On the first Saturday of every month, three queer, crass, and clever minds get together to dish on dating, sexuality, and fucking. This seems normal enough, but if you think it sounds like your life, it isn’t. They’re not talking over brunch or pre-dinner cocktails. No, Isaac, Nu Britt, and the Victator gather in a Bushwick shipping container that has been fashioned into a recording studio, and their conversations are the basis of Livin’ and Lovin’ in NYC — a podcast about sexcapades and sexuality, “trans stuff and heteroshit,” and the general mayhem of dating in New York.
“Strict heterosexuals, even religious people say they can’t stop listening,” says Victoria Davis, a/k/a the Victator. “That’s where the humor comes into it. These topics may seem out of reach, but when you’re laughing, it humanizes what might be perceived as a lecture and you’re learning a lot about these topics, and about how much even my own viewpoints can change from just having the conversation.”
Davis and her on-air crew have recorded seven episodes over the past six months, and while listenership is still growing, they have so far managed to attract more than 8,000 fans from around the world. The idea for the podcast’s first episode came to Davis, who was raised in Soho, while she was pondering a complicated dating situation she was having at the time.
“I’m a cisgendered lesbian and I had ended up on a date with a trans woman,” the 33-year-old explains. “I found the experience very challenging…and had written to [sex advice columnist] Dan Savage with the question, ‘Is there something I could put on my [online dating] profile expressing my preference for cisgender women that is not offensive to trans people?’ He said no and compared me to an asshole. That really got the ball rolling for us.”
The first few episodes were mostly banter between Davis and her friend Laura Jean Moore (a/k/a Nu Britt). As a duo, they began recording themselves on KPISS.fm, an internet radio station that broadcasts from one of a row of shipping containers on Broadway in Bushwick known to many as “flea market alley.” Sheri Barclay, founder of KPISS, describes the call sign as a litmus test, filtering out anyone who’s not “down” with a show airing on a station named for the smell of the container before she renovated it. For Davis and Moore, self-described “lady bros,” that wasn’t a problem.
After the first few episodes, Davis and Moore began inviting guests onto the show. One was Isaac Fornarola, whose perspective as a transgender man offered a welcome counterpoint to the hosts’ cisgendered lesbian and bisexual experiences. Fornarola is now a regular co-host. “Our next episode is about mixed-orientation relationships,” Davis notes.
Episodes hit all angles of queer conversation and might include anything from orgasms to generational shifts in butch identity. And despite throwing around terms like “cisgender” (a person whose self-identity corresponds to their biological sex), the show appeals to more than just the obvious “queer, feminist” audience, says Davis.
Fans say the show feels as though listeners are hanging out with the hosts — having a smart conversation about the trials and tribulations of queerness and dating in New York. Guests include New Yorkers from all sexual walks, from “token straight dude” to drag king, pansexual burlesque performer to married polyamorous lover. But even with that diversity, and despite the very premise of the show, Davis insists Livin’ and Lovin’ was never intended to be educational.
“It’s a very New York show,” she says. “My own experience growing up in New York informed who I became both on a romantic, sexual level and otherwise. In Episode 4, I was talking about growing up in Lower Manhattan during the AIDS crisis. By the age of nine, I knew what a condom was and how important it was. We had a gay teacher who died of AIDS.”
New York has better sex education than do other parts of the country, says Moore, who is originally from Georgia. That education, she believes, informs New Yorkers’ dating lives. “Their exposure to and awareness of the diversity in human sexuality, orientation, or gender identity is so much more than in other parts of the country. If you live in New York, you’ve seen everything.”
Sex in New York isn’t necessarily divided into queer and straight, Moore adds. “The conversations are just around sex [in general]. I think our podcast is about that — it’s the kind of stuff you talk about with your friend after you’ve had three beers.”
In Episode 1, Davis discusses her goal to have a “slutty summer.” She had spent all of her twenties in long-term relationships — “the stereotypical lesbian thing to do,” she says. She decided to have more casual sex over the summer. “It’s kind of hard to do when you’re dating women, believe it or not. At least the ones who identify as gay are, by and large, looking for relationships.” She did eventually realize her goal, but her openness about her awkward pursuit is what makes the show so appealing.
“Her describing dating girls over the course of the summer, and either their weirdness or her weirdness about it, seemed directly relatable just because it’s a universal,” says listener Christopher Martino. “I’m a straight man, but I found that the show has a lot of universal themes to it. You still worry about the same things. The [show’s] whole niche of lesbian women phases into the background.”
For some, the podcast validates the shared malaise that people of all sexual identities negotiate while dating in New York — be it on Tinder or in a bar. But for others, it does more than just reflect a common experience: The show helps change the conversation around sex, co-opting modes of sexual expression and identity traditionally deemed unconventional.
“I’m learning a lot and you have helped normalize a lot of things for me,” a fan wrote to Davis. “I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist family where, quite literally, women do not touch their own vaginas because vaginas are ‘nasty.’ So I have always been a bit behind the curve in my own sexual liberation, and am slowly moving beyond the shame I have always felt about wanting anything sexually, ever…. So it’s nice to listen to a group of individuals of varying degrees of gender classification discuss these topics with such candor.”
When Davis and Moore started the show, they did it because they thought it would be entertaining — and “mostly because we love the sound of our own voices,” says Davis. She says she never expected it to be more than that. “So when I receive comments like that, my reaction is mostly surprise.
“It never occurred to me that the show could actually be a force for good and make anyone feel better about themselves, their desires, or their limitations.”