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Episode 13: Keeping It “Casual” (1/2)

What does “casual sex” mean to you? Does it have only one definition or are there different kinds? How does your brain — and your heart — react to it?  In the first episode of our two-part interview with Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, we discuss “casual sex” — the very wide spectrum of how we define it, cultural differences in how we view it, and how self-esteem and dopamine play important roles. Dr. Zhana Vrangalova is a researcher, sex educator, and adjunct professor at NYU. Give us your feedback Follow us on Instagram! Facebook BBXX website Sign up for our digital “book” club — a twice-weekly curation of the best digital content about identity, sexuality, intimacy, and relationships!
The transcript wasn’t added for this episode.

For this episode, we’re bringing you part two of our conversation about casual sex with sex researcher Zhana Vrangalova, Ph.D. On this episode, we focus the discussion around the cultural scripts regarding hook ups and how we can help change those negative scripts, so that these sexual encounters can be more fulfilling and pleasurable for all parties involved.

Cultural Impacts

Culturally, we focus a lot on hook-ups within young adult and college aged populations. However, people of all ages are participating in hook ups and casual sex. Everyone from teenagers to octogenarians are having casual sex!

Hook Up Scripts – The Good, The Bad, and The Toxic

Zhana points out that it’s not hook ups that are bad, per say, but rather it’s the toxic scripts that dictate hook up culture. She lists the many different ways current hook up scripts are unhealthy which include intoxication, lack of consent negotiation, the focus on male pleasure (specifically in
heterosexual hook ups), lack of intimacy, and little to no communication about your desires.

However, there are many sex positive communities – like kink or polyamory – which provide excellent examples of good hook up culture. In these communities, the scripts are ones that empower people to have better casual experiences. These include: little to no intoxication, mutual enthusiastic consent, mutual pleasure, deep intimacy, and communication throughout the experience.

We need to stop settling for shitty hook up scripts.

People Aren’t Psychic

Everyone had 100% responsibility for stating their interests, desires, and boundaries.

And in doing so, we can allow our partners to better understand what we need and want so that we can have more mutually pleasurable experiences. It takes communication and a lot of fun R&D to figure each other out!

Being More Self-Full

Women in heterosexual partnerships are taught to not be demanding, so as to not bruise the male ego, and at the same time, women are taught to not be too sexual either. And the internalization of male orgasm being the pinnacle of a sexual experience means that female pleasure is a bonus, if it happens at all. Overall, in heterosexual partnerships, “men need to be more generous, and women need to be more self-full.”

How to Increase Your Pleasure

Know yourself – what you want and how to ask for it. Also, take time to think about the last hook ups that you had: what went well? What didn’t go so well? What can you do differently next time to increase your pleasure?

About the Expert

Zhana Vrangalova

Zhana Vrangalova

Dr. Zhana Vrangalova has a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, where she studied how different aspects of sexuality (especially casual sex/promiscuity and mostly heterosexuality) are linked to health and well-being. She's currently an adjunct professor at the NYU Psychology department where she teaches the first Human Sexuality course this department has offered in a long time.