It is a truth universally acknowledged that dating in the year of our Lord 2021 is a uniquely brutal experience. While most of us are already well versed in the baseline perils of modern dating, the addition of a global pandemic has required not only a major shift in social dynamics, but an entirely new lexicon.
“A lot of people are just thrifting or trauma bonding,” said Jourdan Ash, host of the podcast Dating in NYC. Thrifting, Ash explained, is when a single person does a soft check on someone they used to talk to, motivated by a shared history and a preestablished rapport. Expectations for commitment are low; it’s more about finding connection without having to go through another dreaded “talking stage” with a new person. “I feel like thrifting is like, I might try this on for a little bit, but might also put this back on the rack,” said Ash.
Said Nichole Perkins, host of the new podcast This Is Good for You, “With the pandemic, I think there’s a lot of survivor’s guilt that’s happening right now. I think there’s so much pain and suffering in the world that when we do finally do something that feels good, it’s like, Oh, should I really be smiling right now?”
Perkins’s new show was created with the goal of taking the guilt out of women’s pleasure; to destigmatize simply feeling good, in a time when late capitalism urges us to monetize our every hobby and the ongoing pandemic threatens to sap every last bit of our optimism. Perkins wants women to know that they should embrace pleasure wherever they can. “As we talk about mental health, and we’re getting to a point where it’s like, ‘It’s okay to not be okay,’ we can also just kind of be like, ‘But it’s also okay to feel good,’” she said. “And if you feel good, that does not mean that you still don’t have challenges. But you can celebrate the good parts of life too.”
Speaking publicly about sex, pleasure, and other taboo topics is not something that comes naturally to everyone, and both Perkins (who formerly cohosted the deliciously, deliriously dirty Thirst Aid Kit) and Ash have had to navigate their own comfort zones, as well as the reactions of others, while creating and hosting their shows.
“I definitely got a lot of flack talking about [sex] as a woman, as a Black woman, as a Black woman in the South,” Perkins said. “I was warned away from talking about it, even though I’ve always been fascinated by the mechanics of sex and the emotional aspects of sex. But as I got older, like mid- to late 20s, I was like, Fuck this. Pleasure and sex is an important part of women’s lives, regardless of how they identify, regardless of if they like men or not.”
Said Ash, “I honestly only really get uncomfortable when men listen to my podcast…and then they assume that because I’m willing to speak about [sex] openly, that I’m open or would be willing to do that with them. And so, you know, I’ve gotten just a few creepy DMs or a few creepy tweets from men. But other than that, I regret nothing.”
The following podcasts—which address the complexities wound up in sexuality and romance with humor, intention, and care—are all hosted by and center the experiences of Black women. Whether listeners are consciously coupled or flying solo through the end of this pandemic winter, they should take the time to indulge in these versatile hosts’ wise words and wild adventures.
As the longtime host of Dating in NYC, Jourdan Ash has explored the topics of love, sex, and dating from almost every angle imaginable. “I don’t necessarily think there’s anything that I haven’t done,” said Ash. “But I feel like love and sex are always changing, so I’m always going to have something to talk about or have a question about something.” Through her interviews with other creatives of color—candid discussions that have covered a spectrum of topics including threesomes, breakups, queer sexuality, sexual health, grief, cuffing season, body hair, and dating while living with disabilities—Ash has crafted an entertaining and poignant living document of what it’s like to experience love and loss in New York. Now four years into hosting her podcast, Ash (who was once described as “the Black Carrie Bradshaw of Harlem”) said she has rarely felt nervous or squeamish discussing such personal and even taboo topics on air. “I’m not really cognizant of what I’m saying until afterwards, and then I’m like, Oh, damn, I really said that,” said Ash. “Sometimes people will repeat things to me, and I’m like, ‘Who said that?’ And they’re like, ‘You.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, fuck.’” But there are times when the subject matter has, inevitably, hit a bit too close to home: “I had an episode that I did on ghosting, like, the week after I got ghosted by somebody I really liked. That was a horror episode.” And as she launches Dating in NYC’s final season, Ash is reflecting on her own journey: “I’m not the same person that I was in the first episode,” she said. “I definitely grew a lot.”