To date, there have been some twenty-two hundred submissions, about evenly split between genders, each detailing the kinds of habits that, when spelled out, can occasionally alert Internet security filters. Does it benefit us in any way—or, perhaps, might it harm us? Up to eighty per cent of college students report engaging in sexual acts outside committed relationships—a figure that is usually cast as the result of increasingly lax social mores, a proliferation of alcohol-fuelled parties, and a potentially violent frat culture.
The Web site was designed to open up the discussion of one-night stands and other less-than-traditional sexual behaviors. Critics see the high rates of casual sex as an “epidemic” of sorts that is taking over society as a whole.
(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.
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.The people who share stories range from teens to retirees (Vrangalova’s oldest participants are in their seventies), and include city dwellers and suburbanites, graduate-level-educated professionals (about a quarter of the sample) and people who never finished high school (another quarter).The majority of participants aren’t particularly religious, although a little under a third do identify as at least “somewhat” religious.(This is in line with norms; men are “supposed” to brag more about sexual exploits than women.) Anyone can submit a story, along with personal details that reflect his or her demographics, emotions, personality traits, social attitudes, and behavioral patterns, such as alcohol intake.The setup for data collection is standardized, with drop-down menus and rating scales. The home page is a colorful mosaic of squares, color-coded according to the category of sexual experience (blue: “one-night stand”; purple: “group sex”; gray: the mysterious-sounding “first of many”; and so on).