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"I was also turned on by his large back tattoo." "That was when she walked in, a DC Metro Police Officer in full uniform with her hair down just past her shoulders." "The mushrooms made me do it. Seriously." Those are all lines from the Casual Sex Project, a wonderful US-based compilation of infidelities, sexual thrills and booty calls submitted by participants all over the world.
The project is the brainchild of New York University professor Dr Zhana Vrangalova, who blogs on the science of hooking up for Psychology Today and conducts research into the psychological impact of casual sex. Turns out it's not so bad for you after all – 42 per cent of respondents in her study reported a higher sense of self-esteem and lower rates of depression than those who didn't sleep with strangers.
But the Casual Sex Project isn't just reserved for life-affirming hook-ups; some are sad, some are funny and many provide a revealing insight into the practice of no-strings sex. The experiences logged here run the full gamut from heartwarming (My Vagina's Maiden Voyage) to eyebrow-raising (Nurse Fucked Me For $50) and stories that will leave you feeling like a total prude by comparison (Bisexual Bonobo Birthday Party).
We spoke to Dr Vrangalova about her unlikely crowdsourced project – and if you've got a hook-up you'd like to get off your chest (or anonymously boast about), you can head to the Casual Sex Project and relay your tale here.
Dazed: Where did the inspiration for the Casual Sex Project come from?
Dr Vrangalova: Well, I studied casual sex academically during my PhD studies. Most of the research that’s been done is on college students and there’s not a lot of information about people who are not college students. There also seems to be not a lot of honest discussion about about hook-ups, there’s a lot of "oh it’s bad for you" or "oh it’s amazing" moralising but a lot of people don’t get to really hear a first person account of what that looks like and feels like. I think it’s a useful thing for people to have, both for those who are writing the stories – because a lot of science suggests that sitting down and writing an experience helps you make sense of it – but also the people reading get to learn from other people's experiences. They help find where you stand in relationships, so beyond these voyeuristic pleasures that some people might get from sharing or reading these stories, I hope that it would be actually useful on a much deeper level to have that sort of forum out there.
"Studies show that among college students, up to 80% have had some sort of a non-relationship based sexual encounter. A lot of people are doing it"
Is this an attempt to make hook-ups less taboo?
Dr Vrangalova: My hope is that it’s shedding a light on this practice. I don’t think it’s necessarily a positive or negative experience for everyone. I think the project really shows that diversity in people. Sometimes it’s the best thing that ever happened to people, sometimes it’s the worst thing that ever happened to people. Sometimes it’s just mediocre, blah, whatever. That’s what I was hoping to show, so in some ways it’s an attempt to "de-taboo" the practice – but not with an agenda to show that it’s always a great or horrible thing.
Do you have a favourite story?
Dr Vrangalova: They’re all special in some way, so I can’t, really. Some of them are a favourite because of how amazing they were: they'd had very asexual vibes or they were stuck in a relationship in which they weren’t really exploring their sexuality, then they had a one night stand somewhere on vacation that really made them realise that they were much more sexual than that and allowed them to learn a lot about themselves.
Are you surprised by the response so far?
Dr Vrangalova: Maybe a little bit. When I first started I really didn’t know if it was going to catch on or not – I’m really glad that it did! In some ways it’s not surprising because casual sex is something that a lot of us are doing, studies show that among college students, up to 80% have had some sort of a hook-up, some sort of a non-relationship based sexual encounter. A lot of people are doing it. So it’s relevant to a lot of people's lives.
Do you think the internet is aiding casual sex? What do you think about hook-up or dating apps like Grindr or Tinder; are they a healthy thing?
Dr Vrangalova: It's hard to say. I think having that ease can be both a good or bad thing; on one hand, you have more choices and you can make better decisions. But on the other hand, the grass is always greener on the other side… So in that sense, you can perhaps feel less satisfied with the choices you have made because you can always say, "This guy was great, but that hat other guy might have been greater."
Have you ever submitted your own story to the Casual Sex Project?
Dr Vrangalova: I have not, no. I'm just the administrator; it's my baby!
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot