Columbia has an S&M club? Columbia has an S&M club. But it’s not an S&M club; it’s a “BDSM discussion group.” According to Wikipedia, Conversio Virium is the “oldest University student-run BDSM discussion group in the United States.” An old article in the Spec reports that, “Conversio Virium has an e-mail list of over 200 and holds weekly meetings with 20 to 30 regulars.”
The group’s website (seriously, check it out) explains that its Latin name means, “exchange of power” although virium, “can also refer to other types of energy such as vital, spiritual, and sexual energy.” So what sort of things actually go down at these discussions? Well, certainly not BDSM play, if that’s what you were thinking:
Conversio Virium does not promote, support or engage in violence of any sort. What CV does promote and support is safe, sane and consensual (SSC) BDSM play. The only things that attendees engage in at CV’s meetings are discussion and listening. No BDSM play occurs at CV’s meetings; they are for discussion, education and peer support only.
Nevertheless, a reporter for the N.Y. Daily News attending a meeting witnessed the following:
Late on the night of Nov. 13, a Daily News reporter sat in room 303 of Hamilton Hall, a venerable classroom building where Columbia students have studied Poe, Plato and Plutarch for nearly 100 years. As a female student volunteer stood facing the blackboard, and two dozen Columbians watched, a lecturer who identified himself only as Dov flogged her repeatedly with leather whips, rubber hoses – and a cat-o’-nine-tails. “I’m Dov, and these are my toys,” he said, and for the next 14 minutes he demonstrated lashing techniques. The activity was consensual, but the squeals of delight mingled with the occasional yelps of pain.
UPDATED: As many commenters below correctly point out, there’s really nothing to report here in the sense of a breaking scandal or seamy underside. I guess the real story is that there is no story. Converso Virium is a testament to the banality of deviancy — the successful normalization at least within the college institutional setting of behaviors or orientations unfairly stigmatized or oppressed by wider society. Good for them. However, it would be wrong, as some commenters also imply, to suppose that this sense of tolerance or enlightenment is universal to the Ivy League. Princeton, for instance, has this…