The Kinkiest Student Newspaper Article Ever

Cooper Fleishman hopes that the Harvard Crimson article about BDSM is just a sign of things to come.

On Wednesday, The Harvard Crimson posted an article titled “Students Encourage Open Discussion About Sex,” which begins like this:

Sarah likes it when her hands are tied to the bedpost and a bar is secured between her knees, spreading them apart. During sex, her boyfriend dominates her roped body as she happily calls him “sir” and “master.” She asks her boyfriend to objectify her and call her derogatory terms.
For Sarah, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, the pain from the ropes is not what turns her on. Sarah is kinky, which for her means enjoying losing control of the situation, and even control over her own body.

The article profiles a group organizing “munches,” or kink-oriented lunches, where students can get together to discuss sexual proclivities slightly left of the mainstream.

Most of the group members’ openly discussed fetishes fall somewhere “on the BDSM spectrum — an initialism that stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadism and masochism” — or as student Michael (names are changed), who calls himself a “dom,” says jokingly, “tying people up, telling them to do stuff and hitting them with things.”

Wow! BDSM is something that’s always flown under the radar, made popular by Bettie Page in the 1950s and then shoved into the locked dresser drawer during the McCarthy era. Our mainstream perception of acceptable, “normal” sex has never included whips and chains — or even ropes, restraints, spanking, breath play and other zesty additions to the bedroom that blur the pain–pleasure line — despite BDSM’s increasing prevalence in mainstream pornography, and so consensual sexual expression is often stigmatized by its underground status.

It’s actually kind of startling to see a campus newspaper cover kink so openly and in such an affirmative, supportive light — and it’s sad how alarming it is to read happy-kinkster confessions outside of sites like and sex-positive Tumblrs.

The Harvard Crimson itself hasn’t exactly earned a reputation as a sex-positive newspaper. Notorious Harvard sex blogger Lena Chen, a Crimson editor, earned ire from her own colleagues for her provocative, graphic, since-disbanded Sex and the Ivy blog. One 2007 Crimson editorial even called Chen “morally reprehensible.”

But open discussions of sexuality deconstruct our preconceived notions of what’s normal, the “munch” group argues. And “everyone’s secretly kinky.” So why hide it, why deny its popularity? Should kinksters feel ashamed? Of course not.

Perhaps to prove the group’s point, this article was written without embellishment or editorialization, letting real people speak freely about what turns them on. It actually feels refreshing. Usually the alternative press gets all the cool stories. Campus newspapers are supposed to be stodgy and insubstantial — nothing like this. Let’s hope it’s a precedent.

Cooper Fleishman has never eaten pizza. His dream is to one day play tennis with one of the trees from Lord of the Rings.  Do not email him.

Originally appeared at HyperVocal.

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  1. I think talking about sex is great. But how much is a real discussion of sex being openned up just because “Sarah” wants to talk about how she likes being tied up. These seems more salacious then progressive. It’s kind of like how people today rather watch TMZ then the Nightly News. They want the sensationalism over anything else. Is this real progress? Real discussion about sex? Or just salacious banter? Why do I have to know that Sarah likes to be tied up?

    • Sounds like salacious banter to me that seems more for shock value than anything else–instead of a real discussion.

    • Maybe Sarah wants others to know what her lifestyle is like without judging it as harmful and/or negative. Could be that Sarah is copping a lot of flack and just got tired of it so wanted to set the record straight. Quite frankly, high 5 to Sarah for talking about it, we don’t have to read it as we all have the ability to skip past an article.

      • “Could be that Sarah is copping a lot of flack.”

        Like say…perhaps any time she brings it up she gets accused of trying to shock people…hmmm.

  2. Bondage and kinky sex are edgy subjects for a campus newspaper….On my Seven Sister campus, a group published their own alternative paper that explored topics like that with very graphic photos and racist statements….I remember the uproar with the publication’s defenders claiming first amendment rights….what a ruckus! I think the alumni and parents were notified and shown copies of the publication, which I think shut down things quickly!

  3. wellokaythen says:

    Is everyone kinky deep down?

    Yes and no. It’s natural that people 18-22 years old might have some immature ideas about sex, for example thinking that deep down everyone is just like you, or what you like is what everyone likes or should like if they weren’t so repressed. Every generation of college students thinks that they discovered or re-invented sex. It’s quite sweet, in a “you have no idea” kind of way. It sounds a lot like the classic “everybody’s doing it” argument that structures so much of adolescence, mixed with the common undergraduate desire to be just the precisely right kind of non-conformist.

    I suggest we challenge this arbitrary distinction between “kinky” and whatever the supposed opposite of “kinky” is. (Vanilla? Normal? Average? Regular?) Some preferences are rarer, others are more common. I prefer to call all preferences “kinks,” whether common or rare.

    And the categories have always already been slippery, no pun intended. Not too long ago, oral sex or any intercourse other than missionary was considered fairly fringe, not to mention the fact that only a couple generations ago homosexuality was defined as a mental disorder, and masturbation was “self-abuse.”

    As a “vanilla,” I’m perhaps being a little defensive. Vanilla is a perfectly wonderful flavor on its own. It’s not an absence of flavor. I try to be Good, Giving, and Game, but I’m not ashamed of my vanilla deliciousness. I say to each his own.

    In response to Collin:

    From what I understand, the person being submissive is in many ways the one actually in control, or at least in a fully consensual BDSM scenario the dom and sub are in some ways sharing control. It’s something that’s usually negotiated. It’s generally the sub’s fantasy, and the dom does what the sub requested beforehand. So, the fact that the woman is tied up doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s totally a man-overpowering-woman dynamic.

    • David in SLC says:

      Well it seems one of you gets it. As someone who boxed up his robes and spreader bars a few years ago, I can say emphatically that it absolutely about desire and FEELING, the physical is simply a way to achieve it.

      My own experience says it is quite possible to achieve the same amount of satisfaction now that I am a practicing “vanilla” as I did when I was playing with tens units and breath control. There also exists the same capacity to experience dissatisfaction, but that comes from exploring the universe you are in and finding out what you do and don’t like. It just so happens that the universe I am in right now comes with less accouterments and negotiation but it is no less interesting.

      I’d also point out that I said “boxed up” not “thrown out”. There may come a day yet again where I find the desire to do those things again. Should that occur, I know I will be able to dress the part.

  4. First, let me say that I think open communication about sex is a very good thing. With that said, the article still adheres to traditional gender roles — just taken to the extreme — with a man being dominant and a woman being submissive. There is no mention of it being the other way around.

  5. Why are we normalizing rape/torture role play? Because it’s not okay to rape but it’s perfectly healthy to pretend to rape AND talk about it?

    If it becomes “normal” kinksters won’t want to do it anymore.

    Sex in general needs less exploiting and more valuing. I’d like it out of my face everywhere I look so I can appreciate it more when I’m doing it. And no, I don’t care to share it with everyone.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Because fantasy =/= reality.

      I think you’re misconstruing the motivations of kinksters, they don’t engage in offbeat acts with other consenting adults because they’re offbeat, they do them because they want to.

      BDSM sex is no more exploitative than vanilla sex, and the line between the two is alot more blurred than you’d think. And talking about sex is important, if anything its underdiscussed given the amount of really bizarre ideas people associate with it.

    • Copyleft says:

      “Because it’s not okay to rape but it’s perfectly healthy to pretend to rape AND talk about it?”

      Pretty much, yeah. Fantasy is not reality.

  6. College students need to STOP talking about sex. Sex dominates the discourse in college (trust me, they get into kinky shit). Now, studies suggest that 1/4-1/3 of college students don’t have sex. Everyone has a sexual identity in this society, oh right, except for those that don’t have sex. This obsession with sex has to end somewhere, or you risk alienating 30% of all people.

    • Perhaps those 1/4-1/3 of college students are not interested in having sex, and open conversation about sex makes them feel less obligated to fit into the ‘extra-sexual-college-student’ stereotype.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      I don’t see how open discussions about sex aren’t a good thing. If anything, as a society, we need to talk about sex more.

      I know a woman who was forced out of her home, her husband from her job, her son from her school and had to move town because a rag decided to print an article about the fact that she was a dominatrix (and generally insult her in every way possible). People shout insults at her from cars now. If we talked about BDSM more, and made it less of a scary monster in the closet, maybe this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

    • Um…you can have a sexual identity even if you’re not having sex. Like…I’m still a lesbian…even when I’m at my office working…and I identified as a lesbian a good year before I ever even kissed another woman. It’s not just about who you’re having sex with (or what type of sex you’re having) at that moment.

      Not to mention…for those people out there who eschew sex altogether…there’s the label of asexual.

      • Asexuality is misunderstood and stigmatized to the point of where anybody openly identifying as asexual risks being alienated and/or attacked. Much like a homosexual, except that is far more accepted in most liberal societies. Furthermore, someone who is asexual really doesn’t have an interest in talking about sex, but we have to go along with talking about sex, sex, and more sex. And the open conversation about sex can only go one direction — sex-positivism, which in its current manifestation, does not accommodate asexuality.

        • The sex-positive circles I run in are very accepting of asexuality, actually. The whole point is to have a positive view of the very diverse nature of human sexuality…including people who are asexual. Talking about sex, and sex-positivism aren’t mutually exclusive from acceptance of asexual people. Quite the opposite – in much of society asexuality is as silenced and hush-hushed as anything else with regards to sex (perhaps more so). Talking about it more would generate more awareness.

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