Editorial: Our coverage led to IUPUI cancelling their BDSM event. Now they need to take responsibility for their actions.

On Monday, The Collegiate Commons broke the story that Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis planned to invite a “local expert” with disturbing online activity (which included writing erotica entitled “playtime” involving a terrified girl in a onesie being raped by multiple men) to promote BDSM to students. The event was purposefully vague and the IUPUI Office of Health and Wellness Promotion withheld any information about the presenter until we pressured them. It is telling that a day after we published that information, the IUPUI Office of Health and Wellness canceled the workshop. 

Perhaps they realized how irresponsible the event was. Perhaps they realized that an “introduction to bondage,” wouldn’t bode well considering IUPUI’s history of failing to take steps to protect students, some of whom are our friends, from sexual abuse. To put it in perspective, a 2019 survey of over 2,000 students revealed that 51% think that sexual misconduct on campus is a problem.

Or, perhaps they do not care, and were mainly worried about bad publicity a week before IU-Indianapolis is set to get its inaugural chancellor. Indiana University has been doing events like this for years, and only occasionally do they get enough publicity for the university to be held accountable. 

This time, they got it. @libsoftiktok, Campus Reform, the New York Post, the Daily Mail UK, Breitbart, WIBC, and others shared pretty damning details from our article. 

Let’s be clear. BDSM is not healthy or safe.

For years, the IUPUI Office of Health and Wellness Promotion has offered free birth control and other sex items and the Indiana University Student Government has budgeted $42,000 (mostly student mandatory fees) for such expenses, and now they claim they must teach BDSM since “they are already doing it” (despite their obvious intention to promote BDSM to newcomers in this “introductory” workshop). 

BDSM, while claiming to be “consensual” is teaching students how to tie, bind, and do anything that restricts movement. The similarity to sexual assault is unmistakable. In no way is this facilitating a safer environment.

“BDSM is inherently about power play, and it is inherently oppressive. There’s no safe way to roleplay dominating relationships that involve tying your partner up,” said one former BDSM practitioner we spoke to. “This seminar would have put women in danger of both physical and mental abuse.”

Clearly, IUPUI should not be promoting types of domineering sexual activity that have the potential to put women, or men, in danger of both physical and emotional abuse. 

Especially so when the person they invited to teach this BDSM workshop has taken such a trivial view of rape. 

Dr. Debby Herbenick, sex researcher at the controversial Kinsey Institute, is quoted in an IndyStar article about the event as saying that “teaching young people to safely try sexual acts they see on TV or on social media is critical.” We would like to remind Dr. Herbenick of her own statements and research acknowledging that pornography consumption is associated with BDSM participation and that pornography does not match up with reality or healthy sexual relationships. It is confusing why she would then advocate for students to copy what they see online instead of teaching students to model what a healthy relationship looks like.

There is a bit more history with that IndyStar article. 

The article, which read like an opinion piece, tried to dismiss us and defend BDSM while withholding most of the information about the actual event (including the lack of safeguards and the rape erotica written by the “local expert”). 

It also quoted Ashley Wilson, while omitting the fact that she is the campus editor at a competing student newspaper, The Campus Citizen. 

Wilson did not intend to go to the event, so it is confusing why IndyStar would utilize her quote and omit the one given by our editor-in-chief.

“I think it sets a precedent that there’s censorship on events like this,” she said in the article. “It’s removal of a certain perspective, which is the whole point of college.”

We would like to once again remind The Campus Citizen of their former editor-in-chief’s justification for ousting our current editor-in-chief from Wilson’s position in the Spring of 2023. 

“It is human to have opinions, but as a journalist, it is important to keep them to yourself to ensure your credibility to the public that you serve,” said Katie Wiseman (who is now an intern for IndyStar) in an official email to him, despite recognizing in the same email that in his capacity as an editor he had been unbiased. 

It certainly seems that this “rule” that journalists cannot talk about their opinions only applies to those with certain beliefs. This is indicative of a wider trend in established journalism, including the IndyStar, and is part of the cause of their inability to appropriately address or expose core issues impacting our generation, as we addressed in an explanation of our founding as a publication.

It’s time that IUPUI takes responsibility for their actions.

Over 80% of the IUPUI Office of Health and Wellness budget comes from student fees. That should not be spent to satisfy the sexual tastes of university employees, like their assistant director (whose X account is a constant stream of lewd retweets, including photos of himself in his underwear and graphic photos of other adults, and who admitted he would be assisting individuals as they work to tie themselves or others up at this event).

The fact that there is so little oversight that this employee could invite a guest to campus, likely knowing full well the disturbing things that she writes about online, and presumably without even knowing or sharing their name or doing a background check, is disturbing. This individual, and the woman he has called a “local expert,” are clearly unqualified to be teaching about sexual health. 

The class was canceled, but more is needed. 

The class has been canceled, but it will be back in a few years if something drastic does not change. Canceling is only the first step that IUPUI must take in order to fix their mistakes, and we hope that our new chancellor will take this into account. 

First, any employees directly involved in this event should be fired. Their decisions relating to student health and safety are irresponsible and they cannot be trusted to teach about sexual health. We wish this were enough, or that blame could simply be laid at the feet of lone employees. 

Second, the IUPUI Office of Health and Wellness must make a public apology to students and parents for failing to take steps to ensure students are safe and failing to be transparent about the guest invited to campus. They should commit to transparency in the future. 

Finally, other university-sponsored events revolving around sexual education on campus should be closely scrutinized by IUPUI leadership and safeguards should be put in place. Any off-campus guests involved should have legitimate educational credentials and be subject to background checks.

If there are to be events about sexual health, especially ones utilizing student fees, they should not present such an ideologically slanted view of what it constitutes, as is being done during “sex week.” 

Rather, they should take an approach centered around human dignity and respect. 

Not promoting sadomasochism is such a low standard, it is shocking that it even needs to be addressed.

Much more than that, we say that IUPUI needs to not enable nor encourage the type of non-committal and non-legally protected sexual relationships that we have seen have such disastrous effects on our peers. Sure, they may happen anyways, but to suggest that objectively beneficial standards are invalid because some do not accept them is a gross logical fallacy and a dereliction of duty by people in the public health field who know better. 

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