“Shagnet”
WCBN, 88.3 FM
Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m.
Phone and e-mail in questions : 734-763-3500 and shagnetfm@umich.edu

(Max Collins/Daily)

From bondage on a budget to Halloween costume recommendations for nudists, no topic is off-limits for “Shagnet,” student-run radio station WCBN’s new sex and love talk show. Combining advice, anecdotes and a hefty dose of biting wit, “Shagnet” is an informative and extremely entertaining way to while away the time between 6 and 7 p.m. every Wednesday.

Four friends hatched the idea for the show on a lazy summer night:

“We were just sitting around and said that we all had terrible love lives and it’d be funny if we had a love advice talk show,” RC junior Sophie Reich said.

RC senior Rob Linn added, “We thought it’d be interesting to have a sex show with four contrasting (sexual) orientations.”

The architects behind “Shagnet” do have contrasting viewpoints on sex and love. In every show, they introduce themselves by name and sexual orientation. Reich is a “homosexual female” and Linn a “heterosexual male.” Molly Roth, RC junior and “heterosexual female,” and Justin Kueser, RC senior and “homosexual male,” complete the group.

The format of “Shagnet” is similar to that of sex advice shows like “Talk Sex with Sue Johanson,” where people e-mail and call in with love- and sex-related inquiries. But unlike Johanson, the grandmotherly host with wildly inappropriate hand gestures, the personalities of “Shagnet” seem to stress comedic responses when answering questions.

“Most sex shows are interesting to listen to, but they’re also a little boring. So it’s nice to have a sense of humor involved,” Kueser said.

With voices cloaked in irony, the hosts playfully respond to questions. For example, a plea for ideas for a sexy-but-still-respectable Halloween costume spurred a tongue-in-cheek brainstorming session. Suggestions ranged from “sexy librarian” to “sexy lady Jesus.” And while they claimed a sexy brain surgeon is all right, a sexy nurse is not. And “no one thinks a businesswoman is sexy,” Roth joked.

The quick-witted hosts also spin outrageous yarns of their own sexual exploits, with mock-serious “hmms” from the other three. For the Halloween special, Roth detailed a sensual encounter in a haunted house involving a ghoul and a scary clown, a “spooky ménage à trois.” Linn described a love affair with Satan, Reich was walked in on in flagrante by someone in a banana costume and Kueser talked about his steamy rendezvous with a sexy fireman.

“Did he have a nice hose?” Roth asked.

“He had a pretty nice hose,” Kueser responded, in his characteristic deadpan. “It was pretty high-pressure; it was a high-pressure situation, all in all.”

These are skillful artists of innuendo. Take, for instance, a question about gun size versus the size of male anatomy. It might spark discussion rife with key words like “squirt guns.”

“I own a pistol,” Kueser said, straight-faced. “It’s much smaller than my friends’ pistols, and I don’t want to have to buy a whole new gun, so I’ve decided to go to the shooting range to help amplify what I have.”

“Shagnet” proves that dirty wordplay and good advice are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Since the angry evangelicals on the Diag seem to think Ann Arbor is the next Sodom, maybe Michigan’s campus is the perfect place for this kind of show. The sex-positive attitude that infuses college campuses makes outlets for sexual inquiries imperative. Although the four friends don’t necessarily boast many official qualifications to be sex experts, they each offer a distinctive perspective on sexuality. Whether gay or straight, male or female, the different experiences of each DJ enable them to share all kinds of stories and answer all kinds of questions. Their lack of expertise, though, is actually refreshing: it might be intimidating to bring awkward questions to a therapist, or even to a friend. But under the veil of anonymity and with a touch of good humor, “Shagnet” presents itself as a safe and comfortable place, one that doesn’t judge.

“This show is only semi-serious; we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Linn said. “But we definitely try to offer honest, frank advice similar to what you might get from a friend. Basically, we’re the friend you can talk to, but you don’t have to say your real name.”

And like any sex show, “Shagnet” receives a collage of joke questions from people with fake names and barely stifled snickering. Yet the voices of “Shagnet” put them on the air and run with them, crafting clever answers without so much as a hint of hesitation. Part of the charm of the show is this sense of ridiculousness, with listeners unsure as to whether or not the questions are fabricated or real. Does Dirk, a film student from North Campus, really want to know what to call his tawdry new film project? Does it matter? In any case, it allows the resident “sexperts” of “Shagnet” to brainstorm such gems as “Pancake Pornucopia” and “Mr. Dick’s Opus.”

This blurring of fact and fiction pervades the show and adds to its charm. Maybe the dynamic group didn’t actually host the show naked three weeks ago. Maybe Kueser wasn’t actually engaging in bondage during the Halloween episode. But again, maybe the facts are irrelevant: Although there may be some embellishment for the purpose of entertainment, the show’s objective is to inform, talk openly about taboo subjects and serve as a welcoming place for those who may have uncomfortable questions.

There’s also a touch of self-deprecation: shout-outs to listeners are often accompanied by qualifications like “if anyone is listening.” But it seems people are. For all the silly questions, there are serious, earnest ones, too, questions from people who worry about being self-conscious during sex, or people who are questioning their sexuality. From queries about how to meet other lesbians to how to tell if someone likes you back, these are questions that many people have, and the hosts do their best to respond to them.

“A lot of people stress out about sex problems too much,” Linn said. “If you take sort of a light-hearted approach, it makes the issues more approachable and more manageable.”

The majority of the humorous anecdotes are there for exactly that purpose. They are instances of people using their own experiences, embarrassing or otherwise, to help others. And most of them are genuine. Except maybe one of them, at least.

“I have to level with you, I did not have sex with Satan,” Linn said. What a relief.

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