Following on from her hit with BANG!, writer Melody Thomas is back hosting Stuff’s latest podcast series The Good Sex Project; combining real people’s sex stories with expert’s advice to destigmatise conversations around pleasure, intimacy, and relationships. It’s frank, funny, and reminiscent of group chat debriefs the next day—but with unbiased and actually sound advice. We picked Melody’s brain for her (s)expertise:
How did your podcast get started?
I learned so much over the course of BANG!, and I felt like I was starting to get an idea about some of the things standing in the way of good sex and love for so many people. I wanted to help people find the pathway through that: find everyday people willing to share their struggles and triumphs, then weave that together with expert advice.
What has helped you to be able to embrace and feel comfortable talking about sex so openly? Was there an inciting moment for you?
Honestly I’ve always loved talking about this stuff, though when I was younger it was more for shock-value than anything else. And the conversations were always pretty superficial.
But I’m super comfortable now and I think that’s just through talking to so many people about it. At the beginning I wasn’t so relaxed. But then I interviewed so many more people, including my Mum and a childhood friend I’d played doctors and nurses with…and the shame and embarrassment just disappeared. Now talking about sex feels no different to talking about anything else.
What advice would you give to people in the beginning stages of their sexual journeys?
I would say to try not to get too caught up in what you think other people are doing, or what you think you’re meant to be doing. A lot of people seem to have interpreted sexual empowerment as being “up for it” always, but real sexual empowerment is so much more nuanced than that. I’d say to throw out the scripts that tell you heterosex happens in a certain order (making out, hand stuff, maybe oral, penetration, over) and instead ask “what are you into?” Think about your own answer, be non-judgemental about the other person’s answer, and find the places you overlap. Nothing is compulsory—sex is whatever YOU want it to be.
How can one find their ‘voice’ in bed?
It’s so difficult! Some of ‘finding your voice’ just comes with age and experience, and you’ll get better at it with time. But it’s never too early to start thinking about what you’re into (you’ve got no chance of advocating for yourself if you don’t even know what you like!) A lot of figuring out what you like just comes with the trial and error of sleeping with people, but you can learn a lot about what kind of touch your body responds to on your own, through masturbation.
And you can practice asserting yourself in non-sexual situations! Tell the barista they got your coffee order wrong, or send back the meal that wasn’t cooked properly! A little practice here will naturally roll over into your sex life.
What do you think about hookup culture? Do you think young people’s perceptions of sex are moving in the right direction?
I think hookup culture is missing a lot of really important conversations around pleasure, consent, gender expectations and safety. I think the core idea of hookup culture, that casual hookups are all good and you don’t need an emotional connection to enjoy sex, is fine and will work for some people. But I also think a lot of people interpret “no emotions” as being no effort and no care required for the other person, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Re: young people’s perceptions of sex—on one hand, there’s so many more great conversations these days about consent, body positivity, gender, sexuality, feminism…all that stuff, which basically didn’t exist when I was young. But I also didn’t have to deal with the effects of mainstream, free pornography standing in for sex education! So maybe we started off in the right direction, but we missed a few steps…and we need to go back and fill in the missing bits…And then we’ll be on the right track!
A surprising sex fact?
Did you know the ‘little button’ we think is the clitoris is just the tip of the iceberg? The actual clitoris is 8-10 cm long and mostly internal, with legs and bulbs that wrap around the vagina. We say ‘penis and vagina’ but actually it’s the clitoris that’s the biological equivalent of the penis. And just like with a penis, most people with clitorises require fairly constant stimulation to the clit to reach orgasm.