Fetish Ball, arguably the most popular student event held at Mills College, has had its share of controversy. This year, the annual on-campus dance ran into a new set of challenges for patrons and organizers alike.
The event, organized by the on-campus queer alliance Mouthing Off, was themed "Voluptuous Panic: A Night of Thelemic Affections," and drew many sparsely clad party-goers who, about an hour later, turned into a long line of disgruntled students, guests and alumnae waiting to be let in to the Student Union, many of whom said they received disrespect from Public Safety.
In a "Call to Action" posted on April 10 in student-news, senior Chris Adams said, "Many of the Public Safety personnel I interacted with [at Fetish Ball] were rude, threatening, condescending, short tempered, disrespectful and worst of all, uncaring."
"[T]here were 100 people outside lined up all the way around the corner. And they were mad," said president of Mouthing Off, junior Helen Vance. "I think [Public Safety Director Michael Lopez's] vision of the event was very different from what [Mouthing Off] and the administration thought it would be."
According to Dean of Students Joanna Iwata, Public Safety officials frequently met with representatives of Mouthing Off and the Division of Student Life for weeks before the event. Lopez joined the meetings the week of the event, when the issue of maximum capacity came up. He contacted the Oakland Fire Department and discovered that to meet fire safety standards, the event could only allow almost half the amount of people organizers hadplanned for. Vance said she learned the day of the event about the new maximum capacity, and was notified an hour after doors opened that it had been reached.
Vance said verbal fights broke out in line that included derogatory remarks. Friction was not restricted to patrons in line. According to Vance, public safety officers joined in the verbal exchanges.
Lopez was away at a conference for a week and did not respond to e-mails from The Weekly requesting comment.
Assistant Director of Public Safety Niviece Robinson and Public Safety Transportation & Parking Supervisor Darnita White refused to comment about Fetish Ball. "[Representatives from DSL, RCL, Public Safety and Mouthing Off are] going to meet on Tuesday to debrief after the event before we give a statement to The Weekly," Robinson said.
"Tensions were just very, very high in line," Vance said. "People didn't know what was going on. That was part of the problem."
Doors to the event opened slightly after the scheduled start time of 9:30 p.m. Friday night. Freshwoman Jen Johnson was one of the many who waited in line for over an hour in order to attend Fetish Ball.
"I got there at ten to eleven and I didn't get [inside] until 12:30," she said.
Vance said that although some patrons went home, those who did wait eventually were let in.
Public safety officers guarded every entrance to Cafe Suzie's, Suzie's Lounge, the Student Union and the adjoining courtyard. In addition, three public safety officers stood guard at the entrance, checking patrons' IDs and enforcing the event's no-camera rule. This is the second year cameras have been banned from Fetish Ball due to pictures of Mills students in ball attire that were published in Hustler Magazine without their consent in 2004.
Party goers paid a five dollar entry fee if they arrived before 11:00 p.m., and seven dollars for those who entered after 11:00 p.m. Vance said that although she did not know how much money was raised from Fetish Ball, the money would go towards paying off the event and supporting Mouthing Off.
Vance partly attributed the night's capacity problem to the event rule that allowed Mills students to bring up to three guests to the event. She said that organizers defined a "Mills student" as an alum, foreign exchange, graduate or undergraduate student.
This has led to many ideas for improving next year's Fetish Ball.
"We're considering lowering our guest policy to one guest per one Mills student," she said. "It's fairer to Mills students who want to be here."
She said that another possible change includes a rule that all male guests need to be escorted by a female student. If the student is a male, he will have to be accompanied by a female. Vance also said that organizers are considering hosting the event at a larger venue.
In addition to these changes, Mouthing Off member senior Charis Boke said that a "longer duration," and "more BDSM education beforehand" would be considered for next year's Fetish Ball.
Party-goers lucky enough to get in early had the opportunity to watch two performances by the Transformers, a group of women who dress up and perform as men, who lip-synched to a medley of songs.
A costume contest gave those who dressed up a chance to strut their stuff across a stage set up at the front of the Student Union. "I expected to be really shocked by what people were wearing, and I really wasn't," said freshwoman Koa Beck, who said this was her first time at Fetish Ball. "The setting is everything."
Juniors Rachel Howard and Kimberly Swanberg, who dressed up as a zombie hunter, won first place for their attire and the short skit they performed. Second place went to sophomore Antonia Machado for her bride costume.
These performances were followed by a flogging demonstration by Boke, junior Tina Sogliuzzo and sophomore Saranique Schwartz, who were spontaneously joined by senior Tee Sullivan.
Boke said that Fetish Ball provides "a safe space for people to express alternative sexualities in a low key manner."
An impromptu dance by sophomores Becky n and Krystle Ahmadyar was the last of the performances.
Patrons were free to dance to disc jockey alumna Jocelyn Agloro's tunes, or to just chill and listen among plush pillows and drapery.