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As the images of lashing whips and spanking fill the screen, the showing of the documentary "Kink," followed by a panel discussion on Sunday night, provided a kickoff for what promises to be a mind-blowing Sex Week. Using the film as a platform for discussing the intersection between race, ethnicity and sexuality, the event aimed to explore the different power dynamics that can surface in relationships.

"Kink and BDSM are worlds in which power dynamics are more explicitly discussed," said Aida Manduley '11, the chair of Brown's Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council. "We wanted to stimulate an honest and truthful conversation."

The film, which specifically focuses on African-American sexuality, crosscuts between experts and average people's opinions about different topics related to kink. Asking outward questions — like, "What's the kinkiest thing you've ever done?" and, "Is God OK with kink?" — the documentary explores a sexual realm that is unknown to many. By combining both professional and common perspectives, the film gives an integral insight to the practices and the people of the kinky world. 

Audience members said they found the film eye-opening. "The film was amazing," said Chihiro Hashimoto '13. "It was so informative, and it opened a new realm of discussion for me."

After the screening, a panel explored some of the more complex issues revolving around the relationship between racial and ethnic identity and sexuality. The self-selected student panel, embodying a range of sexual identities, explored topics such as BDSM and cultural stereotyping in the bedroom. 

"For me, race doesn't go into power dynamics," said Eduardo Garza '12. "Part of the beauty of being in a relationship is sharing intimate experiences with someone."
Gypsy Vidal '12 shared her own experiences with racial stereotyping. She said she tries to discuss power dynamics openly with her partners. 

"I'm constantly aware of them," she said. "I think they're so important in life, relationships and interactions." 

Through his discussion of how black men can be perceived in sexual situations, Malcolm Shanks '11.5 said, for him, his race has played a leading role in his sexual identity and his relationships. When the panel spoke of viewing race play — an invocation of fantasies and romances, mysteries and dreams — as a positive, he said that most of the stereotypes he's dealt with tend to be more denigrating than sensual. 

"Trust me," he says. "They've never asked me to sing like Nina Simone."
He explained that some of the images revolving around the black male have a connotation of dominance or can allude to slavery.

The screening and discussion was the first in a series of sex-themed events that will be taking place around campus for the rest of the week, including a discussion on the relationship between physical ability and sex, "the joys and pleasures of strapping it on" and an in-depth workshop on the importance of good communication for the success of a relationship, according to event descriptions. There will also be three raffles with prizes such as sex toys, including a vibrator that syncs with people's iTunes and iPods. 

Manduley said the main purpose of Sex Week is to empower people and to incite them to explore and better understand different aspects of sexuality that may get overlooked by society.

"It's important to unpack these categories — gender, sexuality and sexual expression — and go beyond defining them," she said. "We want to show students what people think and not what people should think."

A prior caption accompanying this story misidentified the event pictured. In fact, the photo was of a screening of the documentary "Kink."


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