Sex in the air: LGBTQ speaker talks BDSM politics

Sinclair Sexsmith
Alex Grundy/THE REVIEW
Sinclair Sexsmith discussed how to practice safe BDSM.

BY
SENIOR REPORTER

Chains and whips weren’t part of the fun during the “Sexual Politics of BDSM” workshop in Trabant on Thursday, but the excitement for sex was still in the air.

Writer, teacher and performer Sinclair Sexsmith spoke at the Haven-sponsored event, discussing consent and agency as issues in feminism and how they play in the exploration of BDSM.

Growing up in a small town in Alaska, Sexsmith, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, had limited access to information about sex and gender. They learned what they could from Internet chat groups and by reading every sex book in the library, until they left home at 16 because they felt that something else was out there.

Not having a community to talk with about their interests, Sexsmith says, made teenage years more confusing than they needed to be.

“Everything I do now is to work on healing that 14-year-old,” Sexsmith says.

Sexsmith says the main goal of their studies is to figure out how people can prioritize their own desires.

“Prioritizing our satisfaction is a liberating act, because it fuels us in a way so that we can go and do our other work,” they say.

The workshop was a way for students to learn how to explore their own sexual interests and erotic energy. Participants brainstormed topics that are important for the politics of BDSM, such as religion, media perception and mental health, and then voted on which issues they wanted to talk about the most. In groups, students discussed with each other their preferences and how they see the issues played out in popular culture.

Haven secretary Riley Thomas says that they’ve wanted to do something like this at the university for a long time.

“People are afraid to talk about it because it’s so taboo,” she says.

Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Haven Maural Sowlat says it was good to have a workshop like this at the university for so many reasons, especially with sexual abuse issues on college campuses.

“[BDSM] is easy to get swept into and do the unhealthy way,” she says.

S and M is not abuse, Sexsmith says, but that can still happen. They addressed that although it’s important to have a like-minded community of people to talk to about sexual interests, oppression still exists.

“A lot of these things can be fetishized,” Sexsmith says. “But that’s not the same as being liberated.”

They said that right now, the culture is having a hard time addressing consent.

During the workshop, students were able to talk with one another about the taboo and perception of BDSM in popular culture, and share their experiences with the movement. Sexsmith discussed ways to be feminine as a dominant, as well as ways to be empowered as a submissive. Clear communication, they say, is an essential way to achieve both.

Along with the discussion, people also shared some of their favorite BDSM things to wear, and positive representations of BDSM in popular culture other than “50 Shades of Grey.” Suggestions included the film “Secretary,” the comic “Sun Stone” and Anne Rice’s series “The Sleeping Beauty Quartet.”

“This is really new,” Sexsmith says, regarding the BDSM movement. “Right now it’s like a teenager, awkward and bumbling. I try to be kind about it and give the movement time to grow.”

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