Lila: If you and Kenneth educate the masses and make sex ed as accessible as porn, then, nothing will be kinky anymore?
Zhana: I think some things still will be kinky because there are fetishes and sexual interests and desires that are pretty uncommon. And the reason why they’re uncommon is not because people don’t know about them or people feel ashamed or guilty doing them; it’s simply because people are not into that. So those things are going to remain relatively uncommon, no matter how acceptable they become. As you make things more acceptable, certainly more people are going to think about those things, are gonna experiment with certain things and they’re gonna feel more comfortable trying them … and so certain things that have been forbidden or unacceptable before are going to become more common, but not everything. So I think there are always going to be things that remain in that uncommon end of the spectrum. But also I think kinky can be thought of as something that’s outside the norm, in terms of what’s appropriate, even if it is common, because there are certain behaviors and desires that are quite common yet our society doesn’t deem them acceptable and that’s what makes them kinky rather than the fact that they’re not very common, so, things like threesomes for example, or spanking, or sex with a stranger even, with a tall dark stranger in a dark alley, or something like that. These kinds of things, as fantasies at least, they’re quite common. The majority of people have them at least at some point in their lives yet our society often deems them not ok or not normal or not acceptable, so you can think about these things as kinky, in some way, to some extent — but that is a very broad definition of kink. If you want to take it a little more narrowly, then you would focus more on things that are part of the whole BDSM / fetish kind of spectrum, that require a little more than the occasional hair-pulling and ass-slapping to count as kinky.
BDSM (noun, abbreviation) = a shorthand for an array of erotic practices, which abbreviates the words Bondage and Discipline (sometimes abbreviated as B/D), Dominance and Submission (sometimes written as D/s), and Sadism and Masochism (sometimes abbreviated as S&M).
Welcome back to horizontal with lila, the podcast about intimacy (sex, love, and relationships of all kinds) that’s entirely recorded while lying down.
Many episodes are recorded in bed, on my Casper mattress at Hacienda Villa, a sex-positive intentional community in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Other episodes, like this one, are recorded while horizontal … elsewhere.
In this episode of horizontal, I lie down with Dr. Zhana Vrangalova.
Dr. Zhana is a sex scientist, researcher, and professor of Human Sexuality at NYU. She has a PhD from Cornell in Developmental Psychology with a focus on casual sex. She co-founded The Casual Sex Project (thecasualsexproject.com), a website that allows people to share stories of real-life hookups — in a science-y, data driven sort of way. (If you listened to episode 3 with Mistress Leigh, this is the website that a dominatrix codes!)
In our event space at the Villa, Hacienda Studio, Dr. Zhana hosts Sex Science Socials, in which she wades through peer-reviewed studies on topics like Infidelity, Squirting, and Bi-Curiosity, and breaks the data down in a way we can all understand.
She believes that popular sex myths ruin lives, and spends her time both debunking those myths on DrZhana.com, and also replacing those messages — by working to make sex ed as accessible as porn. You can read her breakdown of scientific data on Facebook and Instagram. The Dr. Zhana icon, wearing her trademark glasses, is the stamp of “legit sex science.”
As I like to think of it, Zhana makes sex safer, saner, and better-informed. Because she uses her given name, and she’s such a well-respected, badass female force for sex-positivity in the world, Zhana’s example inspired me to “come out” in a way, to publicly proclaim my sex-positivity, and the fact that I live in a sex-positive community … a choice which led to this very podcast. I’m proud to call Zhana my friend.
In the *first half of our episode, recorded at Zhana’s apartment in Bushwick, we talk about sex ed in Macedonia, liking older boys, the jets at the recreation center pool, my first time, the cartoon that inspired Zhana’s very first masturbation session — and just a little bit about butt plugs. So heeey. Come lie down with us.
* The second half of this episode will be released separately, by popular demand.
When Zhana shared our episode with her mailing list, this is what she wrote:
“I’m thrilled and honored to announce that I was recently on a couple of episodes of the amazing sex-positive podcast, Horizontal with Lila! I’m in episodes 4a and 4b, but I highly recommend you check out every episode.
If you’ve followed my work over the years, you know that I rarely discuss my personal life in interviews; I try to stick to the scientific facts and my opinions/interpretations of those facts. But I broke all rules for Lila; my conversation with her is more intimate than any interview I’ve done before. So here’s a rare chance to get a glimpse into my childhood, atypical adolescence, and just as atypical adult life.
Lila is someone who I have immense respect for, and I want to support this podcast. Why? Because what she’s doing is opening these intimate conversations that many people are reluctant to have, but by not having them we’re silencing the discourse around sexuality. By having these conversations, we’re encouraging people to own their sexuality and not be ashamed by it.
Links to Things:
thecasualsexproject.com, stories of real-life hookups, co-curated by Dr. Zhana & Kenneth Play, and coded by Mistress Leigh
Sex Science Socials, the events at which Zhana breaks down peer-reviewed studies on hot topics
You Call It A Sex House, I Call It Home, the article I wrote about living at the Villa (under the pseudonym Anna Bella)
Show Notes (feel free to share quotes/resources on social media, and please link to my iTunes, this website, or my Patreon!):
website link: https://horizontalwithlila.com/
Patreon link (the crowdsourcing of patronage!): https://www.patreon.com/horizontalwithlila
[3:48] Zhana’s childhood in Macedonia.
[6:36] Zhana’s parent’s relationship before their divorce.
[7:24] “What are we talking about, really. What is this podcast about?” – Zhana
[8:33] What other models for relationships did Zhana have?
[9:18] What did Zhana learn about sex growing up?
[10:51] The TV show that inspired Zhana’s first masturbation session.
[12:40] The prop Lila used to rub in the 80s.
[14:22] Little Lila discovered masturbation.
[15:37] On nudity, in families and otherwise.
[17:28] How Zhana usually doesn’t talk about these things publicly. “I try to stick to the science stuff.” – Zhana
[17:47] Zhana asks Lila what is the point of this podcast.
[18:26] “Intimacy dispels shame.” – Lila
[19:00] On teenage Zhana partying with an older crowd.
[20:29] How was Zhana affected by learning about expected gender roles, the sexual double standard, and the label “slut”?
[22:11] How did Zhana come by her self-assuredness?
[25:12] How did obliviousness serve Zhana as a teenager?
[26:40] What happened when middle-school Lila cheered for a boy at his middle-school basketball game?
[28:08] “People saying that I was too too. Too huggy, too touchy, too flirty, too too.” – Lila
[28:54] Lila’s role in her first play.
[30:19] Lila’s first time and “permission precludes transgression.”
[32:47] Lila’s worry about “vaginal tightness” and her first-time solution.
[33:42] An introduction to biting, hair-pulling, and spanking.
[34:28] “That’s it? That’s sex? That’s what the movies are about? That’s what the novels are written about; that’s what the plays are written about? That’s sex? That can’t be it. That can’t be sex.” – Lila
[34:46] What is the self-reported difference between people’s first times in the U.S. as opposed to in Sweden?
[36:10] Many women prefer oral and manual sex to penetrative sex (by a cock). “The reality is that for a lot of women, these other things do feel better than penetration, period.” – Zhana
[36:44] The way Lila and her partner practice safer sex.
safer sex (noun) = with the full recognition that sexual activity is inherently risky, and that there is no way to make sex completely safe (from STI’s, unwanted pregnancies, and emotional complications), the practices and precautions one takes to mitigate these risks
[37:57] “If you think about it, it’s a lot more intrusive act than external clitoral stimulation, whether with fingers or toys or tongues or whatever, so, a lot more potential for injury, a lot more potential for pain, if there’s not enough lube, so all of those things play a role.” – Zhana
[38:18] Lila’s experience with vaginal fissures.
vaginal fissures (noun) = tiny abrasions in the skin of the vulva, that feel like paper cuts and typically occur when a vulva experiences friction without adequate lubrication
[38:41] Zhana tries to define “kinky.”
[42:13] “I consider myself kinky, but I’m probably kinky lite. L – i – t – e.” – Lila
* The second half of this episode has been released separately by popular demand.