Ask a Sex Researcher

I’m beyond excited to announce that the amazing Dr. Zhana Vrangalova will be answering sex and relationship questions here on Slutever with semi-regularity. Zhana is a sex researcher, a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, and an adjunct professor of human sexuality at NYU. Personally, I like to think of Dr Zhana as the archangel of sex positivity. For starters, she founded the The Casual Sex Project, a website where people from all over the world come to share stories about their one night stands, fuck buddies, and the like–the good, the bad and the ugly. She also has a column for Psychology Today called Strictly Casual, about the science of hooking up. And she gives talks and workshops about casual sex and non-monogamy (and why engaging in those things do not make you a bad person!) I previously interviewed Zhana for Vogue about sex addiction, and again for my article on non-monogamy and sex parties. And without further ado, I’ll let Dr. Zhana solve all your problems. – Karley Sciortino


Dr. Zhana

I graduate from college next year, and all I want before I finish is to sleep with a good dozen boys in my cohort. I need some guidance on how to pull this off. Should I just like, openly be a loose woman? Let everyone know I’m 100% up for any heinous thing they want? Or should I just be super intense and secretly proposition them? How can I successfully sleep with multiple guys in the same group without it turning to shambles? – Horny and Confused

Dr. Zhana: First of all, kudos for realizing what you want and not being afraid to go for it, even though it’s something women aren’t supposed to want. That takes balls and it’s just so hot to hear a woman express her sexual desires so unapologetically. Please don’t let anyone ever convince you there’s anything wrong or abnormal about your desires.

How to go about it really depends on how thick your skin is and how conservative your school and group of friends are. But let’s assume that yours is a typical case – your ability to deal with social stigma is about average, and most people at your school would be relatively judgmental of your behavior. So you don’t want to be too open about it, or you risk getting disrespected and treated badly by the very men who you want to have sex with (and who will have sex with you, but then act like assholes afterwards, or worse, won’t respect your limits while having sex with you and will force you into something you may not be into). Being too open about it also ruins the element of seduction and the uncertainty (i.e., the chase) and that’s such a fun part of hooking up for so many people.

But you also don’t need to be overly secretive. Place yourself in situations where the opportunity might present itself (bars, parties) and be flirtatious. Then, when you think the interest is mutual, don’t be afraid to make the first move. If you already know the people, chat them up over text or on social media. If you don’t, Tinder can be an excellent source of hookup partners with the added benefit of more anonymity. (Just no sending naked pictures to anyone.)

Now, if you already have your eyes on guys in the same friend group, that may be tough to keep a secret. It certainly could work—especially if the guys are cool and open-minded, and you are emotionally stable and truly own your sexuality—but it does carry more risk of things going awry. Proceed with caution – maybe just choose one or two guys per friend group. Things get exponentially more complicated if those guys have girlfriends, so it’s best to stay away from those, especially if those girlfriends are your friends.

Either way, steel yourself against a possible backlash. Even if you do everything right, you may still run into a douche or step on someone’s toes. So be mentally prepared to say ‘fuck you all, I don’t care what you think, as long as I live my life the way I want to.’ Also make sure you have at least one or two nonsexual friends (male or female) who are supportive and nonjudgmental. Whatever you decide, please, please, use condoms and do not do it completely wasted. Good luck and let Slutever know how it went after you’ve graduated?

I’m interested in Polyamory! I’ve always been excited by the idea of sharing my partner with others, and also being free to explore multiple relationships myself. However, trying to find someone I like who shares these interests is hard. I have discussed this with my partners early in our relationships, and they expressed interest, but as soon as things became more serious they all seemed to think we should naturally progress into monogamy. I have been blessed with an open minded boyfriend who is comfortable with himself and does not get jealous like so many other men typically do. However, when I bring up the topic of polyamory, he’s just plain against it, and although I love him I can’t help but wonder if I’m missing out on the type of relationship that would fulfill me the most. Are there any stepping stones you can suggest to maybe help him understand? Is it worth risking a relationship that makes me happy to explore unknown territory? – Desperately Seeking Poly

Dr. Zhana: Sounds like you might be the perfect candidate to explore polyamory. But I hear you, it’s not easy to find poly partners. Even though some studies show that up to 40% of men and 25% of women might be open to exploring it, ‘open to exploring’ and ‘actually doing it’ are not the same! Which is why the best place (online or offline) to look for poly partners is among people who already identify as poly and are a part of the poly community.

As for your current boyfriend, an excellent introduction to polyamory are these two books: Dossie & Easton’s The Ethical Slut (more about the psychology of non/monogamy) followed by Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up (more about the practical aspects of it). You could also go to a poly meetup or two, so he can get a chance to talk to some people living it – there are meetups all over the country. Tell him there’s no pressure, you just want him to understand your interest in it and learn about the lifestyle. Then take it from there.

If he refuses to do these, or does it and decides that polyamory is not for him, then the choice is on you: You can either suppress your poly needs in order to be with him, or break up and seek greater fulfillment with someone who’s poly (which you may or may not find). Only you can decide whether it’s worth risking it: Ask yourself how important this kind of fulfillment is for you, especially when you compare it to all the other relationship needs you have? For some people the need for nonmonogamy is strong enough that the risk is worth it; for others it isn’t. Both are perfectly valid choices to make. Good luck!

Painting by Rene Magritte