Summary: A podcast about how the history of sexuality shapes our present.
Season 2, Episode 5: Let's Dance!
For a short time in the 1970s, Canary Conn was everywhere. She was on television. On the radio. And on bookshelves. Her story, that of a Texas-born recording artist, husband and father who transitioned into a woman whom the media described as “young,” “lithe” and “with flowing blonde hair,” captured national attention. Although some newspaper interviews with Canary have been preserved, there are very few accessible recordings of Canary’s many public performances, or her radio and television interviews. What’s more, the trail of evidence disappears after 1980, when Canary inexplicably left the public spotlight and returned to private life. In this episode we introduce and then play a rare extended audio interview with Canary that she recorded with the magazine Psychology Today in 1977. The interview profiles Canary’s childhood, her transition, her sexuality, and her gender identity.
In August of 1962, Sherri Chessen boarded a flight to Sweden in order to get an abortion after she was unable to obtain one in the United States. Sherri had accidentally taken medicine containing thalidomide, a drug that caused children to be born with internal injuries and shortened limbs. Thalidomide also caused women to miscarry, deliver stillborn babies, or have children who died during their infancy. Her decision to terminate this risky pregnancy and her journey abroad attracted international attention from journalists, politicians, and religious leaders. Sherri’s ordeal made public what countless American women experienced when they sought to terminate their pregnancies. Her widely shared story changed the way many Americans thought about abortion laws and even about abortion itself. Hosts and Creators: Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman. Producers: Rebecca Davis, Saniya Lee Ghanoui, Devin McGeehan Muchmore and Jayne Swift. Intern: Alexie Glover. Music: “Plaster Combo,” “Building the Sled,” “Mogul,” “The Basket,” “Taoudella,” “Silk and Silver,” “The Yards,” “Arbic Tallow,” “Velvet Ladder,” “The Telling,” “Midday,” “Guinea,” “Vittoro,” “Cases to Rest,” and “Skyway” by Blue Dot Sessions. Sherri Chessen, “The Lesser of Two Evils,” (1966) courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives. Our gratitude goes out to Sherri Chessen for sharing her story with us. If you enjoyed this episode, please review us on iTunes or Soundcloud and share us on social media. Please support our work and keep new episodes coming by making a small donation to Sexing History.
Welcome to a bonus track from Sexing History. This track features an extended version of Gillian Frank’s interview with Mark S. King from our most recent episode “Sex Over the Phone.” That episode explores how phone sex lines and dial-a-porn transformed the intimacy of phone conversations into a multi-million-dollar sexual enterprise during the 1980s. Mark S. King worked on gay phone sex lines and also owned his own phone sex business. His story helps us better understand the complex relationships between gay history, the history of sex work, the history of the AIDS epidemic and the telecommunications revolution of the 1980s. Hosts and Creators: Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman. Producers: Rebecca Davis, Saniya Lee Ghanoui, Devin McGeehan Muchmore and Jayne Swift. Intern: Alexie Glover. If you enjoyed this bonus track, please review us on iTunes or Soundcloud and share us on social media. Please support our work and keep new episodes coming by making a small donation to Sexing History.
For years, telephone companies had been encouraging customers to “reach out and touch someone.” In the 1980s, phone sex lines and dial-a-porn transformed the intimacy of phone conversations into a multi-million-dollar sexual enterprise. A simple and relatively cheap phone call could connect you with dial-a-porn, a telephone service offering short erotic recordings. Phone sex lines were more expensive, and featured operators, known as fantasy artists, who would act out sexual fantasies for and with you. Over the course of the 1980s, telephones, credit cards and imaginations brought countless people together to co-create sexual fantasies, and experience new forms of sexual gratification.
The hit television show American Bandstand has shaped how we understand the 1950s and early 1960s. For many, American Bandstand still evokes nostalgic images of white youth culture and sexually innocent teenage romance: a world made up of malt shops, juke joints, sock hops and drive-in movie theaters. If we look closer at how Bandstand was staged, and what was hidden from sight or hiding in plain view, we can see how the show's creators erased blackness and queerness from the show itself and from the official story of youth culture.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Ruth Wallis, one of the greatest singers, comedians, and performers of sexually suggestive lyrics in the postwar United States. Most of her catalogue remains on vinyl and historians have forgotten her. But from the 1940s until the early 1970s, Ruth Wallis was a bestselling performer and a mainstay at supper clubs and hotels. At a time when it was legally risky for entertainers to sing about sexuality for profit and pleasure, Ruth sold millions of records that used innuendo to playfully hint at a variety of straight and queer sexual pleasures. https://www.sexinghistory.com/episode-8 Hosts and Creators: Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman. Producers: Rebecca Davis, Saniya Lee Ghanoui and Devin McGeehan Muchmore. Intern: Jayne Swift. Special thanks to Alan Pastman, Mitch Douglas and Rusty Warren for sharing their stories with us. Thank you to Jennifer Caplan and Lauren Sklaroff for sharing their historical expertise with us. Thank you to Alan Pastman for sharing his personal archive. If you enjoyed this episode, please review us on iTunes or Soundcloud and share us on social media. Please support our work and keep new episodes coming by making a small donation to Sexing History.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the San Francisco Metropolitan Community Church wrestled with profound questions: What does it mean to minister a gay church when so many in the congregation are dying from AIDS-related complications and grieving the recently dead? How do you have faith during an epidemic? And what does it mean to participate in communion in a community ravaged by a plague? Hosts and Creators: Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman. Producers: Rebecca Davis, Saniya Lee Ghanoui and Devin McGeehan Muchmore. Intern: Jayne Swift Co-created and produced with Lynne Gerber, Siri Colom and Ariana Nedelman from the When We All Get to Heaven podcast. https://www.sexinghistory.com/episode-7
In the 1960s, the airline industry ramped up its sexualization of stewardesses in order to increase revenues. Decades before the #MeToo movement, flight attendants navigated a workplace in which their employers required them to stay thin, remain unmarried, and squeeze into revealing clothing every day. In the early 1970s, flight attendants organized one of the first campaigns against workplace sexual harassment, assault, and sexual discrimination. https://www.sexinghistory.com/episode-6 Hosts and Creators: Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman. Producers: Rebecca Davis, Saniya Lee Ghanoui and Devin McGeehan Muchmore.
In the 1970s, Evangelical women published bestselling marriage manuals. These books encouraged millions of American women to have active and exciting sex lives. They also insisted that in order to find happiness, a women must submit to her husband's divinely ordained authority.
In 1973, CBS cancelled the top-rated sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie after one season. The reason: Jewish religious leaders objected to the show's positive portrayal of an interfaith marriage. This episode explores the sexual politics of American Judaism and Jewish attitudes toward intermarriage.
In 1966, before breast implants were widely available or popular, Jack Feather patented a "spring type breast developer." He made millions of dollars promising women that they could change their bodies and increase their sex appeal.
In 1975, two years after Roe v Wade, an all white and mostly Catholic jury convicted Dr. Kenneth Edelin, an African American physician, of manslaughter for performing a legal second trimester abortion. His trial transformed the anti-abortion movement.
In 1980, gays and lesbians in the U.S. had no legal right to attend high school prom with a same-sex date. Then Aaron Fricke sued his high school and everything changed.
Sexing History is coming!