Summer Awad

Spring has sprung, and that means it's almost time for my favorite holiday. No, I'm not talking about Easter. I’m actually most excited for UT’s favorite controversy and the only 100% effective way to learn about both abstinence and anal beads in the same week of college: Sex Week at UT.

When I was a freshman, I joined Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT), the student organization that hosts Sex Week every year. I had always been interested in sex education and curious about sexuality in general, but I had no idea how much my participation in Sex Week would impact my life and overall well-being. During Sex Week’s first year, after the executive board scrambled to recover funding that the administration took from us at the last minute, I was able to attend almost all of the 30-something events that SEAT had put together. I attended lectures by Megan Andelloux (ohmegan.com), Aida Manduley (http://aidamanduley.com/) and a number of brilliant UT professors on the topics of sex, sexuality, relationships and gender. That fateful week in 2013, I felt like Jasmine — I was in a whole new world.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what Sex Week entails. Among those who have never attended a Sex Week event, it has gained quite the (incorrect) reputation for being a big orgy fest that pressures abstinent students into having sex and engaging in lesbian bondage. But in fact, Sex Week teaches practical information about physical, emotional and mental health in relation to sex. Sex Week answers questions we’ve all looked up on Yahoo! Answers: how can you use sex toys correctly and safely, how do you recognize when you’re in an abusive relationship, how can you learn to love your body and improve your self-esteem? Sex Week events don’t assume that everyone is having or should be having sex, but they acknowledge that sex is normal and natural and that most people will deal with sex at some point in their lives. So if you’re waiting for marriage, rush to a Sex Week event, get out that notebook and start saving up sex tips for your honeymoon.

Speaking of sex tips, here are just a few of the things I have learned (and utilized extensively) over the past three years of organizing and attending Sex Week:

1. Popular lubes like KY Jelly and Astroglide are bad for you. Glycerin-free lubes are much better, especially for vagina owners.

2. Don't use oil-based lube with condoms, because it will disintegrate the condom.

3. Don't use silicone-based lube with silicone sex toys. It can ruin the material.

4. Basically use water-based lube for everything, specifically Sliquid. (More specifically cherry vanilla flavor, but to each their own.) And did you know you can reactivate water based lube by adding water?

5. How to put a condom on with your mouth.

6. Reading on the toilet is one of the main causes of anal prolapse.

7. Mojoupgrade.com is the best website you and your sex partner(s) will ever use. Just try it. Trust me.

8. Two words: clitoral legs.

Sound fun and informative? That’s because it is. If you look at this year’s schedule, it gets even better, with events like “How to Drive a Vulva,” “Butt Stuff” and “Tinder Lovin’ Care.” It can feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s the beauty of it: everyone is uncomfortable, because almost everyone in Tennessee has had no real sex education. Getting uncomfortable is the first step to changing our culture of sexual shame.

Given the attitudes of our state legislators, being a part of Sex Week has been a radical political act. But it is more than that. For me, my participation in SEAT and Sex Week has also been radical act of self-care and self-love. I have the tools to have a healthy and active sex life and to be unashamed of it. I have a network of friends and professional resources I can go to in the event of an unplanned pregnancy, an STI or a sexual assault. I am in control of my reproductive health, and I have an improved body image. And yes, in case you were wondering: I can put on a condom with my mouth.

Sex Week UT will take place April 4-8, 2016. See sexweekut.org for the full schedule of events.

Summer Awad is a senior in College Scholars. She can be reached at sawad@vols.utk.edu.

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