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August 21, 2017 | by  | in Podcasts | [ssba]


Bang! is a Radio New Zealand podcast about sex, sexuality, and relationships. Salient sat down with producer and presenter Melody Thomas to talk about getting busy (making this podcast).



Why make a podcast about sex?

I knew I wanted to make a podcast because I work in radio and I have fallen in love with the format; I can’t get enough of it. I really love that there’s this whole narrative around young people just wanting short, snappy, bite-sized bits of information, and yet there’s these long form things that take up a lot of space and time proving to be popular, so podcasts I have had my eye on for a bit. One of the podcasts I fell in love with was Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, which is an agony aunt style sex advice show in Seattle. It’s hilarious, and it’s quite shocking to listen to at first; it really exposes you to the breadth of human appetites when it comes to sex. But it became normal, and started some really interesting conversations among my friends and family and even within my own relationship. I realised that New Zealand could benefit from our own version of something like that, but I’m not an expert so the agony aunt format wouldn’t work, so we had to call in other people.


One of the experts that you call in is Mary Hodson, who is a sex therapist. I quite like the way she’s not over the top — because she’s a sex therapist, you’d expect her to be crazy, with all these ideas, telling you “yeah, go for it!!” But she’s very reserved, and I think that adds to it, right?

Yeah I think you’re right, I’ve been trying to explain what it is about Mary, you’d expect a sex therapist to be like the teacher in the Magic School Bus


Ms Frizzle!

Yeah, Ms Frizzle! But maybe when it comes to sharing intimate details, you need someone more reserved. I think people would be intimidated to have Ms Frizzle asking about their sex lives you’d feel like you’d have to make up some details. Mary’s great.


The podcast has lots of guests and testimonies from people talking about their own experiences. In the second episode about teenagers, you go into a classroom and talk to them about what sex education they’ve received at their high school. It’s pretty candid; did you find it difficult to get them to open up?

No! The most difficult part was going back to a high school as a 32-year old, and the moment you step into a high school hall, all the smell and pain of high school comes pouring back onto you. I’m being dramatic! But they were great, they were so much cooler than me. I’ve been talking about sex for maybe a year or six months now non-stop, but they’ve been talking about sex for three years their sexuality education starts in year ten. They put a lot of energy, even before they start talking, into rules to make it a safe space, so they really led the way on that one. They showed me how open I could be. And that’s what a dialogue with teenagers about sex can look like when they’ve had education.


A special extra feature of the podcast is the feedback on Wednesday’s Nights with Bryan Crump, when people can ask questions through RNZ’s VoxPop app. How do you think this improves the listener experience?

When we were first planning the episodes, there was an idea to have listener questions in the episode, because I like the idea of being able to interact. When you’re looking at a topic that is not talked about in an upfront way — more so with young people now, but generally not — people are going to have a lot of questions, so having an opportunity to have those questions asked is really important. Also, I present myself as a stand-in for the listener, but of course there are questions I miss, so it’s a nice opportunity to have those questions aired. And it worked really well, we’ve had great feedback from it. There’s been slight anxiety from within the organisation about having a live sex-related feature on air. It’s the closest thing to talkback RNZ has ever done, and the subject matter is something the organisation hasn’t really had any experience with before, so there were a few nerves going in, but there was no negative feedback. We had lots of questions and lots of texts coming in; we’ve even had a couple of 70- and 80-year old women getting in touch to talk about how glad they are that this is getting talked about because it was so closed off in their day. My hope going into it was that I had hit upon something that people were waiting for, and that reassures me that it is the case.


Episodes two and three are about teenage sexuality, and modern dating. You’re a bit older, you’re in a long-term relationship was it weird to revisit those worlds?

I loved revisiting it; I have a natural fascination with sex and relationships and dating. My single friends have let me swipe on their Tinder, and I often wonder what my early twenties would have looked like if I had been on Tinder. Dating when I was dating was like, hooking up, on a dancefloor, and then like, “Oh, we’re in a relationship now!” And it was interesting for me to see that people are really dating now people go on dates, we never really did that! Once you get over your initial “are these young people even gonna want to talk to this 32-year old mother of two,” it’s very fun.


Also in the teenagers episode, there are young people talking about a lack of sex education. Do you think that organisations like RNZ, maybe through The Wireless, should take the bull by the horns and be providing more meaningful, sex-positive content?

I think they are, this podcast is a first step for RNZ. For The Wireless I’ve just written a story about the Nope Sisters, who made that amazing consent t-shirt and that all goes to Sexual Abuse HELP Wellington, and it’s not the first story like that that I’ve written for The Wireless. I think that RNZ and The Wireless are keen to put more of that content out there it only ever gets good responses.

I think it’s really hard when it comes to the idea of sexuality education and especially consent education being compulsory in high schools. It’s what a lot of young people are calling for, it’s obviously something that weighs very heavily on their minds. I think consent education is something that needs to be taught more widely, and more comprehensively. But I also do understand why the Ministry of Education may want to let communities and families have a lot of input in what’s taught. It’s not that black and white, but it’s a really important conversation to be having and I’m glad that we’ve started it. I hope that places like The Wireless continue to provide that content because their audience has a real stake in it.


You’ve released three episodes, and you’ve got four more to go — can you give us any hints about future episodes?

Episode four is called “Love and Marriage” and it’s about how intimacy changes over the course of a long-term relationship. I’ve talked to four couples about their intimate lives, and how that changes. I’ve got a couple that have been together four months, who are like those friends who suck face everywhere and are just infuriatingly in love. And then I’ve got couples talking about kids and dealing with infidelity 20 years in, which is pretty full on. I have a marriage counsellor coming in, so there are bigger lessons for people listening.

The next episode looks at conception and contraception. I’m still working out what goes in that one, but one of the things in there is a story about two young women who wanted to start a family and ended up turning to Facebook to try and find sperm. So we’ll be looking at how to make a baby and how not to make a baby.

And then we look at what happens in your 50s to mid-60s in relationships we look at dating at that age. What’s it like getting on Tinder after a divorce, or if you’re a woman who’s only been with one man for 30 years? There’s a lot of research that says divorced women aren’t good at protecting themselves from STDs because their sex education wasn’t great, and safety is really important there as well. In that episode I actually talk to my mum about her sex life! I feel like that’s been the real measure of my growing maturity that phone call that started off quite awkward because I am human, but actually ended up being a really nice discussion.

The last episode is about sex and intimacy toward the end of our lives. I’m going to talk about practice and policy towards sex in retirement homes, which is really fascinating. There are a whole lot of things I wouldn’t even have thought to consider, like how do you talk about consent in an environment when you’re dealing with Alzheimer’s? Then I talk to a couple who are 72 and 75 who talk about their still very happy sex life. When I turned up to talk to them they said “We’ve actually already had sex because we knew you were coming, so we got it out of the way!”


Finally, what podcasts are you listening to?

At the moment I listen to a lot of My Dad Wrote a Porno, because it’s hilarious and sometimes you just need a break! It makes me laugh the whole way home, it’s hilarious to listen to on the bus because no one knows the filthy stuff in your ears! Radiolab is probably up there with my favourite podcasts ever, because of the way it’s produced and the way they package really complicated ideas in a way that is really understandable. This American Life and Savage Lovecast. Song Exploder it’s so good, they take a song and get the artist who wrote it to take you through it. They separate out all the tracks and show you piece by piece how all the songs were built, it’s brilliant. I feel like music podcasts that are fun and easy to listen to are pretty hard to come by, but this one gives you real insight.


Bang! is available to download at and all major podcast platforms.


Melody has also created “BANG! Melody’s Sexy Sex Mix” available on Spotify. Check it out, it features D’Angelo (daayyyum).


If you’re interested in similar content produced by Radio New Zealand, have a gander at the following:


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