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Career

The Trainee Sexologist: How Sharyn Casey and best friend Morgan Penn came to launch a podcast about sex

No topic is too taboo for these two.

By Marilynn McLachlan
The Edge radio host Sharyn Casey reckons it was "natural selection" that threw her and Morgan Penn together at a conference more than a decade ago.
"We were both small-town girls thinking we were rock stars entering the radio world," remembers Morgan, who hails from Nelson.
"We were the life of the party and we had everyone back in our hotel room having a dance session when the bars closed," spills Sharyn, who's from Timaru.
"It got trashed," Morgan adds with a grin. With antics that included clearing out the mini bar and a party-goer repeatedly ramming the ironing board into the wall, the pair admit they "had to pay for it for about three months afterwards!"
Fast-forward 14 years and they're best mates, talking a mile a minute, laughing often and heartily, and often finishing each other's sentences. The dynamic duo have also joined forces to launch a podcast that's guaranteed to shock even the most open-minded of listeners. The Trainee Sexologist, available on Rova or wherever you get your podcasts, is a no-holds-barred discussion about Morgan's new calling.
After 15 years in radio as an integration manager, the 33-year-old was seeking a career where she could be of more service to people.
"I started learning there were jobs like sex therapists and I thought, 'I love this,'" she tells. "Then I learned about sexological bodyworkers who are integrating the body and mind together and working with the full body, including the genitals. That's 100% what I like – I'm a tactile, hands-on person."
Once trained, she'll counsel on concerns such as scar remediation, intimacy skills and low libido.
When she told her bestie what she was doing, Sharyn, 33, was instantly supportive. "Well, it's Morgan straight out of the gate," she says. "She's that friend that everyone goes to for that sort of advice."
The Trainee Sexologist was the natural next step. The series documents Morgan's wild ride to become a certified sexological bodyworker and is at once shocking, riveting and educational.
"It's a year-long course and it's all hands-on pretty much straight away," Morgan shares.
"It's all remote, so I've had to source volunteers to lend me their bodies to explore. Every week I have a new exercise. I do a full week of study and then I do a week of using a body to implement the lessons I've learned."
In the process, Morgan has managed to shock her co-presenter, who believes the success of Fifty Shades of Grey has paved the way for the open conversations people are now having.
"At the start of the podcast I was so prudish and scared of all the things she would say," Sharyn laughs. "Now she can say the most horrific things to me and I'm like, 'Oh yeah,' because we've been brought up in a world where women only had [these conversations] in secret reading Cosmo magazine!"
But even Morgan has struggled with elements of the training. She was brought to tears on the podcast before leaving for a week-long intensive course in Byron Bay, Australia.
"I nearly didn't get on the plane because of it pushing my morals and values in terms of being nude with strangers and touching other people's bodies," she admits.
"I still didn't have a full depth of learning about why I was doing things. But when I got there, the foundation and safety they created was incredible. It was all about consent. You never had to do anything you didn't want to."
The pair's frankness and raw honesty on the podcast has opened the door for other women to follow suit.
"I think for mums especially," says Sharyn, whose son Tyson turns two in January.
"Everyone thinks we should be just looking after our kids and not doing anything for ourselves and that our sex lives are dead. The most amazing thing that's come from this podcast is how many mums or people in long marriages have had their relationships revitalised by what Morgan's been saying."
And there's one woman in particular who's been learning from the podcast, 63-year-old Mumma Kez – Morgan's mum!
"She still doesn't understand some things, but I mean, I don't either! I'm still getting there, but she's so supportive and proud of me," Morgan smiles. "She tells her friends and now I have to go to these gin evenings and they all sit around and ask me questions. It's amazing!"
But it's not just women who are benefiting from the podcast – the co-hosts have also been inundated with messages from men.
"Not one has been inappropriate," Sharyn says. "They're all just dudes wanting genuine answers to questions."
They're results that Morgan – who is passionate about helping people slow down, find their own pleasure and communicate it to their partner – is thrilled about.
"The goal of the podcast was to be sex-positive and normalise pleasure," she says.
"So many people ask themselves, 'Am I normal?' That's the biggest question. And I can tell you right now, in terms of diversity of what we're packing down there or what we like in the bedroom, we're all normal. Well, mostly. There's always a few creepers out there!"

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