published Friday, January 31st, 2014

UT's Sex Week program returning in March

  • photo
    Tennessee sophomore Zack Plaster, from Oak Ridge, holds a replica of the Golden Condom that was hidden on the Knoxville Campus as part of the University of Tennessee's nationally buzzed-about Sex Week.
    Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The University of Tennessee's Sex Week — the racy student program that evoked the ire of state legislators last spring — will return in March with new and returning events like an aphrodisiac cooking class, poetry slam, relationship workshop, dance class, drag show and, of course, the condom scavenger hunt.

The lighthearted fare will be balanced with more thoughtful discussions and lectures on sex and politics, sex and alcohol, the ethics of pornography and sexual assault.

The weeklong program on the Knoxville campus will run March 2-7 with a full schedule of events across campus each day.

As part of the promotional events leading up to Sex Week, the group is sponsoring performances this weekend of "Rent," an award-winning musical on the impact of AIDS on a group of artists in New York City. The show will have performances at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. today and Saturday in the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre.

Last year, funds donated by academic departments were revoked when state legislators expressed outrage over the event. A last-minute fundraising effort led to about $10,000 in gifts that allowed the program to go on, drawing about 3,600 students to the various events.

This year, the program has a roughly $25,000 budget, with most of that coming from student activity fees, along with a $5,000 "Ready for the World" grant from the university and a few thousand more from private fundraising and T-shirt sales.

"I don't think history will repeat itself, but I do expect a small amount of pushback," said Brianna Rader, a student and co-founder of the event. "I think we're better prepared to handle it this year."

One of the highlights of the schedule is a discussion on pornography led by Tristan Taormino, a well-known feminist author and pornographer. Taormino lowered her usual fee to speak at UT because of the school's unique demographic, Rader said.

"I'm really proud we were able to get her," Rader said. "It's a much-needed conversation, because Tennessee is in the top 10 in the country in viewing pornography and we don't talk about it enough."

Also on the list is returning speaker Megan Andelloux, a sexologist who hosted some of last year's most popular events. This year she will give one of the marquee lectures, titled "Get Wet: Exploring the Connections Between Sexual Pleasure, Health, & Advocacy," along with another sessions on sexual identity.

There also will be a panel discussion on abstinence, its various definitions and how to explain that choice to others.

Contact Megan Boehnke at 865-342-6432 or boehnkem@knoxnews.com.

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