's a way of saying if you like this kind of thing here's here's more about the audio, but it's not meant to be insulting. It's mostly just kind of like a guidepost.

Amory: Another difference between Gone Wild Audio and visual porn in the internet era? Visual porn these days is pretty chopped up, into 3 or 4 minute clips. Audio erotica? Way longer! 30 minutes. 45 minutes. With tons of story.

Eve: And there is a lot more emphasis on the holistic approach to sex, meaning that people who do audio erotica do a lot of things that are kind of surrounding sexuality within relationships. So you'll get people who do what they call like cuddly audios or pillow talk type audios where it's just snuggling in bed with your significant other. It's just being sleepy going to sleep with someone just, you know, talking about your day or being cuddly and loving and being supportive. And then into kind of the afterglow situations like what happens after sex, which you rarely see in visual porn.

Ben: Audios, as people in the community often refer to them, have another key difference. The point of view of the consumer.

Eve: When you are watching visual porn you are an observer. You are outside looking in watching two other people or more have sex. And usually they are much better looking than you are and they are living a life that you don't live and you can't relate to. Whereas with audio erotica, usually the performer is speaking directly to you. The whole audio is in second person like, “You you,” you know. “Hello. Hi baby,” kind of thing, you know. It's directed right to you. So you feel as though you are a participant in what's going on. 

Amory: Eve’s clearly a fan of audio erotica. But we haven’t mentioned an important part of her story yet. She’s not just a fan.

Ben: Shortly after discovering GWA five years ago, Eve tried her hand…

Amory: And voice!

Ben: ...At performing, and recording, erotic audio.

Eve: Like I’ve even done a mock radio show as one of my erotic audios. 

Amory: Huh!

Ben: That we would like to hear.

Excerpt from Eve’s fake radio show: And we’re back! Thanks for staying with us as we roll into another hour of Sex Talk with Eve, right here on WSEX, your station for masturbation.

Eve: I was a shy person for much of my younger life and I didn't feel particularly sexy. And so doing this let me let me find a part of myself I often kept hidden. It opened up a whole new world to me of more self acceptance, more body acceptance, more allowing myself to just feel a little more confident a little more like I don't know it felt liberating to me.

Amory: Eve’s one of the more popular female performers on the platform now. So popular, we’re talking millions and millions of listens, that she now runs her own members-only site independently from GWA and Reddit. This is relatively common now. The Reddit content is free. But it can also be free publicity for people who are trying to build a brand off the site.

Ben: Eve didn’t want to talk specifics. But one person we talked to guessed that more popular performers might make ten, twenty thousand dollars a month with help from crowdfunding platforms like Patreon.

Amory: Ben are we in the wrong business?

Ben: We might be. Also, the length of a career for a visual porn actor is pretty brief — you age out and become less attractive by mainstream standards. It also takes a heavy toll on your body. But voice performers don’t have these same kinds of problems.

Eve: This is a really attractive thing about audio erotica is that you can just be a pure voice. You don't have to look a certain way. You don't have to worry about what you look like. You don't have to worry about any of the external things that people tend to be judged by. You can have an incredibly sexy voice and just, maybe your external doesn't doesn't match up with what you sound like, but it doesn't matter because you can still feel sexy and you can still make someone feel sexy.

Amory: At first, Eve just used her phone to record, but she’s upgraded over the years. Now she has professional equipment and adds sound effects, she spends hours editing each recording, the whole shebang.

Ben: Heheh, shebang.

Amory: Keeeeeep it together, Ben!

Excerpt from E.V.E. audio: It is time for your scheduled sexual health exercises...

Eve: Probably the most elaborate one that I've done is in collaboration with one of the writers that I know on GWA. It was a series about a sentient onboard computer called E.V.E. or Erotic Virtual Entity, or Eve, you know. And so the idea was this very elaborate thing that this ship out in deep space is…

Ben: Fricken the nerds. It's always the nerds. 

E: It's not just the nerds! But they're the sexiest people so c’mon. So this computer, basically she's she has been tasked with taking care of her captain in terms of his keeping him alive, monitoring his vitals, you know, making sure there's life support. And through the story she actually becomes more sentient, actually becomes more self-aware, and falls in love with him. 

Excerpt from E.V.E. audio: You’ve helped me to achieve and explore consciousness. You’ve helped me to explore love. 

Ben: So you heard Eve mention that she worked with a writer on that script. This is actually pretty common on GWA. There’s a whole group of people who only write scripts. Sometimes they post them publicly, then one or more performers can choose the one they like and record it. This is called a “script fill,” in GWA parlance.

Amory: We checked in with one of GWA’s stars of sexy scripting. He’s actually worked with Eve before.

Homer: She's recorded some really great audios. She's a very talented performer, very committed to her craft.

Amory: Meet Homer. Yes,Homer, like one of America’s favorite made-up father failures. But also as in the epic Greek poet.

Homer: I'm a big fan of Greek mythology so I and I've certainly touched upon Greek and other mythologies in my scripts.

Amory: Touched upon Greek mythology is a bit of an understatement. For instance, Homer drew a line from ancient Greek mythology right up to some topical news in modern times.

Ben: With an audio storyline where the Greek gods raffle off a night with Aphrodite to bail out Greece from its financial crisis. Homer also finds inspiration from pop culture. He loves Star Trek in particular.

Amory: Here we go again with the nerds...

Ben: And he wrote a script based on an actual Next Generation episode where Commander Riker split into two versions of himself.

Star Trek Narrator: 8 years ago a transporter mishap created an exact duplicate. I am Will Riker. Now, twin officers coexist. Which of them is real? Both! But hidden passions could turn them into bitter enemies...

Amory: That’s the overly dramatic trailer to “Second Chances” from Star Trek: Next Generation. Homer’s story is a little bit different.

Homer: This happens again, but one is a woman and eventually she ends up seducing him. I think it’s called Riker Meets His Better Half. 

Ben: Hot-ass Riker on Riker action? A better example of Rule 34 may not exist, at least for Star Trek fans. If you can dream it, there’s internet porn of it. But Homer really does care about telling a good story.

Homer: What I really found fulfilling is that a lot of people commented on the on the audios once they were recorded, but they were focusing more on the story versus the erotic parts and talking about the implications of it. 

Ben: Homer says he doesn’t have a lot of human interaction in his day-to-day life. For starters, he works in I.T., which makes for long, strange hours. Overnights.

Amory: But there’s another reason. Homer can’t get out much. His mobility is limited, the result of a long-term illness. He doesn’t want to say exactly what it is because it’s pretty specific and he wants to remain anonymous, but it’s serious.

Homer: I've been diagnosed with it for about 30 years. I take about 20-some pills a day, which have their own side effects. You know, I’m definitely not gonna die of old age.

Ben: Homer always wanted to be a writer. It just never really happened for him. He was always too afraid of putting his work out in the world with his name attached. So GWA provides Homer an opportunity he’s never had before.

Amory: And in the time he has left, he’s determined to make the most of it. Here’s an excerpt from a script of his called “The Riddle of the Catgirl,” performed by redditor AuralHoney.

The Riddle of the Catgirl: Standing, lying or on all fours. Outside, inside, behind closed doors. Given to us the greatest pleasure. Answer now and win the treasure.

Homer: It's really kind of been a life changer. I’ve just found that Gone Wild Audio is really kind of the place that I belong. It’s a friendly community and very encouraging. And I can kind of fulfill multiple needs at once. 

Ben: Heh heh. 

Homer: The joke I’ve made is that I’ve become very good at typing one-handed.

Ben: OK ok. Clearly there are multiple motivations for a lot of the participants in this community. But a common theme among all of our interviews with people who participate in GWA is that while they often keep their real names and offline selves private, that anonymity online helps them be their real selves.

Amory: That ability to be real has also led to a more vibrant community even beyond the erotica itself. Performers record songs together, all kinds of community members play video games together, there’s even a spinoff subreddit community called Gone Wild Audio Backstage. Which another popular performer, Hank,says is a great community in its own right.

Hank: It's kind of like a playground for all the erotic audio people. Like you don’t have to be on. You don’t have to be, you know, you don’t have to be sexy. You can just go on there, have a laugh, play a song, do whatever.

GWA Backstage song: Ice, Vanilla Ice! Vanilla Ice, ice baby...

Ben: Performers also swap advice about recording techniques. Answer questions from fans. Here’s Hank again.

Hank: There was one that I actually did. It was called, “Make the unsexy sexy.” And being a car junkie myself, I restore old cars, I picked like an old Chrysler car manual. And just basically went in and talked about the transmission, right like, “Make sure your fluids are topped up. Make sure the dipstick is thoroughly wet, you know like all that stuff. And I just went on and I did that kind of thing.

Amory: There seems to be kind of an art to making something sound sexy. And I’m not just talking about car manuals. The whole point of this stuff is that there’s supposedly a level of authenticity. So we asked Hank, in a roundabout way, something that you might be wondering. When he’s performing, how real are the, you know, climax parts?

Hank: Ohhh a lot of people have asked me that and I would prefer to keep that a mystery because if I say one way or the other it's going to ruin some kind of illusion one way or the other, so there's certain parts of it where I just go, you tell me.

Amory: But generally, Hank’s pretty up front about his sessy side hobby.

Ben: So sessy.

Amory: So sessy.

Hank: Just a little while ago actually I went to a party with, you know, family friends and all that stuff. And it was my nephew's best friend's wife opened the door and saw me and said, “Oh my God, you're here. Can I tell all my friends what you do?” I said, “Sure I don't care. You could tell them whatever you want.” So she did. She went around and she told everybody at the party. And then before you know it, I was the pornstar at the party. 

Ben: Hank has also met up with people from the community IRL. And hooked up with some of them. But that’s not really what the community is about. Another thing the community is not about is creepy behavior. But it does happen. We got a direct message from a female performer that said, in part:

Amory: “There are people in these spaces who prey on people.I can’t tell you the number of stories I’ve heard over the years where both listeners and performers have taken things to the next step with someone and it’s been devastating for one of the parties involved.”

Ben: Yes, the GWA moderators are on high alert for any suspicious behavior. But they can’t control everything that happens on the site. And they definitely can’t control what happens off the site. Stalking and doxxing, they are real challenges here.

Amory: So GWA has some of the same problems that a lot of pornography and internet porn platforms have. But so many people were open with us about how GWA has been a really transformative community for them.

Ben: For instance, we heard from a young widow, for instance, who’s been listening to GWA recordings and as a way to dip her toes back into intimacy for the first time since her husband died.

Amory: Another person whose story really stood out to us is someone who goes by Crescent Spoon on Reddit. She’s a trans woman who was in a pretty dark place earlier this year, trying to come to grips with her changing relationship to her body. And it occurred to her to try performing erotic audio.

Crescent Spoon: On some level erotic audio felt like this way I could say, oh I have a lot of issues with my voice and I have a lot of issues with sex. What if I take both of those things and talk about sex in a very personal way. And if I get good at that, then it’ll be like taking ownership of these two very scary things.

Excerpt from Crescent Spoon audio: So, I’m actually in the mood for something a little bit different tonight. Do you want to take a guess what it is? 

Ben: It’s only been about 5 months since Crescent Spoon started posting her recordings to GWA, but she’s already felt a huge difference.

Amory: And now Crescent Spoon has a new mission.

Crescent Spoon: I’ve become more focused on creating audio content for other trans folks and non-binary people. Because there’s not a lot of porn that’s made for us and also by us. 

Ben: What is fascinating about all of these stories is that while most GWA stuff is just content for people who are looking to get turned on, a surprising number of people are using this audio erotica at an even deeper level. As a way to heal. And one of the most compelling examples of that healing we’ve heard comes from a user we’re going to identify as Kit.

Kit: You know, I didn't see a therapist until two years after I was assaulted. So when I got to therapy, I already had a pretty good idea of, you know, what exactly my problems were because I'd been trying to work through them on my own with GWA. 

Amory: More in a minute.

[Sponsor Break]

Amory: We were surprised to learn about the different ways people were using Gone Wild Audio, not just to get off, but to get right. To tackle some kind of issue they were having with their sexuality.

Ben: It’s important for us to say that while we’ve heard from many users on Gone Wild Audio who have used the community to deal with sexual health issues, this is in no way, shape, or form a community that is geared towards professional therapy. Or even meant as a stand-in for it. But people are still using it as an aid in their own search for sexual health. And we were really blown away by the story of a Redditor who we’ll just call Kit.

Kit: I’m 21. I’m from the US. I’m a student. Pretty average college student I would say.

Amory: A few years ago, Kit was doing what average college students do: scouring the internet for porn.

Ben: She was young, and trying to figure out exactly what she liked and didn’t like in bed. And she ended up finding GWA.

Kit: You know there's a lot of sketchy porn sites out there so it was nice to have an ad-free, user-friendly public space for this kind of content.

Ben: GWA was a gold mine, and free from mainstream porn, which is almost always geared towards a particular kind of consumer.

Kit: A lot of mainstream porn is very focused on the male gaze and what it looks like from a guy's perspective and what a guy wants to see.  

Amory: Needless to say, Kit became a fast fan. And she started to realize she was interested in BDSM, which stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism.

Ben: But a few months after Kit started to explore this part of her sexuality, something happened.

Kit: I was at my friend's house. She was throwing a Halloween party. And I didn't realize this at the time, but I had a drug interaction with some medication I was on, so alcohol hit me really hard. I was very drunk very suddenly. Decided to go lie down another room and I was assaulted by a stranger. And it was I think unique in the sense that it was a very like kink-based assault. I describe it pretty much as someone acted their fantasies onto me not consensually, which is very traumatic because I was just starting to kind of realize that you know my interests sexually probably weren't very, they weren't vanilla. They weren't very mainstream. And I was kind of just starting to engage with that side of myself.

Ben: Interest in BDSM is more common than you might think. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 64% of women and 53% of men reported fantasies about being dominated sexually. Also 46% of women and 59% of men reported fantasies about dominating someone else sexually.

Amory: But one of the most important things to know about the BDSM community in general is that safe words and consent are incredibly important.

Kit: Consent is so so enforced and it's so respected. So it was very shocking to me to have that be my first experience and I was like, OK. Maybe this is not good for me. Maybe this is the wrong way to go. 

Amory:  Assault just by itself is a huge disruption in someone’s life.

Ben: But assault also has a huge impact on a person’s sexual health. Kit stopped engaging with anyone sexually. Including herself.

Kit: I kind of just shut down for a month or two. And I just didn't want to confront it. I even, I didn't even tell anyone for a year. And yeah. So I just didn't want to deal with that. 

Amory: In part, Kit shutting down was for protection. Because the person who assaulted her was around, he was friends with a lot of her friends.

Kit: So there would be experiences where you know I would be at a sporting event or like be out with friends and they would be like, “Hey I heard like, you got hooked up with blank.” And I'd be like, I wish I could just smack you in the face right now and tell you what actually happened. But yeah, so there were never any repercussions. It was kind of like bragging rights for him. 

Ben: Eventually, Kit made her way back onto GWA. But only for the “safe for work” content: Cuddling. Falling asleep. That type of audio. There was one poster in particular whose Safe For Work audios she kept going back to.

Amory: Someone who, unlike her attacker, helped her feel able to re-engage with intimacy.

Kit: I thought, OK I really like this guy. Let's see what other content he has. And it was all not safe for work.

Ben: More specifically it was the kind of stuff that Kit was into. Not vanilla by any stretch.

Amory: Also known as “consensual non-consensual” content. Yes. For those of you, like me, who weren’t even aware that this was a thing. It’s a thing. A whole genre of pornography. But the key word in this genre of consensual non-consensual content? Consensual.

Kit: It's you know, it's an informed decision to click on it. And it's an informed post. The post is structured as a disclaimer you know, this is a role play. These are the tags. This is what you're gonna get engage with. 

Ben: There are very strict rules for posting this kind of audio in the community.

Kit: And I was like, OK, I'll give it a shot. And I listened to it and I cried, like immediately. And I was like, well this is good because I haven't cried about this yet. And I'm getting some sort of emotional response from myself. 

Ben: Wow, you hadn't you hadn't cried about it yet. 

Kit: Yeah. And so I finally found a way to engage with it in a way that was completely in my control, which is something that I had felt no control over any of that situation before. Engaging in this kind of content is a choice in a world where we don't have a lot of choices about what happened to us. And so that's a really powerful thing I think for survivors and it was really powerful for me. 

Ben: It’s been a few years since Kit’s assault. And she is doing much much better. In large part, she says, because of GWA, this place she chose to go, and experience intimacy at her own pace.

(music)

Amory: At some point, she decided to also see a therapist.

Kit: It was very helpful to talk about GWA with a therapist and kind of explain that to her that, you know, I have kind of explored my sexuality because of this. And we went through what it was and she told me essentially that it's very powerful to be able to know what you like sexually and be able to engage with it in a way that you're completely in control of, which is kind of the complete antithesis of what assault is. So it's more empowering, you know, to kind of have this space where you can decide exactly what you want and no one's going to shame me for it, especially on GWA.

Ben: Kit, thank you so much for telling us your story and being open with us about it. 

Kit: It's really refreshing to have a very candid conversation about it. 

Ben: Again, this is just one story. And it’s really personal. Everybody’s sexual health is different.

Amory: But we did want to ask someone about Kit’s experience. So we put it to our friendly phone-sex therapist. Dr. Suzy.

Suzy: Well, I think that’s a valid form of sex therapy for this woman. You know she's finding out that a little bit of maybe fantasy fear is something that does turn her on and it's critical for her to understand this and to be able to communicate this with her partner in real life so that it doesn't get out of hand but that it is there to some extent. And it sounds like audio erotica is helping her to learn that. 

Ben: Kit has a new boyfriend by the way. And he’s supportive of her participation in GWA.

Kit: I'm very involved in the GWA community on the fan side, so it'd be kind of weird to not tell my partner about that. He'll be like, “why are you on Discord up until 2:00 a.m. on a Wednesday night,” and I'll be like, “Oh I'm just talking to strangers.” It's like that doesn't really sound good. So yeah we were pretty upfront about our sexual interests and very open with communication about it. GWA’s greatest impact I guess would just be in being my reintroduction to my own sexuality and self intimacy. So for me, it helps a lot to confront a lot of my fears about when I decide to become intimate again with another person. And it also helped me kind of figure out what I actually liked in terms of sex and in terms of what I how I want to be treated during sex. And so it was very empowering to have almost like experience before my first time again.

Amory: Audio erotica is reimagining what porn can be. It's serving people who are often left out of porn, and it's being democratized by the internet in no small part thanks to the first, and largest, community of DIY audio erotica online.

Ben: You can support me on Patreon. I’m Burly Bear. Send your requests to burly bear bro at gmail dot com slash geocities.

Amory: Give me a burly break.

Ben: Dreams deferred Amo, dreams deferred.

James Lindberg Production Assistant

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