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Episode 13

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” and hookup culture as well as the very wide spectrum of how we define casual sex, 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.

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Sasza Lohrey

Well, thank you so much for being with us today. To start out I guess just tell our listeners maybe a little bit about your background and how you came to be where you are today in this area, and expertise.

Zhana Vrangalova 

I grew up in a very different culture in Macedonia. It’s a small country in Southeast Europe where I went to college, I studied psychology. And then I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. I was new, I wanted to do a PhD. I wasn’t quite sure what that was going to be in. But that was the general plan. And then when I finished my degree, in psych, I asked myself, What is that one thing that is going to keep my interest for the rest of my life? Because once you pick a PhD topic, you’re kind of stuck with that topic for a while. So I wanted to make sure I made a good decision for what that was going to be. And it was sort of an obvious answer. Of course, it had to be sex. It’s the most interesting, fascinating thing I could possibly think of and most definitely the thing that was going to keep my interest for the rest of my life. So and then I went to do a PhD. I went to Cornell for a Developmental Psych degree, where I focus specifically on sexual development and how that is related to mental health and well being and sort of thriving, psychological thriving, and how different aspects of our sexuality, especially the more marginalized aspects of sexuality, the ones that we’re not supposed to do, and yet many of us have the desires to, to do how those get navigated in, in this landscape where you’re not supposed to do the things. I mean, there is this narrow, very narrow box in which sexuality is supposed to fit the traditional notion of one man, one woman in a long term relationship, preferably marriage, and they’re having just sort of regular vanilla sex with nothing too crazy never incorporating anyone else. And are there people who fit in that box? Sure, yeah. But many of us don’t and, and the farther you are from that box, the bigger box that you need in order to feel fulfilled sexually, the More difficult it becomes to navigate that and do it in a way that’s healthy for yourself and ethical and healthy for the partners that you’re doing it with. So that’s, that was my driving force. I wanted to study how that happens and how do you stay healthy and, happy and ethical while you’re doing or desiring and then doing things that our society says you shouldn’t like casual sex, like non monogamy, like non heterosexuality, and promiscuity, and so on. 

Sasza Lohrey 

Speaking of casual sex, you have actually research project based around that. Love for you to tell our listeners a bit about how long ago you’ve started this. How long have you been working on this? And what are some of the findings?

Zhana Vrangalova 

Well, I’ve been researching casual sex for quite some time. That was the topic of my doctoral dissertation. So I collected data on college students around their hookups and mental health and that was probably about 10 years ago, at some point at this point that I started collecting that data. Then when I got my PhD, and moved to New York, I decided to create this space, this online space, this project called the casual sex project, where I wanted to get people’s stories of hookups that went beyond just the college student, because there had been so much research on college students as if they’re the only people hooking up out there, and those were the only perspectives that that were being heard. And so I wanted, I knew that non college students are also having sex, both the older and younger and people who’ve never been to college and all that that college is not the only place that that happens. And I wanted the perspectives of all of those people. So I created the casual sex project, which is kind of an online repository of hookups stories that people can submit. As long as they’re true. That’s the only real requirement. They can be amazing. They can be terrible. They can be whatever. They can they could have happened a long time ago or more recently and involved any number of people and types of people and all that, as long as it’s sex that was done outside of the confines of a long term committed relationship. Whether it’s a one night stand, or a friends with benefits, or a visit to a sex worker, or something like that. So anything can qualify. And at this point, so I created that in Oh, four. So it’s been about four and a half years that that’s been running and we have over 4000 stories, hookup stories from people from all over the world. Pretty much any country that exists out there, even the most conservative ones where people think, Oh, no, there is no casual sex happening here. There are stories from people from there. So it’s pretty it’s a pretty fascinating and large collection of experiences regarding casual sex.

Sasza Lohrey 

Yes. So going off of… and you kind of mentioned an operational definition. But to clarify that, because I think part of kind of, sometimes the problem with casual sex is that people have very different operational definitions. So to kind of clarify that for our listeners.

Zhana Vrangalova 

absolutely. And it’s not an easy question, because different people do have different definitions in their minds of what casual is. And many people think that casual is a terrible word, in fact, to describe what we’re trying to describe, and even in science, if you look at 10 different studies that have studied casual sex in one way, shape, or form, and they might define it somewhat differently. So there’s no one definition. The definition that I use is relatively broad, and is meant to encompass all of the sexual experiences that happen with people who you’re not in kind of a long term committed relationship with. I think of casual sex as, as a range from… it depends on how well do you know your partner, the more you know them, the less casual it becomes.  How emotionally attached to them are you? Do you care about them? Do you like them? Do you love them? and so on? And then how committed Are you in continuing a relationship of some sort with them. So you can think of the one night stand with a complete stranger whose name maybe you don’t know, because you met at, I don’t know, at a sex party, you had sex once and that’s it, and you never see them again. That would obviously be the most casual, the casual, and then through maybe a short fling that you had with someone on vacation. That was a two three day thing. And you know, you might never see them again. But you had a really fun time, those couple of days can be a fuck buddy type relationship where you call each other up every now and then every few weeks or a couple of months or so, come over, have some fun, and then you don’t have much more interaction with that person in between those sexual meetings. Or it could be a Friends with Benefits situation where you’re more than just the occasional Fuck, right? But you have a sexual component to the relationship as well as a friendship component. So you might do other non sexual things together, like go out or meet with mutual friends. And every now and then you also have that sexual component. So, and I would think of the Friends with Benefits kind of in that middle kind of getting into the gray area of Okay, is this casual now at this point, or is it not?

Sasza Lohrey

Because sometimes I feel as though too there’s kind of even more extreme where people, you can be dating somebody, and it checks all the boxes of a relationship. Maybe it’s you know, committed, you don’t want to be dating somebody else, except for the emotional attachment one, it’s emotionally casual. You know, maybe you’re seeing each other consistently, maybe you’re exclusive, and it might not even be mutual, but sometimes on one side or the other there’s that  casual emotional aspect. So looking at that, and how that compares to the other

Zhana Vrangalova 

Yeah, I think in any one relationship that you have with people and I use a relationship very broadly here even a one night stand is a one night long relationship or a one hour long release. So in any one of those experiences, those sexual interactions, you can kind of think about where the dials on how well you know the person, how attached you are and how committed you are to staying with them. And so yeah, that can vary. Those experiences can have very different qualities, like subjective quality to you, depending on where the dials are on these three, kind of general characteristics of a sexual encounter and how you feel towards that person. One thing that a lot of people associate with the definition of casual sex, and also the reason why a lot of people don’t particularly like the word the name casual and would like to replace it with something different is that in, in many people’s minds, casual means no passion, no intimacy, very detached, very mechanical in some way, but anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Americans in particular tend to have this very dichotomous, very binary view of sex. So if it’s, if it’s a casual partner, then you don’t put any of yourself in it. It’s this mechanical thing, body part going into another body part and that’s it. And we’re not going to put in any, any passion any things like cuddling or closeness of any kind, and not even give respect to the person not treat the person as a human being and kind of treat them more as a glorified sex toy. Really. And then when it’s a romantic long term partner, then that’s where we put in all we’ve got kind of thing and I think that’s really harmful. And that’s a lot of the reason why very often, casual encounters end up not being very satisfying or pleasurable. Because in order to have a good satisfying experience, regardless of whether you just met that person, or you’ve known them for 20 years, the more of this passion and intimacy and respect and communication you have, the better is going to be for everybody involved, everyone’s going to enjoy it more. And what I would really, really love to inspire people and encourage them to do is to give as much of themselves as they can in that moment. Even if they’re never going to see that partner again As humans, we’re capable of doing that we’re capable of these casual intimate connections.

Sasza Lohrey

I’m honestly trying not to laugh inside because having lived in Latin America, just everything you’re saying is so true. I mean, especially it’s not like casual sex doesn’t exist there. But I think people managed to really take it, take it to the next level and really live a relationship for a night or live a relationship temporarily. Or there’s even just this different perspective. It’s like it’s not a one night stand. I think without cuddling, for example, versus here, people are afraid of cuddling. And it seems as though not in America that touch that intimate touch that be it cuddling or whatever that closeness. People really let themselves go and they don’t hold up those barriers nearly as much. And I think that kind of changes the entire experience.

Zhana Vrangalova 

And it’s so much more nurturing and fulfilling because we don’t go into sexual encounters. The vast majority of us don’t go into sexual encounters just wanting the orgasm, or whatever the sexual pleasure. There are more needs that are met in an interaction, sexual interaction, with another human being, than just getting to come and when you ask- you take any survey of any people- and it doesn’t matter whether they’re college students or think of the most recent hookup that you had, what were their motives? What led you to engage in that? And of course, sexual satisfaction is going to be pretty high on the list. But then most people will also say things like, I wanted to experience some emotional connection with another human being or I wanted to. I wanted to connect, I wanted to have some emotional needs met as well. And that’s perfectly understandable that we have these basic human needs there. Researchers have been talking about three basic psychological human needs that we have: autonomy, or feeling that you’re in charge of your life, that you are in control of your behaviors, the things that you’re doing, you have chosen to do. The other one is competence, feeling that you’re good at what you do, that you are actually capable of accomplishing the things that you want to accomplish. And the third one is relatedness, the feeling of connection and closeness with other people as you’re doing the things that you’re engaging in. The more we strive towards meeting these needs and everything that we do, the happier we are, the healthier we are, the longer we live, it’s this positive spiral of growth and wellbeing, and the more you can make any sexual interaction meet those needs, the better it is for everybody.

Sasza Lohrey 

And I think you mentioned kind of those evolutionary needs. And touching on that and how science and research also shows up physical touch is just this this need and intimacy is this need and it was interesting hearing you talk because people talk about the orgasm gap and trying to close the orgasm gap, but it almost sounds as though there’s an intimacy gap as well, which I think research is also beginning to show whether be, you know, in the context of of one night stands or casual sex, but also, you know, through technology and all of that.

Zhana Vrangalova

Absolutely. There are different. That’s a big cultural difference, right? Some cultures are very, very touchy feely, obviously Latin America, where you spend some time is one of those cultures, a lot of parts of Europe as well, South Europe, Eastern Europe, we do a lot of touching and kissing and even people that you’re not sexually romantically involved with at all, even complete strangers. When we say hello, you say hello by kissing on cheeks and having that physical touch. And that is critical for our well being. And so many people here and in other cultures that are less touchy feely, feel, feel neglected in a way feel like there’s something missing. If they don’t have a romantic partner or a sexual partner, then they feel starved of human touch, which is very sad.

Sasza Lohrey 

It’s true coming back, I really noticed sex as you mentioned, every time you greet somebody, there’s a physical touch. And between friends, especially, I noticed what was amazing in Latin America is between male friends, that they kind of have these intimate friendships. And it’s more, I don’t even want to say socially acceptable, because it’s what it is, it shouldn’t be acceptable versus not. just normal, healthy and natural for them to touch, hug, whatever it is and maybe share a bed instead of sleeping on the couch and coming back, really noticing that in the US, you can go a week without touching somebody. If you don’t have a partner, you’re not living in the same place as your partner. You know, you don’t have that same built in physical touch. And it is so easy to kind of slowly starve without that, without realizing.

Zhana Vrangalova 

And men in particular in our culture starved of that because they’re only allowed sort of to be close with or physically close and touching with sexual romantic partners, whereas women, there’s a little bit more leeway in that regard you can you can do that with your girlfriends but guys cannot do that with their male friends because- 

Sasza Lohrey 

yes you can, you can do it.

Zhana Vrangalova 

of course you can please do it

Sasza Lohrey 

Really though trying to incorporate incorporate that in

Zhana Vrangalova 

no of course not a good sex educator if I didn’t mention that there are people who don’t want to hug and kiss and have that physical touch so obtained consent 

Sasza Lohrey 

well then how does that if you’re fulfilled elsewhere, then you’re not kind of searching for some random person or or that fulfillment out of necessity and desperation you’re more only seeking that extra contact when it’s deserving of you know what I mean, when it’s instead of just desperation?

Zhana Vrangalova 

Yeah, and that’s a really good point to bring up in terms of, especially when you talk about casual sex. What is driving those hookups? Research does show that I mean, hookups are not especially hookups with people that you don’t know very well. When you haven’t hooked up with them many times, or it’s the first time, they’re not designed by the, by their very nature of who these people are that you’re hooking up with, they don’t know you, you don’t know them, you don’t have the emotional attachment connection, you don’t necessarily know if they’re gonna even respect who you are and what you need and you don’t have the communication of what they like, what they don’t like what you like, all of that because of that. They’re not designed to fill these gaps that you might have. And if you rely on them filling those gaps, you might be screwed. I mean, best case scenario, they will, right, best case scenario, this will be a great hookup where your sexual needs are being met with a person who is passionate and intimate and your emotional needs are being met. Best case scenario, but it’s a big gamble. I mean, casual sex is a gamble and the less you know the person the more of a gamble it is, which on one hand is what makes it so exciting. That is a big draw. For the people who are into hookups is because it is exciting, it’s novel, it’s new, you don’t know it’s the adventure, it’s the mystery is the risk. But when you’re taking a risk, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not going to win, you’re going to lose on that one. And so you can have your emotional well being and your self esteem and your sense of self worth, you can’t make them reliant on this hookup being amazing. And on this partner being amazing, you kind of have to have that resiliency, already that you’re good where you are. I mean, this, this would be fun. And if it ends up being a great experience and amazing, but if it doesn’t end up being a great experience, well, oh, well, such is life. You know, I don’t have that invested. And so absolutely, the more the happier you are, the more you come into this without a lack without something that is actively acutely missing. You’re trying to fill, the more you’re likely to get that very thing. It’s funny, there are a couple of research studies looking at some of these things that when people go into a hookup, when their motive for having hooked up is because they feel low on self esteem. After the hookup, they’re more likely to feel even lower on self esteem. Whereas if people come into a hookup, because they’re already feeling pretty good about themselves and just want the kind of the fun, the excitement, whatever the sexual pleasure, the story, that whatever it is, then their self esteem actually increases after that hookup.

Sasza Lohrey 

And so really, I just keep thinking, it’s that sense of identity and where casual sex people think about how well you know the other person is really, more has to do with how well you know yourself. How secure you are in your identity, understanding your motives and going back to the autonomy that you mentioned, and really feeling as though you’re in control, because you understand why you’re doing something and you understand the benefits versus the consequences of the gamble you’re making. But yeah, that true sense of understanding and self.

Zhana Vrangalova 

Absolutely, yeah. Casual sex is not for everyone. And even for the people for whom it is, sometimes it’s not always the right thing to do. Everything has its pros and cons. casual sex has certain cons, and has certain pros, how much do you value those, we don’t all value them the same. Some of us can get a lot more from the pros that casual sex can offer, whereas other people can get a lot more of the cons that casual sex potentially carries or are much more sensitive to the cons. So the people who for example, have a very high need for novelty. We various human beings and how much novelty is good for us, feels good to us. You have the people who love rollercoasters and there are people for whom the roller coasters are way too much excitement in the brain, right. Same with anything: skydiving, rock climbing and all that. Casual sex is kind of the skydiving of of the the the sports in a way or or rock climbing and out in the wilderness as opposed to rock climbing at the gym, where it’s much safer. But the excitement, the novelty that some of us really crave: casual sex is perfect for that. If you’re a high novelty seeker, having sex with lots of different partners is going to be very intrinsically satisfying to you. If you’re someone who on the other hand, novelty feels threatening and scary, because your brain needs way less uncertainty in order to feel excited. The novelty seekers need a lot of uncertainty or you know, not knowing in order for their brains to feel like they got their reward, they got their dopamine, the people who have less novelty needs, you give them a tiny little bit of novelty, that’s plenty for them. That’s plenty. And there’s so many of these characteristics, personal characteristics, social characteristics, what is your environment, if you are surrounded by people who are going to judge you a lot for having hooked up or hooking up a lot, then you’re in a very different position than if you were in a very kind of sex positive environment where people are not going to judge you at all. And you don’t have to deal with any of the social stigma potentially associated with it. And there’s so many other things around pleasure, like how well do you know yourself, you know, we have in casual interactions, because you don’t necessarily know the person and the person doesn’t necessarily know you very well or at all. And they might not care about you as we were talking about this whole detachment and whatnot during casual encounters. If you’re someone who knows how to make yourself come or how to get sexual pleasure out of a situation, even if the partner’s not super skilled, even if the partner is not super in tune with your body, or even not particularly caring about whether you’re going to have an orgasm or not, if you know how to make that happen, and if you have a level of assertiveness that is going to make that, let’s say that guy after he comes, you’re like, ‘No, you put your hand here and you do this, you know, before you leave.’ If you’re one of those people, then you’re going to get a lot more pleasure, even just the basic sexual pleasure out of a hookup than if you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily know as much what your body needs and feel confident expressing those needs to get them met in that situation.

Sasza Lohrey 

It’s that kind of communicating with your partner being so important, but also that communication with yourself. I know that at one point, I remember you saying in another talk you need to help your partner treat you the way you want to be treated. And kind of that that self assertiveness is being key to really having any positive outcome of them? You mentioned kind of the risk aversion versus attraction to risk and some of the social circumstances. But I’m wondering if there aren’t because I think there are people who like novelty and who like risk, but not necessarily within the context of sex. Would there be any other chemical psychological reasons behind that? Or would it just be that they’re fulfilling that need elsewhere? Be it through sports or actual skydiving? Why not?

Zhana Vrangalova 

Yeah. So that’s an interesting question. We definitely know that there are different dopamine receptors and dopamine levels and all that that are all implicated in risk taking and novelty seeking. That is a broader trait that can get expressed in lots of different ways. But at the same time, it does seem like for some people, there’s a very strong sexual component to that novelty seeking and Other people that is almost non existent at all. So you might have a crazy skydiver, rock climber, whatever who has zero interest in sexual novelty is perfectly happy with one partner forever and ever. So clearly, there’s more than just the dopamine piece. We don’t know for sure exactly what that might be. But I was six, I would suspect it has to do with, you know, the sex drive in general, how much sex drive somebody has. And so that, to some extent, might be driven by things like testosterone, or estrogen or some of the other sex hormones implicated in sex drive, and then different experiences throughout your life that can condition you in different ways, different value systems that you may have grown up with, to what extent sexuality was something that your mind kind of was allowed to go in a direction of potentially meeting with, with this novelty, and maybe as you were saying, especially if these people live in a culture that doesn’t support sexual novelty seeking, but they have the need, they have found another way to get that need met without the sexual component. So it can be a number of different constellations of what are the novelty needs, or risk needs and how they’re being met. But there’s definitely something in common. There are a couple of studies looking at, for example, the dopamine system. In this one type of receptor, the DRD4 receptor, well, there’s several genetic variants of that dopamine receptor. Two are the most common, and let’s just call them the shorter and the longer version of that same gene that will code for the dopamine receptor. The people who have one of those versions are much more likely, like several times more likely to have things like wanting one night stands, having had a one night stand, having cheated on a partner, wanting to be engaged in things like exhibitionism, voyeurism, threesomes, kinky sex, fetishistic kinds of sexual experiences, and so on, than the people who have the other version of that same gene. So there’s definitely something genetic around the dopamine system that goes on with why some of us are more driven to all of these different sexual behaviors that are outside that simple box, little narrow box and why some of us are much happier and more content in that box.

Sasza Lohrey 

That’s so interesting hearing that scientific part of things because I think a lot of people listening to that will go, it’s just comforting to know that there’s actually science behind this. But at the same time, there’s so many social constructs from, you know, culture, to media, to movies, to advertisements that that design these messages and it’s just going back to that sense of self and you have to know how much of it is you and the motivation and how much of it is these external… kind of  in the interview that I did with Peggy Orenstein where we talked about the movie Liberated, not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s basically just documenting teens on spring break in Mexico and Cabo and and just people trying to pretend there’s something they’re not because culture says them not being in touch with their identity of self and knowing if they have the short or the long chromosome. Yeah,  and there’s just such, there’s so much kind of psychological dissonance, that can be really damaging. Absolutely. But also so freeing if you really can be true to that.

Zhana Vrangalova 

Yeah, just as culture can repress some of these desires that you might have. You might also find yourself in a micro culture, if you will, and the spring break example is a great example of that. Where in that microcosm of Spring Breakers. The norm there is the opposite: the norm is that everybody is hooking up that you should be hooking up that if you’re not hooking up, there’s something wrong with you. And so you might get pushed into doing something that you actually don’t want to do. Just like our regular culture is saying, don’t do that thing that you might want to do. And so, the way you want to think about leading a life of fulfillment and happiness and authenticity is, there are three components of yourself of who you are, your desires (what you crave), your values, (what you think is right, what you think should be done moral and ethical and so on and healthy, so your belief system), and then your behaviors, (what do you actually do?) And ideally, you want those three to be in line, but the key, the internal piece, is what you want. Do you think that what you want is okay to want and have, and then going out and having it. And whether that means you’re a super slutty person because of dopamine or because of whatever and you need to then adopt the value system that supports you in being able to live that life because if you don’t have that, then you have shame and guilt. Right if you have the desire to say have lots of casual sex, but you have internalized all the values of your environment that says casual sex is bad is wrong is unhealthy is a sin and all of that, then if you go try and do that, that’s going to be very unhealthy, very damaging for you. So you want to kind of work on your value system to be in line with your desires. And then make sure that your behavior, you’re getting what you want, and doing it safely and ethically.

Sasza Lohrey 

I love that. Especially because a lot of what we’re trying to do with BBXX is give people you know, this information, these stories, this insight to help them again, get back to their sense of self, and understand whether it be desires, but that one kind of being the way we think, why is it what influences it? What about the way I was raised how I grew up, you know, school, politics, media has defined that and, and I always talk about trying to help people change the way they think, so that we can change the conversations like these we’re having and help open the conversation that kind of isn’t being had enough. So changing the way we think and talk and then act as a result and actually creating those changes necessary to follow through on our basically desires, values and behaviors. 

Zhana Vrangalova 

Yeah, really, I call it the “sexual authenticity model”.

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?

No additional resources found for this episode.

About the Expert

Zhana Vrangalova

Zhana Vrangalova

NYC-based sex researcher, writer, and educator.

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.

Episode Discussion

Home Forums Episodes 13 & 14 – “Keeping It Casual” with Zhana Vrangalova

  • Episodes 13 & 14 – “Keeping It Casual” with Zhana Vrangalova

  • Valentina 

    September 14, 2020 at 7:55 am
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    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • What did you learn about culture?
    • What was your favorite quote?
    • What surprised you most?
    • What is one way you can enact what you learned in your own life?
    • How can we each help shift the culture and the conversation surrounding this topic?
  • Amy

    September 15, 2020 at 2:28 pm
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    The thing that I learned about myself while listening to this episode is that casual sex is a bad thing when young people are in college and that as adults casual sex isn’t so bad. The thing that I learned about culture was that young people in college are told that going out on the weekends and getting drunk then having meaningless casual sex is accepted.The thing that surprised me most was that people out of college see casual sex as just a hookup and they will never see that person again.The one way that I can enact what I learned in my own life is to have a relationship with a man that isn’t just a casual hookup when it should be based on a real connection. The way that we can each shift the culture and the conversation about this topic is to educate ourselves about how casual hookups are not always a good thing and that building a real connection with someone will allow us to live more fulfilling lives.

  • Hope

    September 18, 2020 at 1:59 pm
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    It is interesting to consider that casual sex is a way for some people to avoid being vulnerable to another person, but also just a way that people would rather have sex currently in their life.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with people choosing to take the path of sex vs. a relationship– I believe certain people prefer their own independence and can’t settle down at different points in their life so they decide to put emotions on the back burner, for now. Some may even decide to never settle down and I believe that is their choice and they shouldn’t feel discouraged by said choice.

    However, I also believe that casual sex may be difficult to truly understand due to miscommunication that tends to occur amidst the grey area of casual sex, “Are we dating? Are we exclusive? If we hang out all the time, why don’t we just make it official?” I think casual sex overall is ok, as long as there is strong communication from the beginning and throughout so both parties involved are able to be on the same page and not end up in the grey area.

  • Valentina 

    September 21, 2020 at 10:13 am
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    I found really interesting the concept of hook up scripts and how they can be negative or healthy, but only the scripts and not the hook up itself. So if you’re a person that likes casual sex you’ll just need to follow sex possitive scripts where it’s all about sexual empowerment, pleasure and communication.

    This is a topic that I don’t know much about and I really learned a lot listening!

    • Jessica

      September 28, 2020 at 10:28 am
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      Hi Valentina! I also found the fact that hook up scripts–not the hook up itself–are good, bad, or toxic. We can definitely learn something from the scripts in sex-positive communities to have better casual experiences, i.e., little to no intoxication, mutual enthusiastic consent, mutual pleasure, deep intimacy, and communication throughout the experience.

  • BBXX 

    September 23, 2020 at 12:29 pm
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    This was one of my favorite episodes! So as a young woman I have enjoyed casual sex (it just seemed natural) but along with it I’ve gotten critiqued by my own girlfriends who like me also were raised in a conservative Latin family. My position is this one: If it makes me feel good, if it allows me to enjoy a moment of intimacy and helps me work-out, I will do it! Yet it has not been easy to accept this part of my life fully and definitely had some issues figuring out how to manage a healthy lifestyle having different partners (is just something no one really guides you about) so I thank the expert for giving us this insight! It made me realize at the end of the day we are all seeking for connection one way or another and it truly does not matter how close the relationship with your partner is as long as you both are being respectful to each other and of course, having a great time!

  • BBXX 

    September 28, 2020 at 9:12 am
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    I remember talking to my female friends about our sex lives our second semester of college and loved how, even in casual hookups, they “demanded” their partner to go down on them in every encounter. Especially with hookups, it sucks that male partners expect themselves to orgasm but their female partners needs aren’t even a thought in their mind.

  • Sarah

    October 7, 2020 at 10:24 pm
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    Hookup culture is not necessarily the problem its the scripts/norms around the culture itself, such as alcohol consumption. The emphasis on intoxication take away from our own authenticity and autonomy in our sexual encounters disempowering an individual who is engaging in hookup culture to essentially fill a void. However, hookup culture can be viewed positively, like in Latin America where there is enthusiastic consent from both parties and is typically in participation without severe intoxication. Here both partners want to pleasure each other and do not walk away with feelings of being taken advantage of. This highlights how important it is not to blame hookup culture itself, but rather the toxic scripts that surround it.

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