BDSM and Kinks: Addressing taboo and sexual preferences

By Frances Marion Givhan

Executive Staff

The Wick aims to foster conversations on campus about various issues that students may not discuss on a day-to-day basis. Recently, the Wick hosted a #NoFilter discussion entitled “Don’t Shame My Kink,” where the residents invited students to join them for an “open, confidential dialogue on what rough sex and kink can mean for empowerment, consent, and communication in bed,” according to their Facebook event page. The event, held on Tuesday, March 29, drew a crowd of people who could barely fit into the Wick’s living room.

“The thing that surprised me most was the number of students who attended,” said Gracie Gibson (C’17), who coordinated the event. Even a prospective student had decided to come and hear what some may view as an uncomfortable topic.

According to Gibson, none of the Wick residents had ever talked about having an event on BDSM or kinks. “We received an anonymous request to host an event covering BDSM and safety, so I decided to present it to the other residents, and everyone was on board,” said Gibson.

Ben Sadler (C’17) attended the event because he did not know what the discussion would entail. “I was curious,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what was in store, so I wanted to see how the Wick would discuss a pretty underdiscussed subject.”

Gibson kick-started the event by addressing the fact that BDSM is a sensitive topic and made a point to remind the people gathered to “respect everyone who’s here.” To initiate the discussion, Gibson showed a video by Laci Green called “BDSM 101” that addressed the basics of BDSM and kink culture, as well as the accompanying criticisms. The video emphasized the “safe, sane, and consensual” nature of BDSM and argued that people should not judge consenting adults for their sexuality.

As Gibson led the discussion, the students in attendance seemed to have a very sex-positive, pro-BDSM outlook on the taboo topic. The group addressed questions such as why people do not talk about BDSM and kinks and how they would bring it up with a partner. Communication is key to having healthy and consensual sexual experiences, and one argument that Gibson presented was that BDSM practice increases healthy communication among partners. This also stems from the establishment of clear boundaries, no matter the sexual situation.

“When partners have these awkward but important discussions, they emphasize pleasure, and, more importantly, consent,” says Gibson. “Talking out these issues can help us recognize our own boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.”

Sadler agrees, saying, “If there was anything I hoped people pulled from this event, it would be the importance of setting boundaries in sex no matter how kinky.”

Gibson received positive feedback after the event. Looking back on the event, though, she wondered whether introducing small group discussions might have made the discussions more comfortable. “One of our goals outlined in the Wick mission statement is to give a voice to those who don’t always have a place to speak, and sometimes, small groups are less intimidating for those voices,” she says. Throughout the event, awkward silences in response to questions and other people’s comments filled the room and made it difficult for people to speak up. Sadler notes, as well, that no one shared any direct experience with BDSM or kinks, “which emphasized the stigma we feel about that culture,” he says.

While “Don’t Shame My Kink” gave people an introduction to BDSM and kinks, the conversation does have to extend beyond the Wick’s living room. Discussions with partners about what one finds exciting, no matter the perceived tameness or kinkiness, helps to increase communication and can lead to more satisfying sexual experiences. The awareness that comes with acknowledging and respecting other people’s preferences can also serve to decrease the judgment and stigma around the topic, an important step to even more exploration of such a sensitive subject.

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