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IU SexFest BDSM event canceled after videos posted to conservative websites



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The front design for a T-shirt for IU's SexFest reads "I'm into some really kinky stuff like... consent." The final event of the festival was canceled after a video was posted online showing a demonstration by Bloomington Kink. Courtesy Photo

After a live BDSM demonstration of a woman being hit at IU’s SexFest was recorded and posted online, the final event planned for Thursday was canceled. Within days, the video was posted to websites such as the Daily Mail, Breitbart and Infowars. 

The video, taken by sophomore and IU Student Government Student Body Congress member Matt Ahmann, shows a woman being restrained and spanked by volunteers from Bloomington Kink, a local group. Ahmann said his friend Blair Nelson, who is a reporter for conservative news outlet Campus Reform, asked him for a comment on the event, but Ahmann decided to attend instead. Nelson posted the first story about the event Thursday afternoon.

This was the fifth annual SexFest, a series of on-campus sex education events organized by the IU Health Center and various IU organizations. The festival's bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism safety panel planned for Thursday night was canceled Thursday morning after the university learned of a "disruption" that was planned for the event, IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said. He declined to clarify what the disruption was nor who was responsible for it. He said the information came from a credible source.

Provost Lauren Robel issued a statement Friday voicing disapproval of the demonstration of the woman being hit.

“Regardless of what the community members intended to communicate, the demonstration in this setting was inappropriate, disturbing, and offensive,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, the incident is being investigated.

Ahmann took videos and photos of the BDSM products being presented. The photos and videos included the faces of students and volunteers at the event. 

He said he was asked multiple times to put his camera away, and Singe, the leader of Bloomington Kink, followed him around the event and held up a T-shirt in front of the camera. 

The video was posted to his Twitter account on Thursday and included in news articles. No students were involved in the demonstrations at the event, Singe said. 

Ahmann defended his right to record in an interview with the Indiana Daily Student. He referenced Indiana’s recording law, which only requires one person in a conversation to consent to being recorded. 

He referenced Indiana being a one-party consent state, which means if one party consents to be recorded in any public place, it is legal. 

“Even if they say you can’t record, that’s not the law,” Ahmann said. “I don’t know why, if they’re so proud of this, that they would try to cover it up.”

Singe said although recording wasn’t against the law, it was banned from the event to protect the anonymity and safety of the students and volunteers. She said she didn't have a problem with people taking pictures, as long as they asked for permission. 

“People asked if they could take pictures of our info or any toys we had out,” Singe said. “He knew that we were not allowing it, we did not want it, and he continued to do it anyway.”

She said she wasn’t worried about her own privacy, since she produces a performance-based show about kinks, burlesque and drag shows.  

“My face is out there anyway,” Singe said. “If you have students who want to explore this and their parents see a picture of them in this space, they get freaked out.”

According to the provost's statement, no university funds were used to pay for the activities featured in the video or any of the events of the evening.

However, SexFest has ties to IU organizations including the Health Center, Sexual Health Advocacy Group, Residential Hall Association, Community Capacity for Prevention and Education and the IU Funding Board. Flyers posted to promote SexFest had the IU logo on it and read, “Browse our educational booths demonstrating the safe use of sex toys.”

“If any of the SexFest people had expressed discomfort or concern during the workshop, we would've stopped,” Singe said. “The only reason why we did any demonstrations, was because we were literally asked to.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Blair Nelson asked Matt Ahmann to record the demonstration. The IDS regrets this error.

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