This month, Boulder’s MESA (Moving to End Sexual Assault) program is bringing back its podcast Sex: By Invitation Only, cohosted by Lindsey Breslin and Caroline Harris — and don’t expect these women to shy away from tough subject matter.
“The idea to create this podcast initially surfaced during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in 2018,” says Breslin, MESA’s program supervisor. “In listening to Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, something really rang true to us. She was a survivor just like the women we were working with — this assault had had a tremendous impact on her life. When Trump said publicly that it was a ‘difficult time for men,’ we realized that we were in desperate need of a larger platform to explore national news headlines on sexual violence and also speak about what’s happening in our own community. Podcasting seemed to be a great platform to share our thoughts on activism and social justice, a place to educate people more on the dynamics of sexual violence and the services available, and most of all a safe space that tells people they aren’t alone in their experiences.”
Now in its third season, the podcast covers a wide range of topics related to navigating boundaries, embracing sexuality, understanding consent and dismantling systems of oppression, with the aim of fostering hope, healing and connection through open dialogue and education surrounding sexual violence. Drawing from two seasons’ worth of experience, Breslin and Harris promise to lead listeners into new territory this year while continuing to offer a safe space to discuss sexual violence and all the intersecting issues that come with it.
“Something we’re going to start doing is having a listener write-in option,” says Harris, prevention education specialist at MESA. “We really want to encourage engagement. We want feedback from listeners on what they want to hear and discuss, what’s important to them and what their questions are so we can have an open dialogue while meeting people where they’re at.”
For those worried about the potentially triggering content of such subject matter, Breslin and Harris emphasize that this show is first and foremost about creating a safe platform where victims can connect and step into the light to tell their stories.
“This isn’t a podcast of just stories of sexual violence,” Breslin says. “We know those can be extremely triggering. We’re making content in a way to give the people who have experienced it a voice. We interview MESA staff about the work we do here in Boulder, we talk to students, teachers — we really want to open it up to the community. We’re also providing trauma therapy and psycho-education through these interviews with guests, and posing important questions like, ‘What’s a normal response to an abnormal experience?’”
This season promises to be different from the last two in a few ways. First, of course, is the write-in option, allowing the cohosts to better interact with their listeners, but they also pledge to end each segment with current local and national stories to help keep people informed and educated, as well as tying in content from MESA’s blog, “tackling hard-hitting topics like oppression and masculinity,” Harris says.
Episodes will be released the first Friday of every month, with the first already available, exploring what we can learn about consent through experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, the hosts break down how experiencing the pandemic has attuned us to consensual behavior like wearing masks and social distancing, and how this can be translated into asking for consent and respecting boundaries in sexual relationships.