Controversy and misconception are two common issues the ISU Cuffs Club faces on a regular basis. However, with the recent popularity of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books, Cuffs is often greeted with acceptance and curiosity among students. But is it all just another misconception?
Cuffs is an alternative sexuality discussion group with a focus on kink, fetish, and bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism education and safety. The group has seen an increase in interest and openness towards their lifestyle choices after E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy hit the shelves earlier this year. The series focuses on dominance-obsessed Christian Grey and naive, inexperienced Anastasia Steele, and their tumultuous, sexually charged BDSM relationship.
“Anyone who knows anything about kink thinks 'Fifty Shades of Grey' sucks,” said Cuffs member Amanda Ripley, senior in biology, to a room full of nodding Cuffs members.
While Cuffs President Alexandra “Sasha” Goldina has never actually read the books, she said that from what she has read and heard of the series, the BDSM relationship is very abusive.
“From what I personally know about the book, [Anastasia Steele] just kind of jumps into a relationship, and although there is this inherent understanding that ‘this is what I’m getting into,’ there seems to be very little to no discussion and kind of this implicit ‘I’m going to do this and you’re going to say yes,’ which is very abusive,” Goldina said.
Cuffs members William Spencer and Mark Jolly agree that although the book is not an accurate BDSM portrayal, it does engage interest and awareness.
“They leave a lot of the stuff out that makes it so that the [BDSM] community is safe,” Spencer said.
In other words, the relationship portrayed in "50 Shades of Grey" is considered by the BDSM community to have unsafe sexual practices.
“You have to realize that it is a work of fiction, it’s not going to be dead on about the [BDSM] community,” said Jolly, senior in physics.
Despite the misconceptions of the BDSM community, "Fifty Shades" is credited with curiosity about the "kink" lifestyle.
“I think in the long term it’s going to have an effect on possibly the population of the [BDSM] community," Jolly said. "I think some people are going to try stuff just casually from the book with their partners and stuff like that. I’m not sure how long [the popularity] is going to last or what the effect will be.”
The BDSM community has mixed feelings about the popularity that "Fifty Shades of Grey" has given people to try BDSM sexual practices.
“I’m not saying 'Fifty Shades of Grey' popularity is a bad thing. I think it’s definitely opened a lot of people’s eyes to that fact that there’s this world and it’s opened, I think, their eyes especially to why people are attracted to it," Spencer said.
"Before people were like ‘Oh that’s just crazy, I’d never do any of that’ and now people are going out and they’re buying rope and they’re trying things out because I mean in the end, a lot of BDSM is about sensation and it’s really just about enjoying yourself.”
Ripley finds “Fifty Shades of Grey” to be an insult to BDSM and wants nothing to do with the association.
“I think we should get donations from the kink community and buy out all the ['Fifty Shades of Grey' books] in town and burn them all,” Ripley said.
Goldina wants prospective members to understand that the club provides BDSM education and is not a place where people just meet and have sex.
“Some misconceptions are that we do just go around and hit each other or that we all just kind of have sex with each other, which is really wrong," Goldina said. "BDSM culture, the community is very tight, you know? So a lot of us know each other, and a lot of us will interact outside of [meetings], but that’s how you would interact with friends outside of clubs anywhere.”
Education for BDSM techniques are often demonstrated in club meetings. However, those participating in BDSM education are consenting parties and are taught how to enjoy themselves without injury.
“As for hitting people, we take extra precautions, because we do want to educate people how to be safe and to not injure themselves. So we have an impact dummy that GSB has provided funding for us to get," Goldina said. "We’re able to do demonstrations for example on the impact dummy so that you can know that if you’re going to engage in play that you can be safe.”
Goldina explains that although BDSM relationships can vary in comparison to a regular relationship, both types require safety.
“Really I think BDSM relationships are like any other relationship, just possibly throwing in some pretty weird foreplay," Goldina said. "We really want to stress that we’re just an educational club that stresses for healthy and safe relationships.”
The Cuffs Club has weekly meetings at the Memorial Union every Thursday in room 3505 at 7 p.m. and encourages interested adults and students to contact them with any questions.
“The fact that the book has gotten the more ‘suburbia’ type people paying attention to it, and it’s becoming acceptable as at least a conversation piece," Spencer said. "That’s going to make a difference.”