“This is a show about human sexuality, told from the approach of fun, enjoyment and pleasure,” the cheerful male voice chirped at me through my headphones. It said this at the start of every episode of the podcast. Today’s would be a good one; Kidder was going to talk about exhibitionism. I was excited; I had so much to learn. “It’s a rational conversation, but it’s for adults,” the voice continued, “so if you’re a younger listener, please go to Scarleteen.com, where you can learn about your body and your sexuality in an age-appropriate setting.” I was twelve years old. It didn’t matter. I knew I wasn’t like the other middle-schoolers. I was sex-positive.
I’d been interested in sexuality for as long as I could remember, scrawling erotica in my Anne of Green Gables diary, hunting for “vagina” and “clitoris” in the indices of library books, and researching masturbation techniques on my family’s shared computer when my parents were asleep. But until I discovered Kidder Kaper and the Sex is Fun podcast he co-hosted, I had no unifying ideology for all my jumbled thoughts on sex. Kidder made me feel like being a sexually precocious preteen was actually a good thing. As I absorbed his podcast between eighth-grade classes, or late at night in bed, I began to feel like less of an immoral pervert and more of a sex-positivity activist in the making.
Ask me what it means to be “sex-positive” now, and I’ll rattle off a pat answer about consent, boundaries, acceptance, and exploration. But back then, I didn’t have language for what I felt. I just knew that Kidder’s approach to sexuality felt innately right to me. He and his podcast cohorts enthusiastically accepted each other’s kinks, even (and especially) the ones they didn’t share. They talked about their vibrant sex lives without shame or regret. They explored questions like “Why are people into that?” and “What gets you hot?” rather than propagating stigmas or taboos. They talked about sex in a way I’d never heard before, and I truly believe they rewired my brain permanently. I can’t imagine I’d be doing the work I do now if I hadn’t obsessively devoured the Sex is Fun podcast in my early teens.
Flash forward 12 years or so. I’m an adult now (well, a confused kid who is legally and technically an adult but still doesn’t feel like one). When some sex blogger pals and I were planning a road trip to Minnesota, I pondered the question, “What’d be fun to do in Minneapolis?” A few weeks before the trip, I suddenly remembered: the Sex is Fun crew lived in Minneapolis. Or at least, they did, way back when they were doing the podcast. Who knew where they’d ended up?
I started doing research. Kidder had left the podcast many years earlier, and the show itself had ended a few years after that. I checked Kidder’s social media accounts, scanned the podcast website, Googled incessantly, but it seemed like the person behind Kidder Kaper had checked out of that pseudonym long ago. It frustrated me that I didn’t know any useful information about him – his real name, his real-life occupation, even the real names of his co-hosts on the podcast – so, while he probably still existed somewhere in Minnesota, I couldn’t get to him. I couldn’t tell him how much he’d meant to me when I was 12, how much he still meant to me. I resigned myself to a Kidderless trip to Minneapolis.
However, the night that we arrived, I mentioned my quest to our Minnesotan friend Calvin over dinner and drinks. “I’m looking for this guy,” I said. “He wrote the Sex is Fun book.” Immediately, Calvin said, “Oh, Kidder?” and my eyes practically fell out of my head. He knew him!
By the next day, Calvin had gotten in touch with Laura Rad, one of the other hosts of SiF, to get Kidder’s contact info for me. Bex texted me while hanging out with Calvin: “So, uh, if you wanted to talk to Kidder, here’s his number… Apparently he said he’d be down to get coffee.” Upon receiving this message, I threw my phone down on the kitchen table at our Minneapolis Airbnb, shouted “WHAT?!” and then proceeded to panic about what to do next. (#AnxietyLyfe, am I right?!) I’m proud to say that I managed to text him without breaking down in anxiety-tears… although I did cry later in our conversation when he referred to me as a member of “the next generation of sex educators/activists/authors [who] progress sex-positivity.”
The next day, after a morning of touring local sex shops, Bex drove me to the café where Kidder and I had agreed to meet. My outfit consisted of a collar, vulva ring, and what Bex calls my “boob dress,” because, well… when you meet your sexuality hero, it makes sense to dress sexy in every sense of the word. As I crossed the street and walked into the coffee shop, I could feel my heart hammering in my chest. I bought a hot chocolate and my hands were shaking too much to even hold it properly.
He arrived promptly, and I recognized him immediately, even though the few pictures I’d seen of him were from years and years before. We said hello, hugged, and launched into conversation. Kidder is intense, brilliant and loquacious, just bursting with ideas and opinions; that was true when he hosted the podcast and it’s still true now. We talked for hours about sex (of course), relationships, the internet, technology, my blog, his work, squirting, butt stuff, and so much more. He’d checked out my blog and he complimented me on my “witty” and “self-aware” writing, and when I showed him a screencap from a porn scene I performed in, he told me he thought I looked like Bette Davis. I haven’t blushed that hard in months.
Some people say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, because they’ll inevitably be human and flawed and that’ll just disappoint you. I worry about that a lot, because I’ve met some of my heroes and I’ve also met people to whom my work has been important. But I didn’t experience that with Kidder – maybe because he’s always been so honest about his struggles and shortcomings. Even as a fresh-faced eighth-grader, I knew that my sex podcaster crush/idol was arrogant, stubborn and a little bit bonkers. He’s still that way and I still love it. Meeting him and talking to him just made me more certain of that.
We talked for so long that the café employees announced they were closing for the night. But it still felt like there was more to say. He offered me a ride back to where I was staying, and even though it was a 15-minute walk at most, I said yes. He suggested I text a friend to fill them in on my whereabouts, and acknowledged that it was okay if I didn’t feel comfortable getting into a car with a strange older man, but he didn’t feel strange to me. His wisdom and wit have helped motivate my mission all these years; he feels close to my heart, ingrained in my brain. I trust him.
“Alright, let’s throw down the gauntlet,” he said. We would cap off our conversation by asking each other five questions each, and the answers had to be honest. We talked about virginity, death, regrets, nanotechnology, fisting, blowjobs, and Steve Jobs. I felt myself straining to absorb his smarts like a sponge.
As Kidder pulled into a parking space outside my Airbnb, we each had one more question left to ask. He turned to me, both of us still sporting seatbelts, and said, “You wanna kiss?”
Though I’m officially agnostic, I believe in a sentient universe to some extent. I believe that our fondest wishes and deepest yearnings create changes in the great cosmic order, and that we are sometimes delivered the manifestations of our hopes. Sometimes what we want manifests in ways we could never have predicted or planned, because the universe’s genius extends far beyond what our human minds can formulate. This moment in Kidder’s car felt like the fulfilment of an old, old wish. I could feel my tiny 12-year-old self, somewhere deep inside me, looking enviously forward in time. I wanted to tell her: Look. Look at this. You’re confused now – you feel like a freak, a weirdo, a pervert – but there are people like you. And some of them will think you’re beautiful and brilliant. And that guy you listen to on your iPod, who makes your stomach feel fluttery and your brain feel bouncy? One day he’ll think you’re pretty nifty too. And he’ll even want to kiss you, if you can believe that. So just hold tight. It’ll all be okay.
Kidder kissed me, and it was an amazing kiss. But it was also more than a kiss.
When it was done, we got out of the car and took some silly selfies together. Then we hugged, and he wished me a good trip and a safe journey home. We said our goodbyes. I walked into the Airbnb, where my friends were waiting excitedly to hear what had happened. And I burst into tears. Because, gosh, 12-year-old me would just be so goddamn excited if she knew.
I kissed a cute girl tonight.
— Kidder Kaper (@Kidder_Kaper) April 27, 2016