Researchers

Amanda Freise, PhD

Amanda Freise, PhD

Research Director

Amanda Freise (she/her) is the Research Director for the Center for Positive Sexuality, an award-winning educator, and a writer. She is the Associate Director of Undergraduate Research in the department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Human Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she teaches several undergraduate research laboratory classes. Amanda combines her expertise in biology and sexuality to explore the science of sex, and is passionate about using research to help people understand their sexuality and become empowered and fulfilled through this knowledge. She is the recipient of UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching in the Life Sciences award, and her research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals.

Daniel Copulsky

Daniel Copulsky

Research Coordinator

Daniel Copulsky is a graduate student in Social Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research focuses on marginalized sexualities and relationships, particularly LGBTQ+ and non-monogamous identities. He speaks regularly at colleges and conferences, including presentations at the Alternative Sexualities Conference, Positive Sexuality Conference, and Alt Sex NYC. 

Liza Berdychevsky, PhD

Liza Berdychevsky, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Liza Berdychevsky is an associate professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance and from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, with an M.B.A. in Business Administration. Dr. Berdychevsky’s research revolves at the nexus of sexual health and wellbeing in leisure and tourism contexts, adopting a gender-sensitive and a life course-grounded approach. She uses a variety of methodologies in her projects, including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Overall, Dr. Berdychevsky’s research contributes to a deeper understanding of the issues associated with sexual health and violence and offers directions for health education programs and prevention and intervention methods. She has published in several leading academic leisure, tourism, and sexuality journals and presented her work at numerous national and international congresses. She serves as a consulting editor on The Journal of Sex Research, an associate editor on Leisure Sciences, and an editorial advisory board member on the Annals of Leisure Research.

Moshoula Capous-Desyllas, PhD

Moshoula Capous-Desyllas, PhD

Research Affiliate

Moshoula Capous-Desyllas is an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at California State University Northridge. She is an arts-based researcher committed to participating in anti-oppressive and decolonizing research practices, as well as engaging in social justice issues related to gender, sex, and sexuality through art. Her passion lies in highlighting the voices of marginalized communities through the use of art as a form of activism, empowerment, and social change. Moshoula has facilitated numerous community-based, photovoice research projects within various communities and collectives, including sex workers, participants of gay rodeo, LGBTQ former foster care youth, and LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers living in Athens, Greece.

M. Candace Christensen, PhD

M. Candace Christensen, PhD

Research Affiliate

M. Candace Christensen is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Texas San Antonio. Candace’s research centers on using feminist and arts-based research methods to address gender-based violence (GBV) on college campuses. Candace was awarded the Feminist Manuscript Scholarship Award for 2013 from the Council on Social Work Education. Candace’s most recent research examines the use of photovoice as a tool to prevent and respond to GBV.

Dave Holmes, PhD

Dave Holmes, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Dave Holmes is Professor and University Research Chair in Forensic Nursing. Distinguished Leader, American Academy of Nursing. After completing his B.Sc. (Ottawa, 1991), M.Sc. (Montreal, 1998) and Ph.D. (Montreal, 2002) in Nursing, Professor Holmes completed a CIHR post-doctoral fellowship in Health Care, Technology and Place at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Social Work (2003). To date, Dr. Holmes received funding, as principal investigator, from CIHR and SSHRC, to conduct his research program on risk management in the fields of Public Health and Forensic Nursing. With regard to sexuality, he has conducted research is the fields of barebacking, BDSM, and public sex. Most of his work, comments, essays, analyses and research are based on the poststructuralist works of Deleuze & Guattari and Michel Foucault. His works have been published in top-tier journals in nursing, criminology, sociology and medicine. He was appointed as Honorary Visiting Professor in Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Sam Hughes

Sam Hughes

Research Affiliate

Sam Hughes is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research focuses on the lives and experiences of people into kink, BDSM, and sexual fetishism. His work also explores the relationship between sexuality, mental health outcomes, attitudes,  institutions, social context, and intersectionality. Relying on both qualitative and quantitative methods, his work has appeared in peer-reviewed academic research journals, and has also been covered in Vice, Psychology Today, Insider, and Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast.

Robert Matchett

Robert Matchett

Research Assistant

Rob Matchett is a graduate student in the department of sociology at Louisiana State University. Matchett’s research is centered around sociology of gender & sexuality, embodiment, health & mental health, and sociological social psychology. Matchett was the recipient of the 2015 Ray Coppler Disability Awareness Award and 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Matchett’s current research explores the lived experiences of individuals who participate in pup play.

Anna Mense

Anna Mense

Research Affiliate

Anna Mense is a PhD candidate and a lecturer in Philosophy at the Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Germany. In her research, she is currently focused on the Philosophy of Love and Sexualities. Anna graduated in Philosophy, English, and German as a teaching profession with a thesis on the question “Is there an Aesthetic Pleasure?”, in 2014. She was committed to university policy for many years and she founded the undergraduate conference Dia:logos in 2015. Her PhD project “On the Capability to Love” aims at understanding the role that so-called deficient loving has for the concept of love. She is working on an integrative concept of love that is capable of explaining how far loving always implies both options of success and deficit as well as it demands the cultivation of personal capabilities. In her second research project “Sex Speech. Problems of Tabooed Talk and the Potential of a Sex-positive Discourse and Sex-positive Spaces”, Anna analyses the role that language and concepts have for different aspects of sexualities, sexual experiences, and sexual identity. She locates this matter within the examination of a sex-negative socio-political climate and an emerging sex-positive subculture.

Emily E. Prior, MA

Emily E. Prior, MA

Research Affiliate/Co-Founder Journal of Positive Sexuality

Emily E. Prior is the Executive Director for the Center for Positive Sexuality. Since 1996 she has been teaching formal and informal classes about a variety of sexuality-related topics including Gender, Deviance, Relationships and Family, and Feminism. She is an adjunct professor at several colleges and universities, has over a dozen publications, and presents at conferences around the U.S. She is frequently interviewed about her research, the Center, and positive sexuality in general. She also won the Vern Bullough Award for research. Her research focuses on the intersections of identity, feminism, deviance, leisure, gender, and sexuality.

Brad Sagarin, PhD

Brad Sagarin, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Brad Sagarin is a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University and the head of the Science of BDSM Research Team (www.scienceofbdsm.com). Brad’s current research focuses on consensual BDSM, social influence, and statistics. Brad has been published in a variety of scholarly journals, has given radio and podcast interviews, has consulted for radio and television programs, and has delivered invited lectures to academic and non-academic organizations. His research has been cited in newspapers and magazines, including The Economist and New Scientist. He holds Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Social Psychology from Arizona State University, and a Baccalaureate degree in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Elisabeth "Eli" Sheff, PhD

Elisabeth "Eli" Sheff, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff is the foremost academic expert on polyamorous families with children. Sheff’s first book, The Polyamorists Next Door (2014), details her 15-year study of poly families with kids and was just reprinted in paperback, and her second book Stories from the Polycule (2015) is an edited anthology of writings by poly folks. When Someone You Love is Polyamorous (2016) is Sheff’s shortest book that guides family members and significant others who are trying to understand a polyamorous loved one. Dr. Sheff is currently in her fourth wave of data collection for her 20+ year study of polyamorous families with children.

Brandy Simula, PhD

Brandy Simula, PhD

Research Affiliate

Brandy L. Simula, PhD (she/her/hers) is a queer feminist sociologist and the incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Positive Sexuality. Her research examines how individuals navigate cultural beliefs about gender, power, and sexuality in everyday interactions, centering the experiences of people who hold marginalized social identities. Her work has been published in Sexualities, the Journal of Homosexuality, the Journal of Bisexuality, Sociology Compass, and Social Sciences and in edited volumes on identities and inequalities. She is the editor (with J.E. Sumerau and Andrea Miller) of Expanding the Rainbow: The Relationships of Bi+, Poly, Kinky, Ace Intersex, and Trans People, published by Brill | Sense, and the guest editor of the Gender & Identity special issue of Social Sciences and of a forthcoming special issue of Sexualities on BDSM. She is currently at work on an edited volume on BDSM and on a qualitative study of the coming out experiences of individuals who identify as LGBQ as well as polyamorous, asexual, and/or kinky. She serves as a presidential appointee on the American Sociological Association’s Committee on the Status of Women and served as the Founding Director of the Community Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities Mentoring Program from 2015-2019. Dr. Simula earned her PhD in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies with a concentration in Sociology from Emory University.

Richard Sprott, PhD

Richard Sprott, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Richard Sprott received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from UC Berkeley in 1994. He researches identity development and health/well-being in people who express alternative sexualities and non-traditional relationships, with a special emphasis on kink/BDSM sexuality, and polyamory or consensual non-monogamy. All of these efforts highlight the ways in which stigma, prejudice, minority dynamics, language, identity development and community development all intersect and affect each other. Richard currently teaches courses in the Department of Human Development and Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay and graduate and undergraduate level courses at various universities in the Bay Area, including UC Berkeley, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and Holy Names University.

Jeremy N. Thomas, PhD

Jeremy N. Thomas, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Jeremy N. Thomas is the Director of Gender and Sexuality Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminology at Idaho State University. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University. Dr. Thomas’ research focuses on sexuality, deviance, and the body. He is especially interested in experiences, meanings, and identities related to: pornography and sex work; BDSM, kink, and fetish sexuality; sexual consent, abuse, assault, rape, and murder; and body modification, ritual violence, and self-injury. 

Liam Wignall, PhD

Liam Wignall, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Liam Wignall is a lecturer in Psychology at Bournemouth University. Using qualitative research methods, he explores the identities and experiences of non-heterosexual individuals related to: kink, BDSM, and fetishes; pornography consumption; drag subcultures; non-exclusive sexualities; and sexual consent. He draws on theories from psychology, sociology and cultural studies, focusing on the impact of the internet and the role of community participation for these individuals. He is a member of the International Academy of Sex Researchers and serves on the British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Sexualities committee.

D J Williams, PhD

D J Williams, PhD

Co-Founder Journal of Positive Sexuality/Research Affiliate

D J Williams is the former Director of Research for the Center for Positive Sexuality and a social and behavioral scientist at Idaho State University. He completed doctoral and postdoctoral studies at the University of Alberta (Canada), and his scholarship intersects leisure science, forensic behavioral science, criminology, and sexology. D J is a leading international expert on deviance as leisure experience, and he has been a consultant and/or expert witness on several high-profile forensic cases involving sexuality and actual or potential violence. His research has been published in numerous academic books and journals, including Journal of Sexual Medicine, Homicide Studies, Deviant Behavior, Journal of Forensic Sciences, Leisure Sciences, and Critical Criminology.

Ryan G. Witherspoon, PhD

Ryan G. Witherspoon, PhD

Research Affiliate

Dr. Ryan G. Witherspoon is a clinician, researcher, educator, and speaker. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University and holds Masters degrees in clinical and general psychology from CSPP and Pepperdine University, respectively. As a clinician, he focuses primarily on practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapy with adults and relationships, as well as working with non-traditional relationships and sexualities such as consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, and kink. Ryan frequently publishes and presents on these and other topics to professional and general audiences, as well as trains clinicians in cultural competence and sex-positivity regarding alternative sexualities and relationships. His current research focuses on the intersections between consensual non-monogamy, stigma, minority stress, and resilience.