My first exposure to the Center for Positive Sexuality happened when I was an undergrad at CSUN. As a psych major minoring in human sexuality I was in my element the day that a panel came to my class. I felt a bit like an outsider because I was genuinely, sincerely interested in the presentation on BDSM and kink in contrast with my fellow classmates who spoke negatively about their experience. It was almost like I was in a parallel universe.

The next semester, if memory serves, was my final semester as an undergrad. I was fortunate enough to get to meet some more folks from the Center in an upper level human sexuality course. One of the people on that particular panel was Emily. My memory of my fellow classmates is not as vivid, but I still remember some of the stories shared by the panelists who spoke in a way that normalized non-monogamy and BDSM.

Fast forward a couple of years, around the time I had begun grad school and was working toward a doctorate in human sexuality, where I had the amazing opportunity to join the Center for Positive Sexuality as a volunteer educator. More than four years later, I continue my work with the Center as a (sometimes lead) educator, as a board member since February 2016, and helping out in way I can. (And this is my first Volunteer Spotlight as the interviewer!) Who knew back in 2009-10 that this would all be the case. All because of one amazing, forward-thinking, passionate sex positive person: Emily Prior.

This spotlight is geared toward some of Emily’s research and to celebrate the Center’s Ten-Year Anniversary by looking to the past and the future. You can read more about her background and bio here.


Victoria: What was the catalyst for starting Center for Positive Sexuality?

Emily: A small group of educators (myself included) realized that we needed to reach more people and include more marginalized community groups than we were. The students we were talking to had so many questions about so many things, and there was never enough time to answer them all in one sitting. So, I thought we should expand and cover more topics. BDSM was first, then Polyamory/Nonmonogamy followed. The rest came after those. I also thought it would be beneficial to have the Center be a nonprofit educational organization. The educators we had at the time were very enthusiastic about offering free information whenever possible.

V: Looking back to when CPS was first founded, what did you expect once you hit the 10 year anniversary? How does the reality compare?

E: Honestly, I had no idea we would get to 10 years! However, by the time we became a legally registered non-profit in 2013, it looked more likely that we might hit some bigger landmarks along the way. There was a great shift in 2013-2014. Some new people came in, with new energy and new ideas, and because of our nonprofit status, we had to formalize some things that had been very informal up to that point. That really made things real, and I could see the potential for some big things to occur, like our Journal of Positive Sexuality. The reality is so much better, since again, I had a hard time visualizing a long-term plan in 2007. Now, I see several things on the horizon.

V: What would you say is the greatest impact the Center has had?

E: We reach thousands of college students every year. That means there are thousands more people going about their lives and interacting with others in a much more informed way. I hope that equates to more marginalized individuals and groups finding safe spaces and better services.

V: You’ve done many research papers over the years on sexuality, kink, and gender. What would you say is your favorite so far? And did your findings surprise you?

E: Wow! That’s a hard question. I really enjoyed writing and presenting on sex positive feminist pornography. That was a fun topic. The most recent study I did that includes any real findings was on BDSM and leisure. It didn’t surprise me to find that many people who practice BDSM consider it a leisure activity. What did surprise me was we expected tops to see BDSM as more serious leisure and bottoms to see BDSM as more casual leisure. The reality is that there’s really a range that is not necessarily connected to whether one is in charge of implementing the activity versus receiving.

V: What piece of research are you most looking forward to publishing in the coming year?

E: I’ve been very focused on completing some other Center-related projects, so I haven’t been working on research recently. I do hope to complete a study on BDSM identities. There is also some work being done on vampire sexuality and BDSM that should yield some interesting findings.

V: Where do you hope to see CPS in 10 years from now (2027!)?

E: Ahhhh! Scary and amazing thought. I want our education program to extend to other cities, and maybe even go international. I expect the Journal will still be up and running, although maybe in that time period some other folks will be in charge of getting it together and published. I also hope to include a clinical branch, tied into our educational and research programs, at some point down the line. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but I think it could happen.

V: Are there any events or projects of yours or of the Center that you’d like to tease?

E: We have our spring fundraiser up and running. We’re hoping to get enough funds to buy some A/V equipment for our educators. We also have a new program in development, but that’s not quite ready to show off. Coming this summer, we will celebrate our 10th anniversary. Everyone should keep a lookout for postings about that so they can buy tickets to the party. There’s always a lot going on, so it’s best to stay in touch by checking our blog and social media outlets.


There are several ways to get involved with Center for Positive Sexuality!

Donate: Donate once or set up a recurring donation! Every little bit helps CPS do the work we do!

Volunteer with us! We are always looking for folks to add to our educators, or to help on the admin side of things.

Intern with us! This is a great way to round out an educational program you may be working on. We have specific tracks (Research, Education, Admin) or we can co-craft an internship to fit your needs.

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