As the Host of the Popular WUNC Show ‘Embodied,’ Anita Rao Isn’t Afraid of a Taboo Topic or Two

2.09 Etc Embodied By Sandra Davidson For WUNC 011

If you’ve by no means had the expertise of listening to public radio—possibly on a morning commute, possibly balancing a mug of espresso—and immediately encountering a section on intercourse toys, then enable me to introduce you to Embodied, a live, weekly WUNC radio show hosted by Durham’s Anita Rao, which celebrated its first birthday final month.

Rao, 33, is the former managing editor and part-time host of The State of Things, which ended its long run at the end of 2020. Embodied started as an experiment throughout Rao’s time filling in as a host, as she sought to succeed in a youthful, extra various viewers with matters that don’t usually see airwave area; as soon as The State of Things ended, Embodied grew to become its personal present.

On the WUNC web site, the present falls underneath the tag “well being & health,” a designation that nearly makes it sound as if it’s a present about tips on how to optimize your abs routine. Embodied, although, is a present about understanding, not optimizing. With its three-pronged strategy to intercourse, well being, and relationships, it affords an expansive image of what it means to be human and to reside in a physique. Past episode matters have included demise doulas, love in incarceration, menopause, and bodybuilders.

The intercourse toys episode, as an example, is handled with a sensible and curious contact, with Rao interviewing the CEO of a intercourse toy firm, the co-founder of a firm that makes accessible intercourse toys for individuals with disabilities, and a blogger who opinions intercourse toys. Though Embodied does include occasional “set off warnings” for significantly sexual matters, in case kids are round, Rao is a forthright interviewer and there isn’t a lot of verbal blushing or winking about intimacy. Instead, it’s handled as a sensible want, a body that feels particularly essential throughout a pandemic when the world has felt more and more isolating.

Listeners have responded in variety, too: the present, which broadcasts on WUNC 12:00–1:00 p.m. on Fridays, can be obtainable in podcast kind; by the present’s second season, downloads had elevated 21 p.c, with 52,5500 downloads. Recently, we caught up with Rao about vulnerability, taboo matters, and having her dad and mom be part of the dialog.


INDY WEEK: How has your thought of the scope of these matters modified since beginning the present?

ANITA RAO: This sounds ridiculous however the identify for the present actually got here to me at like three in the morning. I awoke and was like, “Embodied. That’s excellent.” It got here from the thought that each one these items we’re experiencing—intercourse and relationships and issues that we’re experiencing out in the world—have an effect on how we see our physique and the way our physique pertains to different individuals and what it feels prefer to be in a physique.

Some of the conversations I’ve grown to like most are about two individuals in a relationship and the way their conception of their our bodies has modified as a result of of their relationship to the different individual. One of my favourite conversations was with this couple—she has ALS they usually had been speaking collectively about her terminal sickness and their romantic relationship.

The manner that they cared for each other by means of their phrases and dialog and what got here by means of about the tenderness of an intimate relationship whenever you’re coping with, like, taking a look at demise each single day—I discovered that to be so highly effective. How relational our our bodies are is what’s coming to the fore for me.

As a tradition, supposedly we’re changing into extra open. Do you’re feeling like there are nonetheless matters which are nonetheless off-limits?

Sex. There’s a 29-second promo that airs in the days main as much as the present that teases what the present is about. And every time we’re speaking about intercourse we get a lot pushback earlier than the present even airs.

One of the criticisms of the present that I wrestle with the most is, “Fine in the event you guys are going to have a present about these matters however put it after darkish; it’s not applicable to be speaking about in the center of the day.”

I discover it to be further vital that it’s in the center of the day as a result of the level of the present is that intercourse will not be inherently salacious. There is a technique to speak about these items that open up extra—extra empathy, extra curiosity, and extra understanding. Relegating us to a time at evening the place solely sure persons are partaking with it’s exactly what I’m pushing again towards with the present.

Our program director is a big advocate of the present and after we do get that listener suggestions that claims that, he’ll say, you already know, “Have you listened to the entire present? Or listened to this different episode?”

That perspective is wild as a result of it means that intercourse is simply one thing on a shelf, you already know, not one thing that impacts each different space of life.

Yeah, precisely. And the present basically believes that pleasure is a human proper. It’s a half of our existence that we should always embrace and speak about. So many issues emerge from not being prepared to acknowledge that publicly.

Your dad and mom have participated. How did they arrive to be concerned in the present? How has that felt?

In the run-up to launching the podcast model of the present, I did some interviews with different ladies in the podcasting trade whom I admired, getting their recommendation for launching a present and changing into hosts. I had a dialog with Anna Sale, who’s the host of Death, Sex & Money. One of the issues that she stated to me that basically struck a chord was like, “Why ought to individuals belief you to be having these conversations? How are you making your self weak in the course of of doing the present?”

It actually obtained me considering, as a result of I really feel extraordinarily snug in the function of interviewer, of being the one main and moderating the dialog, however when the tables are turned again on me, I’m not all the time snug. Bringing my dad and mom into the present was an train in my very own vulnerability as a result of I didn’t develop up in a sex-positive family. I by no means obtained the intercourse discuss from my dad and mom. My mother grew up in a very Catholic upbringing and my dad is an Indian immigrant—my dad and mom are each immigrants. We simply by no means talked about intercourse, ever. Opening up these matters with them was mirroring to listeners that I’m prepared to make myself actually uncomfortable; I’m prepared to be weak about what I don’t know and ask questions that make me scared.

I feel they’ve actually appreciated attending to know me in a completely different manner. I really feel like the half of my pursuits that come out in Embodied usually are not one thing that I’ve actually shared with them as overtly. This was a manner of variety of like bringing that full circle into my relationship with them as their child.

What’s in your want record for this subsequent yr of Embodied?

I need to have extra adolescents on. I really like that age the place they’re unfiltered and brutally trustworthy about the world and likewise studying about their our bodies in real-time—there’s a lot to be taught. 


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