"Let's talk about it" — is the rallying cry of the organizers of Sex Week. If you've not heard it — and I really can't see how you haven't if you attend this university — you know that it's a week long affair whose goal is to raise sexual awareness and empowerment.
Sex Week has a diverse host of events, including an aphrodisiac cooking class, a gender theory workshop and a discussion about politics and policy in Tennessee.
Each event is set to bring about positive change and awareness. Yet, Tennessee's House of Representatives passed a resolution by majority vote condemning Sex Week and calling it an "atrocious event."
Forgive me, but I don't see how an event that promotes women's reproductive health, LGBTQ awareness and safe, consensual sex could ever be described as "atrocious."
Nevertheless, our glorious state leaders have made their disapproval clear. It's a shame really, because there needs to be more events like this across the state. Every week should be Sex Week.
Our state has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and one of the highest rape rates in the country. I mentioned in a previous column that Tennessee got an "F" on its reproductive health and rights report card.
And unsurprisingly, the most prominent form of sex education in our state is abstinence-only. I wonder if perhaps there is a pattern.
I feel that Sex Week is especially needed on our state's college campuses, especially one as large and as party-inclined as UT.
A coalition of groups petitioned the university late last month to halt Sex Week events because Sex Week "potentially violates Tennessee state obscenity laws while creating a hostile environment for female students. ...The University is also violating the Department of Education's Civil Rights Letter of Finding requiring policies that prohibit sexual harassment-related activities that create a hostile and sexually charged environment for females on campus."
That's funny, because the environment on campus is already pretty sexually charged and hostile to female students. Sex Week wants to change that. These groups would do better to express their dissatisfaction with fraternity parties as well as certain academic departments.
The truth is that we really need Sex Week events, especially the one which focuses on consent — "Don't Blame It On the Alcohol: Communication, Consent, & Sexual Assault Prevention."
It's no secret that university campuses as well as their surrounding areas are hotspots for rape and sexual assault. One study shows that one in five women face sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while in college.
I believe that the number could actually be higher, as sexual assault largely goes unreported.
I think the biggest issues people have with Sex Week stem from ignorance of the reality of the event and its goals.
Coincidentally, ignorance is the reason we need Sex Week in the first place.
The discussion of sex in our society is generally riddled with inaccuracies that harm everyone. The media and religious extremism has distorted sex. Additionally, we live in a national culture that stigmatizes sex and makes us uncomfortable talking about it, yet injects it into almost every aspect of our society.
In order to make our state — and our nation — a better one in regards to reproductive and sexual health, teen pregnancy, LGBTQ awareness and sexual assault, we must have an informed conversation.
Abstinence-only education fails. Ignoring the unavoidable reality of sex and calling it "atrocious" is not only ineffectual but also damaging. Self-loathing, even. We all know how we got here.
Sex Week aims to promote an important conversation, and it'd be great if our state leaders would recognize that.
We've got to talk about it, folks.
Andrea Richardson is a sophomore in anthropology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.