Episode #906

Date November 13, 2017

Run Time 1:15:50

Matt Koff, Laura Swearingen-Steadwell and Patti Smith share stories about a wedding engagement, an encounter on a Greyhound, and good girls breaking bad.

Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner and John Sondericker

Song: Rampage by The Whitefield Brothers

Live Story: Meowry Me by Matt Koff

Interstitial: Proposal Fail (condensed by Jeff Barr)

Radio Story: The Magic Touch by Laura Swearingen-Steadwell

Song: Be Mine by Ofenbach

Live Story: Good Girls by Patti Smith

Song: All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers



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Lauren Houghtalin
6 years ago

I’m glad the greyhound woman isn’t upset about the stranger who invaded her space without her consent…. But really? With all of the awareness around assault lately, I think this was in really bad taste. She annoyed the shit out of me. I woke up to my friend’s husband sexually assaulting me not long ago and this was pretty triggering. Barf, y’all done fucked up in my opinion.

6 years ago

@Lauren Houghtalin, I’m sorry that the story was an upsetting experience for you.

I liked Laura Swearingen-Steadwell a lot when I met her and worked on the story with her. As unusual and mysterious as the experience she described was, I was moved to hear her share something so personal and appreciated her point of view about what she lived through.

Here is a transcription of what I said in the hosting segment about that story:

“That story brings to mind what we’re going through right now where so many victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault are coming forward lately to tell their stories. It’s incredibly important for us all to listen, listen, listen to those stories. And it’s important to check in and talk with one another — whether just with friends or lovers — about consent and negotiation on an ongoing basis. That’s a conversation to keep having.

Laura’s story is… as far as I know an anomaly…. I’ve never heard of anything like it before. But as a gay man, I’ve come from a culture where totally non-verbal sex with total strangers is not unusual. Sex where no one ever actually says the words “Yes” or “No.” That’s more likely to happen in a man-to-man situation. That’s why it’s so surprising to hear this story we just heard. But I’ve talked in my stories before about how subtle and nuanced and evolving a thing consent can be in an interaction, from one moment to the next. Like in that story, Laura said that she was prepared to stop it if it came to a point where she felt she needed to. So all I can recommend is, keep sharing about it and keep listening to those who want to share about it and put your most compassionate mindset in the game when engaging in those conversations.”

To add to those comments I made on the episode, I would say that historically, RISK! has run at least one #MeToo sort of story each month for years. This particular story is something else. It was pitched for our “With Bawdy in Brooklyn” live show in September but we decided it would make for a better radio-style story.

RISK! is always looking for stories that are unexpected. Stories you will not hear most other places. Stories where people share aspects of their life experiences that might be challenging or even sometimes downright bewildering to take in. So we always warn people that the very title of the series itself could be thought of as a trigger warning, really. Every week, people tell me, “shame on you for running that,” or, “what bad taste you’ve shown,” or “how dare you put me through that listening experience?” For those messages to stop coming our way, we’d have to make RISK! something other than RISK!

Lauren Houghtalin
6 years ago

@Kevin, I appreciate the response. I heard what you said after the story, and I think I understood what you said. I think you drew an inaccurate comparison. You brought up non-verbal sex, and from what I recall from some stories, this took place in bath houses, sex clubs, and known cruising spots. I would say that being in these spaces suggests some level of consent, or at least interest in sex. A Greyhound bus in no way similar.

Again I’m very glad this wasn’t a troubling experience for the story teller. But that doesn’t change the fact that this man began to caress a woman who appeared to be sleeping on a bus without her consent, and for all he knew she really was asleep. Giggling about and enjoying a sexual assault is disturbing…. Maybe some people are into that kind of thing, and that’s fine, but it is creepy and assaulty.

But hey, it’s your show. Maybe I’ll work on my pitch about how I was sexually assaulted while sleeping on a couch at a friend’s house.

6 years ago

Hi Lauren,

I’m also sorry my story troubled you. What Kevin said about nonverbal communication, though, is absolutely accurate. What makes the story remarkable is the fact that nothing remotely like it happened before or since. With this stranger, there was a strong sense of intuitive understanding, that we were very much attuned to and reading each other from the moment he stepped on the bus. I can see why this would be difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced something like this to understand, but that’s how it happened.

As Kevin mentioned, I was prepared to say no at any point. This man initiated very passive contact with me, and very, very slowly escalated. Yet he never actually touched me. It’s a strange story. But it’s not a story of assault. It’s a story of an unlikely and unusual encounter that left me deeply satisfied and awestruck.

Do you know what’s actually kind of creepy? Having an experience that was consensual for me labelled assault by a stranger. That’s not what it was. I’m not ashamed that I let someone touch me, and that I enjoyed it. It’s a reminder to me that sex is complicated. It’s complicated that this man never actually touched me, isn’t it? Yet we’re all still considering this a sexual encounter.

“For all he knew” is a strange thing to write, as well. He was sitting right next to me, paying complete attention to me. My body was responding to him. He knew I wasn’t asleep. And to reiterate, he never even touched the clothes touching my skin; he wasn’t grabbing my pussy out of the blue. It’s a bizarre story, but strangely, it felt like one of the “cleanest” sexual acts I’ve ever been a part of.

Why take my word for it, though? “Believe women” only applies to victims of assault, I guess?

Moloch Masters
6 years ago

Lauren, if you haven’t contacted the police about your assault please do so. Your assault and Laura’s story are two completely separate things. It’s clear that you are hurting and are trying to get your story out. You can turn this around. You can heal without harming other people. Write it down, put all of the emotions on paper. You can deal with negative emotions in a positive way. I wish you luck and hope you find the healing that you seek. I see a therapist and it helps so much just to talk about things.

Lauren Houghtalin
6 years ago

@Laura, I’m sorry I offended you or turned your words around. You’re right, you put this story out there and your perception of the encounter is the one that matters. And you’re so right about sexual encounters being complicated… I still think this would make me uncomfortable, but that is because of my experiences and the way I see things.

@Moloch, why do you think you can tell me how to handle my sexual assault? Or tell me how negative my management is?

6 years ago

Lauren, I really appreciate that. Thank you for listening to my side of the story. 🙂

6 years ago

I’m going to post the same thing I put on the discussion page: “Different people experience things differently. I don’t think it’s right to silence someone because it doesn’t fit in with a given narrative.” And add that what I love about risk is I can experience life as someone else, their story, their reactions, their personality. It gives me a broader view of humanity and reminds me of how complicated we are.

Lauren Houghtalin
6 years ago

@DE, in case you didn’t follow up on the conversation. I did follow up with an apology to @Laura for my emotional gut reaction. I definitely don’t mean to try to silence anyone. I’m sorry for any bad feelings I may have stirred up in her, or made her and the show feel attacked.

Thanks for all of the unsolicited advice too and assumptions of what I have or haven’t done to handle things in my personal life. I checked out the discussion. Social media can lead to a lot assumptions and keyboard warriors. I myself am guilty of that too at times. But personally I don’t care for all the “go to the police, see a therapist” remarks. Like gee thanks guys! Like this hasn’t occurred to me or I haven’t already done so. I’m not the only one that had a negative moment.

We’re all on a journey, and sometimes we stumble. Let’s learn and listen just like Kevin and Laura pointed out. I’m trying too. Peace

6 years ago

Laura’s story reminds me of ASMR, a tingling sensation from soft sounds and touches that has gotten a lot attention on youtube and the rest of the internet in recent years. Someone lightly tugging on your clothes could certainly cause an extended orgasmic sensation. I can’t be sure though since it wasn’t my experience.

Christina R.
6 years ago

The magic touch was an amazing beautiful story that I truly enjoyed and was inspired by. Along with all the stories risk has shared, thank you RISK! I acknowledge Kevin for going above and beyond to read/listen and respond to your listeners, being respectful of their concerns THANK YOU!
Is this a podcast to listen and enjoy amazing true stories people thought they never share or a forum to get on a soapbox to complain and debate the stories that are shared?
We need to chill and appreciate.
Much love ❤️ RISK

Moloch Masters
6 years ago

Lauren, you apologized and listened to Laura. That was cool of you. I reached out to help you. How you interpret; what I say, is your business.
As far as the stories go…Laura’s story cast a spell. It was sort of like hearing about a romantic encounter between two teachers at Hogwarts. I dig it.
I related to Mindy in Patti’s story. I wasn’t full on Carrie White but I was pretty close. Patti, you didn’t do everything right but nobody at that age does. You did do some things right and that is a lot better than most kids. As a Mindy, I would like to say, thank you to all of the Pattis. You don’t have to be perfect to return humanity to someone who has had it stripped away.

6 years ago

Lauren’s story brought up an interesting discussion of sexual assault. Beautiful! I think if we as a society believed women more, this sort of thing wouldn’t be alarming at all. It sounds like totally okay ‘sexual’ contact. We just need to make sure we all know the difference.

That said, I admit I don’t completely believe this story. It sounds unlikely enough on paper, but the way it’s told contains odd details more characteristic of a charismatic liar than someone recalling a real memory. I understand these are workshopped and maybe the original was less… ebullient. But I couldn’t help thinking that this story was inspired by a stranger accidentally touching her on the bus and from there, she fantasized some meaningful silent tryst with a perfect man who was very interested in her but not enough to introduce himself.

A Psychologist
6 years ago

I would encourage people to read up on something called ”Dreamlets” or ”hypnagogic dream” – it is a kind of a dream which occurs at sleep onset, on the borderland between wakefulness and deep sleep.
It takes the form of unusual bodily sensations, strange conversations, and hallucinations – such as disembodied faces passing before the mind’s eye.
These may give way to dreams similar to those experienced during REM sleep.

I am surprised Kevin actually went on to comment and link the story to the current situation about sexual harassment accusations coming to the surface. To me, this whole time listening to the story I knew what she has experienced was not real, that it was a Dreamlet.
( )

I have a friend who has been accused of raping a girl during a sleep over with many people in the same room. The girl accused him of doing it in the morning – if you ask me… it was a dream. Yet this accusation cost so much for my friend…she never went on to actually get checked and all to prove her claim…
I’m sorry, but lack of knowledge and awareness in situations like that are life destroying for one too many people. Her actions were as rational as one dreaming of their spouse cheating on them, then accusing them, and breaking up with them based on a dream. We don’t live in the world of Inception, Leo is not playing games on us – our brains are. Let’s get a grip!
Rape and assaults and harassments happen…no doubt. But accusations and assumptions on their own are as dangerous and as grotesque.

P.S. If someone doesn’t like a story, well they shouldn’t listen to it then – but guys don’t try to affect and censor and silence people. This is their story – this is their experience – have some respect for goodness sake!

Laura Swearingen-Steadwell
5 years ago


Just reading this now, so I don’t know if you’ll ever get it.

The story was totally true, even if you can’t believe it. It probably feels poised because I was trained as a poet (just published a book, in fact!), and Kevin and his team had to coach me backwards from sounding too “literary,” if that’s the right word. The first draft was like a recitation.

Hard to believe story, definitely. That shit was 100% magic. Like seeing a unicorn in the woods. But wow. The human body can do so much more than we know!

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