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Master’s student seeking to understand the sexual experiences of men

Vickie Richard, a Master’s student of social and cultural psychology, is trying to fill one of the gaps she sees in understandings of sexuality: male sexual experiences.

Richard will be interviewing about a dozen male-identifying people who have had sexual experiences with women. Though the project is small it’s part of the much bigger story of human sexuality, Richard said.

“One of the blind spots (in our understanding of sexuality) can be that men have it all figured out and don’t experience turbulence in the sexual domain,” she said.

Richard isn’t sure what will come out of the interviews as her research is qualitative, but she hopes that the insights that come out of her study will give her a direction if she takes a quantitative approach, such as a survey, in the future.

With her interviews, Richard said she aims to create conversational spaces that will help the men she interviews to open up. She hopes to learn more about how men view themselves and their partners in sexual situations. Her subjects do not need to identify as heterosexual, though most of the men she has spoken to so far have been.

“I’m hoping to create safe enough spaces where we can have conversations about sex, and where men are comfortable telling me what they have going on,” she said. “That alone I think is a very valuable thing.”

Study participants come in waves, Richard said. Some participants come to her after seeing her study’s recruitment posters around campus. Other participants are her friends who have expressed an interest in speaking to her for the project.

Richard was drawn to studying sexuality while working on her Master’s thesis, which is about the shifting of public alliances during the Jian Ghomeshi abuse scandal. Her research has involved tracking public opinion of the scandal through social media, court transcripts, and interviews. Her interest and research in sexuality led her to join the city’s sex-positive community and volunteer with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. The contrast between sex-positivity and sexual assault led Richard to ask questions about the nature of sex itself.

In the past, Richard has interviewed women about their experiences with unwanted sexual attention from men.

“I learned a tremendous amount from the handful of people who identify as women that I spoke to,” she said. “It’s from some of the inklings I got from that pilot study that I started this (study on the sexual experiences of men).”

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