Dr. Zhana Vrangalova and Kenneth Play's unofficial headquarters at Bushwick's Hacienda Villa isn't exactly a place for the modest.
Because the two are professional sex coaches, they routinely discuss things like squirting and double penetration. They talk to clients in a room adorned with photographs of people in various states of undress and a lamp in the mold of a human torso in bondage wear.
All this might be a fairly uncomfortable setting for a stranger, and they fully understand and acknowledge that not everyone is on their wavelength. Even though clients pay them specifically to improve their sex lives, Kenneth and Zhana occasionally work with some who start out a bit guarded in divulging such candid information.
But this doesn't surprise them. They believe society does little to encourage open discourse or education on sexuality. Even the most sexually liberated person might lack the introspection or vocabulary to properly express themselves.
Even Sean, who has published extremely personal and detailed accounts about his own sex life, started off a bit shy during his consultation.
His goal was to successfully have a one-night stand, but to understand why he hadn't already, Zhana and Kenneth had to pry a bit.
Was he shy? Did he lack confidence? Was he putting too much of his ego at stake?
Even for a sex writer, the difficulty wasn't just in discussing uncommon subject matter, but also in entrusting such personal information to complete strangers. (Admittedly, the presence of our cameras did not help.)
As Zhana and Kenneth combed through some of Sean's issues and offered insightful strategies, Sean became more and more comfortable, and his thoughts were presented with more clarity. Naturally, conversations with strangers hit a rhythm with increasing familiarity, but under the surface, Zhana and Kenneth were actively bridging the divide.
When Sean discussed anxiety about wanting to be great in bed, Kenneth explained how, as a sex coach, he feels inflated expectations from others, despite the fact that he's actively learning as well.
Sean eventually revealed that perhaps his biggest problem in approaching one-night stands is his fear of getting attached. Zhana, who has a PhD from Cornell University and is a psychology professor at NYU, explained how even she is prone to the psychological attachment that comes with great sex.
Attachment, they explained, is not something that can be “cured,” and they worked with Sean on several strategies to minimize attachment after a one-night stand.
Both Zhana and Kenneth stress that what they do is not an exact science, but in talking to Sean, they followed an unofficial pattern of diagnosis, relation and strategy.
Diagnosing an issue and strategizing a solution would seemingly require the most technical expertise, but being able to relate to issues that have been actively or inactively shamed by society is perhaps the greatest skill Kenneth and Zhana have mastered.
They also seem to realize its importance, joking that their operating philosophy should be, “We don't yuck anyone's yums."