logo: sketch of a human heart with "the heart" written overtop

The Heart

An audio art project about intimacy and humanity.  Directed by Kaitlin Prest with a team of fantastic audio-creators, The Heart is a feminist and sex-positive podcast. In a recent interview, Mitra Kaboli (Senior Producer who has been with The Heart since its beginnings) describes the craft of the show:  “We want to create a whole new dimension to listening to a story.”  Along these lines, the podcast is teachable because of its craft: many episodes open up the acoustics of intimacy, incorporating all kinds of recordings of sexual-social life. It’s also teachable for its often unflinching commitment to exploring first-person stories about identity, sex and sexuality, and the complex world of norms that often govern sexual lives. Mitra acknowledges in the same interview that the show has recently gained a wider audience and has started to reflect more “normal”/ less “queer” stories.  It’s really worthwhile, for that reason, to listen back through the archives, especially to episodes from the show that preceded The Heart, Audio SmutThe Heart was a Peabody Award finalist in 2017.

Definitely listenable, not necessarily teachable episode

  The Heart’s mini-series, “No,” is a four-part exploration of the ambiguities that surround consent. There are trigger warnings at the beginning of each episode, but these are warnings for podcast-listeners, rather than for students; given the theme, it would be better assigned as “optional” instead of “required” listening.  That said, the series is a fascinating audio-project, especially in terms of the insights that audio, as a medium, proffers.  Each episode integrates Kaitlin’s memories, excerpts from her diaries, conversations with friends, tape of her own sexual experiences and a difficult-to-listen-to confrontation with a former lover (this is the site of much of the drama of the series: highly contested terrain involving the boundaries of consent). The fourth episode concludes with a range of self-critical reflections by Kaitlin and the other creators of the show, including ones that point out the hetero, cis-gendered and white dynamics of the series.  (Another reason why this might not lend itself to the classroom as required listening). There’s a feminist refrain throughout the season that is laid out explicitly in the fourth episode:  “Consent isn’t the absence of a ‘no’; it’s the presence of a ‘yes’.