It’s just like any other radio call-in show, except some of the participants aren’t wearing pants.

I was recently invited to be a guest on the Tanya Tate Show, a weekly radio program that airs every Tuesday on SiriusXM (Channel 791). I got to the Hollywood-adjacent studio early, chatting with a friendly producer before being ushered in. I popped on my headphones and scooted up to the mic.

Tanya and I fell into an easy banter. We’re buddies in real life, so we started talking about girlfriend-type things and sociology-type things. (I’m a sociologist.) After a few minutes, it was time to take a call. First on the line was Brett from Palm Springs. He was wondering if I could describe my shoes. And my feet.

Now generally, I pride myself on my quick-wittedness and my ability to talk without nervousness in any situation. But as soon as Brett opened his mouth, my public speaking experience and ten years of college professoring went right out the window. I felt my face redden and my throat seize. What was I supposed to say? And what the hell kinda show was this?

I couldn’t clutch my pearls too tightly. SiriusXM Channel 791 is also known as Vivid Radio. Tanya Tate is an award-winning adult actress and director from Liverpool, and the Tanya Tate Show—hosted by the “reigning queen of filthy talk”—is a wank show.

That’s right, a wank show. A show where listeners call in with the specific intent of masturbating while having a conversation with the host.

I knew all this going in. And I thought I was prepared. But there’s really no way to mentally steel yourself for talking to a man as he pleasures himself while you’re both live on the radio.

With 25.6 million subscribers and $3.8 billion in annual revenue, SiriusXM is the largest radio company in the world. At present, they boast over 175 unique channels, one of which is Vivid Radio, which launched just last year. Their platform features an extensive lineup of naughty and lighthearted shows, all of which are hosted by porn stars.

Brett was only the first of many to call the Tanya Tate Showthat day. We also had Larry from “North America,” who had a pretty developed hot-for-teacher fantasy. And Ben from Winston-Salem, who had elaborate ideas about what types of parody porn he’d like to see Tanya in. And Rick from Illinois, who I’m pretty sure was self-pleasuring while driving.

Rick explained to Tanya some of his ideas for a ladies-only three-way. His first idea: Two women wearing strap-ons [DP a third]. He also offered up this: One strapped lady banging a chick while her face is nestled between the thighs of a third. The first and third woman in this scenario would then make out, forming some sort of lesbian sex triangle.

“It’s just where my dirty mind goes,” he said.

He then proceeded to talk about yet another scenario, wherein two women, dressed like IRS agents, punish a third for not paying her taxes. Tanya picked up the conversation there, talking about how she would punish a “naughty lass.” The entire exchange lasted about two minutes, all while the distinctive sound of traffic could be heard in the background.

I wondered, isn’t it dangerous to masturbate while operating a motor vehicle? I mean, it’s got to be at least as distracting as texting while driving, right? But more than Rick’s ill-advised multi-tasking, I wondered why any of these elaborate machinations were even necessary. Surely there are easier ways to self-pleasure without calling into a radio station. Even phone sex is a private exchange between two people. What compels a person to make an ordinarily private activity so public?

The answer may lie in something called the “online disinhibition effect.”

A precursor to outright trolling, online disinhibition is an abandonment of face-to-face interaction norms during Internet-based communications. According to research done by John Suler, a psychology professor at Rider University, one factor integral to creating online disinhibition is anonymity. In other words, behaving in ways that you ordinarily would not becomes possible when you’re anonymous online.

I’m not suggesting that people who jerk off to radio call-in shows are the social-psychological equivalent of Internet trolls, though in some instances they totally may be. (Someone needs to study that.) It’s interesting to consider though—the reason we’re terrible to each other online is related to the reason why someone would want to call a radio show and talk dirty to a porn star. Once your identity is off the table, so then is the fear of repercussion. You can do, say, or be anyone.

But how many people are actually calling in, looking to “be anyone” in this manner? Ten, maybe twenty per show? According to Farrell Hirsch, Vice-President and General Manager of Vivid Radio, the Tanya Tate Show gets approximately 1000 calls throughout the course of the hour-long program.

Let me say that again: 1000 calls. In sixty minutes. That’s 1000 guys (and maybe ladies?) looking to masturbate on the air, while other guys (and maybe ladies?) are ostensibly listening.

“Sometimes people forget why we’re here,” Hirsch told me. “But we have to remember, it’s about sex. It’s to get these [callers] off, and Tanya knows that. And she’s great at it.”

For as much as I know about society and adult entertainment and human sexuality, the magnitude of the demand astounded me. I asked Tanya how it made her feel.

“It seems really normal to me,” she replied. “I mean, I’m already used to guys wanking to me, and I already have a lot of interaction with my fans on Twitter and email and Skype and webcam chats. This is just another way for them to talk to me.”

And talk they do. Tanya told me about one listener who called to tell her about his favorite fantasy, a woman frying chicken. Clearly, this example of online disinhibition isn’t exactly on par with asshole-trolling or Internet cruelty. But it’s still a form of anonymous suspended reality.

The question then remains: Is this bad? Strange? Destructive to society?

There are no definitive answer to those questions. Human sexuality is inherently bizarre and endlessly complex. And as Farrell Hirsch explained, every week at least 1000 consumers (read: humans) line up to be aurally stimulated by a hot British woman’s voice. Maybe some of the 25.6 million SiriusXM subscribers will be listening. Maybe this makes them feel less alone.


pictured: host Tanya Tate, image by Tanya Tate

Reprinted from (10/17/14)

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