Center for Sex Research is little known campus commodity

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The Center for Sex Research may be one of the university’s most significant and active components, but one most people have never heard about.

The center has existed for 20 years, but does not have its own building or bungalow. It is rooted in the small Sierra Tower office of its coordinator, James Elias, sociology professor.

“It’s a consortium of professors from different departments interested in the area (of sex research),” Elias said.

The center receives no funding from the school, and those who participate in the program enjoy keeping a relatively low profile, Elias said.

As a group, the members have collaborated to write four books based on the research they have conducted. The books have covered topics such as gender, prostitution and pornography.

The center has even taken a look at the changes in sexuality since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. The book on this topic took five years of research to complete.

The organization, described by Elias as “loose,” does not hold meetings on a regular basis, and instead opts to hold conferences when members feel it is necessary. Those times include when they have completed research on a topic, or when they feel it is time to begin more research.

According to Elias, the research the members conduct is something they do on the side, in addition to teaching.

Students are occasionally hired to assist the group, mainly helping conduct interviews and assisting the main researchers. As many as 20 students, many of whom are interested in a minor in human sexuality, may be hired to work on one topic.

Elias worked for the Alfred Kinsey Institute, a sexual research center at Indiana University, and was the head of several studies there. He was hired by CSUN because of his previous experience and involvement in the area of sex research.

Michael Barrett, chair of Reference and Instructional Services at the Oviatt Library, has been a member of the center since 1974, shortly after it started.

He said he will stay involved with the center for as long as he can. He has worked on a bibliography on homosexuality, as well as books on the history of prostitution and sex-related First Amendment freedoms, which he worked on in collaboration with Elias.

“I was working with (Center founder Vern Bullough) on a huge bibliography on homosexuality when he was running the center, and he asked me to join, so I did,” Barrett said.

With his knowledge of library resources, Barrett is the library’s expert on sex research.

“Students (studying sex-related issues) get referred to me by professors, and I can help them find information from the library,” Barrett said. “Because of my knowledge about the subject, I can help them more than other librarians.”

When he first joined the center, some books related to sex were not included in card catalogs because people were shy about having the information available, Barrett said.

Bullough, who is now a professor at USC, has written over 50 books on various topics related to sex.


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