Song: Everyone’s a V.I.P. to Someone by The Go! Team
Live Story: Wart and All by Jeff Gandell
Interstitial: Wart the Fuck? by Jeff Barr
Live Story: Pussy Power by Jillian Richardson
Song: Make You Crazy (feat. Femi Kuti) by Brett Dennen
Live Story: An Inconvenient Truth by Samuel Routh
Song: So Long by Siôn Russell Jones
Risk! delves into just about every social taboo there is, giving people a chance to discuss issues they wouldn’t otherwise. Bravo! Many stories are funny, but many are heavy and hurting. I’ve heard audiences howling with laughter, and audiences silent with respect and tears.
This, I was surprised and shocked to hear the audience respond to a story about relationship violence with laughter. There were some lighter moments during the story, yes, but I was shocked when the storyteller described moments of genuine fear and concern for personal safety – and the audience laughed. Hiding in one’s apartment waiting for an abusive partner to leave isn’t silly or comical – it’s scary. Leaving a situation and trying to flee someone who is manipulative and may physically attack you isn’t ridiculous or funny – it’s a desperate attempt at self preservation, at seeking safety.
I really wonder how the audience would have responded if the exact same story were told with the genders of the storyteller and their partner reversed – if it had been a woman worried that her boyfriend would hit her, a woman crouching in her apartment with the lights out waiting for him to leave.
Female-on-male relationship abuse and domestic violence is a huge issue that is not generally treated with the same solemnity and concern as male-on-female abuse and violence. Men who are abused by their female partners are often chastized, ridiculed, dismissed – shame, shame on our society for treating this subject with such levity.
But I would have thought that the Risk! stage, of all places, would be one place where a man could discuss this subject and be taken seriously.
Perhaps the live performance conveyed more humour than the audio recording; perhaps the storyteller’s gestures and facial expressions presented the story in a deliberately humorous manner. But without visual cues, the audience response to this tale comes across as insensitive. The butt of the joke is the person being abused by their partner; his reactions to her behaviour and potential violence are seen as funny. Again, I wonder – if the genders were reversed, would there have been so much laughter?
I applaud Mr Gandell for speaking out about his experience, whether he did so in an intentionally humorous manner or not. More men need to discuss such experiences – this subject needs to be destigmatized and discussed within our society. And I am curious what his reaction was to the audience laughter – whether he intended that to happen, or whether he was surprised.
Again, bravo to the Risk! team for sharing tales of taboo subjects. These tales need to be told.
Hi Susan. Thanks for sharing that. One of the things that really stuck out to me about our experience in Montreal was that for most of the audience, the very idea of personal storytelling was new. It was the rare occasion where a great deal of the audience had not heard the podcast or attended a true storytelling show before. I think some of the laughter is just as much out of nervousness as anything. But do I feel that Jeff was able to express himself completely and that, whether or not it comes across in the recording, the audience was mostly empathetic.
Part of destigmatizing a subject is being able to freely laugh at its absurdities with fearing reprisal from Very Serious People for the crime of insufficient solemnity. Empathy doesn’t have to be humorless. Who are you to say that any of those audience members were laughing for the “wrong” reasons? That strikes me as an uncharitably cynical interpretation—especially coming from someone who admittedly wasn’t there in the room experiencing it live.
Also, it bears pointing out that the trite “same situation but with the genders swapped” argument constitutes a facile false equivalency that willfully ignores the inherent power imbalance between men in women in patriarchal societies. You simply can’t swap the genders (or races for that matter) of individuals in an any situation and expect it not to make a significant qualitative difference in how the situation is interpreted. Social context and relative meaning matter. Equality is an ideal that’s achieved by acknowledging and reconciling difference—not by pretending that it doesn’t exist.
The Look-A-Like story was incredibly disturbing to me. Obtaining consent for sex by willful deception is a violent and criminal act. I have been willing to forgive hearing problematic stories on this show because people are flawed and make mistakes. Most people have said or done something stupid or racist or shitty in their life, and this show is about breaking down taboos and just being honest. But when a story where a man sexually assaults a woman by deception (not to mention the fact that she is most likely too drunk to consent in this scenario) is presented as a story about how he finds himself and moves past his divorce, this is too much. There is no mention of how what the story describes is sexual assault. He mentions feeling bad and realizing what he did was wrong, but does not acknowledge the fact that what he did was not just wrong, but rape. I will not be listening to this show ever again. As a victim of sexual assault, I cannot stand to hear things like this on my morning run. I’m not an incredibly sensitive person, I have been listening to this show for a long time and have never felt so compelled as to leave a comment on something that upset me. I just really feel like this story crossed a line when it endorsed a rapist. I am all for sharing honest stories but only if they are honest about what they are. Sexually assaulting someone is not a funny, crazy story that helps you realize things in the end. We have all done things we feel bad about but it is not okay to frame rape in this way, ever.
Helen, I hear you. I’m sorry to have caused upset. And I should have addressed all of this in the hosting of the episode. Maybe I can go back in and re-edit some of the hosting in order to acknowledge that. You used a word I use all the time. “Endorsed.” This show does not officially “endorse” a single thing that anyone on the show confesses to have done. We give people a space to work out what they feel is the truth of what they experienced in their lives. We have featured countless stories from people who survived abusive situations and we have also featured a few stories from people who regret they they themselves were the perpetrators of abusive behavior. This is one of those stories. I feel like this show could not be all that it is if we can’t give people the space to say, “I did something fucked up.” I don’t feel like RISK! was excusing the behavior described. I felt that he made it clear he feels he was in the wrong to have misled the woman about his identity and to have allowed things to go as far as they did considering how drunk she was. Melanie Hamlett brought something up after recording her story for the episode called “Unbreakable.” She more or less said, “As messy and difficult as it might be, you should also try to occasionally have stories from people who have been on the other side of these situations. Those who violated.” So yeah, this is that messiness. I could have policed the wording that he used, insisting he phrase things a certain way, and so on. But the show would not have its raw, unfiltered nature if we came down too hard on people about what they can or cannot say about how they view what they went through. I felt that there was enough admission of guilt in the story to make it worth hearing, even if some of the specific wordings or tones of things might be extremely off-putting to some. I’ve added a warning about it prior to the story in the hosting.
If I may add something, without in any way dismissing the concerns raised, or the poster’s own awful situation, I do not think Helen’s comments are fair in regards to this specific story.
After listening carefully to this story twice, the woman was in control of the situation, the author said, “we were making a connection, getting to know each other as humans” which implies she was alert and aware and both were forming an emotional attachment, and we have no evidence to suggest otherwise. She was aware enough to answer questions about her previous employment, right before SHE suggested sex, not him. Nor did she ever ask him to stop and he continued against her will.
Again, with deference and empathy to the poster’s own experience, suggesting this was sexual assault is factually wrong based on the information provided, unfair to both parties, and entirely consensual based on the information provided. Calling it “rape” is inappropriate and delegitimizes actual cases therein.
I think that Kevin, after 821 podcasts, has shown good judgment, and would not have permitted a story that correlates to Helen’s allegations.
There isn’t a lot of discussion of this story going on here on the LISTEN page, but there is a tremendous deal of discussion about this story going on in private emails sent to us at RISK! Some women are defending the idea of keeping the story on the episode. They share my concern that if we don’t give storytellers some room to be debatable, to be “messy,” to be wrong even, then we’re not going to be creating an authentically unfiltered sort of show. It really does make me uncomfortable when listeners insist that anything a storyteller talks about having done in a story, that the podcast is “endorsing” that our listeners go out now and do that thing. Or when listeners write in that because an audience member laughed at a certain point in a story, that means the RISK! podcast is endorsing the idea that whatever was just said is “funny.” When I put this story on the show, I hadn’t heard it in a long time. But I remembered it as being told by someone who fucked up, crossed lines that shouldn’t be crossed, and was attempting to be coming clean about that in front of this audience. But more women are voicing concern that tone of the story does not land in such a way as to suggest the storyteller is as empathetic and compassionate toward the woman in the story as he is toward himself. I get that. Concerning what Ellen just wrote, I will say that oftentimes, it’s more the tone of voice, a sort of verbal attitude, conveyed in the performance that is more off-putting to people than the literal text of what a storyteller says. We do prefer for storytellers to be conveying as much of a critical attitude toward themselves and as compassionate an attitude toward others as possible. So, I get that some women are feeling like that tone is not coming across for them in this story, and so it feels lousy to them that it’s on the podcast.
I’m having a big problem with how minimalized this is. Saying it’s about someone who “fucked up and crossed lines” isn’t the same as saying “someone committed a crime against another person.” I think this story keeps getting downplayed and the focus of the argument is apparently “we don’t want to censor anything.” There’s a difference between censorship and avoiding being exploitative. This story felt nothing but exploitative to me.
Regarding what Helen, Ellen and Maggie were talking about above, I finally decided to remove that story they’re referring to from this episode. On the following episode, titled “Heart and Arrow,” I explain the whole situation at length in the first hosting segment after the RISK! theme song. I recommend people listen to that explanation. Several women, not just here but via email, expressed that the story in question made them extremely uncomfortable. I listened to it once more and what the women had expressed was resonating with me. I decided to remove the story. There is an entirely new story at the end of this “Getting to Know You” episode now, by a different storyteller. It’s called “An Inconvenient Truth” and it’s by Samuel Routh.
The contrast between the first/last stories and the comments regarding them is very interesting. Thank you Susan for your insight – wish I could say the same about some other comments on here.
Upon hearing of your censorship of this episode, I have unsubscribed from your podcast and I strongly encourage others to follow suit. As a longtime listenser, I have always appreciated the extreme honesty and openness that defines the storytelling on this show. I have heard a great many stories over the years that have made me quite uncomfortable and a few times I have even fast forwarded through some parts. Considering the nature of the show, I understand that publicly voicing my own personal uncomfortability with the content would compromise the entire premise of the podcast The self-censorship of a show that prides itself on freedom is so absolutely lacking in any sense of dignity, I wonder what is happening to our world!
As I said in the opening hosting segment for the “Heart and Arrow” episode, at least 50% of the stories workshopped, performed and recorded for the show do not make it to the podcast and probably only 30% of the stories pitched to us end up in the process. That is what curating and producing a program of any sort of quality entails. I also pointed out that we’ve had to do this before although rarely. Usually because storytellers cite that family or legal representation or someone mentioned in the story demanded it. The comments I find most suspect, whether coming from the left, the right, this angle or that angle, are the ones worded along the lines of, “I’ve heard the 1000+ stories you’ve run so far, but in this case, you were out of bounds, so I’ll never listen again.” I guess that most “story slams” where what is being shared is determined only by drawing names out of hats and seeing what happens based on who entered the room are, technically, completely uncensored in an absolutist sense. So there’s that alternative.
Hi Kevin, I really appreciate the integrity you showed in listening to and considering the comments you received about this show. Thank you for that, and thank you for this awesome and important podcast!
I have a true scenario to pose for the listening audience at large. After I married my first wife, I contracted HPV. Not being a cheater, all signs pointed to you-know-who, so I asked her if this was something she knew about to which she responded, “Yes, but I didn’t tell you because I was afraid you wouldn’t want to be with me.” She was right. I wouldn’t have. According to Helen’s description above, this constitutes rape, correct?
Just another note. Anyone concerned that RISK! is shying away from difficult listening, that is not where things are going. We are currently working on a story about someone who engages in cannibalism, another by a man who admits to having abused women, another by someone who committed an extremely brutal murder, and another, by me, about a time I was ambushed by surprise and forced to drink piss by a bunch of total strangers. Like all other RISK! stories, these stories will go through a long process of us carefully deciding whether or not they have the nuance, the self-critical perspective and the compassionate point-of-view that we tend to find most compelling and edifying to run on the show. In this one instance, the second-guessing on our part about whether a story was “coming off” the way we’d hoped it would come off came AFTER we’d already put it out there. This is not a situation of RISK! wanting to shut down conversation. It’s a situation where, in the curation of our archive, we decided this one wasn’t quite working as we’d initially seen it working. If someone wants to call me out for being like George Lucas or Francis Coppola altering their prior releases, I admit, in that sense, I’m guilty.
I love your work and this podcast. I listened to last week’s episode. I thought the guy was an asshole but so is someone who wants to sleep with you for your celebrity persona, a perfect match. Lying is wrong but so is using someone. No biggie. I also respect your decision to take it down once you received feedback from your listeners. You are right with the damn if you do and damned it you do ‘t but Kevin I sincerely appreciate the effort because that’s life. Trying and trying again!! Keep in, keeping on Kev!! Love a fan!
To be an obnoxious lawyer, there is nothing criminal about letting someone think you’re a famous comedian and sleeping with them. The sex act was consensual. I understand thinking it’s bad to lie but sex by deception isn’t a crime well unless the possibility knowingly gives you an std. Letting someone think you’re Bob but you really are Bill is rude and gross but not a crime.
I love risk, but I’m really disappointed that you censored the mistaken identity story. I think it’s a ridiculous proposition to try and equate that scenario to sexual violence. As it was described it was more like a case of “star fucker” meets her match. Please don’t let the PC army turn Risk into another timid, tiptoeing show.
Listening to the story I felt like it was a situation where the guy was taking you through his emotional state and letting the audience have the same trip. First being amused with himself and romanticizing this deception and then once the reality of it sets in feeling remorseful and like a douchebag.
If you became very offended at the beginning you might not even be giving him any benefit of the doubt by the end if you’re even listening at all. I found myself on that ride while listening, first laughing along with the guy and then thinking, yeah I guess that is pretty douchey by the end.
I found the mistaken identity story horrifying and I’m glad it was removed. I guess it was a good reminder of how awful men can be in order to sleep with someone but it felt like a celebration of his story to have it included on a RISK podcast. He didn’t sound like he regretted lying to her. It sounded like he regretted thinking that she lied to him about her kids. His comments about how all women are his type while he is trying to flirt with the audience in order to put out post-show feelers cemented that he was an asshole before he even got close to the worst parts of the story. Kevin – I’m sure he regretted having that story online. It makes it easy for anyone to see what a creep he is. I’m sure he is glad it’s been taken down. But I am too. Thanks.
Hey Kevin. I really appreciate that you listen and respect fan feedback enough to edit a published episode. I don’t think of it as censorship, but rather something that happened to slip through the editorial process, and you’re correcting it now. Just wanted to give you props for that.
After reading all the posts, I’ll comment again, briefly. I am saddened that this episode was taken down after receiving pressure from the community. If you have been the victim of sexual assault, that’s a terrible thing. If you view this story through that prism then you have not come a place where you have adequately dealt with your trauma. Judging? Yes. Fair is fair.
RISK! is about taking a chance and telling your story, regardless of the morality behind it. I missed the opportunity to listen to the original episode and the story that everyone is up in arms about. The storyteller’s voice has been silenced – for what benefit? If there is a problem with the story being told, I don’t believe that we accomplish anything by simply removing or ignoring it. I believe RISK! missed the opportunity to have an honest discussion between the audience and the storyteller regarding the subject matter. We don’t move forward as a people by covering up the cracks, we must take the time to fix them – together.
Congratulations – you’ve turned Risk! into a safe space. Ironic and pathetic. I’m unsubscribing. Best of luck to this podcast and the next generation as they get out into the real world. A world where some people like to fuck famous people and random folks lie to get laid.
The man in the last story did seem guilty and remorseful in my opinion. Every time I give a speech, I forget half of what I originally meant to say. Like Kevin has said, some of what he originally meant to say did not come through in the story. I was not offended, as a woman. There are creeps out there everywhere, and he has clearly learned from that experience. I say props to the man who told the story for vilifying himself for the sake of the story. He had to know that people would think of him poorly, and yet he told it anyway…which is part of the RISK. While I see peoples’ points about the nature of the message, I am still a fan of the show and will continue to listen religiously.
Regarding “Seoul,” see comments 12 and 15. In the episode immediately following this one, a 17-year old starts a romantic relationship with a 58-year old. In the episode immediately following that one, someone physically injures someone else to the point of possibly ending that person’s career and someone else shares about his fantasies of having sex with his mother. Plus, like I said in comment 15, we have a lot in the works. I list a few of them in that comment. And like I suggested in comment 12, whenever someone says they’re unsubscribing over one story, I tend to think that person is either lying or just being too dramatic to take all that seriously.
Kevin, I didn’t unsubscribe over content or this one story. You’ve got is backwards. The very point is that, like everyone else, I own a fast forward button.
Censoring content on a podcast like Risk not only goes against the main premise of the show, but is also hypocritical.
Normally, I would just silently stop listening to a podcast at this point. But
Kevin’s other comment gives me a glimpse of hope, so I’ll try to articulate
why I believe the action of removing that story is potentially a fatal wound
to the integrity of the show. It will be a long-ish comment, but I’ll will try to my argument as clear as possible.
First, I’ll give you a personal account of why I was listening to the show to begin with. To me, it was a bastion of freedom of speech and an investigation
into the human nature. Here, people would talk about difficult subjects and stories publicly, whereas anywhere else they would have to exercise self-censorship. The critical feature is the lack of both self-censorship and censorship.
It was great if to encounter a story that I can relate to, but most value comes from getting truthful vicarious experience, something that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise, something that, by definition, I can’t relate to, because it’s not my experience, my thoughts or reflections of my moral compass. I’m stepping into somebody else’s mind and letting them show we around. It can be territory that I can relate to and something that I like, or it can be harsh terrain that I would prefer not to live in myself. Luckily, there is a fast-forward button, so I can end the journey anytime and go back to the safe space of my own mind.
Once that terrain start to become “enhanced” for public visitors, this whole projects starts to loose its whole purpose.
Now it seems that there are being defined parameters of what you’re allowed to hear and how you’re allowed to hear it. Those parameters are being defined, in practice, by most vocal Risk listeners and the degree of their outrage.
So, we, less vocal listeners can’t rely on Risk to be the aggregator of “risky” stories, because “risky” stories are something that, by their nature, will be disliked or offend people. This is why their “risky” to begin with. What “risk” refers to if not the risk of public disapproval? And if perceived public disapproval will cause the story not to appear on the podcast to begin with, then the premise of the show is broken.
At that point it is disingenuous to call the podcast like this. Yes, certain stories that would still appear on the podcast would be risky to tell in a church or to your coworker, but they would not be risky to tell to an audience that you know will approve them, because you filtered all other stories that you perceive would not be approved.
Now, the second fatal blow to the integrity of the show is creating a perception that a story teller will not just “Take a risk”, but s/he will
“Take a risk and get executed online by an outraged Internet mob that behaves like like the judge and the executioner at the same time”. At that point this will not even be something that is in your control, because your guests will execute self-censorship and tell a somewhat true-ish story. You wouldn’t even know it, because how would you, if they would never tell the full story with all its gory details and shameful working of their inner mind? They will tailor it to your most vocal audience from the beginning, and perhaps even be self-deceptive, to avoid taking too much risk.
Not only it’s bad for integrity of the show if the hosts listens to his most vocal critics and administers censorship, but having that criticism to begin with compromises the integrity of the show. Of course, having a more measured, curious and unconditionally compassionate audience is not even on the table here, since we can’t even have basic freedom of speech.
Maintaining a show like this takes a lot of heavy balls, emotional toughness and sticking to one’s core values under constant social pressure. While I’m sure that Kevin’s balls are rather heavy, based on his actions it does not seem that he is idealistic enough be able to safe the integrity of the show.
That social pressure is unavoidable due to the nature of the show. That is, unless it becomes a complete echo-chamber designed to avoid ruffling anybody’s feathers. That social pressure will take different forms. Some people will just get angry, some people will threaten to ignore you, some people will get offended and play on your emotions, claiming that your content victimizes them. So, at the same time one can feel like he’s a victim of society’s faulty moral compass, and simultaneously that he’s a perpetrator that causes emotional distress or contributes to the problem we see in the society today; that no matter what he does, he is always wrong, people are pissed and puppies are being strangled. Even comments like this one is a form of social pressure that the host of a show like this will always have to deal with, the more successful the show becomes.
In that environment one has to have an idealistic personality, and stubbornly follow certain principles, like freedom of speech, to be able to maintain his sanity amid a shitstorm of criticism and emotional manipulation that will inevitable come his way. One has to religiously believe that, over the long run, those principles will do more good than harm, and not give even a single inch to whoever tries to violate them.
Otherwise, somebody inevitably will convince the host that certain story told in a certain way is bad, or somebody deserves to a victim of the Internet lynch mob, and he will have an emotional moment and give an inch and then another inch and before he knows it, the whole project is compromised.
Personally, I did not have a problem with the deleted story at all. But I think Kevin made it clear that he did not remove the story because some people didn’t like it. The comments made him see the story in a different light, and notice something about it he had overlooked before. As I said, I thought the story was funny and interesting, but I can’t fault him for changing his mind. He’s allowed to do that. And he does not put every story he gets on the podcast.
And the story he added after the fact is wonderful!
Now I really wanna hear this controversial story !!!
i wanna hear it now, too – dang!
I just listen to Jillian story. I am listening in a marathon stories going front to back. I am tempted to tell Jillian that I find her ending of the story disturbing. I dated girls who tested their “pussy power” at my expenses and it is repugnant.
The irony is that Julian’s and Larry’s story are very similar. Julian used her sexuality to fulfill something materialistic and Larry used the perception of being wealthy (materialistic) to obtain sex.
Not really seeing how this is considered rape if your partner lies to you. If that were the case, I’ve been raped by many women.