Tastemaker Profile: Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson
Bad break-ups—ouch—we’ve all had them but Corinne Fisher took hers in an unconventional direction. She called her friend and fellow comedian Krystyna Hutchinson. “Hey, you wanna start a podcast together called Guys We Fucked?” The premise was simple enough: interview guys with whom one of them had done the deed. To the proposition Krystyna said— “yes!”— adding the second part to the title: The Anti-Slut Shaming Podcast.
In one of the earliest episodes of Guys We Fucked: The Anti-Slut Shaming Podcast, Corinne was speaking about a hook-up gone awry when the guy asked her mid-coital the last time she’d had sex—the night before. Although the guy was just as sexually active, he found this to be grounds for Corinne’s dismissal which points to an underlining and quite blatant discrepancy between what we are taught as boys and girls as appropriate sexual behavior. Men are expected to have sex, girls aren’t. As two sexually active women in their twenties—and proud of it—Krystyna and Corinne’s mission was to confront the stigma attached to being just that.
“The initial reasoning was to learn more about ourselves,” says Krystyna.
But in no way could they have predicted the impact they were about to have. Bold, sexy, outspoken, unafraid to be raunchy, this hilarious dynamic duo didn’t hold back, extinguishing the shame that inhibits our freedom of sexual expression by wielding the power of open communication, education, humor and self-love.
Four years later, Guys We Fucked: The Anti-Slut Shaming Podcast has over 1 million listeners around the world and has been consistently rated as one of the top five comedy podcasts on itunes. That growth necessitated expansion both in scope and material, a digging deeper into every subject in the sexual canon—rape, assault, gender, abortion, experimenting in the bedroom, fetishes—nothing was taboo to these ladies. And they’re funny, which is funny considering how female comedians are grossly viewed as being less funny than the dudes but as Corinne said, “that’s a different cat for a different day.”
People across age, culture, gender and sexual orientation flooded their inbox. After shows and tapings, strangers were constantly approaching them. A guy whispering into Krystyna’s ear, “does size really matter?” A concerned teenager trying to prevent her friend, too terrified to tell her parents, from using a hanger to administer an abortion. A father weeping that their show had helped to facilitate a conversation with his daughter about her assault. It became overwhelmingly clear to Corinne and Krystyna that they had opened a door that most of us, if not all of us, wished we had. Meaning, an open door policy when it comes to discussing sex.
Now Corinne and Krystyna have just released a book into the world: Fucked: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That’s Screwed. Ain’t it the truth. The world is screwed when it comes to sex and the thing to conquer harder than Harvey is shame.
“By the time Harper One approached us, and we got this book deal, we really felt as though we had a lot to say, especially after reading the emails, and talking to fans after our shows, and really getting a sense of what the world holds on their shoulders in terms of their sexual shame. I feel like we kind of have a very unique window into people's minds in that respect. It’s been really cool to hear how people feel so much better about themselves merely because they hear other people being open as well, and they realize they have no reason to be ashamed,” Hutchinson says.
Equally educational and recreational, they tackle everything from the roots of shame, to sex education, to things we should stop doing; snooping, nitpicking our bodies and faking orgasms, to abortions, sexual exploration, and knowing yourself. As is their style, they weave their listeners and own personal experiences with research to present a fresh, fun and modern guide to sex. They never expected to be advisers, advocates, or spokeswomen but they’ve assumed the position. All the positions.
“There are some things that we’ve talked about so many times on the podcasts, and [the book] gave me several months to sit silently and stew in the thoughts, and watch other TV shows, and read other books, and get feedback on what other people were saying about certain things. Is sex work okay? Does it make you mentally unstable? Or do people who go into it have a higher rate of mental instability?" Fisher says. "There are things that the overall voice of feminism wants you to think, and I wanted to really look into statistically, is this true? I need numbers. I need facts. I need studies. I had this really wonderful opportunity to use an archival system. I would’ve loved to just write an entire research paper on sexuality.”
The debut of their book parallels a pivotal moment. In the past six months, the New York Times has published three major investigative reports that brought sexual harassment across the tech, media and entertainment industries under an unprecedented scrutiny. Our current president—The Donald—has a proven track record of degrading and harassing women and now threatens our reproductive rights. And when Instagram took down a photograph that activist and model Amber Rose published of her bush, it was an example of how women’s voices and bodies are censored while hateful speech is allowed to run amuck. Using some of these recent events as a springboard, Corinne and Krystyna discuss sexual assault, how they are addressing it personally, the biggest sexual predator of all—shame—and how they hope our approach to discussing sexual matters will evolve.
Slut-shaming is a tale as old as time but is, perhaps for the first time, now able to garner significant media coverage. Finally. For a white man in a position of power—one of the rulers of Hollywood, a figure like Harvey Weinstein—to be dismantled is significant. It would be nice (a dead word) if our president wasn’t a reflection of the problem, but it is no coincidence that these events coincide and everyone is right: we’re talking mostly about men, we’re talking about white men, and like Jane Fonda said, we’re also talking about white women. We’re zeroing into worlds and industries that generate a lot of money, where bullshit phrases like we are all equal reek like garbage.
“I know a lot of people in the industry already knew these things about Harvey. I actually didn't, but it didn't surprise me because of how often we would see emails from men and women about this. It's become very clear to me over the past three years that sexual assault is an epidemic,” says Hutchinson.
“I think the only thing that I found interesting was how long it had gone on, how many people in Hollywood knew, not just people who worked for the Weinstein company, but people like Meryl Streep," Fisher adds. "I felt very conflicted about how to respond, because we know how hard it is to make it in the entertainment business, and I certainly don't expect everyone to always choose the highest road, nor would I expect people to give up their entire careers because they heard a producer once grabbed a tit. You know? It just brought up a lot of conflicting feelings about these celebrities who I love and adore.”
“It was really interesting to talk to men about their reaction because they were shocked that I wasn't shocked," Hutchinson admits.
It was surprising, as a woman, to hear Hutchinson say that but it exemplifies how men and women are not on the same page about what really happens behind the scenes. Come to think of it, how often do we women talk about it with the men in our lives? How often do men ask?
“I think it is virtually impossible for a man to truly understand what it's like walking around in the world as a woman. How could they? That’s why I try to have a lot of compassion and understanding when I approach these topics with guys. I truly want them to understand that it's more difficult for us than they might think, and to just listen when we have something to say along those lines. I usually encourage them to ask women that they know well if they know somebody who has ever been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed," answers Hutchinson. Odds are they have, and if it's happened to them, then it also opens up the conversation to tell that person if they want to. That was the only thing I could think of that could possibly make guys understand how frequent this is.”
Corinne, on the other hand, “...has had it. I think I’m a little more sick of men that Krystyna.”
“It's hard because I don't want to be that person, and I shouldn't be. I am not one of those people who's a member of the war against, you know, this war against white men that's going on. I don't think it's helping. It's making a bad situation worse. I'm just more interested in talking to women, and empowering from within the female community.”
They are both correct. It is crucial to include men in this discussion without shaming them while also holding ourselves, as women, accountable for how downright mean we are to each other.
“Improving is such a hard word to get behind with the current state of America. To echo a sentiment that’s certainly been talked about time and time again in the past year, I feel like we’re still super divided, and I feel that divide in gender, too. I feel like this new wave of feminism has, in a lot of ways, made women feel better about themselves, but it still has created a deeper divide between men and a lot of women. I also feel like it’s created, in some ways, a deeper divide between women which is why I make it a priority to be kinder to women," Fisher says.
Any woman who has gone through grades K-life has experienced the cruelty with which women can treat each other. Jealousy, distrust, rejection is alive and well between us. The phrase “patriarchy has no gender” implies that all genders participate in this narrative and perpetuate the qualities encouraged under the patriarchal system. These ideas are ingrained and reinforced at every arena in our society: home, school, work, the media and the internet.
When it comes to our bodies, what we can or cannot do, show or cannot show, has been a long topic of debate but one riddled with hypocrisy in who has the power to dictate and enforce those rules. There have been countless images of bare vaginas taken by the paparazzi and circulated all over the internet but then Amber Rose took a picture of her bush, legs crossed, and it was swiftly removed. Furthermore, her very PG bush was encouraging women to not be ashamed of their bush; a promotion for her annual “slut walk” which aims to raise awareness about sexual injustice and gender inequality. So, to sum this up, posting pictures of famous naked vaginas going out on a Saturday night flies but a woman using hers as a symbol of empowerment doesn’t. What message are we communicating here in terms of appropriate behavior?
“I got a rape threat on Twitter, reported it and nothing happened. How come we can have people comment on our Instagram very vulgar, threatening, sexually violent things and we report them, but their account doesn't get shut down or put on hold? And women are censored with what they can post on their own social media? It’s so hypocritical and so unbelievably frustrating," Huthinson says.
The fact that a bush is rejected but a rape threat isn’t does not reflect a healthy collective psyche.
Hutchinson believes, “I think we're making progress, then a couple of little things will happen that are so disappointing and it's like, 'Oh. Are we? I can't tell.' I know we are. I do believe we are because of the feedback we hear from our listeners, especially. It’s the barometer that I personally use for the progress we're making because a lot of women are writing in saying that, after listening to the podcast, they feel so much better about themselves, their body, their looks, their sexual desires and that is beyond anything I could've ever hoped for.”
After years of absorbing the stories of their listeners and tackling their own experiences as women in the world, they’ve found that at the root of sexual violence, the removal of a bush, our relationship with our bodies and gender, is shame. According to these ladies, shame unites us all but one of the most refreshing angles of Krystyna and Corinne’s book is that they refuse to coddle our problems. “In a society where for some reason it has become chic to be the victim, we say this pity party ends now.” And finding the strength, as they say, to cry, to laugh through the pain is merely saying that we are not alone and that we have the power to transform our experience.
Shame. It’s as notorious as The Scarlet Letter, that Nathaniel Hawthorne book you probably read in high school. In the novel, Hester is publicly shamed to wear a letter A for adultery on her person because she had relations out of wedlock. That was her punishment—shame—and it still is for all of us. It is a common thread that runs through many of our ideas about sex, sexuality, our bodies, even our thoughts and desires. It’s so deep, so intricately tied to so much of our experience, that we don’t necessarily understand just how ingrained this idea is. We’ve been shamed at school, by our parents, siblings, for having sex, for not having sex, for being liberal, conservative, black, white, women and men—for being bad. Since we’ve been doing shame forever, maybe it’s time to reevaluate: is shaming an effective way to bring about real systemic change?
“That's clearly not going to solve the problem.”
In their book and on their podcast, they seek to overcome this system of shaming by talking freely and openly about everything, even the stuff that frightens or rattles us.
“There was an instance where I was so fucking tired of getting these emails all the time, and it just seems like no one is doing anything about it, and it made me feel a little crazy, so I’ve asked this twice now on the podcasts, and I’ve gotten responses both times. I’ve asked statistically because so many people have been assaulted, there has to be somebody listening who has sexually assaulted somebody. Could you please just write us? Make up an email. I don’t give a shit. I’m not trying to out you. I’m just like what is going on here? The guy said, ‘I feel pathetic, and I feel like a monster.’ I asked him, ‘Do you want help? Is that something that you would consider? Or does that not even cross your mind?’ He goes, ‘Of course I want help.’ I was like, Damn. You know, a lot of people would not go ‘let’s help the rapist out’ and I understand that completely," Fisher explains. "But maybe they need help and they’re too afraid to ask for it, so that’s why all of these things start happening. I’ve only heard from a few men, but that, to me, was fascinating, and very eye opening.”
“The latest guy that we've heard from, one of the things that I thought was so interesting, was he said to me his whole life he was a ‘nice guy,’ and he would see all these douche bag men around him lying to women, and getting them to sleep with them so they were all getting laid. He said by the time he turned 30 he just broke, and he started going on Craigslist and putting out ads, and that's when he would rape the woman. He said, ‘Why are these guys who are liars, who are assholes. The guys who treat the women like shit, they get laid, but I don't get laid? Fuck this.’ This is what he said, and that was very interesting to hear,” Hutchinson says.
“I don't necessarily want to have fireside chats with rapists. However, I think there are people who do have some weird thing going on. They don't know how to talk to women. They weren't raised right. They were abused, all those kinds of things," Fisher adds. "Of course, I feel compassion for those people, and I do want them to have the tools, especially when it results in something like pedophilia, where I think there's actually something wrong with their brain. I don't think a lot of rapists have something wrong with their brain other than they believe they own women and objectify them but that's a different cat for a different day. Harvey Weinstein though, I do not feel bad. I think the thought that he's going to sexual rehab is…”
“Bullshit.” Hutchinson chimes.
“…the biggest piece of crap of public Hollywood nonsense. This is a man who was powerful, knew he was powerful. The Harvey Weinstein thing is about money and power." Fisher continues. "Those are variables that are not present in a lot of rape situations. I think there needs to be a cleansing of our culture.”
A great teacher once defined history as “people doing the best they can with what they got.” If we were to shift the lens through which we see the world, even a tiny bit, what we would discover is that there are more things that unite us than we think. And much more positive ideas than shame.
“We’ve never gotten an email like ‘this is the worst I am and I have no interest in changing that.’ I think that’s very important in the current political climate. I think liberals have this idea that the conservatives wake up in the morning trying to take rights away from people, and that’s incorrect. As liberals, we think that we’re always right, that we’re the virtuous ones, but that’s not accurate. If I’ve learned anything from the podcasts, it’s that everyone wants to be a better person, a better husband, a better wife, a better girlfriend, a better boyfriend. Very few people are sitting at home and thinking, ‘I want to be a piece of shit.’ We’ve never got an email like that,” Fisher says.
Progress is not a straight line, unfortunately, it’s more of a curve. We can feel the tension between points of expansion and retraction. We take steps forward and back. It’s a dynamic system we live in, but we must continue pushing ourselves to imagine what this country, this world, could look like. With these moguls and giants throughout industries being called out, the fact that more and more women can step forward and begin to speak is a step in the right direction. This is how Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher hope we will move forward from here.
“People have told us that they're talking to their partners, and they're telling them things that they never would've even imagined telling them, and that it's okay. That's so exciting to me that they can be as up front as they want to be. I hope those people will be more aware with their kids, be open and honest about sex in a way that works for them," Hutchinson reveals. "That's something that I didn't get as a child. I've talked with other people who did and I see how much better off they are in terms of their sexual and mental health, so I hope that people will not be afraid to have that conversation.”
“I hope the conversation continues more as a thought. Women, put up with less bullshit in general. Listen to the podcasts, to Krystyna, I and all of our guests talk openly and realize that the repercussions for being yourself aren't that bad. The repercussions for not being yourself are way more severe,” says Fisher.
“I hope that women can know that wanting to be treated with an equal amount of respect as men, as their peers, is not a radical act. That’s the way you fucking should be treated the whole time.”
A recent anti-marijuana advertising on a billboard in Los Angeles showed an image of young woman passed out on a couch, presumably stoned, and a young man leering towards her. It was a snapshot that summed up a larger cultural narrative. If you’re a woman, you are defenseless and weak. If you’re a man, you’re a predator. What are we teaching our children, if this is how we expect them to behave as boys and girls? We have to take a good look at how these ideas are reinforced all around us. No matter how hard it is to talk about the things that scare us the most, we must. If we do not deal with these problems directly, we will continue to perpetuate a cycle of shame.
Fucked: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That’s Screwed had a front row seat at every Barnes and Noble store in the country, an idea that made the three of us laugh about over the telephone. Who would have thought that the word “fucked,” a guide through sex, written by two women, would greet you at your friendly Barnes and Noble bookstore? Fabulous.
Written by Maria Mocerino
Photography by Dee Guerreros