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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Despite increased security and regulations, this year’s Fetish Ball went off without a hitch, according to students and coordinators. Although revelers had to adjust to the new changes, it didn’t stop them from dancing until 2 a.m.

Bare-breasted babes and satin-sporting sasses presented student I.D.s and sauntered past Public Safety officers Friday night. Dashiki-sporting lads accompanied sparsely clad women into the darkened Student Union. Adam and Eve also made an appearance along with Madame police officer.

The Fetish Ball theme this year was “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and was held from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. last Friday. It provided students and guests a venue to dance and enjoy “interactive smut,” a keyboard-operated projection of soft-core pornography. Many students said the ball was a safe space to experiment with their sexuality and personal fetishes.

Mouthing Off! President Lauren White described the ball, which has been an annual event for four years, as “a dance that is a safe space for people to express themselves sexually, especially for queer women because Mouthing Off! is a club for queer women.”

Last year’s Hustler scandal was the reason for the new restrictions. Sam Ospovat, a Mills graduate of the music program, published his accounts of the 2002 Fetish Ball in a 2004 issue of Hustler along with a picture of unsuspecting students at the ball.

It took several meetings with Public Safety and the administration to allow the organization to continue the popular campus event, but in light of the recent controversy, the night was void of any major problems.

According to Dan Brown, director of Public Safety, the only thing that happened was “a few minor instances with alcohol.” Brown also said a few men tried to get in without an escort or I.D, but Public Safety escorted them off campus.

Of the Hustler coverage, White said, “it invaded the safe space of the Fetish Ball and it was a completely homophobic and misogynistic article.” Because of this student’s actions, this year’s fetish ball paid more attention to safety and security.

White and co-president Erika Rickard met with other members of the group to discuss decorations and the theme. They also met with the administration to discuss the rules and regulations for the event.

An e-mail was sent to the Mills community explaining this year’s rules. Some of them included: no showing of genitalia, no cameras, no spanking booths, no pornographic shows or films, a limit of three alcoholic drinks per guest of legal age, and a limit of three non-Mills guests per student.

“There have definitely been a lot of restrictions placed on us because of Hustler,” White said. “We’ve had to make compromises, and they [the administration] had to make compromises,” White explained that they had to fight to keep the option of bare breasts for the ball.

Rickard said that at a recent ASMC meeting White thanked President Janet Holmgren for her support in the planning of the Fetish Ball, at which point Holmgren replied that she was “proud of [White] for taking responsibility and not giving up on this,” and apologized that the rules for the continuation of the ball “may be unnecessarily burdensome this year.” Also according to Rickard, Holmgren commented on the Hustler situation and said that she expected the students to be “controlled, controllable, and on the defensive. [However] we should not be ashamed when we can behave responsibly.”

Brown appointed four Public Safety officers to accompany the three assigned people from the Office of Student Life, the adviser from Mouthing Off!, and the acting dean of students, in making sure that Friday night went smoothly and accordingly.

Brown met with these administrators three times before the event and once just before it, to discuss the rules of the event and play out circumstantial scenarios. Escorts were available to and from the dorms for students who requested them.

Before the event, junior Tina Sogliuzzo said, “I’m not looking forward to having to worry about my personal conduct and whether it is going to be deemed appropriate by Public Safety, I do not want to have my sexuality policed.”

Many students felt similarly, but everyone still abided by the restrictions of the night.

Following the event, Sogliuzzo said, “it was a success in terms that everyone had a good time. I do, however, wish that the administration had been less concerned with protecting us from ourselves by imposing so many restrictions on our conduct in the name of students’ safety when I honestly feel it was to protect the school’s image.”

While some students feel that the ball has drastically changed, others feel less strongly about the new rules. Sophomore Jessica Lynne Dewey-Hoffman said that the Fetish Ball “wasn’t as provocative as last year, but that could be because I’m more used to the environment. It wasn’t as intense – it was low key, more relaxed.”

Dewey-Hoffman also said that not only did she feel safe this year but also “I felt safe last year,” adding that “Public Safety’s presence was appreciated.” Sophomore Frances Sarcona noticed the increase in Public Safety and “thought it was awesome that Public Safety was on the back patio because a lot of people sneak in that way.”

Despite the new regulations, the event saw over 200 attendants, and Brown said the event went very well.