Illustration by Jeremy Schlangen
By Liz Garber-Paul
Self-proclaimed right-wing patriot Ann Coulter claims that society is becoming “coarsened,” and she’s using the infamous hotbed of liberal propaganda, known to the rest of us as Columbia University, to illustrate her point.
For almost ten years, Conversio Virium (CV), a Columbia University student group, has been discussing, educating and offering peer support concerning BDSM (erotic bondage and discipline, domination and submission and sadomasochism) issues. In early November, New York Daily News Staff Writer Douglas Feiden went incognito to a CV meeting that taught technique and safety on flogging, a kind of low-impact whipping. Despite accepting the group’s confidentiality agreement upon entrance, he published an account of the meeting in the conservative tabloid and the story was picked up by the Fox News Channel. Instead of talking to an authority on BDSM play, they invited self-proclaimed rightwing patriot Coulter to comment.
Her analysis consisted of mocking the group. “Probably not your lookers,” she said. "Probably something wrong with them.” You have to wonder: if she had no real points to make, apart from an uneducated ad hominem attack on the members, why was she invited?
The whole thing made me realize just how much farther the sexual rights movement has to go before the kink community is accepted. I’ve been around it for as long as I’ve been in New York, and around a very liberal community my entire life. I forget that--to some people--tranny-boys and leather daddies are things confined to the realm of daytime talk shows. Some of those people, like Coulter, see the kink scene as an affront to their way of life.
“What kinky people are doing, what trans people and queer people are doing, is consciously pushing our acceptable forms of sexual expression and gender expression," one CV member--a recent Barnard graduate who, I might add, is quite attractive and popular—told me. “We’re teaching people to recognize the rules that they have been following their whole lives without questions. Rules about gender, and family and relationships, and turning them on their head. It’s like a fucking kaleidoscope.”
They’re playing on the fringe of the conventional gay movement, testing the boundaries of their bodies through pain sensation. They are looking to experience life in a different way, though perhaps more informed than the rest of us.
“I feel like the activism I’m doing now is the same as the activism I was doing in the gay rights movement ten years ago,” the CV member continued. “We’re helping people be brave enough to see what draws them, and making their life fun and interesting and exiting. It’s all about making people brave enough to challenge the rules that they were blindly following.”
In a sense, you can’t really blame Coulter for being so afraid of the movement. She seems to blindly believe only in the “Christian” way of life, where there is a husband and a wife, where men are men and women are women, where no one is gay and where everyone supports Dubya. But this has been an issue for some years now.
Ten years ago in gay rights? Hmm… that was the beginning of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy. That was years before gay marriage hit the ballots, even in Massachusetts. Years before Will and Grace* made femmey gay lawyers acceptable outside of Manhattan. It’s only a matter of time before coming out as kinky carries no more stigmas than coming out as homosexual, at least in liberal society.
Coulter claims that Evangelicals have, “more sex, better sex, more sexual satisfaction...” The kink community is trying to do more than that. They’re trying to expand their previous conceptions of sex and change the entire structure of society. It's interesting that Coulter’s the only one talking about getting laid. How very Christian of her.