Safewords and shibari, the quad gets kinky

The women's resource center hosts its annual Kink The Quad demonstration for normalizing consent culture and safe sex
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A group of students eagerly scribble their names on blue raffle tickets surrounding tables and a mattress draped with flower petals positioned in the quad on Wednesday Nov 17. The raffle prizes on display are not your usual baskets of baked goods or reusable water bottles, instead including a selection of dildos, bright pink fuzzy handcuffs, ball gags, vibrators, and even a jewel adorned butt plug.

The Humboldt State women’s resource center put on their annual Kink The Quad event after being unable to put on a 2020 event due to the pandemic. Isabela Acosta, a sophomore art history major, is this year’s body politics and health educator for the resource center. Acosta helped coordinate the event and hopes it encourages discussions about consent culture on campus and education about safe sex.

“People are weird with sex especially kinky sex and ropes, I see people get really guarded and that’s fine,” Acosta said. “It’s not everybody’s thing but it’s not something you should be ashamed of or make someone else feel shamed for it.”

Acosta mentioned how this year’s Kink The Quad event has collaborated with other on-campus associations like CHECK-IT Violence Prevention and the Benjamin Graham Sex Research and Education Lab to table alongside the demonstration. Acosta put an emphasis on a bondage theme for this year with a focus on shibari – an ancient Japanese form of rope bondage.

“I was worried about negative opinions and negative feedback but everyone was really excited, especially the staff I met with, they were all really looking forward to this event,” Acosta said.

The event included a sex toy raffle, all provided from Good Relations storefront in Eureka, free condoms and lube, CHECK-IT resource booklets, and a live shibari demonstration every hour until the event concluded. Acosta was leading the shibari demonstrations with fellow student staff members and even a student volunteer, art studio major Livia Stella Miller. The shibari demonstrations focused on the importance to use safewords during kinky sex for consent and comfort as well as tools for safety when participating in certain kinks, like scissors with bondage. Volunteers who were being tied up also did demonstrations using their safe word for breaks or to stop completely. ’Apple’ was the safe word for volunteers.

“It was a little less itchy than I expected and really fun,” Miller said. “Kinks in particular revolve around a lot of power dynamics especially bondage so it’s important to know how to make your partner feel good and not bad, even in kinks that aren’t involved with power dynamics it’s just important to make people feel good.”

CHECK-IT Violence Prevention was also tabling at the event and handing out booklets for supporting victims of dating violence and normalizing consent culture. CHECK-IT staff member Sophia Effa, a psychology major, was running the table and has been working with the program for around two years. Effa feels Kink The Quad has destigmatized the mentioning of kinks by just being present on campus for the student body.

“I think it’s important because I feel like not a lot of people have access to education revolving around kinks that’s ethical and safe, so I think an organization on campus like the women’s resource center is really important for educating our students because not a lot of people have access to that,” Effa said.

Hannah Craven, an HSU psychology major who showed up for the event and demonstration, was surprised to see how many students were also there and was glad to see education about harm reduction when using sex toys with a partner or initiating kinky sex.

“I thought this was really interesting because its almost strange to me a school would have this,” Craven said. “In the past schools I’ve been to they have very much shied away from sex education especially in this way. It’s interactive and kink focused. I also feel like this is very inclusive to same sex partners which is nice because you know we were never really taught those things.”

Kink the Quad is an annual event on campus every November but Acosta hopes to get more kink spaces on campus in the future while working with the women’s resource center.

“There will definitely be more kinky events on campus in the future,” Acosta said. “I’m gonna try and plan something for the spring semester and see what happens.”

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