You can’t see sex on the radio
“Sex is a creative, unitive act. Sex is about communication. Radio regulation should be about communication, too.”
—*Revolutionary Ideas for Radio Regulation*, Douglas Galbi
People need to be informed about sex, and as sophomore design major Joannie Wu said, “The best way to get people to learn is if they like what they’re listening to.” A show like WRCT’s “Is it in Yet?” is a key device for communicating the issues of sex to the Carnegie Mellon campus. The information on the show is presented in a humorous manner; it’s not like the sexual education class you took in high school where everything was serious and you were asked to leave the room if you started laughing. It’s more like an hour-long relaxed discussion of a sex-related topic full of facts, opinions, puns, and innuendoes.
Hosted by Wu and Alex Smith, a sophomore math major, the show covers important topics such as STDs and gay/lesbian issues, as well as special features such as an interview with a dominatrix. The hosts try to present information that is interesting, but not necessarily obscure.
“It’s the stuff that people wouldn’t go out of their way to learn about, even though they’re curious,” said Wu. Many of the topics come from the hosts’ personal interest or popular questions from friends. They do a bit of “pre-friend research” before the show to broaden their knowledge and perspective of the subjects. It is (obviously) subjective, as they can’t possibly know everything about the topics. The callers during the show contribute greatly to the content. The hosts find themselves answering questions ranging from your typical relationship problems to “Is semen vegan?”
But how far can they really go?
A disclaimer before every show states that the contents discuss sex, that the opinions are of the participants, and that “listener discretion is advised.” And, of course, all of the callers on the show are disguised with aliases.
The radio can be limiting — the hosts can’t just show their listeners a diagram; they have to describe it. And how exactly do they describe it? Well, as you might have guessed, there are several words that are taboo on the radio.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has defined broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities. Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.” Profane speech is prohibited on broadcast radio (and television) between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm. As the show goes on at 10 pm, it has a bit more freedom, but the hosts still have to keep it PG.
In addition, obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time. The Supreme Court has established that, to be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test:
* An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
* The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
* The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
The hosts say that censoring their language is not as difficult as it may seem. “We speak with clinical terms,” said Wu. “We don’t need to say ‘cock’ to get the point across; we can just say ‘penis.’” They also have their producers there to catch any slip-ups. The callers on the show have greater difficulty with censoring, as they have not developed this skill as the DJs have. In order to minimize this problem, there is a seven-second delay when the caller goes on the air. Actually, being on the radio can be advantageous because the hosts can describe things (in clinical terms) that they would not be able to show on TV.
As Smith said, “Every college radio needs a sex show.” For all of you who would like to go against the classic mindset “sex kills, come to CMU and live forever” and would like a chance to talk about sex, tune into 88.3 FM WRCT at 10 pm on Wednesday night, and as Salt n’ Pepa sang in their infamous hit “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic” because, I promise, “that ain’t gonna stop it.”