Love & Sex

Stanford University Refuses to Give Kinky Student Organization Official Approval

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Reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is not an adequate education in kink.

Kardinal Kink may not sound similar to any of the clubs you were a member of in college, but the organization is alive and well at Stanford University. Well, kind of. According to Salon's Tracey Clark-Flory the group, which already has 60 members, was recently denied official recognition by the Student Organization Review Committee. And while it is utterly disappointing that the school administration has proven to be so conservative-minded, the club's president, Lily Z, is unsurprised. "We're not surprised by the culture we live in," she tells Salon. "Our society is a place where kink is expected to be rejected, expected to be pushed back down when it comes up — and Stanford is no exception."

Stanford's Student Organization Review Committee did not reject the club for good, but rather stated that they "liked the concept" of the group's proposal "but did not feel that as submitted it sufficiently met the criteria for a new student organization." The committee recommended that Kardinal Kink make some changes and apply during the next review period. As Clark-Flory reports, Stanford has already allowed a kink lecture series on campus, so it would seem that the university is not shying away from the discussion entirely. Club members, however, believe that their proposal was rejected on the basis of their club's mission.

Lily shared the committee's email with Salon, along with rebuttals for each point. The committee requested "better clarity about the scope of your group, especially in regards to clarity about your group's hoped for activities." She ways the application made that clear in the first sentence, which read, "Kardinal Kink is both a support group and an advocacy group: a supportive anonymous space for Stanford students to explore kink themes safely and a public effort to campaign for resources, research, and respect for kink by promoting a positive and accurate understanding of kink sexuality on campus."

Club members also explicitly stated that nudity and sexual contact would not be a part of the organization's mission. Activities would be discussion-based and focused on support and education — two concepts a university should surely support. Teaching consenting adults about the safe ways to incorporate kink into their sex lives is of the utmost importance, and, as we should have learned by now, cutting students off from educational resources will not prevent them from experimenting. As Jon, a Kardinal Kink member, puts it: "I don't think that the educational source for kink should be Fifty Shades of Grey. I think it should be well-informed professionals and like-minded people that come together to educate."

In the days of increasing LGBTQ acceptance, kink is still a widely marginalized aspect of human sexuality, perhaps because of the bizarre way in which our culture suppresses sexual impulse while at the same time hyper-sexualizing everything from cleaning products to perfume. Kink and a university may seem like strange bedfellows, but they really shouldn't be. What better institution is there to provide safe, healthy education about all kinds of sex to interested students?

Universities have the resources and the capabilities to provide this education to students who seek it out. As the Salon article tells us, clubs like Kardinal Kink have been recognized by many other institutions, including most of the Ivies. Of course, these universities have also been met with controversy. But if controversy was what Stanford wanted to avoid, it's a little late. Kardinal Kink may continue to exist without school acceptance, but official recognition would give the club the right to advertise on campus, access to funds that would enable guest speakers and events on campus, and the ability to reserve spaces.

Kardinal Kink has an important and admirable aim: to educate students about kink and BDSM safely and without fear of judgment. Hopefully the powers that be at Stanford will come to the realization that student safety, health, and support is more important than avoiding making waves. Just because Ann Coulter isn't down with students having kinky sex doesn't mean they'll stop doing it any time soon.

[h/t Salon]

Image via Flickr.