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University of Chicago hosts traveling kink book exhibit

The world of kink and fetish again has found a home on a prestigious Chicago university campus.

The University of Chicago currently is hosting a traveling exhibit from the Carter-Johnson Leather Library, a collection of hundreds of books and magazines including “Macho Sluts,” a limited edition “The Spankers” by Duchess of Pain, “Run Little Leather Boy” and “Diapers,” a magazine with a cover featuring a grown man wearing a diaper, holding a stuffed panda and sucking on a bottle.

Inside the Coulter Lounge at the International House residence hall, a shiny pair of black leather chaps and hundreds of pins from leather clubs around the country give a glimpse of life in the leather fetish community.

The university is the first college in the country to host the exhibit, which typically travels to leather and kink shows, said Vi Johnson, who developed the collection with her partner.

“When it travels to kink events, essentially we’re preaching to the choir,” Johnson said. “Being able to bring this display to a college campus, put a 300-year-old book in the hands of a 20-year-old and say ‘Here’s your history’ — it’s such a rush.”

The student group RACK, or Risk-Aware Consensual Kink, received nearly $3,200 in university grant money to bring the display to campus, said Drea, a 27-year-old graduate student who is RACK’s vice president. Other support came from a Chicago leather group and members of a local dungeon. Drea, who asked that her last name not be used, said the display provides a comforting look at the long history of unconventional sex.

“People who are exploring sexuality in ways that are non-traditional oftentimes feel like they are the first ones who ever thought about this,” she said. “What you see in the library is this is not new.”

The grant money came from the university’s Uncommon Fund, a student-run program that provides $40,000 annually to unconventional student projects, like bringing puppies and kittens to campus during finals week for stress relief or a conference on MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”

“The Uncommon Fund offers a chance for students to pursue a wide range of ideas that can benefit the campus community and campus life,” said Jeremy Manier, university spokesman. “The Uncommon Fund Board typically judges proposals based on their originality, impact and feasibility.”

This is not the first fetish event this year on a nationally-ranked, local campus. In February, two non-student fetishists performed a live sex act with a custom designed sex toy in an optional, after-class Human Sexuality seminar at Northwestern University.

Drea said her group has not received any negative feedback about the event.

“We had maybe one person who had some uptight body language about the material but nobody has said anything,” she said. “We have a very supportive campus.”

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