Julie Fennell

Associate Professor
Civic Leadership, Business, & Social Change

Julie Fennell

Phone Numbers

202-448-7163 (V)


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Hall Memorial Building 134B


In the media: RadioLab 2018, Talk for We Are Takoma 2018Medium.com 2015, Cracked.com 2015, Cracked.com 2017, Salon.com 2015, Talk for We Are Takoma 2015

I am primarily a qualitative researcher whose main interests relate to gender, sexuality, and family life. I am also interested in alternative lifestyles and subcultures such as the Pagan subculture, polyamorous subculture, and BDSM subculture.

Since 2012, I have been conducting an intensive study of the mid-Atlantic BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & submission, Sadism & Masochism) subculture. I conducted 70 interviews with kinksters in 2012, and I have continued my ethnographic research as an insider. I also conducted a large online survey that I conducted of the BDSM subculture in 2017.

I am currently looking to publish a book on my research about the BDSM subculture titled Please Scream Quietly: The Story of Kink. I also have a book proposal on issues related to consent called Violated: Consent and Sexual Assault in the 21st Century. If you would be interested in publishing me or representing me, please send me an email!

You should also contact me if you are looking for copies of any of my articles.

As of late 2018, I'm starting to research the porn industry. 


Ph.D. Sociology (2009) Brown University

M.A. Sociology (2005) Brown University

B.A. Sociology and Literature (2003) University of NC at Asheville


My dissertation (interviews conducted in 2006) focused on unintended pregnancy and decisions about birth control and condom use, and I have several publications relating to those issues. I remain one of a very few researchers who has done in-depth interviews with men about these issues, and an even smaller group of researchers who has done in-depth interviews with couples about them.

I have also studied the children of contemporary Pagans and have published a paper with Laura Wildman-Hanlon based on a survey of them.

I research BDSM. As of late 2018, I'm starting to research the porn industry. These things are unrelated... sort-of.

Inevitably, researching the BDSM subculture means also researching the world of consensual non-monogamy, and I am also involved in research on polyamory.

In 2015, I was proud to receive the Black Rose society's Jack McGeorge Award for Excellence in Education for my work on behalf of the BDSM community, both inside and outside of it.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Julie Fennell. 2020. "It's Complicated: Sex and the BDSM Subculture." Sexualities. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460720961303

Julie Fennell. 2018. "'It's All About the Journey': Skepticism and Spirituality in the BDSM Subculture." Sociological Forum. https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12460

Julie Fennell. 2018. "Coed Naked: Insider Ethnography in the BDSM Subculture." SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2. 

Julie Fennell and Laura Wildman-Hanlon. 2017. "The Children of Converts: Beyond the First Generation of Contemporary Pagans." Social Compass. 64(2): 288-306.

Julie Fennell. 2015. “The Slippery Search for Kinky Sex.” The Sociologist. May: 10-14.

Julie Fennell. 2014. “‘And Isn’t that the Point?’: Pleasure and Contraceptive Decisions.” Contraception. 89(4): 264-70.

Julie Fennell. “Calculating Contraceptive Decisions while Intoxicated.” 2013. Contraception. 87(6): 850-4.

Jenny Higgins and Julie Fennell. 2013. “Providing for Women’s Pleasure in the Next Generation of Condoms.” Journal of Sexual Medicine. 10(12): 3151-3153.

Julie Fennell. “Men Bring Condoms, Women Take Pills: Men’s and Women’s Roles in Contraceptive Decision-Making.” 2011. Gender & Society. 25(4): 496-521.

Rachel K. Jones, Julie Fennell, Jenny Higgins, and Kelly Blanchard. 2009. “Better than Nothing, or Savvy Risk-Reduction Practice?: The Importance of Withdrawal.” Contraception. 79(6): 407-10.

Other Publications

Julie Fennell. 2015. "Polyculous Bonds." In Stories from the Polycule, Eds Elisabeth Sheff and Tivka Wolf. Thorntree: Portland, OR.

Invited Talks

Julie Fennell. "Whole Lotta Love: Consensual Non-Monogamy in the 21st Century." We Are Takoma, Oct. 2018.

Julie Fennell. “BDSM: Sex, Hobby, Religion, or Art?” We Are Takoma, Nov. 2015.

Julie Fennell. “Does This Look Sexual to You?” DC Sociological Society, March 4, 2015.

Julie Fennell. “Introduction to BDSM.” Eastern Carolina University, March 19, 2014.

Julie Fennell. “His and Hers: Pleasure, Relationships, and Contraceptive Decision-Making.” Johns Hopkins University, Nov. 3 2010.



800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002