The only thing better than crashing Amy Baldwin and April Lampert’s date night with a recording device last week was cracking open a beverage and listening back to it a few nights later. In person, the creators of the Shameless Sex podcast, which has dropped every week since last June, are just as they are on air: unscripted, open-minded, intelligent, and freaking hilarious. Only hotter.
With 36 episodes, nearly 70,000 downloads and a five-star rating on iTunes under their belts, the podcasters’ premise is “two best friends who make our own rules about who we are as sexual beings.” While the sex-positive movement may be familiar to the podcast’s majority of California listeners, its tolerance is revolutionary in some other parts of the country. Its growing average of 4,000 downloads a week includes those in the South and Midwest, as well as Europe, Asia and Africa.
“We get emails from people every week saying that we’re changing their lives just by talking openly about sex. They’ve never heard women do that before,” says Lampert, 35. “I get emotionally charged and activated when I read them. I feel good. And if something feels this good, you want to continue doing it.”
But the podcast’s appeal goes beyond the thrill of racy topics, sex tips, relationship tools, and prominent guests like Christopher Ryan (episode 32), co-author of Sex At Dawn and self-proclaimed shame exorcist in various charged topics on his podcast Tangentially Speaking. Unlike more mainstream sex podcasts, like Guys We Fucked—also hosted by two empowered females, albeit comedians—Shameless Sex places its emphasis on no-bullshit education, with a hard rule of no shame.
“There’s no hierarchy in shame,” says Baldwin, 32, a sex educator, Somatic sex and relationship coach and co-owner of the downtown Santa Cruz sex shop Pure Pleasure, which she opened with her mother in 2008. “Something that one person thinks is really tiny, it can be really huge for someone else.” Nobody’s saying it’s easy, but once people eradicate shame, by exposing it—to a trusted friend or partner, or, say, in an email to a podcast—a weight is lifted, she says. “And all of a sudden they can see themselves for who they really are, and finally be able to live and express that.”
While they usually record at Lampert’s house, the shameless duo has also kept up their weekly schedule from hotel rooms around the country, their car, Amsterdam’s Red Light District (episode 22 and 23), and a steaming hot kitchen in the Caribbean (episode 5 on casual sex, which features their first guest, sex educator Reid Mihalko, who you may remember from GT’s coverage of his “Blow Job Grad School” workshop in Santa Cruz.)
From desiring more than one lover (try episode 33 on non-monogamy with Celeste Hirschman of Somatica), to the location or frequency of masturbation and porn-watching, to sexless marriages, relationship anarchy, conflict resolution issues, STDs, cheating, being cheated on, fetishes, going places in the bedroom one’s never gone before—the list goes on—the message underlying all of the questions that come into the podcast’s email account, says Baldwin, is “Am I normal?”
“People want permission, to know that they’re OK,” says Lampert. “And it’s like, yeah, you’re OK. Don’t worry about it.” The underlying message in all of their answers is that there is not just one way to do things. That said, obviously some urges are not OK—and are illegal—and they’re prepared to meet those not with shame, but with resources for getting help.
The podcasters’ charismatic synergy—Baldwin is the grounded yin to Lampert’s more frenetic yang—is a sisterly bond that began 10 years ago, when they met waitressing at a restaurant on the wharf and realized they shared the gene for talking openly about their sexuality. A year later, Baldwin opened Pure Pleasure.
“I didn’t hire her because she’s my best friend, I hired her because I saw her work ethic. She’ll be on her deathbed and still be working,” says Baldwin. Lampert, who says she didn’t even own a vibrator when she detoured into retail from a planned career in law, is now the VP of the high-end international sex toy company Hot Octopuss. Over the last decade of working and traveling to trade shows together, Baldwin and Lampert amassed an invaluable Rolodex of industry professionals, setting up a perfect storm for the podcast’s conception last January: the two guest-appeared on the 40-million-downloads-strong podcast Sex with Emily with Emily Morse, Doctor of Human Sexuality. The episode quickly became Morse’s most downloaded episode of the year. In it, Lampert shines with revelations from her year of unencumbered sexcapades all over the world—part of her reemergence from a painful divorce and the shame of having cheated, which she says Baldwin helped her overcome. It all just clicked.
“I remember leaving L.A., driving home, and we had talked about maybe starting a podcast, and I remember being on Highway 5 and I messaged April ‘We’re doing this’ and she replied ‘I am in,’” says Baldwin. The initial plan was to record just five episodes and then reevaluate how it was going—but they never did revisit the idea of not continuing.
The impetus to begin Shameless Sex never involved dreams of fame or fortune—and while the podcasters have been approached by dozens of companies wanting to sponsor them, they’ve held off (though they often have a glass of wine while recording, and they’re looking for a local wine sponsor).
“It’s kind of like when we opened Pure Pleasure, it’s a similar thing in terms of the way that we work with customers—we’re not going to sell them the $200 toy if that’s not what they’re supposed to have,” says Baldwin. “And it’s always been that way, and we could make a lot more money if we did, but that’s not the way we work.”
“There’s no hierarchy in shame. Something that one person thinks is really tiny, it can be really huge for someone else.” — Amy Baldwin
So if you’re alone on Valentine’s Day, or going through a breakup, Baldwin and Lampert recommend a combination of radical self love and harkening back to our tribal beginnings by surrounding yourself with your friends—“community is the best medicine.” Invest in yourself, do something that makes you feel good, and get off social media. “Give yourself at least one week, and then maybe two,” says Lampert. “I did a couple of months, and it was liberating. I turned off my cable, and fully immersed myself in learning and bettering my brain.”
Sure, falling in love feels amazing, but even the healthiest relationships contain challenges. Being single is an opportunity to self-actualize and optimize your experience on Earth. The podcast medium is your haven, abundant with book titles and ideas from other humans interested in doing the same. That said, Shameless Sex speaks to all.
While the podcast remains a passion project for now, it’s serving listeners at a turning point in women’s rights, gender equality, and indeed, sexuality rights for all. It’s a time when women are seeking alternative knowledge about the natural science of their bodies and deciding for themselves how they want to reproduce—or not reproduce—in a world of 7.6 billion people (try episode 28 on the fertility awareness method with Lisa of the Fertility Friday podcast).
“We’re in this era of questioning,” says Baldwin. “People are starting to learn that there are these people lobbying with a whole bunch of money around politics and around our health, and we’re starting to hear more about it in podcasts and on the news. And then there’s Black Lives Matter, which is not even related to sexuality, but we’re at a turning point there, too. And my hope is that in 30 years we’ll look back and this is the new ’60s.”
More info at shamelesssex.com.