Margaret Mead Presents: Columbia’s Velvet Underground

Margaret Mead Presents: Columbia's Velvet UndergroundColumbia 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.

Know something about sordid happenings at an Ivy? Tell us about it.

–HAL PARKER

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

  • d07

    this isn’t news, and besides, what’s the point of your story anyway? “oh my god, these people are soooo weird!” get a life.

  • d07

    this isn’t news, and besides, what’s the point of your story anyway? “oh my god, these people are soooo weird!” get a life.

  • Evan M

    this is an awful post.

    first of all, it comes off as judgmental and second of all, you didn’t even really investigate the better side of the story, which is that christian groups played a large hand in pushing this BDSM group off-campus.

    the daily news is not exactly the most reputable news source either, and the author’s sensationalistic tone makes me wonder whether he really even went to a meeting of the club. his ethics are questionable because he didn’t even announce he would be writing on the club.

    maybe you could offer some interesting commentary and insight into the matter instead of quoting sources and making judgments about the “sordidness” of student’s sexual activity.

  • Evan M

    this is an awful post.

    first of all, it comes off as judgmental and second of all, you didn’t even really investigate the better side of the story, which is that christian groups played a large hand in pushing this BDSM group off-campus.

    the daily news is not exactly the most reputable news source either, and the author’s sensationalistic tone makes me wonder whether he really even went to a meeting of the club. his ethics are questionable because he didn’t even announce he would be writing on the club.

    maybe you could offer some interesting commentary and insight into the matter instead of quoting sources and making judgments about the “sordidness” of student’s sexual activity.

  • Cornell 05

    Uh oh, IvyGate’s got the S&Mers in a tizzy.

  • Cornell 05

    Uh oh, IvyGate’s got the S&Mers in a tizzy.

  • Sara

    Actually, CV has in no way been “pushed off campus” by Christian groups, the administration, or anyone else. When the Daily News article was written CV’s status as a club was firmly supported by the university, and the club itself has not been attacked by any other recognized university groups. We’re alive and well, thanks.

  • Sara

    Actually, CV has in no way been “pushed off campus” by Christian groups, the administration, or anyone else. When the Daily News article was written CV’s status as a club was firmly supported by the university, and the club itself has not been attacked by any other recognized university groups. We’re alive and well, thanks.

  • columbia

    i know some people involved with this, and although running any club can be a hassle, it hardly gets any real shit from inside columbia these days. it only is ‘news’ for a daily news reporter who couldn’t find a more interesting story.

    in like 1993, when it began there was more controversy, but that was then.

    this isn’t really news to anyone at columbia, and i’m almost certain other ivy schools must have something like this now. except apparently at princeton, given the author’s shock.

    i hear they give out free condoms now at columbia too.do a story on that.

  • columbia

    i know some people involved with this, and although running any club can be a hassle, it hardly gets any real shit from inside columbia these days. it only is ‘news’ for a daily news reporter who couldn’t find a more interesting story.

    in like 1993, when it began there was more controversy, but that was then.

    this isn’t really news to anyone at columbia, and i’m almost certain other ivy schools must have something like this now. except apparently at princeton, given the author’s shock.

    i hear they give out free condoms now at columbia too.do a story on that.

  • Tyler

    The title was pretty good, but this looks pretty much just like all of the Right Wing blog sites which seem to think that they’ve caught us with our pants down or something. On the contrary, our club has never been underground and everything we do is open to the campus and the public in fact, though the meetings are confidential. And yes, as the blogger says – please do check out our site. Sorry to disappoint anyone, but we’re pretty boring if you’re not actually interested in learning about BDSM.

  • Tyler

    The title was pretty good, but this looks pretty much just like all of the Right Wing blog sites which seem to think that they’ve caught us with our pants down or something. On the contrary, our club has never been underground and everything we do is open to the campus and the public in fact, though the meetings are confidential. And yes, as the blogger says – please do check out our site. Sorry to disappoint anyone, but we’re pretty boring if you’re not actually interested in learning about BDSM.

  • Samuel L Jackson

    White bitch moan

  • Samuel L Jackson

    White bitch moan

  • maymay

    it would be wrong, as some commenters also imply, to suppose that this sense of tolerance or enlightenment is universal to the Ivy League.

    Tolerance is far too rare, especially in rigidly structured institutions like Ivy League schools. Kudos to Columbia for recognizing the benefits of supporting their students through-and-through. Groups like CV are actually very uncommon in America’s Universities, even though CV has received correspondence from many students across the nation who are interested in starting their own similar BDSM support organization in their college.

    For some reason, most Universities only feel comfortable sanctioning groups that are either more “specifically sex-related or are more activitist related, where Conversio Virium tends to focus on BDSM education and discussion. Education is the foundation of informed activism, after all.

  • maymay

    it would be wrong, as some commenters also imply, to suppose that this sense of tolerance or enlightenment is universal to the Ivy League.

    Tolerance is far too rare, especially in rigidly structured institutions like Ivy League schools. Kudos to Columbia for recognizing the benefits of supporting their students through-and-through. Groups like CV are actually very uncommon in America’s Universities, even though CV has received correspondence from many students across the nation who are interested in starting their own similar BDSM support organization in their college.

    For some reason, most Universities only feel comfortable sanctioning groups that are either more “specifically sex-related or are more activitist related, where Conversio Virium tends to focus on BDSM education and discussion. Education is the foundation of informed activism, after all.

  • maymay

    Hmm. Seems like Movable Type didn’t like my HTML, or I made a typo somewhere in the code there. Oh well. You get the point.

  • maymay

    Hmm. Seems like Movable Type didn’t like my HTML, or I made a typo somewhere in the code there. Oh well. You get the point.

  • Welch

    Daily News must have sent an undercover investigator at one of the meetings. Notice that the journalist, “Douglass Feiden” actualy DID NOT attend the meeting. Look closely at this excerpt:

    “But the club doesn’t just talk.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.”

    Who was this “A Daily News Reporter”? More investigation is required here. What must have happened is that some random person may have notified the New York Daily News, New York Daily News sent in an undercover reporter (most likely female), that reporter wrote the article to this “Douglas” guy because such said reporter did not want to face charges for either fabrication or libel, Douglas had the article edited by the staff, and then it was published! Voila!

    Welcome to News Media! Of course, if CV wants to find out more, they should hire a lawyer and sue New York Daily News.

  • Welch

    Daily News must have sent an undercover investigator at one of the meetings. Notice that the journalist, “Douglass Feiden” actualy DID NOT attend the meeting. Look closely at this excerpt:

    “But the club doesn’t just talk.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.”

    Who was this “A Daily News Reporter”? More investigation is required here. What must have happened is that some random person may have notified the New York Daily News, New York Daily News sent in an undercover reporter (most likely female), that reporter wrote the article to this “Douglas” guy because such said reporter did not want to face charges for either fabrication or libel, Douglas had the article edited by the staff, and then it was published! Voila!

    Welcome to News Media! Of course, if CV wants to find out more, they should hire a lawyer and sue New York Daily News.

  • IvyLeagueGrunt

    ya’ll talk too fancy. you’d think ya graduated from Oxford or something. you need to talk more American like the previous editors did or people might actually begin to take this site seriously. And we truly don’t wish that upon the world…

  • IvyLeagueGrunt

    ya’ll talk too fancy. you’d think ya graduated from Oxford or something. you need to talk more American like the previous editors did or people might actually begin to take this site seriously. And we truly don’t wish that upon the world…

  • IvyLeagueGrunt

    PS it turns out that the undercover investigator was in fact a Columbia student who had been interning for NYDN. I shan’t name names, but let us just say that those working at the Spec would have readily recognized him if they were there…

  • IvyLeagueGrunt

    PS it turns out that the undercover investigator was in fact a Columbia student who had been interning for NYDN. I shan’t name names, but let us just say that those working at the Spec would have readily recognized him if they were there…

  • CU2010

    Amazing! The guest editors actually admitted to doing a crappy useless post! In other news, only two more days until they’re gone.

  • CU2010

    Amazing! The guest editors actually admitted to doing a crappy useless post! In other news, only two more days until they’re gone.

  • Maureen

    Ouch. Hal, I hope you are logging the IP addresses of those who use the shroud of cyber-anonymity to write totally mean comments. Your fellow Terran (and future-guest-ed) offers her protection. By which I mean, let’s find out which ones go to Princeton and hunt them down this fall.

    I think you are doing a lovely job. And also that Pton needs more leather and whips.

  • Maureen

    Ouch. Hal, I hope you are logging the IP addresses of those who use the shroud of cyber-anonymity to write totally mean comments. Your fellow Terran (and future-guest-ed) offers her protection. By which I mean, let’s find out which ones go to Princeton and hunt them down this fall.

    I think you are doing a lovely job. And also that Pton needs more leather and whips.

  • Mike

    Google doesn’t like you, IvyGate. This took a whole week to pop up on my alert.

  • Mike

    Google doesn’t like you, IvyGate. This took a whole week to pop up on my alert.