Phone Sex

The airwaves crackle nightly as 101.5’s
Michele Pilenza asks her After Hours fans to call in and tell her how “it” is going.

Joe from Roosevelt is on the air, chatting live with host Michele Pilenza, just trying to work through some everyday relationship issues:

JOE: I’ve been married to my wife for ten years, and we dated for seven before that. She had two kids when I met her, and we had two kids together. The sex was great throughout, until about five years ago. I said, “Honey, why don’t we swing, get another couple into it with us?”

MICHELE: I’m sure she loved that idea.

JOE: She was like, “No, no, no.” But I said, “We used to do it all the time, and now you’re always so tired.” Sometimes she’ll catch me by myself with porn, and I don’t get embarrassed because I’ve been with her so long. But sometimes you’ve gotta take care of things yourself, you know?

MICHELE: You gotta do what you gotta do. But if my husband came to me and said, “Michele, I want to have sex with other women, what do you think about that?” I’d be like, “Okay, I think we’re going to get a divorce.” Because I would be so jealous, I would be a crazy person.

The topic during this particular 9-to-10 pm segment on After Hours was swinger parties. The show, which airs Monday through Thursday from 7 to 11 pm on New Jersey 101.5, tends to get racier with each hour. For the first two hours, Pilenza and her callers had discussed whether guys want to be involved in wedding planning and shared stories about being attracted to someone across a room who proves to be the one. The final hour was devoted to a study reporting that American couples have sex, on average, once a week for 30 minutes. “I don’t think that’s enough to stay satisfied,” Pilenza told her audience. Heidi in Toms River agreed: “It’s not [infrequent] enough to cheat, but it’s enough to be frustrated.” Heidi’s preference? “Five times a week.”

Pilenza, 28, has no training in sex ed or psychology (her degree is in journalism), but she gets people to open up. “Sex is something everybody does, and sometimes people are embarrassed to talk about it,” she says at 101.5’s Trenton studio. “I think radio is a great outlet because I don’t know who you are­—you could be anybody.” The opportunity to talk anonymously about the most intimate things generates scores of callers every night.

A 2002 graduate of East Stroudsburg University, Pilenza set out to be a TV journalist. She says she’s always been at ease talking about personal subjects, something her mother, Janyce, confirms. “And she always has the last word,” Janyce points out.

Working at the college radio station helped Pilenza land a job at Millennium Radio, which owns 101.5 and several other stations. After working the news desk and hosting a morning show, Pilenza was offered the After Hours gig a year and a half ago. The show had always been about sex and relationships, and Pilenza was eager to put her own spin on it. “I thought it would be a great career opportunity,” she says.

She admits she’d feel more comfortable if her parents in Delran didn’t listen during the bawdy 10-to-11 pm slot. But the Pilenzas say they’re proud of their daughter and enjoy listening to her interact with callers.

In addition to reading voraciously, Pilenza often picks up on things going on in the lives of her friends and family (anonymity preserved). The topic of guys and wedding planning, for example, arose after a friend of Pilenza’s told her that her fiancé left work early to meet a caterer. Even Pilenza’s hubby of four years, Alan, 32, is cool with his wife’s public discourse—partly because she rarely gets specific about their sex life.

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“I would never jeopardize my marriage,” she says. While the juicy stuff comes from listeners, the host offers her opinions freely. “If I hold back, they’re going to sense that, and then they’re going to hold back,” she says. “It’s not going to make for good radio.”

During the swinger discussion, for example, the host sparred with Brian in Glassboro, who said towns should put a stop to such parties to preserve “the good Christian values this country was founded on.” Pilenza shot back, “Who are you to judge? They’re allowed to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own home.”

The bible of After Hours is a spiral notebook in which Pilenza jots down topics and questions: Is dating a co-worker a bad idea? Is kissing cheating when you’re drunk?

“Cheating is the one topic that generates endless calls,” she says—and she has not lost her capacity to be appalled. One caller confessed that she had an affair, became pregnant, and pretended the baby was her husband’s. “I asked her how she sleeps at night,” Pilenza says.

The broadcast has a seven-second delay, and occasionally Pilenza has to hit the dump button when callers get too graphic or profane. “For the most part, people know what they can and can’t say,” she says. “It’s not a dirty or disgusting show. It’s people who call up and are really passionate and serious about the topic, and just want to voice their opinion or share their story.”

Producer Chris Swendeman, who screens the calls, says people rarely pull a bait-and-switch. “But every so often callers do say some crazy things that will catch you off guard, even when you think you have heard it all.” His top shocker (which did air): A caller said his girlfriend’s twenty-year-old daughter walked in on them while they were having sex—then joined them.

“I think people have always been kinky and crazy,” Pilenza says, “but we’re becoming more comfortable talking about it.”

Well, yes, if there’s anonymity. Otherwise, not so much. Swendeman admits his love life has suffered since he started at After Hours a few months ago. “It actually has made dating more difficult for me,” he says. “I think once a woman discovers what I do, they are very hesitant to get involved.”

“I don’t even fake it anymore,” said a sad Marie from Short Hills on a recent show. “It” was an orgasm of her own, which her husband didn’t seem to give a hoot about. “I’m just like, ‘Okay, honey, you’re done and that’s it.’ It takes a lot longer for me.”

Pilenza flipped. “I think any guy—if you said, ‘Look, you’re not pleasing me, it’s gonna take a little longer, my hormones are out of whack,’ whatever—I think the guy should want to please you and want to take as long as it takes for you to be satisfied.”

“Amen, Michele,” said Marie.

Just goes to show that sex can indeed be a religious experience.

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