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The Met Gala for the Kinky: Safeword Bop Returns

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

One of the 601's busiest nights of all time, the Safeword Bop was a celebration of sex positivity. The Saint's Sophia Brousset and Harriet St Pier took a closer look.



If you happened to pass the Union last Friday night, you’d have encountered a queue which lasted down the street and around the corner onto Greyfriars Garden. Relatively unusual, but not completely unheard of. The attire modelled by those in the queue, however, might have encouraged you to double-take. Amongst the average Friday night 601 regulars was a crowd dressed distinctly differently: fishnets, lace corsets, knee-high boots, and mesh tops were the name of the game. Between all of the furry handcuffs, whips, leads, and leather harnesses, it was difficult to know quite where to look.


An early Halloween celebration, perhaps? Not quite. Rather, the Safeword Bop — a “celebration of kink, BDSM, and all things fetish” — once again returned to the union to round off SHAG week. A collaboration between the Wellbeing Subcommittee and Saints LGBT+, the Bop sought to provide a safe and positive space for students to dress however made them feel sexiest and most free.


SHAG weeks — Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance weeks — are held at universities across the UK every year, and are aimed at bringing conversations surrounding sex and sexuality into mainstream university buildings. The Safeword Bop epitomised this idea: bringing kink culture, something that is typically marginalised for its perceived unconventionality, into the university’s primary clubbing venue for a celebration of de-stigmatisation and freedom of sexuality.


Potentially one of the best-attended Bops of all time with an estimated 1,600 clubbers, the outfits alone were an indication that this promotion of sex positivity was embraced by the St Andrews student community.


In conversation with The Saint, many of the Bop’s attendees confirmed this. Lila, a fourth year student, spoke about how important they thought it was that an event such as this was held in such a mainstream space.


“There are kink spaces in and around St Andrews, but bringing it directly into the university is something that is really unique. I think it is an important way to de-stigmatise and normalise these things so that they can be integrated more into university society”, they said.


“Everyone looks so hot, but more importantly you can tell that people have dressed in a way that makes them feel sexy. It’s so liberating”.


Ciaran and Catriona, also fourth years, agreed.


“Even if you think your outfit is a bit far out, there’s always someone wearing something cooler than you which is very freeing”, they told The Saint.


“We came here because we knew that the energy would be great, and it’s proven to be true - everyone here is so nice, even if you don’t know them. It’s just such a good, accepting vibe - like a congregation of kind, like-minded people”, they added.


This was certainly true. With both the 601 and Main Bar packed beyond belief, it was difficult to move through the crowd without several compliments being thrown your way. There seemed a tripartite division between those who’d prepared their Bop outfit well in advance, those who had thrown on the first lacy item in their wardrobe, and those caught off guard by the leather and latex, in attendance because that’s what they do every Friday night.


Abigail, a third year student, who donned a simple white crop top and jeans said, “It’s not particularly my vibe, but I’m here to dance. It isn’t just for people who want to dress up.


“I’m definitely a tad uncomfortable, out of my element, but that’s just my personal opinion. At the end of the day, there’s music and a place to dance.”


However, the prevailing sentiment was of acceptance rather than division — indeed, there’s nothing like a packed club and the best hits of Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, and Beyonce to bring a crowd together.


Ultimately, Surah, a fresher, summed up why the night was so important.


“I grew up on a tiny island community, and so I’ve absolutely never been to anything like this before”, they said.


“It definitely feels like a safer and more accepting space, and I hope that it is something St Andrews seeks to do more of”.


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