If you search news related to the University of Tennessee, two words surface over and over again: Sex Week.
The third annual week of sexual health and education programming starts Monday, April 6 and goes through Satuday, April 11.
Organized by the student group Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, Sex Week was founded at UT in 2013 by two students, Brianna Rader and Jacob Clark. After UT's Central Programming Council brought prominent sexologist Megan Andelloux to speak, Rader and Clark saw a need on campus to expand the discussion to a week of events.
Thus, UT became one of the first ten universities in the U.S. to host a Sex Week, joining Ivy League institutions like Harvard and Yale. Since its inception, Andelloux has led events in every year of Sex Week, including 2015's, where she's speaking at events like "Getting Wordy and Talking Dirty: Consent and Communication in the Bedroom."
Sex Week at UT has received more than its fair share of controversy. In 2013, national media like Fox News and local politicians like former Sen. Stacey Campfield were vocal about their lack of support for the event. This led the university to pull $11,145 in funding just a few weeks before the inaugural event, stating that it was an inappropriate allocation of state tax dollars.
But the organizers of Sex Week rallied and were able to raise the pulled funds through crowdsourcing and donations.
When Sex Week came around again in 2014, Tennessee legislators passed a resolution that condemned the week, calling it "an outrageous misuse of student fees and grant monies." The result was another resolution that required the university to allow students to opt out of programming they find "controversial or objectionable."
Throughout the political and media attention, Sex Week's leadership has maintained the program's goal of helping students be better informed and engaged about sex, sexual health and safety, especially in light of the heightened national publicity regarding campus sexual assault.
"Appreciating the diversity and unity of the human experience entails understanding the range of sexual and gender identities we hold and express, and how these are shaped by culture, politics, religion, the environment, and even the economy," according to Sex Week at UT's website.
The program's core values are open-mindedness, inclusivity, interdisciplinarity, sex-positivity, growth and development, and transparency. This year's programming includes discussions about STIs, personal grooming, and religion and sexuality, as well as creative events like poetry slams and a drag show.
"Sex Week is all about creating a safe space for everyone, regardless of personal beliefs, values, or sexual orientation," reads their website's FAQ page. "Issues surrounding sex, relationships, and gender are relevant to everyone, whether you're having sex now, later, or not at all."
A complete schedule of events can be found on Sex Week's website, sexweekut.org.
All events are free and open to the public.