So you want to do sex research?

This series will guide student and emergent researchers through the process of conducting a research study. Although the process is the same regardless of what subject you wish to research, there are a few notes along the way for those specifically interested in human sexuality research.

We will cover these and other topics in this series:

  • Getting started: How to find the topic to study
  • Literature reviews and why they are important
  • How to decide on the right methodology
  • Ethics in sexuality research
  • Tips on publishing your work

A few of the Center for Positive Sexuality research affiliates and Journal of Positive Sexuality editorial staff will contribute their suggestions and personal achievements (and failures!) to help you on your journey to sex research.

Issues with Conducting Sex Research

Before we get into the details of the research process, let’s take a moment to discuss some of the issues with conducting sexuality research. These aren’t all of the issues, but this should give you some idea of what you may be getting into.

Sexuality is Taboo

As you may have noticed, sexuality is a taboo topic in many regions of the world, including North America. Even in areas that are more open, there are still identities, orientations, and behaviors that are marginalized. This can make conducting sexuality research difficult at best… and at its worst? Well, some notable sex researchers have had their careers and even lives threatened because they dared to show the evidence the research provided rather than create a story that was more palatable or would make more conservative folks comfortable. We don’t want to put you off, but you should be aware that some areas of sexuality research (as well as research in criminology, deviance, and other related fields) can come with some difficult consequences.

You Might Choose “Safer” Sex

If you are choosing to research some of the “safer” sexuality topics related to pregnancy and childbirth, reducing STD/STI transmission, heteronormative relationships, and other topics more directly related to the medical or health-side of this topic, you may not run into as many problems along the way. You are more likely to find some funding for your research and it may be easier to find journals and other outlets for your publications.

BDSM/Kink, Polyamory, Sex Work…

However, if you decide to go down the path of exploring some of the more marginalized or diverse human sexuality topics like LGBTQ+ identities and communities, BDSM and kink, polyamory/consensual non-monogamy, sex work, and others, you will have a much harder time finding funding and places to publish. Granted, just over the last decade there has been an increase in the number of journals willing to publish on these topics, but there has not been a significant increase in accessible funding. (In a later section of this series we will cover some of the funding options available.)

Tools for Student and Emerging Researchers

Students tend to find research challenging. Often you don’t know what’s expected and it can be difficult to wade through the process even if you have a good instructor. Although you may not be looking to publish your work, let’s start from the premise that you will publish your research findings. This mindset can help make sure you follow all of the steps, conduct ethical research, and produce a manuscript worth reading. This series will cover various aspects of the research, writing, and publication process. This is especially helpful to emerging researchers. We will also focus on some of the particulars involved in positive sexuality research, since that’s the core focus of the Journal of Positive Sexuality. Whether you plan to submit a manuscript to us or someone else, this series will be helpful.

Next, Conducting a Literature Review