Some like it kinky: A look into the Alternative Lifestyle Association

| Staff Reporter

The Alternative Lifestyle Association (ALA) is Washington University’s main club for everything kinky, but there is more to the club than just rope and leather.

“We are a sex-ed group that is kink friendly,” said senior Kourtney Imburgia, the group’s president. “We focus on alternative sexualities in our meeting and discussions.”

According to Imburgia, some of these alternative sexual practices include polyamory, which is the practice of consensually having multiple relationships, bondage, spanking and BDSM (bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, and sadism & masochism), which covers most of the group’s interests. ALA also caters to people who have more extreme interests but want to make sure that they are being safe. The group is LGBT friendly, but not LGBT focused, according to Imburgia.

ALA holds weekly meetings every Sunday. The topics covered at the meetings vary based on each semester.

“We are a resource for these people to ask questions to,” Imburgia said. “We are the only organization like this in St. Louis that has weekly meetings for people under 21.”

According to the treasurer, Wash. U. is one of few schools in the country to have such a group funded by the University or, in this case, Student Union. While other universities might have smaller chapters, they are not registered and therefore do not receive such funding.

ALA usually holds two main events throughout the year, one each semester. In the fall semester, ALA hosts a “kink fair,” which, according to Imburgia, is like “a big carnival with games, prizes, places where you can ask questions and vendors that teach you how to do stuff and sell their products.” The other event is Sex Week, the week before Valentine’s Day.

ALA held a wide range of events during Sex Week. ALA and College Democrats sponsored the gay-marriage debate on Monday in the Danforth University Center, featuring history professor Andrea Friedman, Alexis Matza of the University of Iowa, and award-winning sex educator Tristan Taormino, and later held a workshop on sexual pleasure for women. The group held a discussion about “sexploration” on college campuses on Tuesday, as well as “Sex in the DUC,” a question-and-answer session in the Fun Room, during which people could ask questions about sex that they might not be comfortable asking about in other contexts. On Thursday, ALA held a discussion titled “Anal Pleasure 101.” Taormino participated in the “Sexploration,” “Sex in the DUC” and “Anal Pleasure 101.”

The main student reactions to the group have been positive and curious. One new member came to the first meeting of fall semester after the activities fair, having joined the group’s mailing list after asking a member of the Office of Student Activities about the “weirdest” club at the fair. Imburgia mentioned one girl visiting the booth and thanking the them for the group’s existence and ability to provide a forum for people to discuss matters that they would be uncomfortable discussing with their friends.

This semester, ALA plans to host events about abusive relationships, the difference between BDSM and domestic violence, BDSM and the law, and other topics. According to Imburgia, meetings tend to alternate between discussions and having a speaker talk about various alternative lifestyles. ALA recently limited the meetings only to Wash. U. students.

ALA’s mailing list has about 60 people, including people off campus who can only come to larger events. Of these 60 people, about 15-20 come to meetings on a regular basis. The group is evenly split by gender.

According to Imburgia, ALA is planning a third major event later in the semester, which will be a first for the group. The group does not yet know what the event will consist of.