Palo santo smudge, vape pen, dead yellow roses on an uneven, wide-plank, wooden floor: welcome to Kaitlin Prest’s Hollywood apartment. When she offers coffee, from a French press, she squeals—Yay!—if you say yes, particularly if you first said no. She wears a white linen blouse and a skirt with pockets, like a farmwife; her hair is curly and dark, and her eyes gleam. Recording her is no problem. She is thirty-three and for more than a decade has been broadcasting the most intimate facets of her sexual, romantic, and emotional life on the radio and on her celebrated Radiotopia podcast, “The Heart.” The Guardian has called “The Heart,” which got more than seven million listens between 2014 and 2017, “.”

In Prest’s elaborately sound-designed productions, she whispers, self-examines, and confides, blending reënactment with verité excerpts of her real life: we listen as she argues, flirts, makes out. “I wanted to make something that scratches the same itch as a Hollywood movie, but is rife with truth,” she told me. “I asked myself, ‘How do you represent the truth of life?’ Narrative does a pretty good job of reproducing the way it feels. As a storyteller, I’m always asking, How do I tell a story that makes the person listening to it feel the way I felt when that person kissed me? How can I make it feel as exciting? The only answer I’ve come to is to create a narrative structure of tension and release that allows for that kiss in the story to feel like just as much of a surprise as when it happened to you.” She said, “I have a feeling of I have nothing to hide. Literally everything about me is out in the world.”

I first heard Prest on “No,” a startling mini-season of “The Heart” that was presented in the spring of 2017, and later adapted for WNYC’s “Radiolab.” “No” is about consent, and examining the ways women are conditioned to privilege other people’s feelings and desires above their own. Seeking answers to misunderstandings, miscues, and abuses from her past, Prest interviews her parents, female victims of consent violations, and men who admit to having crossed boundaries. (Prest’s father reflects regretfully on a transgression from his adolescence.) Whenever possible, she uses real tape. In one episode, she plays a recording from a sexual encounter with a male friend called Raoul, an ex-partner she was interviewing on another topic. After the formal interview, he asks if she wants a massage. She agrees, and clearly delimits where she wants to be touched and where not. In spite of that, Raoul keeps pushing the encounter toward greater intimacy. She analyzes beat by beat how and why her “no” was heard as “yes,” and why she ultimately permitted the sex that she had set out saying she did not want to have. It is stop-in-the-middle-of-the-crosswalk tape, utterly arresting, disturbing, voyeuristic, raw.

The timing of “No” was prescient, released just six months before the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the ensuing #MeToo体育投注平台 moment precipitated a broad, mainstream conversation around issues of gender, sex, and power. In the midst of that renegotiation, Prest has become a voice reporting from the gray zone. “Everyone always asks me, ‘How do I fix it?’ ” she said. “It’s a lifelong journey of ‘How do I know what I want, and how do I know what I want independent of what everyone else wants?’ For women and others in traditional oppressive-power-dynamic things, it’s going to take forever.” She added, “On the other hand, people can just say sorry.”

Prest pronounces “sorry” in the Canadian way. She grew up outside Montreal, in a tiny town called Winchester Springs. Her parents are classical musicians who met at McGill University. There wasn’t much for Prest in Winchester Springs. “It wasn’t cute-upstate-New York rural. It was Bro-land. Either church or hockey or heavy metal,” Prest told me, echoing almost to the word a line from her podcast “The Shadows,” a fictional audioplay that she made with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2018. She went with the heavy metal, left for Montreal at nineteen, enrolled at McGill and then switched to Concordia, was broke, made art, and did activist street puppetry. In 2006, she fell in with a group of queer feminists and started making a radical anarchist radio show called Audio Smut in a basement radio studio. “Can’t be a filmmaker, ’cause cameras are fucking expensive,” she said. “I was making art out of garbage, because I couldn’t buy a canvas. I’m, like, Oh, my god, brush, no. And theatre as well—I can’t pay for supplies or space. With radio, no materials! The station had a recorder they’d lend out, and they had a studio, and all it takes is a brain. It was so amazing, the theatre of the mind. Because it was a mass medium, there was a built-in audience.”

Audio Smut featured Prest and her friends talking about S.T.D.s and and the that can accompany arousal. She told me, “I wanted to insert people who look like my friends, this community—women! Queers! People of color! I wanted to insert these people into mainstream culture.” The show, which she turned into a highly produced documentary program, was joyfully confrontational. “Audio Smut was a sex-positive, queer, fuck-you show,” she told me. “We’d record ourselves masturbating and put it on the radio, for 6 P.M. drive time.”

Prest turned Audio Smut into a podcast, because her friends didn’t own radios, and she wanted them to hear the radical work she was making. When she arrived in New York, in 2010, she went straight to the offices of WNYC, to express her admiration, not realizing that in New York you need an appointment and an I.D. For four years, while waitressing at Suen Noodle to pay rent, she was told “No, No, No”: her stuff was too political, too feminist, too sexual, not commercial. Nevertheless, she found radio heaven in the city, a pre-“Serial” audio boomtown. When she met Roman Mars, the podcast impresario behind the network Radiotopia, she persuaded him to take her on, changing the name of her show to “The Heart.”

The central crisis in “No” revolves around a murky episode from Prest’s mid-twenties in which a close male friend, whom she calls Jay, repeatedly pressures her to “touch junks,” as she puts it, in the course of a night of drinking and snuggling at his apartment. She parries and dodges, trying to keep it to kissing, which she welcomes, and to manage his frustration. Repeatedly, he takes her hand and places it on his genitals. When she enforces her boundary, removing her hand, he turns mean. Eventually, in a kind of angry, desperate détente, they end up masturbating side by side. Afterward, feeling awful, Prest drops Jay. Years pass, but the terrible feeling lingers.

体育投注平台On the Jay night, Prest was not taping. To play his part in the apartment scene, she hires an actor, giving him the lines that she remembers Jay saying. Then Prest musters the courage to call the actual Jay, hoping to have a thoughtful conversation about that night. After years of upset, she probably also wants to give him a piece of her mind, and have him absorb what it had felt like from her side. He agrees to the interview.

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This time, Prest recognizes that she has the advantage. “Even the moment of him saying yes to do the interview was an inverse of that earlier moment,” she told me. “On the night that we hooked up, I was saying yes to him because I wanted him to be happy, because of the power differential. And in this scenario, I had gone dark on him for three years, I had iced him out as a friend, and I’m coming to him with a request to help me out with my show, and he’s definitely saying yes only because he feels held hostage for our friendship and wants to win back our friendship.”

In the conversation, though, Jay fails to acknowledge her point of view about what transpired between them. It just hadn’t been that big a deal to him. “Really? Is it really that big a deal, honestly? ’Cause it can’t be. In your daily life, can this really follow you around?” he says. “Don’t I get a pass for one infraction of this line?” With his irritation verging on sarcasm, he says that he’s sorry for the stupid drunken stuff he did—pressuring her, ignoring her discomfort and objections, turning cold. “You know, I’m sorry for all that, but it’s, like, how bad do I have to feel?”

Listening to the recording, Prest and her collaborators felt they were in possession of something undeniably compelling—“golden tape,” she later called it—that documented the precise sound of a man refusing to acknowledge a woman’s experience. “When I did the interview, I was hoping we would have a really enlightened conversation about gender, and then, with this classic defensive-asshole behavior, he was just so . . . he kind of dug his own grave in that way,” Prest told me. “I wasn’t trying to ‘get’ him, but, once we listened to it, it was, like, This is real, this is what happens, this is the truth. This is almost the biggest part of the story about those types of assaults. It’s not about the night. It’s about trying to talk about the night and being gaslit.”

“No” was widely praised for its textured revelations of intimacy gone wrong. A on Prest’s Twitter feed sided with Jay. “His reputation has been trashed by this recording,” the post read. “He deserves an apology!” Prest replied, simply, “Ew.” But, over time, Prest began to wrestle with the moral cost of wielding power. Before releasing the series, she had called Jay back to make sure she had his permission to use the tape. “I remember working myself up, and like shaking, and I knew if he said, categorically, ‘No,’ I wouldn’t do it,” she told me. “But the weird thing is he said yes. But it was one of those yeses that was a no on the inside. And I was, like, This is so uncomfortable! Because I’m literally making this whole thing about that. He said, ‘Well, if you’re calling for my blessing, you can have it, but I don’t think if you didn’t have it that you wouldn’t do it.’ I’m, like, ‘I wouldn’t do it, that’s the point.’ He’s, like, ‘Do whatever you want. If you want to use this awful night as a springboard for your career, fine.’ ”

体育投注平台“It’s so meta,” she went on. “The whole story is about consent, and I was taking a political position about what consent should be, which is caring about what someone else wants and, if you’re picking up on discomfort that you should care, it should matter.” In 2018, giving , an audio conference in Chicago, she played the second Jay tape, of his reluctant not-yes yes. “According to my values, that doesn’t sound like an enthusiastic yes,” Prest told the audience. “I made the decision that the story was more important than his enthusiastic yes.”

Prest moved to Los Angeles a year ago and established an audio-arts company called Mermaid Palace, a last redoubt for independent audio in an increasingly corporatized podscape. Through Mermaid Palace, Prest has passed “The Heart” on to two women, Nicole Kelly and Phoebe Unter, who previously made a podcast called “Bitchface.” In the first episode of the new “Heart,” called “Lesbian Separatism Is Inevitable,” which aired last month, Kelly and Unter take a road trip to an all-female house party on a ranch in Baja. Prest told me, of the new producers, “They’re the Intersectional Feminist Beats—the Intersectional Queer Feminists’ ‘On the Road.’ ” Since “No,” Prest has been taking a break from documentary. “The powerlessness of being a subject—there’s nothing more vulnerable than that,” she said. “That’s why I do fiction now.” She laughed. “But even that’s complicated.”

体育投注平台Prest’s fictions are anchored by fact, in the form of recordings she makes in her daily life. “The Shadows,” a she made after “No,” centers on a polyamorous character named Kaitlin who makes art out of garbage and plays the accordion in the subway, which at least partly describes Prest’s young adulthood in Montreal. Recordings of her busking in the two-thousands lend verisimilitude. (In the show, Kaitlin’s puppet persona is a mermaid; Prest’s apartment is strewn with artifacts, like painted cardboard wave cutouts, that appear to date to a mermaid-puppet period of her own.) “Everyone in my crew knows that it’s a true story. Everybody knows who it’s about,” she said. “I make a whole fictional universe to protect the people who don’t want to be interviewed, but, in the end . . . ” She smiled apologetically.

Her new audio fiction, “,” written, narrated, and co-directed by Drew Denny, pushes the genre to an even greater extreme. The show, which Mermaid Palace and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released this week, revolves around the disastrous love life of a young musician named Goldie, who performs in a band called Hips with K.G., her best friend. Denny, who plays the role of Goldie, also performs the music with her best friend, Christina Gaillard, with whom she is in a band called Hips. While they were both living in a guest house in the hills, Prest taught Denny her secrets. “I use a shitty-ass mike, a Zoom H1, which records in stereo and is very mobile, no cords,” Prest said. “Then it’s improv style—Drew taking a mike and doing a day, as friends, with Christina, driving in the car, making nachos.” Those candid recordings, along with demos and old tapes of band-rehearsal sessions Denny dug up, form the factual bedrock on which the fictional world gets built.

“Asking for It,” which addresses domestic-partner abuse, is dark and hooky, with a lot of fighting, psychological abuse, and sex. Prest, who plays the role of one of Goldie’s abusive lovers, also recorded much of the action. “For romantic and erotic scenes, Katilin’s dedication is unparalleled,” Denny told me. “I have received the note ‘more rubbing’ many times from Kaitlin Prest. Imagine Kaitlin leaning over you with her eyes closed, nodding her head up and down, headphones on, holding the mike in between your faces while you go in for the kiss, mouthing, ‘Yes, more rubbing, more rubbing, breathe in, yes, through the nose.’ If there are sex scenes that sound uncomfortably real, don’t worry, it’s not porn—it’s just directed by Kaitlin Prest.”

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Mermaid Palace occupies a two-story house across the street from Prest’s apartment, a block from the 101 Freeway. The company is named for Prest’s bedroom in a “hippie house” she lived in for the last four years of her time in New York. One of her housemates was Sharon Mashihi, her consigliere, showrunner, and vice-queen of the Palace. In of “The Heart,” Prest, who periodically sent Mashihi secret-admirer love notes signed “Harry,” investigates the romantic subtext to their nonsexual friendship. (Mermaid Palace is producing Mashihi’s fictional show, about an Iranian-American family.)

体育投注平台A couple of days after meeting Prest at her apartment, I went to Mermaid Palace, to sit in on her twice-weekly editorial meeting with Mashihi. (One four-hour block is reserved for Prest’s projects, the other for Mashihi’s.) In Prest’s office, there were more dried yellow roses on the floor, and a mike stand wrapped in turquoise toile. Prest sat at her desk, wearing worn black Converse and writing on a big pad of paper. Mashihi had on a turtleneck sweater and a miniskirt, with hot-pink boots. After dealing with questions about her manager and her psychiatrist and her weekend plans (who to invite to Santa Barbara?), Prest and Mashihi tackled the outline for Prest’s next show: an exploration of her rise from broke artist on the margins to palace queen, through the lens of power, and how easily it can be abused. “I went from anarchist collective to no more anarchist collective,” she told me. “It’s a hierarchy, and I am the queen of it.” Rooted in nonfiction—a kind of audio memoir of her years at Audio Smut and then hustling in New York—the project would veer into fantasy. What would happen if she, a former radical, became a boss from hell? “I do feel scared,” she said. “I can see this version of me that completely pivots. Sometimes I do have nightmares about turning into Sheryl Sandberg.”

体育投注平台For sure, she would revisit the Jay episode, this time in the context of her own power, and the ethics of the decision she made to use the golden tape no matter what. She would probably use the tape of their second conversation, where he said yes but meant no. She said, “What I learned about power, being in a position of power, is that it feels like nothing. When you’re in a position of power, you’re not as sensitized as to the vulnerability. When a man is pressuring a woman into doing something, he doesn’t feel the pain it’s causing her to betray herself that way and the pain that reverberates for weeks and weeks afterward, and I think in work it’s the same thing. Power is just freedom, feeling like you can say whatever you want.”

体育投注平台The tape was rolling, on Prest’s phone and on a smaller recorder equipped with a fuzzy-head microphone. A disco ball suspended from the ceiling made constellations on the walls. Prest tugged on her vape. This conversation, and any disagreements she and Mashihi might have, could be fodder for a future episode.

A previous version of this article mischaracterized Drew Denny’s role in the production of “Asking for It.”