Sex Week is a week of free, comprehensive sex education events hosted by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT) each April at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT). SEAT seeks to foster a comprehensive and intellectual discussion on sex, sexuality, and relationships to educate the UT student body and the Knoxville community through innovative, captivating, and entertaining methods. We bring paid speakers from across the country to talk about a wide range of comprehensive sex education topics such as anatomy, safer sex methods, kink, consent, LGBT relationship, and reproductive justice. Past speakers include sexologist and YouTube host Dr. Lindsey Doe; lesbian stripper, artist, and activist Jacq the Stripper; and Chicago’s premier African domme, Mistress Velvet. We also enjoy partnerships with Knoxville's Planned Parenthood, UT's Women's Coordinating Council, and UT's Law School which allow us to expand our reach and discuss national and international issues related to gender and sexuality.
Check out our schedule for Sex Week 2019, including events on safe BDSM practices, black feminist theory, body positivity, the legality of sex work, and LGBT rights in India! As you can see, in addition to promoting comprehensive sex education, we seek to foster an intellectual, positive, and inclusive discussion about all topics related to sex, sexuality, gender, and relationships.
In years past, we have relied on the Student Programming Allocations Committee to receive Student Programming and Services Fees which covered speaker fees, travel, and advertising costs. Following an investigation into our organization by the Tennessee Comptroller which described our events as "disgusting," that process has been eliminated. We plan to use this fundraiser to raise money to continue bringing qualified, engaging speakers to UT and continue providing free, comprehensive sex education for our students.
Why support comprehensive sex education?
Comprehensive sex education refers to a curriculum which covers safer sex methods such as condoms, the pill, and IUDs in addition to abstinence as a means of preventing pregnancy and STIs. Comprehensive sex education has proven highly effective in reducing pregnancy, as a recent examination of the National Survey of Family Growth reveals that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to report a pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education. Other studies have also found that comprehensive sex education programs can delay early sexual activity and increase condom and contraception use. The Centers for Disease Control finds that sexual education programs are also associated with increased educational attainment and better health outcomes overall. Conversely, abstinence-only programming has been linked to higher STI and pregnancy rates. Check out this great video by sexologist and Sex Week 2018 keynote, Dr. Lindsey Doe, about why comprehensive sex education is more effective and more practical than abstinence-only education.
Despite the clear benefits of comprehensive sex education, the vast majority of Americans receive abstinence-only education, if they get sex education at all. According to the Guttmacher Institute , only 24 states require sex education. When students receive sex education, 10 states required that abstinence be covered and 27 states required that abstinence be stressed, while only 20 states require information about condoms and contraception. Finally, just 13 states require sexual health instruction to be medically accurate, meaning that students cannot even be sure that the information they are receiving is correct.
In Tennessee, sex education is only required if teen pregnancy rates exceed a certain threshold. The state requires that abstinence be stressed, and information does not need to be medically accurate. This has a negative effect on the state’s sexual health. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control , Tennessee ranked sixteenth in HIV diagnoses in 2015, and in 2017 we had 522.5 reported cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people. We also had a teen birth rate of 26.6 incidences per thousand, compared to a national average of 18.8 per thousand. Clearly, Tennessee has much to improve in terms of sexual health.
College is a time when students are faced with a lot of important decisions regarding their sexual health. Yet, most students are woefully unprepared to make those decisions responsibly. According to Bustle , just 62 percent of students regularly use condoms, while a startling 15 percent never use a condom. Sex Week seeks to provide students with the information they need to make safe, informed decisions about their sexual health through engaging content by experts in the field.
Who are we?
SEAT is a group of passionate students at the University of Tennessee with a shared interest in sex and public health. With a wide range of majors including sociology, English, architecture, statistics, marketing, biochemistry, microbiology, and women's studies, we use our diverse interests and passions to bring intellectual discussions about sex into the classroom during Sex Week each year. We work hard to recruit passionate, driven, and qualified students because our organization is nothing without our board.
Sex Week’s history
In spring 2012, the Issues Committee of the Central Programming Council (now Campus Events Board) brought Megan Andelloux , a prominent sexologist, to speak at the University of Tennessee at the recommendation of student Brianna Rader. The event was extremely popular, and it was clear that UT students wanted and needed sex education on campus. Brianna did some research and found that Andelloux had spoken at Harvard University’s Sex Week. Interested, Brianna teamed up with fellow Issues Committee member, Jacob Clark, and spent that summer planning what would become the first Sex Week at UT.
Brianna and Jacob planned a series of events with a few other students and gained all of the funding they needed to bring prominent speakers to campus. The first annual Sex Week was set to be a major success. Then, just two weeks before the event, Campus Reform published an article criticizing UT’s Sex Week for plans to bring a “lesbian bondage expert” to campus. This article was picked up by Fox News, leading to a barrage of bad press which was, inevitably, brought to the attention of UT’s administration. This culminated with Brianna and Jacob being called into the Dean’s office, where they were informed that they were defunding Sex Week.
This did not stop Brianna and Jacob. They created an Indiegogo fundraiser, painted the Rock, and did at least 30 interviews promoting the event. Through these efforts, they were able to regain all of the money and host the first-ever Sex Week at UT. Two years later, the Tennessee state legislature officially condemned Sex Week in joint resolution 626, which created the opt-in/opt-out system which allows students to choose whether or not their fees fund student programming.
Our organization is consistently under fire from the Tennessee Legislature and more conservative voices within our community. Sex Week has been officially condemned by the state , and we've included links to the specific legislation. We have been constantly targeted in hateful, disruptive legislation since, with the legislation going as far as defunding and disbanding our university's Office of Diversity and Inclusion , and explicitly naming our organization, while saying that Sex Week is not to take place on campus with state funding. This past year, we were investigated by the Tennessee state Comptroller , which led to the elimination of the process to request student fees to fund events that has been used in recent years.
We tell you all of this to explain how hostile the current climate is that we're existing in, and to let you know that we are persisting nonetheless. In the face of this discrimination and pushback from legislation , we are trying harder than ever to bring important, renowned keynote speakers to Sex Week this coming spring. We want to demonstrate to the Knoxville community and the legislature that our organization is changing lives and deserves space and support on our campus.
How funds will be used
Because we cannot be sure how much money we will receive, we have not set our budget in stone at this time. We have set a goal of $13,000 because that was the approximate cost of Sex Week 2019, and we intend to set this year's event at a similar scale. The majority of the funds will be used to pay our speakers and cover their travel expenses, and the rest will be used for advertising, security, and venue costs. A more detailed cost breakdown will be made available as soon as possible.
Any excess funds will be kept in SEAT’s business account where it will be used for future events. No funds donated to this campaign or to our Venmo and CashApp accounts will be used for personal expenses.
- Beth Heise
- Simon Jolly
- Heidi Goodrich-Blair
- Cameron Miller