DJ Williams and Jeremy Thomas We’re shining the volunteer spotlight this month on two researchers at the Center for Positive Sexuality. Dr. DJ Williams is our Director of Research along with being Director of Social Work at Idaho State University. Sometimes DJ is referred to as “Dr. Deviant” for being an expert in both positive and negative forms of deviant leisure. His vast knowledge spans the areas of leisure science, social work, sexology, and critical criminology. For the last five years he has worked with Emily E. Prior, our CPS Executive Director, on various research projects and published papers.

Another integral part of the research team is Dr. Jeremy Thomas, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Idaho State University. Jeremy has a Ph.D. from Purdue University, and his research interests primarily concern religion, sexuality, deviance, and the body. DJ was happy to have Jeremy join him at ISU two years ago and soon found they have similar interests in research. Both Jeremy and DJ have always been fascinated by diverse human behavior, and becoming researchers has given them permission to find and explore new things. This type of work also gives other people permission to explore themselves through consent and safety.

A research project is often sparked when interest in a topic arises and more knowledge is needed. In talking with DJ, I found many moving parts need to come together to get a research study off the ground. From concept to data collection to publishing, the process can take up to 2 years, which means dedication to a subject is key. Before asking one question of a possible participant, the researchers must figure out how to design the study to answer the question being examined. Once a proposal has been created, it then must be evaluated by an institutional review board insuring participant information will be confidential and no harm will come to them by taking part in the project.

For example, consider the “BDSM as Leisure” project that our team is currently working on. The project is an in depth look into whether BDSM qualifies as legitimate leisure experience. DJ’s knowledge of leisure science is helpful as well as his background in BDSM and deviance. At this point, our researchers have collected data on over 900 surveyed BDSM practitioners. They will also explore BDSM identities (ie. Dominant, submissive, switch) as they relate to the leisure spectrum and how BDSM is experienced. The study aims to determine whether or not BDSM can be more fully understood from a leisure science perspective. It may still be a few months before the results are known, but we’re excited to learn from this study!

This group of incredible volunteers is already hard at work on 5 additional projects including the Analysis of Sex Positivity in Social work in textbooks, Sketching the Landscape of Positive Sexuality, and Analysis of Pornography & Sex Work in Sociology textbooks. They’re also preparing for the launch of our online journal coming at the end of January 2015.

Jeremy and DJ are an important part of the Center for Positive Sexuality. To get more information about the Center’s research, check our website as well as the Journal of Positive Sexuality.