Zhana Vrangalova, Ph.D., always knew she wanted to scientific research, because her dad was a university professor. The question was figuring out what, exactly, to study. She ended up picking the topic that seemed most interesting to her: sex.
“Sexuality has always been a huge part of my own life, and I was endlessly fascinated with how other people navigate their sex and relationship choices—especially those of us whose desires exist outside the societal norms,” she says.
Through her work as a sex researcher, writer, and consultant, Vrangalova has empowered people to buck societal norms (You must be monogamous! Masturbation is bad!) and get more adventurous in their sex lives and relationships. She currently hosts a series of virtual sex talks called Uncensored With Dr. Zhana, where people from all over the world can share their questions and answers around thought-provoking topics like consent, objectification, porn, sex work, and more. We recently attended an excellent session on Tantric sex, where participants shared their best tips for achieving next-level, full-body orgasms.
We wanted to get to know Vrangalova better, so in this MVP exclusive interview, we asked her 20 sexy questions about her personal life.
1) What’s been the most surprising finding from your research?
How there is no size fits all when it comes to sex and relationships. What’s healthy and pleasurable to some is unhealthy and terrifying to others. We have to create a world where these different options are all celebrated, and people are encouraged to figure out which ones are best for them and given the knowledge and tools they need to engage in them in ways that are pleasurable, safe, and ethical.
2) You talk about “Medieval social norms” holding people back from fully enjoying their sex and love lives. What are some of those harmful norms?
• Complete lifelong monogamy is the only healthy, natural, or moral way to do relationships.
• Only sex in long-term relationships is healthy and acceptable; casual sex is unhealthy, especially for women.
• Women aren’t sexual beings, only men are.
• When you truly love someone, you don’t desire anyone else.
• Masturbation is bad/sinful/unhealthy.
3) When it comes to sexual pleasure, what do you think penis owners struggle with the most?
I think there are a few issues. For some it’s premature ejaculation. For others, confidence about whether they’re good lovers. And for many men today, it’s the worry that their sexual desires are harmful and disrespectful to women (especially if they are outside of long-term relationships).
4) When it comes to sexual pleasure, what do you think vulva owners struggle with the most?
Knowing what they want sexually and being assertive with their partners about it.
5) What gets you the most excited about sex research today?
Some neuroscience research looking into how we can expand our pleasure and arousal potential beyond the genitals and the nerves emanating from the genitals.
Courtesy of Zhana Vrangalova
6) What’s a still-unanswered question about sex or relationships that keeps you up at night?
Which factors determine who’s going to be a good fit for open relationships or casual sex, and who isn’t.
7) What’s the most common misconception people have about open relationships?
That wanting an open relationship means you don’t love your partner or that there’s something wrong with the relationship. A close second is that they don’t work out.
8) If you could only use one sex toy for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
This is a tough one. It’s a tie between Lelo’s Sona (the suction-type stimulation those sonic waves create really does it for me) and my strap-on (I LOVE pegging men; there is something so arousing about a straight-ish man who’s comfortable enough in his masculinity to get pegged). I guess if I really really had to pick just one, it’d be my strap-on since I can pleasure myself with my hand and I can’t peg guys without a strap-on.
9) When is it NOT a good idea to open up your relationship?
When you’re not in a good place with each other, like if you’re fighting a lot, or you feel disconnected from each other, or if you’re doing it as a way to get revenge for something etc. Also during major transitional times that can be stressful for any relationship, like when a new baby is born, or when someone gets sick/loses job/loses a parent etc. During times like this, what’s best is to focus on finding wa