Nearby, two young boys are noisily scuffling and trading noogies. Looking into the camera, the obviously stressed-out mother of three says nothing, but her expression says: How did I get into this mess? Seconds later, the episode's title, "Birth Control," flashes on the screen.
That sort of wry, pointed presentation has helped the show lure thousands of viewers since its debut this past summer. Some may have been attracted by the provocative title, but this isn't pornography. Instead, it aims to teach teenagers about sex using risque sketches, explicit language and anecdotes that draw on the teenage experiences of its two year-old creators -- host Nikol Hasler, the aforementioned woman, and Guy Clark, an aspiring filmmaker.
The two felt that existing sexual-education efforts were far too prim -- and boring -- to be useful to teens. Their podcast focuses less on birds-and-bees basics and more on real-life scenarios teens are likely to face. More than 50, people subscribe to the podcast through iTunes. Along with growth has come controversy, particularly among sex-education teachers and therapists. While some praise it for tapping a hard-to-reach audience, others worry it's too racy for younger teens, and still others say the podcast focuses too much on humor and not enough on the facts kids need.
Amy Bryant, the editor of Planned Parenthood's site teenwire. She's concerned, however, that the content isn't medically reviewed. The show's Web site has a disclaimer that "all advice given is simply opinion and should not be taken as fact. Deborah Roffman, a sex-education teacher who works in Baltimore schools, says, "I can see why it would be very popular with kids.
It's daring, it's very open, and it's funny, and it has information that they would find very useful. In an episode called "The Older Boyfriend," which warns teenage girls against taking up with a guy in his 20s or 30s, Hasler says, "If you're in junior high and you're dating someone who's out of high school, he's a pedophile.
And pedophilia's a disease. Would you date someone with cancer? But Hasler remains unapologetic. The three don't earn any money on the podcast but are looking for advertisers. For now, they work on a shoestring budget: Episodes are filmed at Hasler's Waukesha, Wis.