The following is a letter written on behalf of the Harvard College Anscombe Society in response to the university’s recent recognition of the “Harvard College Munch,” a student “BDSM” sex club. It was intended for publication in the Harvard Crimson last week, but was not accepted by the Crimson editors.
The Anscombe Society is certainly not in the business of curtailing free speech, but nor do we believe that respecting speech necessitates recognizing student groups that take absolutely any point of view. While the administration does not endorse the views of any group, recognition of a group does send the message that the activities of the group make a valuable contribution to our campus. Thus, when a student group like “Harvard College Munch” gains official recognition, the effects reach far beyond the club’s own membership and bear on the lives of all Harvard students. The Anscombe Society sees this newly approved group for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism, or “kinky sex,” as a symptom of the hypersexualized culture prevalent in our own university and many others today. We believe that BDSM itself trivializes sex, promoting a selfish and anarchical sexual ethos that can be very harmful and destructive not only to those who engage in these practices, but also to all of Harvard’s undergraduates. While students’ personal sexual choices may be their own, they nevertheless form the basis of our campus culture and sexual milieu. The fact that such degrading sexual practices now have a recognized and university-funded group devoted to them will have a wide-ranging impact, profoundly effecting students’ daily lives.
These recent events also call into question the standards by which the Office of Student Life decides to grant recognition to student organizations. Clearly, there would be some groups that OSL would decline to approve because of a problem with their missions; groups professing racist, anti-religious, or otherwise bigoted views, for example, would not be constructive or worthwhile additions to undergraduate life. What constructive purpose, then, does Munch serve on our campus? Supporting the group’s approval in the name of fostering discussion of “kink,” as many have done, is only a smokescreen; clearly any discussion within the group will promote and affirm kinky practices, and outreach to other groups is impossible as long as the group remains completely anonymous. The decision over recognition ought to boil down to this: if you think that more violence and humiliation, especially where sexual practices are concerned, are good things, you should support the recognition of Munch. If you think that more violence and humiliation are bad things, you should oppose it.
The Anscombe Society, believing that the currency of academia is reasoned argument, has throughout its history engaged in debate and discussion with other groups and individuals on campus, including those with very different views of sexuality from our own. However, unlike every other student group, Munch is a group with whom we simply cannot have a debate. We believe that human sexuality is a thing of great beauty and dignity and have always assumed that other groups, even those with very different views from our own, share that common starting point. We have always been eager to discuss with these other groups our competing views of how best to honor the dignity and beauty of sex, but we do not even share this much common ground with Munch, which instead seeks to associate sex with violence, humiliation, and oppression. That is one disagreement that is not open for debate.
James P. McGlone, Harvard Class of 2015
Vice President, Harvard College Anscombe Society
This letter was originally posted by the Love and Fidelity Network here: