The University’s newest official student group started almost two years ago with a meal and a group of friends. These meals evolved into more formal, discussion-based meetings. The number of students involved grew, too — with the group now boasting a membership of 15 students. As of Dec. 3, Princeton Plays is now even recognized by both the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Undergraduate Student Government as an official student organization. 

One thing, however, hasn’t changed: the group’s common interest in kink and BDSM (bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism, masochism). 

“Through conversation, we kinda realized that we wanted a space for this on campus, more than what was out here, which was nothing,” said a member of the group, who wished to remain anonymous.

Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell all have similar groups. Princeton Plays has reached out to Cornell and Columbia to learn more about how the groups there were started, how they conducted meetings, and how they grew their membership.

In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ two members of the University group emphasized that the club is far from the typical perceptions of BDSM involving image of chains and whips or “50 Shades of Grey.” In fact, the group is trying to debunk these myths from popular culture.

“The focus of our group isn’t on sex,” an anonymous member of the group said. “Contrary to popular belief, many people in the kink community are asexual.”

Kink is a spectrum, she explained, and because of that, anyone who is curious about the topics or wants to engage in a dialogue is encouraged to join the group.

Meetings are generally discussion-based. A typical meeting involves a reiteration of the club’s values and then a discussion on a topic in the kink community. Last semester, however, the group was able to bring in a presenter on rope bondage and safety to a meeting. Princeton Plays members hope to be able to engage in more classes and workshops on and off campus.

All meetings are open to the public, although some may be more publicized than others. More publicized meetings would focus on larger topics surrounding kink, and less publicized ones, intended for members, may include discussions and workshops on more in-depth and less widely applicable topics.

Princeton Plays, according to their constitution, strives to provide a safe space for those interested in kink, to promote education about safe and consensual play, and to encourage awareness about issues in the kink community. 

The group has been talking about partnering with the LGBT Center, Women*s Center, University Health Services, and SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education) on sexual education programs and initiatives. The kink community, an anonymous source explained, can provide a nuanced approach to consent.

“In the kink community, it's the norm to speak with partners and negotiate any activity that might occur,” she said.

The kink community tries to make no assumptions about consent during “play,” a term for any kind of kinky activity.

“In my personal experience, it’s even commonplace to ask things like, ‘Can I touch your shoulder?’ during classes or demonstration,” one source explained.

The group also intends to preserve, although they cannot guarantee, their members’ privacy. To join the group, a person must first reach out to an officer. This is done to ensure that new members understand the values of the group.

“During this, it would be brief, it would be casual. We would just go over our values — the primary focus of that being that the members of the group should be confidential,” a member of the group said.

New members may also find it helpful to feel more comfortable talking with an officer one-on-one before meeting the larger group.

“[New members will know that] even if they’re just curious about this or unsure, when they come into the space, they’ll be safe and welcome,” a source said.

If any members were to engage in any sort of abuse or harassment, a member of the group explained, that would constitute a Title IX violation, which the group would report accordingly.

The group, one source explained, decided to go through the process of getting approved to reach out to more students, reserve meeting spaces, and gain funding for events and trips.

Before the group was recognized, they had partnered with the LGBT Center for resources and space but wanted to gain University recognition to reach out to students who may be interested and do not identify as LGBT. 

A similar group, which chose not to be recognized by ODUS, predated Princeton Plays. According to a source, the previous group dissolved upon the graduation of its founder in 2014. The source describes Princeton Plays as a “revival” of the previous group.

Princeton Plays, according to its official description, aims to meet twice a month.

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