Six years ago the media and commuters alike were in a frenzy over ‘mummy porn’ – the erotic pages of Fifty Shades of Grey were gracing train carriages across the country, with covers either bent backwards or held high to hide the red faces of Christian Grey’s admirers. Fast-forward to 2017 and Hook’s research is showing that heads are buzzing with social taboos; stories of sex and porn, murder, injustice and strange yellow skinned men biting the necks of diners along American highways. Yet our train carriages are now full of headphones, commuters as poker–faced as they were pre-mummy porn and no one knows who’s listening to what (unless you happen to be next to someone shaking with laughter, in which case, they’re probably MDWAP fans). Despite our normal eye-contact-avoiding behaviour, the iTunes Podcast charts show we are still indulging in social taboo subjects, but this time, we’re listening.
The Closed Screen Nature of Podcasts Allows Freedom to Explore Social Taboos
Recently, Hook Research chatted to a group of women about their podcast listening habits and delved into their private interests.
One respondent described The Guilty Feminist as ‘a guilty pleasure’, a chance to indulge in her ‘bad feminist’ habits (think Watching Beauty and the Beast in your wedding dress), whilst another shared her relief at hearing Bill Burr joke his way through some criticisms he had over the women’s march, which she was too afraid to discuss with her friends. The excitement raised over Guys We F****d was electric; the women who hadn’t yet listened were intrigued, empowered and shocked by the name, eager to hear unfiltered and unashamed sex stories from other women.
The closed screen nature of the podcaster hiding behind the microphone and the listener hiding behind the lock screen of their smart phones is allowing social taboos and our deepest, sometimes darkest interests and fears to seep into our realities.
My Favourite Murder features Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark excitedly discussing their favourite serial killers and murders with a mix of humour, anxiety and fear. Whilst for us that’s too much to stomach, it’s clearly got a fan base, making it to No.1 in the iTunes Comedy list. The hosts admit that it’s not all about a fascination with true crime, “I think humour is a lot of people’s way to take away the fear and anxiety of a thing that scares the shit out of you – that’s definitely our angle.” Podcasting has allowed the hosts to explore their fascination and very real fear of death, without the same judgement that comes with discussing it with your unsuspecting friends who had no idea you were so morbid.
Finding Your Social Taboo Tribe
Podcasts are a private space where you can live out some of your more abstract, weird and wonderful interests and sit alone with your thoughts about them.
Whilst some of our respondents have tried to share their favourite podcasts with friends and family, perhaps it’s better to stick with like-minded enthusiasts… “My favourite’s a bit of a weird one. It’s quite dark sometimes [referring to Casefile]. There’s one with a young girl having an exorcism and I was thinking ‘Bloody hell, it’s 8 in the morning – is this a bit much?’ I recommended it to my friend and they were like ‘What is this?’ and I tried to play it to my boyfriend, but he said it was weird and told me to turn it off.”
With podcasts, you can find your taboo gang, your guilty pleasure tribe – you can sit in the comfort of your train carriage knowing that somewhere out there, maybe even next to you, someone has the same strange interest in social taboos as you do. As Shira Hirschman Weiss puts it “Psssst… Hey you. Yes you. You’re not alone and you needn’t be ashamed.”
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