“It’s always portrayed as something college students do.
And it’s almost always seen in a negative light, as something that harms women.”It was not the first time Vrangalova had wanted to broaden a limited conversation.
(The results: yes to the first, no to the second.) The studies were intriguing enough that Vrangalova was offered an appointment at N. U., where she remains, to further explore some of the issues surrounding the effects of nontraditional sexual behaviors on the individuals who engage in them.
Over time, Vrangalova came to realize that there was a gap in her knowledge, and, indeed, in the field as a whole.
Even the largest national study of sexual attitudes in the United States, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of close to six thousand men and women between the ages of fourteen and ninety-four, neglected to ask respondents how many of the encounters they engaged in could be deemed “casual.” he was widely criticized for not having an objective perspective: like Freud before him, he believed that repressed sexuality was at the root of much of social behavior, and he often came to judgments that supported that view—even when his conclusions were based on less-than-representative surveys.
He, too, used convenient sample groups, such as prisoners, as well as volunteers, who were necessarily comfortable talking about their sexual practices.
A fifth of people said they’d slept with someone whose name they didn’t know.
With the Casual Sex Project, Vrangalova is trying to build a user base of stories that she hopes will, one day, provide the raw data for academic study.
And yet, despite her apparent belief in the value of casual sex as a tool of exploration and feminist thinking, Rosin, too, seemed to conclude that casual sex cannot be a meaningful end goal.
“Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women,” she wrote.
Casual sex has been much explored in psychological literature, but most of the data captured by her research team—and most of the other experimental research she had encountered—had been taken from college students.
(This is a common problem in psychological research: students are a convenient population for researchers.) There has been the occasional nationally representative survey, but rigorous data on other subsets of the population is sparse.
Vrangalova, who is thirty-four, with a dynamic face framed by thick-rimmed glasses, has spent the past decade researching human sexuality, and, in particular, the kinds of sexual encounters that occur outside the norms of committed relationships.