I’m walking to dinner at Wilbur Dining one night, complaining to a friend about how many emails I’ve been sending out as Kardinal Kink president, when someone I don’t know walks up next to us.
“Um,” he says.
Lately, a lot of conversations I’ve been having are starting with that sound.
“Are you talking about…Kardinal…Kink?”
The two words sound rusty on his lips—like a nun talking about sex, or like a CS Major talking about sleep—and I resist the urge to poke fun at his obvious hesitation.
“Yep! I’m president. What about it?”
He starts to do his best goldfish imitation with his mouth gaping. “What do you even do, anyways?”
And that’s a question that I haven’t really thought about.
Kardinal Kink is Stanford’s kink and BDSM club, and a community space for those looking to talk about, question and celebrate their identities and experiences with kink. As a club we do a lot of things—sometimes we email members about events in the Bay Area; sometimes we tell the mailing list about a neat show that’s just come out; sometimes we bring Pocky to our meetings instead of cookies or sometimes we organize mixers. Exotic, huh?
But I do get the sense that we’ve become a club that everyone’s heard about but no one knows. It’s not that much a surprise, now that I think about it—after our brief time in the media spotlight Winter Quarter, we’ve been relatively quiet.
I’ve heard stories from my friends about Kardinal Kink being a “nudge nudge wink wink” sort of thing, the thing you joke about when your friend’s been talking about handcuffs too much or accidentally ties himself to a lamp post. That seems to be how we’re perceived, at least—so now for the big question.
The elephant in the room needs to be addressed, and unfortunately it’s not wearing a corset and stilettos.
“Is Kardinal Kink a sex club?”
My first response was: no. After thinking about it a bit more, though, I decided that it would be more accurate to say: NO.
Kink is a lot of things, and sometimes kink can be sex—but just because finance majors sometimes have sex doesn’t mean majoring in finance means you get a full lecture series every quarter on how to do it. No, Kardinal Kink is hardly the crazy sex dungeon people imagine it to be.
I want you to think right now about one thing you don’t like about yourself. Maybe people your entire life have told you, whether in whispers or to your face, that you shouldn’t be that way, that you should fix yourself, that you should cover up or remove or erase a part of yourself because it’s not okay. It’s not acceptable. And then imagine coming to Stanford and finding a group of people who love that thing about you, who sit down and laugh with you and tell you how much they love that same thing about themselves. Their positivity is relieving, and you start to relax for the first time in a long time. The community that you find yourself in, the space where you can finally feel a sense of belonging and happiness and all the good feelings you could want—we all wish that we could find something like that in our lives.
That story is your story. And Kardinal Kink’s story. And the story of so many Stanford students that naming them all would take the rest of spring quarter. We’re a club that provides an inclusive, friendly space for people who have never had that before in their lives, for people who have only even thought about kink behind closed doors. More than that, even: we do our best to educate the communities around us, to have more people understand that communication is great, that trust is amazing, that consent is indispensable, that kink is okay.
“Yeah, but do you do anything? When does the kinky sex happen? During meetings?”
Calm down, shh. Getting there. When we sit down in our group of 10 to 20 people every week, we share our names and preferred gender pronouns before checking in to see how everyone’s week went. Sometimes a member’s had a rough time traveling and we ask about how they’re doing; sometimes final projects are on everyone’s mind and we talk about how tired we all are while wistfully eating sugar cookies; sometimes we talk about awesome experiences we’ve had at a recent event and loudly exclaim how jealous we are of the person who had four scenes in one night. Sometimes we watch YouTube videos or plan movie nights, sometimes we arrange carpools, sometimes (and this is a rare treat) we bring in our friends who do education in the Bay Area to talk to us about communication, negotiation, dating in the scene, their professional lives…
The list goes on, but the kinky sex most notably doesn’t go on. (We don’t have vanilla sex either, if you were wondering.) We are not a sex club: All we do is make sure that if people want to explore kink in their own lives, they do it consensually, safely and have an awesome time—and if they want to talk about it, there’s no group more excited to listen.
Kardinal Kink is just a group of students who want to make a space where voices don’t have to be hushed in the hopes that Stanford campus as a whole can be that sort of space in the future.
This club has been an awesome experience for us. And though kink may not be for everyone, we could all use a bit more awesome in our lives, don’t you think?
Lily Zheng is the president of Kardinal Kink. Contact her at [email protected]