When journalism junior Samantha Riordan arrived in her Podcasting class (JOUR 470), her professor asked if any students had an idea for potential podcast themes. Suddenly, inspiration struck her: a sex podcast about dating and hookup culture from the perspective of college students, designed for college students.
“It kind of just hit me that I was like ‘oh this could be something really cool because it’s something that my friends and I talk about all the time and its something that’s so relevant to us at Cal Poly,’” Riordan said.
Immediately this caught the attention of her classmates, journalism seniors Miki Dubery and Alexa Kushner. The girls formed a group of six students for the assignment and “Cal Polyamorous” was born.
“Cal Polyamorous” is an inclusive sex podcast that highlights “the bold hilarity, ego-bruising humiliation and the harrowing horror hookup stories of students navigating through hookup culture and dating life here at Cal Poly.”
Throughout the quarter the girls worked together as the hosts and content creators to build a marketing platform for their podcast through social media posts, a landing page, website, logo design and brand development.
They currently have three episodes uploaded to Spotify and other streaming platforms where they discuss everything from stories about dating app experiences and Greek life to topics of sexual assault, racism and homophobia.
“At first it was kinda hard because we literally recorded in a bathroom because the sound was the best and it was our first time the three of us doing this,” Dubery wrote in an email to Mustang News. “We were putting all of our ideas from paper to existence and that was tricky. We had to find our flow, but we did in no time.”
Through the listener and guest stories they include, the team said they hope to ensure “Cal Polyamorous” is representative of diverse voices and perspectives. The creators noted that there is room to grow towards complete inclusivity.
“It hasn’t gone unnoticed and that is what I want to get out there – that a lot of our guests have been white people but we’d like to have other perspectives,” Kushner said.
“Cal Polyamorous” aims to be a platform where Cal Poly students can share their own stories and relate to others’ shared experiences. Additionally, the hosts said that they hope the podcast can bring attention to experiences which do not receive enough representation.
Despite some nervousness about the transparency of intimate topics on the show, the girls have stated that “Cal Polyamorous” has brought each of them a sense of empowerment to discussing sex-related issues freely.
For difficult topics that may be triggering for some audience members, they have included a sound effect and statement at the beginning of each episode to serve as a content warning.
With the assistance of their professor, Patti Piburn, the “Cal Polyamorous” team devoted a large amount of time to ensure that when they address difficult conversations, they go about it in a respectful and inclusive manner.
“While they want to be inclusive and they want to share lots of diverse stories, they didn’t want to appear as if they were either excluding other groups or that they were speaking for them when they can only really speak to their lived experience — and I think they were very sensitive to that,” Piburn said.
This past summer, the girls took a break in recording and creating new episodes. Dubery was working for the i24NEWS television channel in Tel Aviv, Israel, while Riordan and Kushner remained in the United States, and time differences made it challenging for the group to meet up. However, they have been in contact and discussed plans to create new content throughout this school year.
The girls said they hope that “Cal Polyamorous” gains traction this year, and listeners feel empowered when they hear the stories of their fellow students’ dating and sexual experiences.
“Hopefully, we will harvest a generation of more self-aware and self-assured, sexy listeners that will be able to give themselves what they deserve,” Dubery wrote.
They said they encourage criticism and comments from those who listen and may have input for improving the show.
“I accept criticism all the time from this podcast just cause it’s so new,”Kushner said. “It’s still building a foundation so it is fun to hear what the people want, what the people don’t like or what could be added to it.”
The girls’ work on “Cal Polyamorous” has been recognized by faculty as an example for the future of what student podcasting can become.
“I’m really impressed with them,” Piburn said. “I think it makes me hopeful for what this class can do and what the radio station can do if they’re having such success. It really helps pave the way for students behind them.”
What has started as a simple class assignment, has transformed into an undertaking that these women are hopeful to see evolve.
“I hope that we get more momentum and this thing keeps growing and reaching more people, and if so, if our Cal Polyam-Fam decides they want to keep us around, I am sure we will find a way to do so,” Riordan said.