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Picture this. The date: March 21. The time: 10 p.m. The place: my front yard. (You’ve likely never seen my front yard, though, so just imagine your own front yard — or, if you don’t have a yard, picture Frist’s South Lawn.) It’s the night of the Worm Moon, the last full moon before the spring equinox. Now picture me standing in the middle of it all (which might be a little weird if you’re picturing your own front yard, and doubly so if you don’t know me, but never mind that), gazing up at the moon, shadowed by wandering clouds and surrounded by winking stars. Perhaps an airplane soars across its diameter, letting the gentle buzz of its engine mingle with the crickets’ chirps. Perhaps a tree’s leaves fall, soar upwards on the wind, brush against the moon’s soft, yellow glow.
From an outside perspective, the stationery store seemed irrevocably ordinary. My friend and I were walking along Newbury Street in Boston during spring break when we first encountered the shop. Its interior held an impressive collection of writing utensils on a table extending the entire length of the store, countless stacks of notebooks to choose from, and small gizmos and other knick-knacks peppered throughout the room. A stationery fanatic myself, I was seduced by the vast range of options, obsessively uncapping and capping different pens and paging through all the notepads to test the strength and grain of the paper against my fingers.
I’ve heard a lot about “manscaping.” What is this, and should I be doing it?
At the end of FaceTime conversations with my parents, they casually but ever so intently ask, “Have you been getting a lot of sleep?” Just as casually, I respond, “I’m averaging six or seven hours” — minus the really late nights when sleep was nonexistent.
Studying abroad is like that whooshing feeling of freedom you get when you start college: no one knows you peed your pants in seventh grade; no one cares that you were a nerd in high school; no one knows anything about your past. After five weeks in Russia’s capital city, Moscow, I’m basking in this anonymity. It’s nice to recreate myself again.
My first memories of Princeton are the awe and pride I felt when I first gazed up at the Hogwarts-style turrets flanking Blair Arch; the muggy, swamp-like air of the final days of summer that made walking feel like wading through a swamp; the utter fear and excitement of entering the Rocky dining hall with a plate of D-hall food for the first time, alone.
In this edition of the Ask the Sexpert column, we’ll be the ones asking the questions. On Dec. 1, we had the privilege of interviewing Jaspreet Kalsi ’20 , board member and co-founder of the student group Princeton Plays, the only kink and BDSM (bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism, masochism) community on campus. The Sexpert: Hey Jaspreet, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us. I wanted to start off by asking you to describe what exactly is Princeton Plays. Jaspreet Kalsi: Hi Sexperts, thanks for having me. So Princeton Plays is an ODUS-recognized group that supports an advocacy- and education-based community that serves for the betterment of Princeton’s health at large. Princeton Plays seeks to establish an affirming and positive space to discuss matters of kink, provide education both within the group and partnering with groups across campus, promote safe and consensual methods of play, and increase awareness of the social contexts surrounding the kink community so that members will be prepared if they choose to engage in kink in their private or public lives. I should say that, contrary to some of the rumors around campus, we are not a sex club. Sexpert: How did Princeton Plays get started? JK: The first iteration of the club was formed in 2014. Back then it was actually called [Princetonians] in the Nation’s Service (PINS). Although the LGBT center supported that group, it was never ODUS-recognized and sort of fell off after a year or so. In 2016, I had met a group of five other students who had heard of PINS and wanted to start it up again. We had a series of informal meetings, essentially a gathering of friends, and over the course of the year we helped create an organized group of about 20. Around the same time we came up with the name Princeton Plays. Our affiliation with the LGBT Center really helped in allowing us to grow as a group. In spring of 2017, the process of becoming a formally recognized student organization had begun. In the fall of the 2017–18 academic year, we became Women*s Center affiliated, Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) affiliated, and University Health Services (UHS) affiliated. In December of 2017 we became ODUS-recognized. At the start of the 18–19 academic year, we had about 50–60 people on the listserv, and now, only a few months later, we are at about 110 members, and we are proud to say we are not a homogeneous group. Also shout-out to the amazing Princeton Plays board. The success of the organization has been a true team effort! Sexpert: You mentioned that Princeton Plays aims to improve Princeton’s health in general. How do you think the club does that? JK: There are plenty of resources for sexual health [and consent information] on campus — Peer Health Advisers, SHARE peers, and the Student Health Advisory Board. But one area that is lacking is education on alternative sexual practices. I classify these “alternative” practices as anything that would fall under the purview of “kink.” Our definition of kink is one that mostly focuses on fetishes and BDSM. Princeton Plays has three main principles that center around the betterment of Princeton’s sexual health and well being. First off, we focus on educating our members on the physical aspects of kink. If we look at how popular things like Fifty Shades of Grey has become, it is obvious that there is widespread interest in alternative sexual practices. There are people on our campus who take part in these kinds of behaviors, and it is important to learn how to do these things in the safest way possible. Just this month, Plays hosted our third rope bondage workshop and we have an impact play workshop scheduled for the near future. No matter how careful you are, mistakes can happen. For example, if you’re tying someone up, it is your responsibility to know how do so in a safe way. And similarly, if you’re the one being tied up, it is also your responsibility to know the risks involved. The next principle is one of community. While kink has gained plenty of traction, it remains often looked down upon as “deviant” by a significant amount of the general population. Princeton Plays hopes to create a safe space, where people can come and feel safe, free of judgment for their sexual preferences. For example, at all of our workshops and meetings, we start with a disclaimer, which states that members are free to share as much or as little information about themselves as they would like — they don’t even have to give us their names if they would prefer not to. In this community, we hope to practice things safely without having individuals out themselves. Safety and confidentiality are of paramount importance to us. We have a rule that states that any member who is known to share information about another member without their consent is, without exception, banned from the organization. The third and final pillar is our commitment to improving the scholarly and theoretical discussions on kink. Our unique position as a Princeton University kink club gives us access to resources that other organizations not in an educational setting might not have access to. For example there are scholars and lecturers that can inform our members on the theoretical work behind alternative sexual practices. Plays has aspirations to host a colloquium of university kink clubs here at Princeton. We are already in the process of contacting and organizing. By bringing people together who think about this sort of thing, we hope to improve the field of kink and queer theory while promoting good, educated sexual health practices. Sexpert: I wanted to ask, since privacy is so important for the group, how do you personally feel being one of the few publicly named members of Princeton Plays? JK: Well, it’s both freeing and nerve-wracking. I grew up in a small, predominantly white town as the only person who wore a turban, so I’ve always stuck out in a way. I think growing up with that experience has emboldened me to always be an individual and to be true to myself. I have aspirations of going to medical school someday. It is, of course, risky, since I could miss out on some opportunities, but someone’s gotta do it, so it might as well be me. It is part of my religious beliefs that all humans are one, and that we are all equal in God’s eyes and thus we should accept each other as we are and support the health of everyone. I hope that my public expression of individuality will inspire others to be themselves. Sexpert: How can people get involved? JK: Email the listserv! If you send an email to email@example.com you will be put in touch with a board member who can answer all your questions, give you info about meetings. Sexpert: Anything else you want people to know about Princeton Plays? JK: We are a community that wants to help you be you! No one should be afraid of being themselves, and we hope to share knowledge and community with all those interested.
Today I put on thigh-high boots and a slinky, dark blue sweater before I left my room. Calling it my “career-driven woman” outfit, based mostly on what I had seen in “The Devil Wears Prada,” I hoped it would inspire me to write this article before my deadline.
When I think back to my freshman year, I can’t help but remember the number of times I said “今天很忙” to my Chinese professor whenever he asked me about my day. “今天很忙” translates to “today is very busy.” Since I started at this school, it has always been my automatic response. Neither the day nor the time matters; it seems I am (without fail) always busy. Initially, my response reflected the topic, the busyness of college life, that we had learned in Chinese class that week. After a while, however, it became my lived reality.
My former roommates refer to the December of my freshman year as the “Dark Ages of 2016.” My then-boyfriend and I had just broken up. I spent hours crying every day, and it was a struggle to leave my room. I didn’t eat much. I slept a lot. I listened to sad music on Spotify. The only time I left my room was to shower. It wasn’t a happy time.
It was the beginning of freshman year, and my next-door neighbor invited me to Princeton Faith and Action’s Friday Night Encounters. I’m not a Christian — I consider myself a secular humanist — but for the sake of hanging out with my neighbor, I decided to go. We ate some Caribbean food, sang hymns about Jesus Christ, and talked about Christian rap music afterwards. Not going to lie, Andy Mineo is my jam sometimes.