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.
Within the kink community, Sarah identifies as a “sub,” short for submissive, and she thinks it’s hot when her body’s movements are in someone else’s hands. She says having kinky sex allows her to escape “from the pressures of having to be this Madonna-whore thing, where I’m supposed to know what I’m doing but I’m also not supposed to want to do any of it.”
Sarah says she openly discusses these desires with Harvard peers who have similar kinks during “munch,” an informal lunch meeting for kinky people.
Sarah and other members believe participating in and discussing kinky sex is a way to deconstruct what they dub the “sexual script”: making out, taking off clothes, having intercourse, and going to sleep. For them, it peels away the taboo cloaking students’ ability to freely analyze and critique rules about sex.
Last semester Michael, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, noticed that he was having the same conversations about kinky sex with different people. He knew that munches are hosted in the kink community at large, and decided it would be a good idea to bring these students together over lunch. He began organizing events for kinky Harvard students and is currently in the process of trying to form a recognized student group.
Michael says there are twenty students on the fledgling group’s email list, and that most members’ kinks fall on the BDSM spectrum—an initialism that stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.
“Or, as my crude definition states, it’s tying people up, telling them to do stuff, and hitting them with things,” Michael says jokingly.
Justin J. Lehmiller, a lecturer in Harvard’s psychology department and a sex columnist, says that this is a normal part of human sexual expression. He says he believes that students should learn about the diversity that exists in sexual behavior.
“People are by no means limited to performing one sexual act,” Lehmiller says. “People like to pretend that [kinky sex] doesn’t happen, but the reality is that it does.”
But the members’ interests do not encompass the broad spectrum that is kink. Indeed, the word “kinky” means to participate in unusual sexual behavior which, Michael explains, can entail anything from having sex in a location other than the bedroom to having a fetish. A fetish, while may be part of a kink, refers to an obsession with a particular object, idea, or body part conventionally not viewed as sexual.
Michael identifies as a “dom,” short for dominant. He likes to be the one tying the ropes, talking dirty, and “punishing” his partner. Jill, a student who regularly attends munch and whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, says she’s a sub and has had rape fantasies since she was young.
Kinky people also include furries, who, according to Michael, dress up or identify with anthropomorphic animal figures “either as a lifestyle thing or as a sexual product.”
There are also “eaters and feeders” who derive pleasure from, as the name suggests, eating and feeding. But interaction can be more than simply feeding your partner chocolate covered strawberries and can entail force-feeding or feeding someone with the intention that they will gain weight.