What's in a name? A rose by any other name still smells as sweet, and an assistant to the regional manager is the same as assistant regional manager, right?
Obviously not. In case you've forgotten, the Affordable Care Act has far more positive ratings than Obamacare, even though it's the exact same thing. Closer to home, "Sex Week" is getting far more press and criticism than their official title — "Sexual Empowerment and Awareness in Tennessee."
And Sex Week sure knows a thing or two about titles — last year, they hosted a workshop on oral sex called "How Many Licks Does It Take?" This year, they've gone even more suggestive and controversial, with "We Can't Stop" on orgasms and "My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard" — an aphrodisiac cooking class.
These titles — while often hilarious and groan-inducing — are obviously offensive to Tennessee's strongly conservative majority. They've been called "atrocious," and "a waste of student fees." Directly referencing the titles, a student told CampusReform last year that "the only students who will attend will be the ones to go as a joke (sic)."
This is a big worry for me. I agree with Nicky Hackenbrack, a Sex Week organizer, who said in a Jan. 8 column that "In order to stop rape culture, we have to stop the sexual repression."
This issue should not be overlooked. According to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, only 20 rape cases were reported at UT in 2011. Sounds pretty good, until you think about the fact that the U.S. Justice Department estimates that only around 5 percent of college rape cases are reported. If that estimate is right, there could have been 380 unreported rape cases that year.
But with the provocative titles mentioned above and such a negative stigma among conservatives, are the sexually-repressed and silent victims on UT's campus really going to come out to Sex Week?
Maybe not. I know Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield wouldn't. Same with my conservative mother and my Presbyterian friends, who will not be among the 3,600 students that came to last year's events.
Many of us probably think of this as a problem with Sex Week, that it's going too far in approaching such a taboo subject, and ends up seeming like a week-long UT orgy. The titles are too provocative and alienate those it needs to reach the most. I thought this way all of last year.
Until I realized that the controversy was exactly what UT needed. By choosing these outrageous names and hosting "condom scavenger hunts" on campus, Sex Week has done exactly what they wanted to do — got people to "talk about it."
In other words, every offended mother, student and state legislator that speaks out against Sex Week and its organizers is doing more than just publicizing and condemning the event. They are participating in it.
Sex Week got Campfield to admit that he considers dressing in drag to be "dressing up like a duck." It got him to say that first amendment rights don't hold when students are forced to "pay for speech they find objectionable." (If you want to see the flaw in this argument — I pay taxes to Tennessee, who pays Campfield. What if I find what he says "objectionable?")
RUF and Campus Crusade for Christ are each having their own sessions in response to Sex Week. In a very real way, these organizations are participating in Sex Week.
There are students offended by the titles of Sex Week's events, who think that Sex Week is a waste of their fees, and that's completely their right. Maybe they'll talk to their student senators and actually vote in SGA elections. They could even run on a new, anti-Sex Week platform.
Even if that were the whole purpose of Sex Week — to get people to stop being so damn uninterested in every topic that's a little controversial and hugely important — I'd be for it.
There are 27,000 diverse students on our campus, so why is this the first time we're seeing a big conflict of beliefs and ideals on campus? Why is Sex Week the first challenge to our apathetic student culture?
As far as these events go, I'll borrow the words of university president Joe D'Pietro, reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel — "If a single unwanted pregnancy or sexual assault were prevented as a result (of Sex Week), that would justify the program."
Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy. He can be reached at email@example.com.