At age 14, comedian Natalie Wall wasn’t having sex, but she could absolutely provide you with any information you might need to know about anatomical instruction or details about STDs.
“I came from a very open family. My mom would say things like: 'You need to experiment. Get your fucking O. You need to have sex before marriage. You need to know.' None of my friends’ parents were talking to them like that, so I became the person who knew stuff even though I hadn’t done anything. My friends were losing their virginity at like 14 and 15 and I was like, 'I’m not, but I can answer all your questions about STDs and I can tell you what your clit is,'” she told us recently.
As a college student, Wall recalls leading discussions about vibrators and masturbation with her dorm mates, encouraging them to discuss their sex lives openly — no matter how good, bad, weird, liquid-y, smelly, or horrendously embarrassing the encounter was. “A lot of times we’re told not to talk about, appreciate, dissect, or feel comfortable with having weird sex. I like to make people feel better about it.” Five years after graduating, Wall is still making people talk about it, just on a much larger scale with her monthly comedy show, “Awkward Sex … and the City.”
The show, a spinoff of her blog by the same name, asks comedians to recall those squirmy sexual encounters they’ve locked in some inner shame box, and share them with an audience. It seems like torture, but it’s more like wine-soaked catharsis for everyone involved. On the eve of the second anniversary of her show, we spoke with Wall about finding comedy in the cringe-worthy, how to combat sexism, and the one awkward sex story she’s not quite ready to tell.
What makes a really good awkward sex story, as opposed to one that just makes everyone cringe uncontrollably?
Every story that I've heard so far, and the show's coming up on its second anniversary, has been totally unique, it’s never been similar to any other story I've heard. Ever. I guess the best awkward sex stories are always — they're very self-deprecating. They're the most honest and the most vulnerable. And it's always really good to have something random happen. Like, one of the stories from the show tonight: They're up in Alaska and a bear punches through a glass window while they're doing it. That's never going to happen to anyone else except maybe five other people, and it's just so random and crazy that you're like, "That is amazing."
What’s your most recent awkward sex story?
I'm in a new relationship and the first — we've been together for four months or something — but the first time we had sex, I got explosive diarrhea right after it.
It's hilarious and he was great about it. And I was like, "I know you're a good guy because of this." It was at his place. It was terrible. I'm not far enough from the story yet to do the whole story in a performance. I've done bits on it, but you do have to — you'll feel it. You'll kind of be like, "I'm ready."
Thanks to comedians like Amy Schumer and the Broad City girls, it seems like women talking honestly — and raunchily — about sex is much more mainstream than it was two years ago when you first started. Is that true? Was there already a space for "Awkward Sex" or was it more challenging to get your show going because there were fewer women doing shows like it?
I don't think it was mainstream yet. Like, Amy Schumer was getting big but she wasn't the goddess that she is now, Broad City wasn't around — Sarah Silverman was talking about sex, maybe — but there was definitely a space for it. It has never been hard to book the show, and it's always been a good audience — the audience is always so on your side because they know what they're getting into. Like, they know they are going to hear stories about awkward sex. Nothing is being hidden from them.
In your experience, what is the general reception when female comedians speak so openly about their sex lives?
So far, I've definitely been lucky. But, there are still some experiences that piss me off, like once while I was on tour we were in the bar and we were talking to some people that came. And I was talking to a dude and his girlfriend. And we were talking about awkward sex stories and he slapped my ass. I was like, "What did you just do?" And he was like, "You just talked about sex. I can do that."
I think it was Amy Schumer who said ... You know, she's been labeled a sex comic, but a guy can go on and talk about his dick for an hour and people call him a "thinker." Sexism is so ingrained in our society that it's going to be a really long fight. Because there is always going to be these moments: two steps forward, three steps back.
What will change it?
This year, I co-founded and co-produced Bad Assery, the women in comedy conference. It was a lot of amazing women doing their thing and kicking ass. And I think the louder we get, the more and more we put up a fight, the more we start highlighting the people who are being assholes, the more it will change. We need to really fight and come together. I think it was Sara Schaefer a week or two ago on Twitter that was like, "Girls, the only other lady at the open mic isn't your enemy. She's your best friend." Like, we have to stop trying to compete against each other, and try to work together. The whole Shine Theory, have you heard of that? I think that's a main factor in being able to fight this. The more that we fight these stereotypes — the ones men use to put women down: They're catty, they're emotional, blah blah blah. The more that we're like, "No, that's not true and here's some examples." The more we do that, the more they’ll have to shut up a little bit.
Your show has raunchy sex stories, but you also discuss that the underlying message is one of sex positivity — do you think that your show helps women feel more sexually liberated or is it changing the way women's sexuality is perceived?
I really hope so. And I think it is. After every show, people will come up and they want to tell me their awkward sex story, because people never want to talk about it. They feel like it's not a safe environment, and now I've provided them with that environment, and now they can go talk more. It's something I noticed in college: All the girls wouldn't talk about masturbating, or they're like, "I don't masturbate. That's not a thing I need." And I was like, "I do it all the time." And then two weeks later everyone was like, "I have a vibrator. This is the porn I like." They just need that one person to be like, "Well, I do it and it's great."
I want people to have knowledge and I want them to feel open and comfortable. I think these shows are helping inspire sex positivity for everyone. And I think they're just helping people enjoy sex. I think my main thing is I want everyone to really enjoy it. And the one way to do that is give zero fucks what you look like. Give zero fucks what you're doing. And just get as vulnerable as you can. And really just fuck. And that's when the orgasms come.
"Awkward Sex ... and the City" has a second-anniversary show tonight at the Pleasure Chest. There are two sets, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. For information and tickets, click here.
This interview has been edited and condensed.