“But for me, it really didn’t make sense; monogamy never make sense. I remember my first boyfriend, when I was like thirteen or fourteen. I would be on my period, and at that time I thought that you really couldn’t have sex on your period, or you shouldn’t have sex on your period — I’ve evolved since, but I was thirteen, or fourteen. So, I wouldn’t want to have sex, he wouldn’t want to have sex, and I would be like, ‘Why don’t you go find somebody else to have sex with while I’m on my period? I’m totally fine.’ And he thought I was crazy. I’d be like, ‘No, for real!’ And he really thought I was crazy. He wouldn’t do it. But that’s probably my first memory of thinking that something like that would be completely normal.”
Lila: Casual intimacy would include something like consideration, attentiveness in the moment, aftercare — after someone has orgasmed — things like that, yeah?
Zhana: Yeah, trying to be nice to that person, trying to give them the kinds of things that they would like, trying to please them, trying to, you know, be close and intimate with them, kiss and cuddle and touch, and go down on people — maybe take a shower together.
Lila: Give each other a massage, or something.
Zhana: Give each other a massage — all of those things can be part of an encounter, and I think the more of that there is, it’s just better, it’s a higher quality experience for everyone involved. And even in a super-short quickie, even if it’s, if we’re talking about a 10-minute quickie in the bathroom, you can still, within those time constraints, you can have a very connected and passionate 10-minute quickie, or you can have a very disconnected, unpassionate quickie.
Lila: A clinical quickie. Don’t have a clinical quickie.
aftercare (noun) = the affectionate pampering practices offered to a person who has just had an orgasm, or who has just completed a BDSM scene of some emotional intensity — acts can include cuddling, swaddling, offering nourishing food and drink, verbal positive reinforcement, caresses, bathing, tending to wounds, speaking about or otherwise releasing emotions, etc.
clinical quickie (noun) = a Lila-ism referring to a brief sexual encounter devoid of passion, care, or intimacy
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 the second half of this episode, 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 *second half of our episode, recorded at Zhana’s apartment in Bushwick, we discuss casual intimacy, D/s play, risk, open relationships, authenticity, and dating your species. So heeey. Come lie down with us.
* The first half of this episode was released as episode 4a!
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
Is Polyamory Right For You? 8 Questions to Help You Decide, an article by Dr. Zhana for Lelo, the sex toy brand
Are Open Relationships Right For You, free video + extended course by Dr. Zhana
More Than Two, the most recommended book for those interested in exploring nonmonogamy
Date your species, an essay by Reid Mihalko on mate-choosing
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
[1:00] Does Zhana consider herself kinky? Does she like BDSM?
[1:49] “I’m certainly a pervert.” – Zhana
[1:55] What Zhana is not into at all. And she’s tried it.
[4:41] Lila’s discovery — since she moved into the Villa — about her dominant/submissive tendencies.
[5:18] The offer Mirelle made of curating a sensation play extravaganza for Lila. Lila’s menu.
sensation play (noun) = denotes a range of kinky play designed to arouse the senses, from tantalizing scents and scintillating sounds, to physically “pleasurable” sensations such as feather tickling and flower petal-stroking, to “painful” sensations such as candle wax dripping, nipple clamps, electric shocks, or impact play, e.g. with floggers or riding crops
[7:08] What kind of sexual participant Zhana is.
[9:45] Zhana’s conversation with Mistress Leigh about domme-ing.
[10:20] Who wants Zhana to domme them?
[14:28] The ritual of letting go of old lovers, cataloguing lovers. How many lovers has Lila had? How many lovers has Zhana had?
Zhana: What is a slut? Slut is somebody who has a lot of sex, with as many people as she or he wants to be having, that society may deem is unacceptable. But if you can think of that as something positive, like, ‘Yes, of course, yes, I’m having lots of sex with everybody that I want to have sex with who wants to have sex with me too, and I don’t understand why that is a problem — I see that as a beautiful thing. As long as I’m not hurting in the process, and, I try to be an ethical slut, and I know a lot of other people who try to be quite ethical in their sluthood, or sluttiness — that I still cannot decide, whether sluthood or sluttiness.
Lila: Oh, definitely sluthood! Oh yeah. And then there should definitely be a hoodie that says, ‘sluthood.’ A series of hoodies for the community that say sluthood.”
ethical slut (noun) = from the seminal book on ethical nonmonogamy, The Ethical Slut, one who is sexually-expressed with great frequency and variety, most often with the full knowledge of, and always with the consent of, all sexual partners. Ethical sluthood includes respectful practices like disclosing known STI statuses, honoring agreements made between ongoing partners, and radically honest communication.
sluthood (noun) = the state of being a slut and the great frequency and variety of sexual partners and encounters involved [celebratory term]
[19:50] On reclaiming or trying to reclaim words.
[22:22] Lila suggests ‘lover‘ as a possible alternative to the word ‘slut.’
lover (noun) = a possible alternative to the word slut, referring to a person who is happily sexually expressed with great frequency and variety, e.g. “He’s a lover. She’s a lover. They’re a lover.”
[22:55] Zhana’s video course, Are Open Relationships Right For You. Questions to ask oneself.
[23:33] What informed Zhana’s video course? Research, informal and formal interviewing about people’s nonmonogamous relationships, and books like More Than Two.
[24:26] How does social support affect romantic relationships?
[26:10] When did Zhana first learn about nonmonogamy?
[27:09] Lila’s Portland yoga student who exploded her preconceived notions of a femme-presenting woman, multiple times.
femme-presenting (adj.) = a person who costumes themselves with the culturally-recognizable markings of femininity, such as long hair, skirts, high heels, and make-up and/or who performs mannerisms that are culturally considered feminine, e.g. crossing the legs above the knee while sitting, or swishing the hips while walking
[29:02] What was the hardest part of nonmonogamy for Lila’s yoga student?
[30:28] The first polyamorous man who explained his relationship to Lila.
[31:52] Zhana’s offer to her first boyfriend.
[33:08] How did Zhana meet her husband?
[37:28] How Zhana feels about the institution of marriage.
[38:53] What kind of conversation did Zhana and her husband on their third date (date-trip), before entering their relationship?
[42:09] Lila on her risk-friendliness.
[42:29] “I’ve always been willing to love, fiercely and to get my heart broken. I’ve never closed my heart to the opportunity of love for fear of future pain.” – Lila
[43:07] What does authenticity have to do with whether Zhana thinks that everyone is suited for group sex situations?
[43:33] Rational versus irrational fears.
[43:42] “In our society, we have this massive fear around sexually-transmitted infections, that is completely disproportionate to the actual discomfort that STI’s cause to people. The exact same thing – if you have a little red rash on your arm is going to be not at all stressful, whereas if that exact same rash happened to be on your genitals, you’re gonna freak out and you’re gonna not sleep for two days, and think that your world just came to an end. That level of fear, I think is irrational, or, to some extent irrational, and fueled by stigma and other things that are not inherent to the risk that you are taking. Some of those fears we can work on.” – Zhana
[44:50] Lila’s fears about opening the door for her partner to have sex with others, and Zhana’s suggestion.
[47:06] Ways to mitigate risk when engaging in group play.
[49:21] “Date your species.” – Reid Mihalko. What if you don’t know who is your species? Negotiables and non-negotiables. The absolute deal-makers and the absolute deal-breakers. Must-haves and would-be-nices and can-live-withouts.
[51:09] “If you’re somebody who knows that – you know, for me – I am never gonna live in the suburbs. I don’t want to have kids. I’m quite liberal and, let’s say, nonmonogamous. Those are key things. I’m never going to be with somebody who eventually wants to move to the suburbs, and have kids, and/or is conservative, and/or wants a monogamous relationship. That’s just not going to happen. Because that is not my species. I’m gonna be unhappy, they’re gonna be unhappy, everybody’s gonna be unhappy. Why would I want to do that to myself?” – Zhana
[51:49] Zhana busts the myth of “opposites attract.”
[53:02] Kenneth & Zhana’s authenticity model, “authentic AF” [vocab] When your desires are in alignment with your values, which are in alignment with your actions. Authenticity is critical to well-being.
AF (abbreviation) = stands for As Fuck and serves as an amplifier to any phrase that comes before, denotes that phrase in great quantity, volume, or intensity
[55:17] Zhana’s longstanding experience with living an authentic life.
[55:49] Zhana on what it takes for her to have casual sexual relationships, emotional detachment, and infatuation.
[58:36] “Infatuation is a beautiful, magical drug when you’re high on it, you are high as fuck, and it feels great, while it feels great, while it feels great, while things are going well, and then when things don’t go well, then it’s — not very fun, at all ‘cause it’s distracting. It can be devastating, and for some people it is devastating. For me, it’s not. I have, I think, pretty good coping strategies and I just don’t — at least, it didn’t feel that bad, and I can keep myself distracted and busy and doing other things. I was certainly disappointed, but it wasn’t devastating. There are people for whom it is devastating, and that might be one of the reasons why one might decide that this whole ‘hooking up,’ especially if they do get emotionally attached more frequently, might be a bad idea because when it doesn’t turn into something more, that fall is too painful.” – Zhana
[59:35] Lila’s concerns about being a person who gets emotionally attached.
[1:00:54] What Zhana means when she talks about having feelings versus “catching feelings.”
catching feelings (verb, sort of) = the act of developing romantic, emotionally-attached feelings to a casual sex partner, who is quite possibly an unsuitable or unavailable person
[1:02:43] “You can still have a very, I think very emotionally nourishing sexual experience with somebody, even without having any kind of romantic feelings for that person.” – Zhana
[1:04:47] Zhana tells Lila a story about casual sex.