Let’s Talk About Porn

Porn. It’s something that people use in their most intimate, private moments. It’s a way to acknowledge desire—without any of the attachments of intimacy. For some of you, that’s incredibly freeing. For others, it’s caused some real problems.

This spring, we heard from a listener named James* who described himself as a recovering porn addict. He was struggling to stay away from porn while his wife was out of town. His story made us wonder about your own relationship with porn, so we asked you about it. More than 100 responses later, you told us how you first learned about porn, what drew you to it, and why some of you have had to turn away from it completely.

Rose* was in her 30s when she first stumbled across a porn video on Tumblr. She tried to put it away, but kept coming back to it. “I was going through heartbreak at that time, and really craving affection and love and desire,” she tells me. “Seeing that acted out…I found it intriguing.” Another listener, Antonio*, says porn helps him stay faithful to his boyfriend by letting him live out his fantasies on his smartphone. And Michael* says his porn collection is a stress reliever that he carefully tends to “like a rose garden.”

We also heard from listeners like Daniel*, who’ve had to cut porn out of their lives entirely. Daniel went cold turkey three years ago when he realized porn had become a coping mechanism for his mental illness and was hurting his relationship with his girlfriend. “It’s hard because it gives me a really intense pleasurable feeling,” he says. “But it’s also usually followed by a lot of shame, too.”

But for Jennifer*, experimenting with porn and talking about it openly can be helpful—even though it often makes the people she’s dating uncomfortable. “I think it’s important to just get it out of the way,” she says. “You can have a better sex life when all the cards are out on the table.”

*Names changed for privacy reasons.

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Other Americans

Since the election, Americans on both sides of the political divide have been feeling deeply alienated and profoundly misunderstood. So we’ve been asking our listeners one central question: What’s the thing that you wish other Americans understood about you, that they don’t? 

In this live call-in special, Anna speaks with listeners about their answers to this question. Among the Americans we hear from are Kelly, a black woman in Portland, Oregon, who feels frustrated by the “smugness” of the white liberals she’s surrounded by and sometimes feels like she’s not being seen in her community; David, a first-generation Jewish American who was inspired by a recent white nationalist speech to wear a kippah for the first time in his adult life; Katherine, a Republican who’s tired of being labeled a racist and a bigot; and Jorge, who identifies as a progressive but wants other Americans to know that plenty of Latinos lean right politically. 

We also hear from Nora*, a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill who voted for Hillary Clinton and was shocked when Donald Trump won. “When I voted for Hillary…I did it completely against my own career interests,” Nora says. “There are so many people [on Capitol Hill] like me….We are simultaneously terrified of the uncharted unknown but also really excited to…do what we envision for the country.” 

This call-in special is part of The United States of Anxiety, WNYC’s election series. Find out more about the series here

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What Money Can’t Solve

On November 2, 1983, Darrell Cannon was woken up by the Chicago police banging on his door. He knew the drill. As a longtime gang member, run-ins with the cops were common. He’d already served more than a decade behind bars for a murder conviction.

But that day, something unexpected happened: Darrell says the cops tortured him while they were questioning him. During the torture, Darrell confessed to a crime that landed him back behind bars for 24 years. 

This didn’t just happen to Darrell. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, more than 100 people—most of them black men—say they were tortured too. The city of Chicago has officially acknowledged that this happened. Earlier this year, the city approved a $5.5 million reparations package to 57 of the people who suffered at the hands of the police. 

Planet Money reporter Noel King interviewed Darrell shortly after he picked up his reparations check earlier this year. She shared his story as part of a larger Planet Money episode called “Paying for the Crime.” And today, in collaboration with Planet Money, we’re sharing more of Darrell’s story with you. It’s a story about money—and the things that money can’t solve.

“I hate ’em,” Darrell says. “That ain’t never gonna change.”

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If You’re Not ____, Then Never Mind

Actor Amy Landecker got divorced in 2011. “It was the worst time of my whole life,” Amy says. “People told me it was going to get better and I didn’t believe them.” Amy and her ex-husband share custody of their daughter, and Amy struggled with being away from her for days at a time. “I would watch Louie, there was this one episode in particular where, when his kids would leave he would eat doughnuts, get high and want to kill himself,” Amy remembers. “I was just so comforted. Because I was like, ‘That’s how I feel.'” 

Amy’s 47 now, and says the pain of her divorce has eased as time has passed. In the past few years, she’s found breakout success in her role as Sarah, the oldest sister on the series Transparent. That’s also how she met her boyfriend, actor Bradley Whitford. “My daughter was worried that I was gonna be alone and…she was like, let’s just make a list of the qualities that we’re looking for,” Amy laughs. “So she takes out this piece of paper and she titles it, ‘If You’re Not This, Then Never Mind.'” Soon after that, Amy met Bradley—who met a lot of their requirements. “I wanted him to like cats and dogs,” Amy says. “Bradley has both, which is very rare.” 

For the past two decades, Amy has also been sober—a decision she made at 24, after years of hard partying and some sexual close calls. Plus, drinking was getting in the way of her career. “The final drink of my life was before an audition,” Amy remembers. “I was absolutely terrible and I was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to do what I want to do for a living if I continue down this path.'” 

 

Before being cast on Transparent, Amy worked as a voiceover actor—and voice double. Don’t know what that is? Watch this video from New York magazine. Get ready to be amazed. 

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I Was More Angry At God

Two years ago, Jane Chung was living in New York, working at a startup and having the time of her life. The business she co-founded, called Klooff—a sort of “Instagram for pets”—was growing by leaps and bounds. “Everything seemed to align,” Jane says. “And I would call my dad every day and I will tell him all the news.” Jane, who was 30 at the time, hoped that after her startup got big, she could sell it and help her dad leave behind the dollar store business he owned in California. 

And then, on October 31, 2014, Jane got a phone call from her mother. “Her voice was really weird,” Jane remembers. “There was like the feeling that you just kind of know that something awful happened.” Jane’s father had been shot and killed in a robbery.

That phone call rerouted the course of Jane’s life—leading her to pack up her things in New York, sell her business and completely start over in California. Jane moved in with her mom, and struggled to accept that the God she had trusted to take care of her family had let something so terrible happen. “Most people were angry at the murderer,” Jane says. “I think I was more angry at God.”

In the past two years, Jane’s been adjusting to her new life on the West Coast, and figuring out where to draw boundaries between herself and her mother. And she’s trying to see God in a new way—and accept that she won’t always be able to predict what’s coming next. “You collect things in life, you gather pieces, you don’t know what you’re gonna do with those pieces but somehow it maps to something in your future,” Jane says. “It can become a bigger piece of work. I think that’s what God does.”

Jane made a video that was played in court at her father’s killer’s sentencing. Watch it below.

  

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Death, Sex & Money Live at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre | November 14, 2016

Death, Sex & Money is live from Chicago’s Music Box Theatre on Nov. 14! Anna sits down with writer and actor Mara Wilson (Matilda, BoJack Horseman) to talk about sex, death and life after child stardom.

Stay after the interview for a screening of one of Mara’s favorite films—Clueless—as part of the Music Box Theatre’s “My Favorite Flick” series.

Get your tickets to the show today, or get a Podcast Passport from our friends at WBEZ.

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Andy Cohen and Anna Sale: Taboo Topics | November 30, 2016

Join Anna as she sits down with Andy Cohen—the author, executive producer behind Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise and host of Watch What Happens: Live. Catch up with them both on Nov. 30 at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre.  

Buy your tickets today! Use this link to get a special “DSMinSF” 20% off discount

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Ellen Burstyn & Gloria Steinem

Before the women’s movement came around in the 1960s, Gloria Steinem thought her options for the future were limited. “I was being a freelance writer and not having any money to save, and assuming that I would be a bag lady,” she tells guest host Ellen Burstyn. “I was supposed to get married and have a man to support me. But that seemed to be a kind of hard bargain.”

Gloria was raised by a father who traveled across the country selling jewelry and antiques, and a writer mother who suffered from severe depression. They separated when Gloria was 10 years old, and Gloria soon became her mother’s primary caregiver. The journalist and feminist icon says the circumstances she grew up in gave her the confidence to step into the world on her own—like when she traveled to India as a young woman, leaving her then-fiancé behind in the States. “I realized in later life that…I felt not so safe at home because I was a small person looking after a big one,” Gloria says. “So I felt the world outside the home was safer.”

Gloria broke off that early engagement—but married entrepreneur David Bale when she was 66. “By that time the women’s movement had worked for 30 years to equalize the marriage laws,” Gloria says. “So no longer would I lose my name and my credit rating and my legal domicile and all my civil rights, as I would have had I got married when I was supposed to. So I thought, ‘Well, you know, why not? I mean I’m not going to lose.'” David died three years after they got married, after being diagnosed with brain lymphoma. Gloria says taking care of him at the end of his life forced her to live fully in the present. “He let me do over what I couldn’t really do for my mother,” she added. “It gave me a chance to do that over.”

Gloria is 82 now. And she says she isn’t yet very comfortable with the idea of death. “I’m torn because I love it here…I’m very attached,” she admits. “I’m still trying to hang in there ’til I’m 100. Because just to meet my deadlines I have to do that.”

Feb. 1975 cover of Ms. Magazine featuring Ellen Burstyn, Eleanor Perry and Shirley MacLaine.
(Courtesy of Ellen Burstyn.)

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Diane Gill Morris & Officer Robert Zink

Diane Gill Morris first joined us last year to talk about raising her two boys, Kenny and Theo. Both of her children are autistic, and Diane told us about the challenges that have come with their diagnoses and the overwhelming responsibility she feels to protect and nurture them, particularly as they become adults. 

Diane said she was particularly worried about her older son, Kenny, who was then 16. “I am still trying to figure out how I make sure that he is safe in the world,” Diane said, “when I can’t explain to him all the intricacies involved in what it means to be young and black in America.”

There have been several recent stories about police interactions with autistic people of color—and their caregivers—that have ended violently, in places like Miami, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Today, as a guest host on Death, Sex & Money, Diane talks with police officer Robert Zink, who founded the St. Paul CARE (Cops Autism Response Education) Project and has two autistic boys of his own. “Officers may not read the cues of what the person is presenting,” Officer Zink says. “Officers may view them as cues of, is it drug interaction? Is it a mental health issue? And read those cues wrong….And we go down one path and it gets worse and worse.” He adds, “I never want to see something like that happen to my sons just because something they did was misinterpreted.” 

Diane also talks with Officer Zink about her worry that officers might make incorrect assumptions about her sons because they’re black. “In the media most of the people that we see with autism are white. I don’t think a lot of people are aware that there’s a really large population of minority children and adults with autism,” Diane says. “My fear is always that an officer sees a black man and they will immediately go to the idea of this being a person on drugs versus this being a person with disability.” 

Diane also talks with Maria Caldwell, whose son, Marcus Abrams, was injured during an confrontation with Metro Transit officers in St. Paul last year. Marcus is black and autistic, and was 17 at the time of the incident. Maria talks with Diane about how Officer Zink reached out to her family after Marcus landed in the hospital—and Officer Zink and Maria talk together about working to rebuild trust after it’s been lost. “There’s no expectation that trust is going to be gained in six weeks, six months, six years, or sixty years,” Officer Zink says. “Even though you may not have it back right away, you still have to work to get that trust back.” 

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Chris Gethard & Tim Dillon

Comedian Tim Dillon has lived a lot of life in his 31 years. “I was a child actor,” he tells guest host Chris Gethard. “I started doing coke at 12. My mother’s a schizophrenic. I was a closeted homosexual. I’m politically all over the map, though I lean conservative. I was in the mortgage industry. I idolize hucksters, thieves, cons and cheats. My dream is to be a traveling salesman through America. And if comedy works, that’s nice too.”

Around the time that Tim says he began experimenting with drugs, he also began to notice that his mother was starting to talk about being followed. She was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, and had a mental breakdown when Tim was twenty years old. She’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since then. As an adult, Tim says he feels a growing responsibility to care for his mother, but he’s also come to terms with the fact that no amount of money will “fix” her. “That’s the amazing thing about mental illness,” he says. “If I had a million dollars, and I had a home, and I could move her in and pay all her bills, she wouldn’t be better.”

Tim did in fact once own a home, in his early 20s. He started his career selling mortgagesincluding those of the subprime variety. “I didn’t know how bad it was going to get,” he says. “I took one myself.” He bought a $570,000 house that, as it turned out, he couldn’t afford after the subprime mortgage crisis hit and he lost his job. The bank foreclosed on his home, and Tim says his credit is still suffering today.

But the economic downturn did push him to make a dramatic career change. Tim started doing stand-up comedy about six years ago. And that same year, he decided to come out to his family. “There was no like, ‘We love you,'” Tim says. “There was none of that. They’re funny, acerbic people.” Tim isn’t dating much, though. Right now, he says he’s focused on building his career as a comic, doing two to three shows a night. But, he says, he might slow down “if I fell deeply in love with somebody…I’m not saying that that even would slow me down, I’m just saying that could.” 

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