Even in 2022, sex is still often regarded as a taboo topic, so the idea of talking about sex with one’s parent might draw shudders. But that’s exactly what Shannon Curley and her mother, RIC alum Christine Curley MA ’19, do every week on their podcast “Sex Ed Debunked.”
This entertaining and educational cross-generational podcast covers a range of topics related to sex and sexuality; each week, the mother-daughter duo tackles and debunks a different sexuality myth. Examples of these myths include, “Sex Education in the US is Comprehensive,” “Your Only Options are Gay and Straight,” and “The Orgasm Gap Has Closed.”
Christine Curley earned her master’s in psychology from RIC and currently teaches at the University of Connecticut where she is also a PhD candidate. Her daughter Shannon earned her MA in mass communication and media studies at Bryant University and currently works as a content and brand specialist. Shannon is also a member of the LGBTQ community.
The idea for the podcast came about when Shannon and her mother were discussing some of Christine’s academic research.
“I remember saying something like, ‘That’s interesting from an academic standpoint, but as a lived experience, this is my perspective,’” explains Shannon. “That moment of ‘Both of these things can coexist as true, but there’s a difference between textbook and experience’ was when we realized this might actually be a conversation that more people should hear.”
Something that sets “Sex Ed Debunked" apart from other podcasts is that it’s not just two people, or even a mother and daughter, talking about sex, but that it incorporates academic studies to support those discussions. The impact has been real.
“People are always like, ‘Why didn’t I know this?’” says Christine. “We realized that both in my generation and Shannon’s generation there’s actually a need for this information. People crave a safe space to just talk.”
“People have a natural curiosity about these subjects,” Shannon adds. “What we’ve found is that even if people don’t know if they’re interested in these topics, they are.”
The podcast is inclusive to the LGBTQ community in a way that the majority of sex ed curricula just aren’t.
“In some ways we are progressing as a society and talking about these things more and having representation in media,” Shannon notes. “But unfortunately the flip side is that we’re living in a very polarizing time where I think there’s even more hate and backlash in some ways than there was before.”
That growing bigotry makes the work they do on their podcast all the more important. “To have these discussions is to reduce prejudice; to have these discussions is to reduce that fear,” Christine says.
This applies to other forms of prejudice outside of homophobia and transphobia as well. Christine and Shannon both emphasize that in general, the more sex gets talked about and destigmatized, the more people can feel comfortable exploring themselves and what they like or don’t like. More than anything else, what Christine and Shannon hope will come from their podcast is more conversation between people about sex and sexuality and in turn destigmatization of these topics.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is show that you need sex education throughout your life. There’s so much talk about sex education for elementary and high school and teenagers, but as adults, we still need sex education,” says Christine. “It’s a lifetime of learning to strive to be positive in your sexuality, whatever that is.”
New episodes of “Sex Ed Debunked” drop every Wednesday and can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and everywhere else podcasts are released.