In 2018, Rowdie Walden signed up for Spotify’s Sound Up Australia workshop hoping to bring his idea—answering the internet’s most-searched-for questions about sex and relationships—to the platform. The weeklong mentoring session for Indigenous Australians resulted in Search Engine Sex, Australia’s first Spotify Original podcast, which does exactly that.
From the signs of a healthy relationship to preventing STIs, each week Rowdie wants to take the questions that are often considered taboo and bring them into an honest conversation with the help of a rotating cast of experts and, of course, search engine analytics.
For the Record caught up with Rowdie just ahead of the podcast launch.
What can listeners expect from your podcast?
I can tell you what not to expect. If you’re looking for an academic, education-focused sex, health, and well-being podcast, this is not it. Search Engine Sex addresses the questions that have been in the back of your mind. You can expect to have a laugh and hear some thought-provoking conversations with incredible people. We’ve got everyone from sexologists to ex-bachelor contestants, so hopefully you’ll be surprised by the people you’ll hear from.
I also think you can expect some good tactical tips on a range of things. When it comes to talking about sex, it’s key to find an accessible channel for people. If you are from a religious or cultural background that doesn’t allow you to talk about sex, we want you to both feel comfortable listening to this podcast and also find it beneficial. It’s not smutty, but it’s not boring. If I had to put it in a category, I’d say it’s “infotainment.”
Search Engine Sex comes to us in part by way of Spotify’s Sound Up Australia, which invited Indigenous Australians to join an intensive podcasting workshop. Why was this experience meaningful to you?
There aren’t a lot of mainstream Indigenous-focused media outlets in Australia, and I think Spotify’s Sound Up has helped fill that gap. It was kind of surreal to be in a room full of other Indigenous people who had completely different ideas and different takes on what a call for Indigenous podcasters represented. They all came with very important stories to tell.
It is so unprecedented for the oldest storytelling culture in the world to have a massive platform, and now Spotify has helped create that. It’s such a refreshing moment in the history of Australia media, where the door is open for you, as an Indigenous Australian, to tell your story. I think this also speaks to the diversity of the Spotify user—it’s a platform that reaches everyone, with something for everyone, no matter your sex, culture, religion, or anything else you identify with.
Why is it important to bring Indigenous voices into audio experiences?
There’s the cliché idea of representation that comes to mind: If you can’t see yourself, you can’t be it. You could probably list on one hand the amount of mainstream Indigenous stories that have made it into pop culture. This experience is all about breaking down the barrier of where a stereotypical Indigenous voice belongs versus actually where Indigenous voices can be.
Why do you think Spotify is the right partner for Search Engine Sex?
For a podcaster, Spotify is aspirational. To have the chance to work with and be endorsed by such a powerhouse company is incredible. The audience that they have through music is exactly the demographic I see for this podcast, so it was kind of a no-brainer. They’re giving people like me the keys for success. I honestly don’t think this exists anywhere else. I am still very touched that such a mammoth company has taken interest in this little idea about internet analytics and sex.
Speaking of which, and to close—why do you think it’s important to have open conversations about relationships and sexual health?
I think it’s important to have conversations around sex that talk to the breadth of what sex is, so that it then becomes part of pop culture and something we openly talk about. Sex is great and bad. It’s embarrassing and humiliating and sticky and messy and also really lovely. So, that breadth of how we talk about sex is more important than just talking about sex as a topic. Sex and relationships take many forms, and we want to explore this. That’s what we’re aiming to do.
Take a listen to Search Engine Sex here.