“Hello, naughty monkeys,” Sandra Daugherty says into her microphone at the start of her show, the wildly popular sex education podcast Sex Nerd Sandra.
Over the next hour, she details how to use a Hitachi Magic Wand and recounts lessons she learned from a recent “predator and prey” dungeon party. A product of Nerdist Industries — a media company begun by comedian Chris Hardwick that largely consists of comedy and pop culture podcasts — the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast reaches thousands of people every week.
During the hourlong episodes, Daugherty fluidly oscillates between playful purrs, a clinical tone and teasing banter with a wide range of guests, especially comics, who chat about anything even remotely related to human sexuality.
One minute, she breaks down the chemical components of dildos (don’t get her started on phthalate-free dildos!); the next, she ruminates on first kiss jitters. She does so in a way that is accessible, respectful and fun.
Favorite topics include love, STDs, cock rings, first dates, kink, flirting, blow jobs, pleasure and new sex toys. Above all, she supports the sex-positive movement, which promotes and embraces open sexuality.
Daugherty, a petite brunette with an infectious smile, has always had a passion for sex. She remembers being 11 years old and “hearing the word ‘sexologist’ for the first time,” she says. “And I had this epiphany: Why would you want to do anything else? It was crystal clear.”
By the time she was 13, she was devouring books about sex while other kids her age were reading comic books.
“I remember being in the bookstore in the health section and reading all the sex books. I would have a question, and I would look inside different books to find the answer.”
Daugherty diligently and patiently cross-referenced different resources for facts about the body and the biological process of sex; this was not the work of a hormonal teenager. Daugherty’s sex drive didn’t kick in until she was 14, “so it’s not like I knew everything about my own body, but I had a great intellectual understanding of the world.”
From very early on, Daugherty was carving out a different version of the world for herself. For most nerds, an obsession means believing that there is more to know about something than what most people accept. Nerds thrive on the pursuit of this knowledge.
Daugherty credits her sex nerd status to a natural curiosity, but also to her family. As the oldest of three siblings, Sandra picked up information about “where babies come from” by proximity.
Her father was a great teacher “from history to culture, and then when it came to my sex education, I learned about the birds and the bees, matter-of-fact.” By the time Daugherty was in fourth grade, she already grasped the internal workings of the male and female reproductive systems.
But the Catholic school she attended was not open to discussing sex. Daugherty was a “highly philosophical, introverted, thoughtful teenager” who obsessively followed her interests but kept her interest to herself. She may call herself “Sex Nerd Sandra” now, but owning that identity was not an easy path.
Her father was an artist who stayed at home and took care of the kids while her mother, a Filipina nurse, worked. “I felt very marginalized. … I have never felt comfortable in any group, being half-Filipino. My sexual orientation is ambiguous. I’ve never really had a group of any sort to stand with, so if no one is going to speak up for me, then I’ve got to speak up for me.”
There were no popular role models in the sex education industry except perhaps Dr. Ruth, with whom a half-Filipino girl from Los Angeles had a hard time relating. Over time, Daugherty forgot about her interest in sex education in lieu of more traditional fields of study.
Daugherty skipped around different colleges, studying cultural anthropology and theater. She finally landed at California State University, Los Angeles, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism with the intent to do ethnographic documentary work — which now seems apt, since she uses media to teach the public and does research on human sexuality.
This is a preview of Issue 27: The Sex Issue, available now. Subscribe to Hyphen or pick up a copy at a newsstand near you.