It’s always amazing to me how squeamish university administrators and state legislators get when it comes to supporting Sex Week events. I’m scheduled to speak at the University of Tennessee Sex Week in April and I just found out that while the event is still on the calendar, the majority of the funding has been withdrawn. Of course, this has left the event organizers scrambling to cover their costs through donations.
This isn’t the first time that a Sex Week has been called into question and it won’t be the last. I have to say that I’m intrigued by how much the news reports are focusing on the participation of Sinclair Sexsmith, especially their description of her as a “lesbian bondage expert.” Of course, Sinclair is a lesbian bondage expert and I think that’s awesome. And it’s also clear that it’s meant to create a moral panic about the event since there won’t be any discussion of lesbian bondage at Sex Week.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit envious that they aren’t pitching me as a sodomy expert, what with my book on prostate play and all. You just can’t buy this kind of publicity. In fact, when campusreform.org posted about my appearance at Brown University’s Sex Week last week, several other conservative sites picked it up and traffic to the book’s website quadrupled for that day. Not only that, but the average pageviews increased as well, so it’s pretty clear that this kind of publicity can have a lot of benefit for those of us trying to get sex-positive messages out into the world, even though it’s unpleasant to see the haters getting so much attention.
At the same time, it’s usually the loudest people who are perceived as representative of the public opinion, so I’m not surprised that funding got yanked, even though the students are pretty calm about the event:
“We’re grown-ups!” said sophomore Trenesheia Davis, who said she’s “very interested” in a lot of the programming scheduled for the weeklong event in April.
Does it bother Davis that her student fees support Sex Week? No, she said. After all, student fees go to support the athletic programs, which don’t interest all students, she said.
Junior Max Rippe said it’s a good use of student fees “if it’s about promoting a healthy sexual environment, especially if there’s an element of tolerance involved” — even if not all sessions are ones he’d personally attend.
Take a look at the event schedule and you’ll see that the student organizers have done a phenomenal job of planning a wide range of speakers so they can offer something to almost everyone. There are discussions of sexual assault and how to end it, what the Bible says about sexuality, how to write about sex (whether it’s for a partner or to get published as a writer), talking with a doctor about sex, sex & the law, and my presentations on masculinity & sexuality and sex-positivity. There’s much, much more about how to make good decisions and share them with a potential partner than anything else, which is fantastic since those are skills that more college students need. But then, so does everyone else.
University Sex Weeks are important because they help bridge the gap between the sex education that’s appropriate for teens and the sex education that adults need, just as college students are navigating their way from one stage to another. Even when young people get comprehensive sex ed, and not just abstinence-only propaganda, most people have a lot of questions and need support as they find their paths. When administrators and legislators get in the way of that, they reinforce the silence, shame, secrecy, and ignorance that keep people locked into unhappy sex lives and unhealthy relationships.
Please support the U of T Sex Week and donate to their Indiegogo campaign. The students deserve better than they’re getting and every dollar helps!