Warning: The following article contains sexually graphic information. Reader discretion is advised.
When parents of students at the University of Tennessee forked over $11,000 for the first year of college tuition, they probably weren’t thinking that their child would get a first-class education in how to masturbate.
Just last week at the University of Tennessee, students had the option of attending more than 30 events, all centered on the subject of sex. It was the second annual “Sex Week UT,” a weeklong series aiming to give a “comprehensive, sex-positive understanding of sexuality that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and empowerment.”
If you are sending your child to college any time soon, read on. It only gets weirder from here.
What in the World is Sex Week?
Sex Week at UT had it all. Some events focused on the physical health concerns, such as free HIV and STI testing or HPV vaccines. There were panel discussions on abstinence as well as religion and sexuality. Other events focused on historical topics, like lectures on the history of sex in different cultures or the history of erotic images. Other events focused on sexual assault prevention and education.
But some events raised a few eyebrows: a condom scavenger hunt, a drag show, an aphrodisiac cooking class, a sex trivia night, a lecture on how to best “hook up,” a lecture from a porn actress about the virtues of “feminist porn,” and a masturbation workshop.
Push Back from Legislators
Not everyone near the Knoxville campus was in support of Sex Week. In fact, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted 69 to 17 to adopt a resolution condemning Sex Week UT. The Senate Education Committee published a strong resolution of its own:
The organizers of Sex Week have promoted the event as a sexual health event, when in reality the aim of the organizers is to thrust a radical agenda on the students of the University of Tennessee. It is the responsibility of the administrators of the University of Tennessee, rather than a student organization registered with the university, to make decisions regarding how to educate students about sexual health issues.
Dolores Gresham and Mike Bell of the Tennessee Senate believe Sex Week—an event costing the school $25,000—is a misappropriation of UT’s general student fees. In their open letter to UT’s administration, they state, “We are writing to express our disapproval and dismay at the lack of leadership at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville regarding the events of Sex Week. This inaction is unacceptable.”
Senators Gresham and Bell also stated that victims of sex crimes have contacted them with great concern—men and women who believe that events like Sex Week are harmful to the public.
Sex Weeks Throughout North America
UT is by no means a pioneer school when it comes to events like this. Peter Roff, contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, states, “If events such as these were confined to just a few colleges and universities they might be easier to overlook. As it happens, they are ubiquitous, as common as ‘rush week’ and homecoming.”
Yale has been hosting a sex week since 2002, including events like sex toy pageants, porn star lectures, and sadomasochism seminars. In 2010, 11 of the 34 events featured were led by pornography stars or producers. In 2006, Yale published nearly 25,000 copies of Sex Week at Yale: The Magazine, and distributed it to 18 of the country’s best-known universities, including all schools in the Ivy League. Magazine contributors included president of Playboy Entertainment Jim Griffiths, and columnists from Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, and Maxim.
Cornell is hosting its very first Sex Week right now, including events like a sex-toy workshop, “Introduction to Kink (with Pictures),” porn screenings, and the annual “Filthy Gorgeous” dance party (the largest LGBTQ event at Cornell University, which, in the past, has included naked male and female dance performers).
Kent State has held Sex Weeks every year since the late 1990s. This year the school spent about $17,000 of taxpayer and student funds on sex programs in their Hawaiian-theme series, “Let’s Get Lei’d.” Events included education about sexual violence and STDs, but also included a Sexy Beach Party day, an educational workshop on the female orgasm, a drag show, a sex toy giveaway, and a “Condom Couture Fashion Show”—showcasing outfits made entirely of condoms.
Harvard’s Sex Week events this year included a workshop on sex toys and screening of a new documentary, “How to Lose Your Virginity.”
Brown University’s weeklong series last year included a certified sexologist’s presentation “Fornication 101,” and a film screening of “Orgasm Inc.”
University of Maryland hosted 20 events for Sex Week this year, which included a meet and greet with a local sex therapist so students could ask questions about oral sex, anal sex, BDSM, non-monogamy, and how porn relates to sex. The school also brought in an Executive Assistant from a local “eco-friendly” sex toy shop to talk about how to have better, sexier communication in the bedroom.
University of Chicago’s events last month were kick-started with the Lascivious Ball—no shirt, no shoes, no problem. Events also included how-to workshops on bondage, dirty talking, and oral sex. Students could learn about pagan sex cults or experience sexual flogging and electrocution at “Taste of Kink.”
University of Pennsylvania students learned “The Ins and Outs of Masturbation,” spun “The Sexual Wheel of Pleasure,” got to play with sex toys, and heard the stirring lecture, “Reclaiming Pleasure: Constructing a non-oppressive, non-repressive sexual ethic in the shadow of religion.”
University of Toronto’s “Sexual Awareness Week” was organized by their Sexual Education Center (SEC). Events were kicked off at a downtown nightclub, which is self-described as a “water-themed adult playground, where swingers are welcome and sex is allowed everywhere but the hot tub.” This clothing-optional event included a Kink 101 presentation and a porn room.
You get the idea.
Sex Weeks are one thing. They come and go—in seven days they’re over with. But many universities take sex education to the next level, hosting actual courses and special events all year long.
Some professors invent whole courses:
- Henry Jenkins, professor at MIT, is a contributor to the book, More Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography and Power. His chapter, “So You Want to Teach Porn,” is all about a contextual approach to teaching about pornography and erotica in the classroom. He personally has had his classes analyze photos from Hustler magazine and clips from porn films.
- Professor Hugo Schwyzer of Pasadena City College founded a new class called “Navigating Pornography.” Homework included students watching porn on their own at home. His aim was to learn about porn “in a safe, non-judgmental, intellectually thoughtful way.”
- The Residential College at the University of Michigan is a “living learning community.” Students can earn academic credits for being involved in their Sexual Health forum, which include field trips to the local “safe sex” store and watching BDSM documentaries.
Many universities enjoy funding other special events. This school year, the University of Oregon paid $24,000 to bring in popular homosexual sex advice columnist Dan Savage to give sex education to students, including info about kinks and fetishes, experimentation, and same-sex marriage. The presentation was also a launch party for the university’s new phone app, which teaches students how to have kinky sex.
This year, the State University of New York invited a noted sexologist to give a public lecture on masturbation techniques. Since 2010 she’s been a featured speaker at more than 100 universities, and is notorious for including pornography in her lectures.
3 Reasons Sex Week Should Worry You
1. Sex Weeks are a waste of your money
Even if you have no moral qualms about it, many who live in North America don’t believe this is what universities are for. They don’t want their tax dollars or their children’s general student fees going to programs like this.
Peter Roff, columnist for U.S. News & World Report rightly says, “There are too many American children graduating from high school and from college without adequate grounding in the hard sciences, in math, in technology training, and knowledge of engineering to keep the nation competitive in the global economy. This is one of the reasons so many jobs are going overseas.” Why spend valuable resources on teaching college kids how to masturbate?
Yale graduate Nathan Hardin, author of Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad, writes,
Yale has hosted talks by countless members of the sex industry, as if they were top academic experts on human sexuality, with no real counterexamples. The way I see it, a porn producer is about as qualified to lecture me on human sexuality as the CEO of McDonald’s is to lecture me on healthy food choices.
Should universities provide students with information about sexual health, especially when a lot of people on campus are having sex? Yes. But stripper poles and condom fashion shows don’t accomplish this.
2. Sex Weeks feed a sexually aggressive culture
Sex Weeks throughout the nation are billed as “sex positive” events. They are a marketplace of sexual experiences and viewpoints. Since these events are big on inclusivity, nothing is too taboo. The pervasive message of these week-long events is that no sex is bad sex—unless, of course, you don’t want it.
However, even when these sex weeks speak out against rape and assault, the very events they endorse often eroticize non-consensual sex. The guys who are likely to treat women like pieces of meat won’t come to the sexual assault seminar. Instead, you’ll find them at porn star panel discussion, where they will hear from men and women who make money sexualizing aggression.
In the top-selling porn films in the US, broken down scene-by-scene, 88% of the scenes contain acts of physical aggression and 49% of the scenes contain acts of verbal aggression. More and more, modern porn pushes the envelope, sending a strong message to the viewer: violence is sexy and the [chicks] love it.
This is not merely the concern of religious prudes anymore. Agnostics, armed with a little knowledge of neurochemistry, are also raising red flags. Porn is actually warping the brains of its viewers, literally eroding each viewer’s hypothalamus, the very center of our willpower and conscience. The chemicals activated during the viewing of porn over-stimulate the circuits of the brain, changing what men and women see as “sexy,” and causing debilitating addictions.
When universities pay porn producers who have made a killing creating demeaning, misogynistic media, what message does this send to the student body? Is it any surprise that 20-25% of women in college will be victims of sexual assault? Is it any surprise that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, after a yearlong investigation, found that Yale permits a sexually “hostile” environment? Why, after an alumni advisory committee was appointed to make a similar investigation, did Yale refuse to cancel Sex Week, ignoring the committee’s recommendation?
In the name of academic freedom, universities have sponsored an environment of sexual degradation.
3. Sex Weeks don’t respect the power and sacredness of sex
The ethos of Sex Week is about swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction of a “sexually repressive” culture. University students want to come out from under the tyrannical thumb of stodgy religious views that treat sex like a necessary evil.
As a Christian, I am proud to say I am also against an anti-sex sentiment. I worship the God who created sex, not just as a means to create life, but also as a pleasurable means of bonding two human beings together in love. I worship a God who inspired the erotic love poem, The Song of Solomon, and slapped it in the center of the Bible.
Unfortunately, for all the “sex positivity” of Sex Week, the profound power of sex is largely ignored. Oh sure, there’s plenty said about orgasm, but very little truth is said about the real “Big O” of sex: Oneness. From the very beginning, this is what sex has been about: the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This is what makes sex unlike any other human activity and why sex is so powerful.
This is also why God placed specific rules around sexual conduct, not to squelch its power but to harness it. New York City pastor Tim Keller states,
God did not invent sex simply to be a defiling but necessary mode of procreation… God did not even just make sex as a way of self-gratification or self-expression… Sex was designed as a way to do radical self-donation. Sex was God’s invented way for you to give yourself to someone else so deeply, it results in personal transformation and completion.
If sex is not just about the uniting of two bodies but the uniting of two persons, this is exactly why God designed sex for marriage: you must never have physical oneness without whole-life oneness.
Of course, on the college campus such sentiments about the dangers of premarital sex are, at best, viewed as just one of many ideas in the sexual marketplace. So Sex Week continues as a sort of sensual Vanity Fair of college life, and young men and women, sadly, ignore the Designer of sex’s instructions as old-fashioned recommendations.
Not everyone feels this way. Noted feminist author Naomi Wolf, writes,
[T]he power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time. In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography. It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, “rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.
I agree with her conclusion: “The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.”