This past Monday, I went straight from my Data Structures test to an open discussion in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies with political activist and nuclear policy expert Sam Brinton. I walked in around 8 pm and immediately saw Brinton. He was wearing all black, except for his red, glittery heels, and the words “Ropes, Whips, & Kinks, Oh My!!” were projected onto the wall behind him.
He began by addressing the description for the event that we had all seen online. I went in expecting a talk about his political experiences working to end conversion therapy, sexuality, and the LGBTQ community, mostly because that is what the description told me. Brinton dispelled this, describing the event as “modern sex-ed” and “an exploration of kink.” He began by giving us the history of kink and sex education, including the Kama Sutra, the making of taboo by Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Sigmund Freud, the “Leather Era,” and the rise of the term BDSM. Brinton stressed the importance of consent and communication, along with its contribution to healthy relationships and its ability to lower psychological stress during sex. The video Tea Consent by Blue Seat Studios was recommended to anyone with questions about the subject.
On the subject of kinks directly, Brinton explained the difference between headspace and physical types of play. Headspace involves the use of a mental state, and includes kinks like adult babies and diaper lovers, primal play, humiliation, degradation, and pup play. Physical play, on the other hand, involves the use of toys and objects to set the scene. This includes the more widely known kinks, including bondage, impact play, flogging, and temperature play.
After the presentation aspect of the talk ended, we moved onto a question session. Throughout the entire talk, Brinton was open about his experiences, the kinks he partakes in, and the nature of his relationships. He left us with countless anecdotes, like how he enjoys tying up his significant other like a table, and eating his dinner on him while he watches Star Trek. Upon being asked about how long he knew he was into kink, he explained that it wasn’t necessarily from birth, but that his kinks manifested in nonsexual ways. Once he started having sex, he got bored with the idea that he couldn’t control the whole experience, which led him to the idea of domination. He also expanded on his experiences with pup play, the differences between kinks and fetishes, and how to safely choke one’s partner.
We then moved onto demonstrations. Brinton taught us about bondage, starting with wrist restraints and ending with harnesses. He took volunteers that he used to demonstrate the rope tying techniques, and others to demonstrate them on himself. I got to leave the room saying that I tied Brinton, the nuclear advisor to Donald Trump, into a harness and that I now know the basics of bondage. He also passed out ropes to the audience and encouraged us to practice on each other.
When the demonstrations ended, he invited us to come play with his toys or talk to him more. The entire audience went up to the stage, and Brinton graciously explained the purpose and proper usage of each toy. He even demonstrated the use of a carbon fiber rod on those who were interested, and the marks he left on my arm lasted for a few days. He told us more stories, some about working in Washington, D.C., the few times he helped Michelle Obama pick out shoes, his efforts to end conversion therapy, and his experiences as a dominatrix.
I enjoyed every second of the event. It was informative on a subject that is often viewed as taboo, and I felt comfortable and safe the entire time. Brinton filled in the gaps of my Google searches and mediocre sex education in high school in the best way possible. He has given these kinds of talks at Rensselaer in the past, and I hope they continue into the future.