On a blustery day in early spring, sitting in a small coffee shop near the campus of New York University, where she is an adjunct professor of psychology, she was unable to load onto her laptop the Web site that we had met to discuss.
This was not a technical malfunction on her end; rather, the site had been blocked.
One study followed a group of six hundred and sixty-six freshmen over the course of a year, to see how engaging in various casual sexual activities affected markers of mental health: namely, depression, anxiety, life satisfaction, and self-esteem.
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.
Most are white, though there are also blacks, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic groups.
Initially, contributions were about sixty-per-cent female, but now they’re seventy-per-cent male.
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).