Working out the Kink

Somewhere in Harper Memorial Library on a Tuesday night, the University of Chicago student kink club is knitting. “I’m making a sweater,” says one member, holding up his beautifully cabled work-in-progress. Third-year Winifred Smythe is making a blue hat. “They keep trying to persuade me to knit,” laughs second-year club president Usul Wolff, “but it hasn’t worked yet.”

Surely the members of RACK, the college’s BDSM RSO, get up to more exciting things?

“We play bridge together a lot,” says Wolff.

The club’s main function is to serve as a safe space and information source for kink practitioners, curious newcomers, and those who have concerns about a loved one’s kinky tastes. Though Winter Quarter has been quiet, Wolff says that the club will hold public events this spring such as a rope-work demo, lectures on safety and the kink community, and a “Home Depot toys” workshop led by a professional dominatrix.

The point, Wolff says, is to introduce the idea that kink is not pathological. “You only hear about the horrible things that occur because someone screws up or has really dangerous fetishes,” he says. While the club is actively strengthening ties with the larger BDSM community, including Chicago dungeons and, the largest kink pornography website, it is also reaching out to the more vanilla university community.

Wolff emphasizes that RACK is not a sex club. “While we will talk about [sex] if it relates to a kink thing we are discussing, we feel very strongly that sex and kink need not be linked at all. There are other groups for sex,” he says. In fact, notes Smythe, between the rope talk and the knitting, “it’s really more of a fiber arts club.”