How old were you when you first had “the talk”? Being sat down to discuss the “birds and the bees” is a rite of passage in many households, however, this particular conversation can tend to have a negative angle that can impact our relationship to sex for generations to follow. Steven Chandler and Lionel Davis—affectionately referred to as Ler & Lionel—are the older sibling you always wished you had to break down the hard sex questions and give you the real of what can go down.
On their podcast Late Night With Ler & Lionel, the two Philly-based hosts make a valiant effort to dispel harmful perspectives on sex that may inform dating patterns and standards commonly set in the age of social media and beyond. For many reasons, the topic of sex in the Black community is largely discouraged and frowned upon, which can lead to misinformation and unhealthy habits. By the time we get older, we may find ourselves having to relearn about sex all over again by a more experienced expert.
The two chopped it up with EBONY about their journey to podcasting, (respectfully) talking about sex freely and not feeling bad about it.
EBONY: You both have gained traction for speaking on themes that are sex-positive and anti-misogynistic as Black men. Did you set out to differentiate yourselves this way, or was it a natural choice?
Ler: I think it’s been a kind of natural choice. We both have some great moms, so we never desired to be disrespectful. As we grow, we learn more about being inclusive. We’re not perfect, and we didn’t have an intentional conversation about being less misogynistic. I just think we’re not jerks (laughs).
Lionel: The more guests we have on the show, we pick up on more things in the realm of sex. When we started to gain traction, we knew what type of community we wanted to build as far as our listeners go. You often hear people constantly shitting on other folks of opposite genders and placing certain stereotypes on them, and it isn’t even realistic. We get that people do that for clickbait, but you don’t have to be an asshole in this game when you can go farther by just being yourself.
Ler: Yeah, by doing that, you don’t get to build up an actual support base. I feel like us doing live shows and bringing actual human beings out of the house means that we actually have people that rock with us, as opposed to bragging about a million views on every video on the internet. That’s not as valuable. It’s stupid to alienate supporters when you care about making good content. Additionally, we don’t speak on things that are not of our experience. For example, when women speak up about their lived experience, we don’t try to input our two cents. That’s not our place.
The podcasting lane continues to shift and change in so many ways. Additionally, as previously mentioned, you both are still learning and growing as individuals. How do you educate yourselves and stay up to date on trends?
Lionel: It pays to have women as good friends and close confidants. Having moms and sisters in our circle help to lay the foundation and share more information. Hanging out with diverse types of women teaches us a lot.
Ler: We’re also active on the internet, so we tap into what goes on. We have had guests who teach us a lot, too. We aim to humanize people through the conversations we have. For example, we had a sub on the show that was being used as a footstool but at the end of the show, we just had a regular conversation. We are grown men and are free to speak our minds, but we try not to be idiots.
Lionel: Human interaction with other people has been the best teacher.
Ler: And making mistakes. We all say stuff that might be crazy, but it’s important to acknowledge and fix those mistakes.
Since launching Late Night with Ler & Lionel in the pandemic, what have been some pros & cons of having a podcast?
Ler: A pro for me is that we connect with a lot of podcasts platforms now and have built a family. It’s interesting and feels good to be a part of a community of podcasters that we can call. It’s like being in a fraternity or sorority, like a fraternity. When we pull up to their city, we can link up with them. So that’s the fun part for me.
Lionel: I’m dating and I’m single. So a con for me has been the frequent question of whether our experience will end up as a topic on the show as we do talk about our personal and sex life. That definitely can make things a little complicated. If I’m dating and things get a little bit more serious with the person, they might say, “You’re not about to talk about me on your show, right?” This is my life, so you might come up as a code name or something (laughs).
Black men often have a very conflicting reputation when it comes to how they show up behind a microphone. This especially true in conversations involving sex, romance and relationship standards. Do you two feel a responsibility to be conscious of what you say or promote on this platform?
Ler: If you have a platform of any kind, you may not want to be responsible or accountable for the people that listen to you, but you have to be. With Late Night With Ler & Lionel, we strive to talk about sex in an empowering way because it’s so taboo in the Black community. Our parents don’t talk to us about it, they just don’t want us to do it, you know? You don’t talk to your homies about sex unless it’s in a joking manner. I think our responsibility is making it less taboo. A lot of Black men think that trying anything new is “suspect.” But you never know, not taking steps to please and explore with a partner might end up holding them back. We are making our show a safe space because we know sex isn’t always easy to speak about.
Lionel: Even if it’s not sex, dating is awkward in today’s world and everything is moving real fast. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel and act like we are pioneering in this space, but we are conscious of how we get the conversation out and how it’s being presented. There’s a certain power dynamic when it comes to doing what we do, so there’s definitely responsibility to be had.
Ler: We know we have folks in college—or even younger— listening to us, and hopefully they learn from us, even the mistakes that we’ve made or how we take accountability. I’ve been transparent about being a bad communicator or going to therapy so maybe somebody can avoid some of the stupid things we did as youngins.
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