A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Union University, a private institution in the state of Tennessee and its “sex is bad, mmmkay?” methodology towards providing sex education to its students. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville differs because it is a public institution, and I would think a public institution such as UTK would be a bit more open-minded towards a seminar dedicated to sex education. Boy, was I wrong.
Last week, state legislators successfully convinced the UTK to rescind $11,145 worth of state funding, about 62 percent of the total funding allocated to support an event on the UT-Knoxville campus known as “Sex Week.”
The “Sex Week” event is organized by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT), an organization whose mission is “to foster a comprehensive and academically-informed conversation about sex, sexuality and relationships” with the purpose of educating its student body through innovative, collaborative and entertaining programming and events.
Heathens, I know.
The SEAT organization indicates open-mindedness, inclusivity, transparency, sex-positivity, growth and development as the core values driving its mission-based endeavors. Unfortunately, the criticism towards the “Sex Week” completely disregards the learning outcomes explicitly indicated by the organization on its website.
Some conservative pundits are quick to point out the more scandalous aspects of the event, with the most abundant subject of indignation being a “lesbian bondage expert.” However, these critics never mention who this “lesbian bondage expert” actually is, nor do they provide any sort of context as to the actual content of the presentation.
The “lesbian bondage expert” in question is Sinclair Sexsmith, a writer who discusses sovereignty, healing and communication through personal examinations of sex, gender and relationships. According to the official UTK “Sex Week” website, Sexsmith is scheduled to provide an “interactive workshop” exploring subjects such as gender expression, identities, labels, transcending the mutually exclusive binaries, queer culture and, of course, “hot sweaty sex.”
The discussion of “hot sweaty sex” will understandably ruffle the feathers of a few people, but when news sources do not fully inform its readership of the full details regarding the variety of topics being discussed during events such as “Sex Week” at UTK, students who actually want to learn about these subjects are the ones who suffer the consequences.
I mean, Heaven forbid if one of the poor souls attending UTK actually learns something while they’re in college.
One must ask what really bothers Tennessee legislators such as state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) about “Sex Week.” Is it the opportunity for students to attain free HIV testing on the UTK campus? Is it the discussion of the correlation between sexuality and religion? Or, is it the general discussion of sex in a culture that, for some inane reason, views sex as harmful, disgusting and a necessary evil one must encounter during the act of procreation?
Institutions of higher education such as UTK have a responsibility to provide information and education on a variety of topics. Unfortunately, the topic of sex seems to be one of those divisive subjects that people can’t seem to discuss without a bunch of other people throwing a fuss over it.
How will the backlash against “Sex Week” at UTK affect the development and implementation of similar sex education events at other public institutions around the country? Not all state legislative branches will be as conservative as the state of Tennessee and some may be accepting and supportive of initiatives such as “Sex Week.”
It is important that college students do not become apathetic in the face of legislative hindrance. While the “Sex Week” at UTK did lose a majority of its funding, but reports indicate the budget cuts have been restored thanks to donations from various entities sympathetic with the cause.
This should go to show college students everywhere that even when the bureaucrats silence your speech, they cannot silence the pocketbooks of your supporters.