On The Flip Side
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01
The Issue: As of Nov. 30, the Committee of Student Life at Harvard University approved fifteen new student organizations, including Harvard College Munch. "Munch" is a group founded specifically for those students at Harvard who identify with the ‘kink community’—a term commonly associated with BDSM interests: bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism. The group, which currently has about 30 members, now has the ability to recruit for events around campus and coordinate official meetings. The question we are raising is not one of personal values, but one of validity: does a group based on sexual interests deserve a place in higher education?
Validity of Club Is Questionable
I’d like to start with an obvious, yet very important, statement: this is happening at Harvard. One of the most historically prestigious institutions of higher learning in the country is recognizing a small group of students with distinctive sexual interests. What message is this sending to everyone else? In a word: a provocative one.
I’d also like to preface my very conservative opinion with a disclaimer: In no way do I judge, denounce, or condemn these students for their sexual preferences or desires. We are fortunate enough to live in a liberal society with the freedom to express ourselves in virtually any way we choose. My opposition to this club is not an issue of freedom of speech. My immediate reaction when hearing this news was ‘Hey, what one does with their private life is their business. Good for them for expressing it in a way they feel comfortable. You do you. Or rather, you do her…with handcuffs. Whatever.’
But, these students aren’t expressing themselves in a way they feel comfortable…at least not when it comes to this announcement. In fact, The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, granted any and all students interviewed about the club anonymity. The founder, who goes only by ‘Michael,’ told The Crimson that the biggest advantage in Munch’s recognition was "the fact of legitimacy."
"[Our recognition] shows we are being taken seriously," Michael said. If you want to be taken seriously, why won’t you identify yourselves? While everyone has a right to privacy, not identifying yourself as a member of the new club seeking legitimacy is counterproductive. If you want your anonymity, don’t give the press something to write about.
I am not attempting to damn anyone’s moral standards. I fully understand that Harvard does not have the Jesuit, Catholic foundations of Boston College, and therefore does not ascribe to those religious implications. there is something to be said for being a member of the best-known institution in this country, however. To the members of Munch, I ask: is this what you’re doing with your time at Harvard? Establishing clubs based on sexual preferences where no active discrimination is present? As men and women of Harvard, you are — supposedly — held to the highest academic standard in the country. As a fellow student in the Boston area, I am disappointed to hear that this is the ‘progress’ currently being made in our educational hub.
Harvard Supports Free Speech
This issue is not about sex.
Yes, the Harvard College Munch is indeed a safe haven for those who enjoy kink and BDSM in their sex lives, but the justification for such an organization should not be based on the moral ramifications of such sexual inclinations.
This article does not serve to support or reject the sexual preferences of a group of people, but instead supports the idea that Harvard was just in its choice to accept an organization that provides a forum for a certain type of sexuality. Harvard would have been unjustified in stifling a student organization dedicated to the discussion of kinky sexuality, because Harvard can support the organization without necessarily supporting the sexual lifestyle it espouses.
In a similar fashion, people could reasonably argue that E.L. James’s erotic Fifty Shades of Grey is a grotesque use of the literary arts. Such people would probably be right, but no American who believes in free speech can justifiably suggest that such a book be censored or banned. A nation may allow a book to be read on its shores without every citizen of the nation expressly supporting the book’s ideas.
Those in opposition to the Harvard College Munch must ask themselves certain questions. Why should a certain group of people have to be silent about their sexual preferences? Why should a person who enjoys consensual, alternative sexual activities be deprived of a forum in which to feel accepted by a group of his peers? If Harvard provides support for the GLBTQ community, why should those who explore alternate sexual preferences not also be equally accepted? That is not, of course, to equate the GLBTQ community with ‘kink’, but it does stand as a good example of acceptance.
The issue of whether or not a religiously affiliated university like Boston College would be equally responsible to accept such an organization is a separate question. The Catholic ideals espoused at BC may provide legitimate cause for the University to reject such an organization on a moral basis. Even BC, however, created room for the GLC within its religious framework.
If Harvard desired to live up to its motto of "Veritas," meaning "Truth," then it had to maintain its dedication to the ideals of free speech and, by extension, accept the Harvard College Munch.