2019 Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Use of Audio Storytelling finalist

Sex Hurts

About the Project

“Sex Hurts” is the premiere episode of the critically-acclaimed Bodies podcast. Each episode follows the journey of one woman (inclusively defined) to solve her medical mystery. This feminist documentary podcast combines intimate, nuanced storytelling with health reporting to uncover the layers that affect women’s health, like racism, patriarchy, and capitalism.

Through a blend of personal storytelling and investigative reporting, host Allison Behringer takes the listener through her own health mystery. She is 24 when sex started to hurt. She tries to ignore it; she researches it online. Her gynecologist tells her it will go away. But it doesn’t. Sex is painful and no one around her seems to understand. Finally, after getting a referral for a specialist from a friend who visited 20 doctors over the course of seven years before getting a diagnosis, Allison is diagnosed with vulvodynia. Allison is shocked when her doctor tells her that the birth control pill is the cause of this particular kind of vulvodynia. Allison goes off the pill and goes to pelvic floor physical therapy.

Allison then investigates the little-known history of the birth control pill and uncovers the way that sexism and patriarchy have shaped our understanding of contraception, sex and pleasure. The story also dives into the health science and social science that impact women’s sexual and reproductive health.

This episode is infused with intimacy. Allison shares how painful sex affected her relationship with her partner. She also brings the listener into a conversation with her mother about how the family’s relative silence around sexuality impacted the situation.

This episode is a quest, not only to find out the cause of painful sex, but also to learn how to advocate for oneself. It’s a journey to figure out why we don’t know more about our bodies. This episode explores pain, pleasure, and intimacy. It’s a sociological story that sheds light on the way that our culture, society and history shape our individual health experiences. It also shares vital health information that has previously been under-reported and under-researched.