Iowa State University Cuffs

Club Information


2000-2001: Founding

History [2000-2001]


ISU Clubfest 2000

Cuffs was founded by a student named John on August 30, 2000. John decided to start Cuffs because he believed that kink was a natural and healthy part of sexual orientation, and that the needs of people who share this orientation were not being met at ISU. At the time of its registration, Cuffs was only the fourth BDSM student group in the nation to be officially recognized by a university. The recognition process for the group took less than a day, and was never really a sticking point for Cuffs. John had been very active in the LGBTA Alliance, and was familiar with most of the procedures needed to get the group on the books.

After registration, the real fun began. Cuffs appeared in public for the first time at the ISU Clubfest on September 6, 2000. Thousands of students passed by the table in front of the leather-clad founder, and over three hundred brochures about BDSM were given out. On the table were a full latex hood, several books, some fur-lined leather restraints, a suede flogger, steel handcuffs (see safety concerns), clover clamps, Spanky the Bondage Bear, and a very popular bowl of chocolate candies to buy us some goodwill (worked like a charm!). Needless to say, word of the new group spread very quickly.

The first official meeting of Cuffs was on the Monday after Clubfest. Originally, the plan was to have two categories of meetings. Every second week, there would be an educational meeting open to the public. Then, in the other weeks, there would be smaller discussion meetings open only to people who had been screened, interviewed, and accepted as members, so that people would feel more comfortable talking openly. The group began with that simple framework, and there were thirty accepted members within two weeks. In fact, things went so well that Cuffs requested funding from the Government of the Student Body.

Unfortunately, the private meeting format allowed the vocal opponents of Cuffs to make an argument that Cuffs did not provide a service to all students of ISU because membership was not automatically granted to all interested students. Therefore, the group lost its first request to the GSB Finance Committee for funding. After that disappointing defeat, Cuffs dropped the requirement that members go through an approval process. Cuffs made this change for several technical reasons, and also because just about everyone felt that it was a much better approach to let any interested student join. Membership was also extended to faculty, staff, spouses, and domestic parters.


Special Guest: Caz!

In the spring of 2001, Cuffs was very fortunate to be visited by a remarkable woman by the name of Caz. She spent two weeks in Ames sharing her expertise as a Domme, despite the fact that she is almost totally blind! No written history could ever do justice to Caz, so you’re just gonna have to take our word for it: she rules!

Later in the spring, Cuffs requested GSB funding during the regular allocation process for student groups. This time, the reputation that Cuffs had built all year by speaking to classes, meeting with the Student Counseling Service, the Department of Public Safety, the Story County Sexual Assault Response Team, and publishing informational pamphlets in a tremendous effort to help educate and inform the students of ISU about kink, sexuality, and community resources lead to a victory at the GSB Senate by a vote of 27 to 7. Shortly after that vote, the group received news of another huge victory: Cuffs was allocated a student office space! Cuffs moved into the office with the blessing of the LGBTA Alliance, which had previously occupied the space alone. Thus, the two student organizations on campus devoted to education and support of sexual orientation issues became office mates.

The last few weeks of John’s term were spent feverishly preparing for the first transition. A formal Constitution was written, and it was ratified on March 29, 2001. This website was expanded to include several new features, including a recommended reading list and a history section.

The first year of Cuffs was an unbridled (wink!) success, because the members and leaders worked very hard at proving to themselves and the community that Cuffs had a very important contribution to make to Iowa State. John ran himself goofy all year talking to people, answering questions, and patiently explaining why kink is o.k. to anyone who would listen. The other Executive Committee members, A.R., H.D., V., and M.S., poured their hearts into the group as well, and played an indispensable role in getting Cuffs off the ground. Without their help, Cuffs would not even have had a chance to accomplish all that it did in 2000-2001.

Of course, the group did come across people who insisted that sexual morality is about conforming to some rigid and inappropriate set of “approved” behaviors and arrangements that should fit every single person on earth. But John and the other members of Cuffs knew better. They made the case that morality is about what’s in a person’s heart, and not about who someone chooses as a partner, being gay or straight, married or unmarried, kinky or vanilla. John said that respect is what determines whether or not sex is moral, and that all good things that come from the relationship of one human being with another are built upon respect. So, too, are the rules that the BDSM community lives by: safety, consensuality, and mutual benefit. Many people responded to that message, because they saw that it made a lot of sense. Sharing that message enabled Cuffs to achieve great things in 2000-2001, and set the stage for many terrific years to come.


2004: Cuffs and the Judicial Process

On November 10, 2003, Cuffs held an informational meeting. This meeting was a lab of sorts, to learn how to safely participate in sadomasochistic activities. Present this night were a decent number of members, a few new people who were curious, and a reporter and a photographer. The meeting went forward exactly as planned. However, Ms. Bethany Schuttinga saw the newspaper article and decided to investigate. On December 19, 2003, Cuffs was notified of being placed on interim suspension for the duration of the investigation, which would be administered by Ms. Schuttinga. Cuffs was charged on Monday, February 16, which also ended the suspension. On Monday, March 1, 2004 the hearing was finally held, by Ms. Schuttinga as well. Monday, March 8, we were notified that we had been found guilty (by Ms. Schuttinga) of Assault and Violations of State Law. Monday March 22, the appeal was turned in to Pete Englin.Here is the defense offered at the hearing on March 8th, to Bethany Schuttinga.

Questions asked of “Lynn”

During the evidentiary testimony, we first responded to the charge of violating Disciplinary Regulation 4.2.3, Assault, Injury, or Threat (see [PDF] Iowa State Student Disciplinary Handbook).

4.2.3 Assault, Injury and Threat Assault, injury or threat is an act that:

  • Is intended to cause pain or injury to another;
  • Is intended to result in physical contact which is insulting or offensive to another;
  • Is intended to place another in fear of immediate physical contact that will be painful, injurious, insulting or offensive;
  • Involves pointing any firearm or simulated firearm toward another;
  • Involves the display in a threatening manner of any dangerous weapon toward another; or
  • Involves the making a threat intended to cause another person to fear for their safety or physical well-being.

The following questions were asked of “Lynn Smith”, the girl in the demonstration, in regards to the Cuffs meeting on November 10th, 2003:

  1. Did any act result in physical contact that was insulting or offensive to you?
  2. Do you believe any act was intended to result in physical contact that was insulting or offensive to you?
  3. Were you placed in fear of immediate physical contact that would be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive?
  4. Do you believe any act was intended to place you in fear of immediate physical contact that would be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive?
  5. Did any act involve pointing any firearm or simulated firearm toward you?
  6. Did any act involve the display in a threatening manner of any dangerous weapon toward you?
  7. Did any act involve making a threat that caused you to fear for your safety or physical well-being?
  8. Do you believe any act was intended to involve making a threat that would cause you to fear for your safety or physical well-being?
  9. Did any act cause you injury?
  10. Do you believe any act was intended to cause you injury?
  11. Did any act cause you pain, according to the definitions of pain listed in The American Heritage© Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998, or WordNet © 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University?
  12. Do you believe any act was intended to cause you pain according to the just-mentioned definitions?

All of these questions were answered in the negative.

Definition of Pain

We then stated the exact wording of the definitions of pain cited before:

The American Heritage© Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000:

  1. An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder.
  2. Suffering or distress

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998:

  1. To inflict suffering upon as a penalty; to punish.
  2. To put to bodily uneasiness or anguish; to afflict with uneasy sensations of any degree of intensity; to torment; to torture; as, his dinner or his wound pained him; his stomach pained him.

WordNet © 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University:

  1. A symptom of some physical hurt or disorder
  2. Emotional distress; a fundamental feeling that people try to avoid
  3. A somatic sensation of acute discomfort

Given these definitions, we asserted that no pain occurred at the meeting. Rather, sensations occurred, and due to linguistic inadequacy in everyday English, there is no word corresponding exactly to that sensation. The term “good pain” is commonly used, but if pain by definition involves something unpleasant, it can be seen this is misleading and the term “pain” should not be used to describe any event that occurred at the meeting in question. Lynn submitted a signed statement (witnessed by Cuffs faculty advisor Dr. William Robinson since she was not using her real name) affirming that, under the definitions given, no pain occurred at the November 10th meeting.

We then pointed out that there was also no intent to cause pain. Rather, the intent of the demonstration was to educate members about proper techniques to ensure their safety if they choose, on their own time, to engage in SM activities. Pain, or rather, the sensation normally referred to as “good pain”, is a “reasonably foreseeable consequence” of the activity, but not the intent of the activity.

Question of Exemptions for Other Groups

At this point, we also pointed out that, unlike the Iowa Code for assault (708.1), disciplinary regulation 4.2.3 does not contain a provision exempting “sport, social, or other” activities. We suggested the university understand that the various other groups on campus whose activities involve contact and/or actual pain do not commit assault because the intent of their activities is not to inflict pain, but, like Cuffs, pain is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of their activities. We submitted the following list of groups that, if the distinction between intending to cause pain and having pain as a reasonably foreseeable event is not made, seem to be committing assault, and noted this is likely not a complete list:

  • ISU Boxing Club
  • ISU Fencing Club
  • ISU Hapkido Club
  • ISU Judo Club
  • ISU Karate Club
  • ISU Paintball Club
  • ISU Tae Kwon Do Club
  • Dragon Arts, Ames
  • ISU Kumdo
  • ISU Shotokan Karate-Do
  • Tir Asleen Medieval Combat Society
  • Medieval Re-Creationist Club

We then submitted that according to the legal opinion given us by John Wirenius, to rule against Cuffs but not these other groups could constitute violation of the First Amendment by ruling against the content, not a substantive difference, of the group.

Accusation of Violation of State Law

We then moved on to our arguments about student disciplinary regulation 4.2.18, Violation of a State Law, more specifically Iowa Code 708.1, Assault. We pointed out that, except for an exemption clause, the Iowa Code wording exactly matches the wording of Disciplinary Regulation 4.2.3. We reiterated Lynn’s statement that none of the clauses shared by 4.2.3 and 708.1 were violated, and went on to the exemption clause. We gave Ms. Schuttinga a copy of Iowa Code 708.1 (which can be found here:, with the clauses we intended to reply to numbered as follows:

  1. Without justificationFor the “without justification” clause, we reiterated that the demonstration was 1) educational in nature, and 2) designed specifically to increase the safety of the members. Given these two facts, we asserted that the events were justified and therefore not assault.
  2. Intended to cause pain or injuryFor the “intended to cause pain or injury” clause, we reiterated Lynn’s statements denying that any of the clauses listed under 708.1 #1-3, including the intent to cause pain or injury, occurred, and denying that any of these were intended to occur.
  3. Voluntary participantsFor the “voluntary participants” clause, we submitted two statements affirmation. The first was signed by Lynn Smith and I, affirming we were both voluntary participants in the demonstration and that at any time either of us could have stopped the demonstration. The second was a statement signed by three members of Cuffs that were present at the November 10th meeting stating that their understanding of the demonstration and the entire meeting was that participation was completely voluntary. They further submitted that if anyone had expressed a desire to end the demonstration and that desire was not heeded everyone at the meeting would have intervened and done whatever was necessary to make sure the wishes of the participants were respected. Both statements were witnessed by Dr. Robinson.
  4. Sport, social or other activityWe then told Ms. Schuttinga that, since it was the most complicated clause to response to, the “sport, social or other activity” clause would be addressed after the remaining clauses.
  5. Not in itself criminalMoving on, then, to the “not in itself criminal” clause, we asserted that our understanding was this point is uncontested by the university. For instance, at no point in the legal code or the written charges against Cuffs is a statute against sadomasochistic activities themselves mentioned. Rather, the question at hand was simply whether sadomasochistic activities should be understood as assault.
  6. Reasonably foreseeable incidentConsidering the “reasonably foreseeable incident” clause, we restated that nothing that occurred at the meeting met the “pain or injury” criteria for assault, but even if they had, they should be understood as “reasonably foreseeable incidents” of an act, not the intent of the act.
  7. Does not create an unreasonable riskFinally, for the “does not create unreasonable risk” clause, we pointed out that Cuffs has been doing demonstrations for 4 years now and has never once received a complaint or injury. Furthermore, Lynn submitted a written statement (again witnessed by Dr. Robinson) stating that she was not harmed in any way by the demonstration, and indeed had no marks or signs of the demonstration. Given that few if any other groups whose activities involve physical contact can claim such a safety record, we asserted that the events of November 10th, 2003 in no way posed an unreasonable risk of serious injury.

“Sport, Social, or Other Activity” Clause

At this point, we returned to the “sport, social, or other activity” clause. The pertinent thing to respond to regarding this clause is the case precedent of State v. Collier (1985). We submitted to Ms. Schuttinga a written printoff of the entire case precedent’s wording (majority and minority opinions), so that we could refer to specific passages and have a common pagination. We had two arguments regarding State v. Collier. The first was that sadomasochism (SM) should not be considered assault, and the second was the the Cuffs demonstration was not an instance of SM.

To support our first argument, we pointed out that the majority opinion of State v. Collier gives 3 reasons for its decision. These are:

  1. It has been “repeatedly disapproved [of] by other jurisdictions”
  2. It is “in conflict with the general moral principles of society”
  3. It involves “the very type of injury deemed unacceptable by the legislature”

In defense of its assertion that SM has been repeatedly disapproved of by other jurisdictions, the majority opinion cites 3 court cases. We mentioned that the minority opinion suggested the inappropriateness of basing an Iowa legal precedent on the decisions of other jurisdictions, but otherwise chose to treat the basis as if it was valid.
[ Com. v. Appleby (Mass. 1980) | People v. Samuels (California 1967) | State v. Brown (New Jersey 1976) ]