Love & Sex

The University of Tennessee’s Sex Week Will Go on Despite Major Controversy

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Award-winning writer and sex educator Tristan Taormino to hold seminar.

"Let them get off campus. They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the Sex Week they want." Those are the condemning words of Tennessee Representative Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), who is the primary sponsor of a resolution moving through the Tennessee House of Representatives this week to end the University of Tennessee-Knoxville's Sex Week. U of T's Second Annual Sex Week, which will feature discussions about women's health, LGBT issues, sexual violence, hook-up culture, consent, abstinence, and yes, orgasms, still plans to charge ahead with this year's festivities March 2-7 despite the pending legislation. Sans the sheep.

The 27 representatives and senators backing the anti-Sex Week resolution consider the proposed events — including poetry slams, art shows, and academic lectures — an egregious waste of funding and "condemns the organizers" and the University for letting it happen for the second year in a row. Last year, U of T's Sex Week, which had 4,000 attendants, was so controversial that legislators threatened to suspend the budget of the entire university. Ultimately the event had to be funded by student activity fees alone. This year, $20,000 of the $25,000 budget will come from UT students' activity fees, with the total cost being about 41 cents per student. In effect, the local legislators are complaining about an "outrageous misuse" of students' funds, not the state's. 

“Because we live in an abstinence-until-marriage education state, most students arrive at The University of Tennessee with insufficient knowledge to make healthy sexual decisions. Tennessee has some of the worst stats in the country for sexual assault, STIs, and unwanted pregnancies,” said Brianna Rader, the co-founder and co-chair of Sex Week and SEAT.

Tristan Taormino, the award-winning writer, sex educator, and host of Sex Out Loud, will be giving her popular feminist porn lecture at the U of T Sex Week, along with a question-and-answer session on sex and relationships. “College is a prime time for sexual exploration. Away from home, students experience newfound independence and freedom, their sexual curiosity is high, and they have access to social situations that can scratch those itches. We know they are exploring their own sexuality and sex with other people, so why not give them tools, strategies, skills, and information about how to do it?" Taormino explained to Nerve. In March, she will be joined by sexologist Megan Andelloux and sex expert Reid Mihalko

"When state lawmakers interfere with students putting on Sex Week at public universities — whether that is in the form of passing legislation like Tennessee did, withholding state education funds from specific student groups or the university in general, or threatening to do so behind closed doors — it sets a dangerous precedent," warned Taormino.

And the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, which resides in a state where learning about "gateway sexual activity" is strictly prohibited, is in dire need of frank, open discussions about sexual health. With Sex Week offerings like an aphrodisiac cooking class and a lip-syncing drag show, there's no doubting that the Univeristy of Tennessee is bringing sex week back in full force, and if you listen to their hilariously off-key Justin Timberlake parody video, "Them legislators don't know how to act."

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Image via Sex Week UT.