‘Kinky U’ promotes sexual awareness in unusual ways

Courtney Sinner

College students are sometimes known for their adventurous sexual exploits, and one campus group is trying to make sure those experiences stay safe and don’t get out of hand.

Kinky U, a student group under the Queer Student Cultural Center, hopes to finish its constitution within a month to become an official campus group that welcomes all students to explore sexual endeavors through discussion and demonstration.

“It’s a milestone for the ‘U’ and even for the metro area,” Michael Lent, facilitator of Kinky U, said. “It’s an open discussion for both queer and straight, and any gender is welcome. Other groups aren’t geared toward everyone – we’re ‘pansexual.’ “

According to Lent, the term “kinky” can include anything from biting and scratching, “which is pretty common,” to power exchanges and bondage.

The discussions involved at Kinky U’s meetings focus mainly on keeping all parties comfortable and safe in their endeavors. Some extreme practices can be potentially dangerous, so the group aims to educate those interested about the risks involved.

Genevieve Clute, co-chairwoman of Sexual Health Awareness and Disease Education, said the idea of empowering someone to be comfortable and in a safe environment is a great idea.

“Even in a casual sexual life, it’s important to set limits and feel safe and comfortable, so it’s fantastic (they’re promoting that),” Clute said.

Clute said participants must keep in mind that with any exchange of bodily fluids there is a risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

“Kinky U is basically saying, ‘we’re there if you ever decide to have this type of sexual relationship, because it can be a part of your life in a safe way,’ ” Clute said. “It can be a hard step to take, but it’s a positive and necessary step to take if you’re interested.”

Lent echoed the comment. “There is a little bit of a coming out process because it involves different sexual practices that are not as socially acceptable.”

He said that while identifying with these practices isn’t something family and friends always need to know about, admitting and accepting it of oneself is important, as is sharing and discussing it with sexual partners.

Stephan Robberts, a club member, said the coming-out process has gotten easier over the years.

“Ten years ago it was much more taboo,” he said. “There is a lot of misconception about kink, which has given it a bad name.”

Stephan attended five or six of Kinky U’s meetings last fall and directed a leatherworking workshop for one. He taught participants how to dye and treat leather so that it can be made into something like a collar, which can otherwise be expensive to buy.

Because he is older than most attendees, Robberts, 28, said he sometimes feels like more of a mentor.

“I’ve done a lot of stupid things when I was younger and being there to caution or help others is extremely important,” he said. “I wish I had a group like Kinky U when I was younger, just to have that knowledge base.”

Some students on campus, however, don’t agree with how Kinky U is receiving its funding.

Being under the QSCC, Kinky U is allocated a set amount of money at the beginning of every semester. The QSCC receives that money from the University, from student tuition and fees.

Justin Petersen, an architecture sophomore, said since the group serves a small portion of the student population, it should get less funding than other student groups.

“I’m sure it’s not the only unusual group out there, though,” he said.

Lent said the group has gotten five or six e-mails from angry students in the past.

“They want to know why their tuition is going to our group and can’t believe they’re paying for this,” he said.

Lindsey Schultz, a speech-language-hearing sciences sophomore, shared a similar opinion.

“I think it’s fine that the group exists,” she said. “It’s their own personal opinion, but I don’t really want my tuition to go to that.”

Clute said it’s important to support all groups on campus.

“They all reach out to students that need it,” she said. “SHADE has gotten e-mails like that in the past, too, but we’re never going to please everyone.”

The meetings, which are held Thursdays at 7 p.m. in Coffman Union, are safe and confidential. The funding that Kinky U gets from the QSCC goes to various workshops and outings. Last semester, Lent said the group spent about half its funding on advertising, but probably won’t do that again.

This spring, Lent wants to take more outings with the group, such as to the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at Andersen Library, or tours of sex-oriented stores in the Twin Cities area.

Lent said he’d also like to invite more speakers from the community to provide various perspectives on the subject.

“This is a big step for sexual freedom,” he said.