It’s been a busy month for sex educator, researcher and writer Dr. Zhana Vrangalova. Fresh off her first Tedx talk, she’s been speaking all over the place and making weekly contributions to Psychology Today. I got the chance to sit down with her about a new project she’s working on called Play! Working with Dr Brooke Wells, the two hope to conduct one of the largest group sex studies ever.
Brightest Young Things: You’re a sex doctor.
Dr. Zhana: I have a PhD in developmental psychology from Cornell, with a few different lines of research: casual sex, non monogamy, and sexual orientation. I also teach a Human Sexuality class at NYU in the Psych department…
BYT: So you might have the coolest job in the world?
Dr. Z: It certainly is one of the coolest.
BYT: You started TheCasualSexProject.com, you are an author, educator and researcher. All about the psychology of sex?
Dr. Z: Yup, pretty much. I write, read, talk, teach, analyze data about sex, all day long. It’s not always as sexy as it sounds, I promise. But it is sexy a lot of the time, and undoubtedly fun.
BYT: That’s good, I want it to be sexy at least 80% of the time.
Dr. Z: Well, then, you might consider going into porn.
BYT: NO WAY porn is good 80% of the time. I’ve read some articles.
Dr. Z: Maybe you’re right. Sex work? Excuse me, high end sex work?
BYT: That’s right. Speaking of sex work, you and I met at a comedy show called Stories From Orgies, and today, we’re talking about your new study Play, my question to you the professional, are orgies completely back?
Dr. Z: It’s funny how we’ve come a full circle within one year. I don’t think orgies have ever entirely gone away, but there does seem to be a bit of a revival, and definitely a greater presence in the media though, I have to correct you – my new study is not about orgies necessarily, it’s about sex parties or play parties
BYT: THEY’RE BACK! And please correct me. Just ask my editor, it’s important in the process. Go on, sex parties and play parties which can mean, from watching to anything more? I’m implying more than light touching.
Dr. Z: Orgies may happen at play/sex parties, but they don’t have to. Many people go to a play party to just watch others have sex, or have sex with only their partner or only play with another person or a couple. All the way to big orgy piles of 15+ people, whatever floats your boat
BYT: Sure, and is this similar to TheCasualSexProject, where you invite people to just tell their story? Not that I’ve spent approximately 22 hours reading it.
Dr. Z: Heh, yeah, it can be a bit addictive. The Casual Sex Project is a place to post one single story of a hookup at a time for the whole world to read and that project is not an actual research study, it’s an online community/forum. The research study, called Play, that I’m conducting together with my colleague at Hunter College, Dr Brooke Wells, is an actual study, where people fill out an anonymous online survey and that we’ll analyze at the end and write academic research papers about it.
BYT: Okay. That’s still kinda hot.
Dr. Z: Play can be taken by anyone who’s been at a sex/play party in the US in the past 12 months – whether it’s a commercial or a private party, as long as there were more than 6 people there and sex was happening publicly.
BYT: Is there a precedent for this already, studying play parties?
Dr. Z: Not much. there has been some research on gay male sex parties, but virtually nothing on play parties where there are women…
BYT: That’s crushing! I’m 1 for 2 on play parties and it feels like an area where some research could help people not make rookie mistakes.
Dr. Z: I know! I mean, there have been studies on swingers and polyamorous people, but not on the sex parties and what happens at these events. I think you’re not alone, a lot of people need some guidance on surviving and/or acing their first sex party.
BYT: Preach it. Okay so much to ask you about. You just did a Tedx talk at William and Mary, do you ever have to censor your presentation content for that type of show or you’re just a pro at talking sex now?
Dr. Z: Well, each audience is different, so you always have to tailor your presentation to the audience. They let you do your thing within some parameters – a few days before the event they have you run through your talk and slides with one of the organizers over Skype to make sure you’re not completely out there. I wasn’t showing any porn during the TEDx talk, if that’s what you were worried about.
BYT: I was.
Dr. Z: Although, I have to tell you this: one of the other speaker’s wife and 10-year-old son were at the event. When I got up on stage, the wife promptly walked her son out of there. Apparently they didn’t think he was ready for a casual sex talk.
BYT: Fair, that happened to me at a storytelling show once. What would be a success for OnlineSexStudy.org?
Dr. Z: In my dream world: 1,000+ responses from a variety of consensually non-monogamous subcultures throughout the US: poly people, swingers, open relationships. So please, whoever is reading this, share the info about the study with all your friends who go to sex parties or who you think might go to sex parties. You never know, really, even some of the most unlikely characters can be found at a sex party.
BYT: Worst case scenario, you find out who around you likes sex parties. So much more fun than Cards Against Humanity.
Dr. Z: Exactly. And maybe they want to take you to the next one!
Photo by NYU Daily News, courtesy of Dr. Zhana Vrangalova