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Journey Towards a Healthier Sexuality


When I started college, I was not comfortable with my sexuality. My first sexual encounter wasn’t the awkward fumbling around of YA novels, but a violent depredation of my consent and my agency that to this day affects my ability to maintain healthy sexual relationships. The experience set me afloat in a confusing and vicious cycle of uncertainty. I never felt empowered in my sexuality; rather sex became an obstacle to overcome in relationships instead of a source of shared intimacy or pleasure.

No teenager wants to be burnt out on sex or have it seem like an obligation, but I never knew how to move forward because I never knew how to talk about my experiences. I was ashamed because I knew there had to be something wrong with me. I had an end goal of reclaiming my sexuality, but with no firm place to start and no resources to keep me going, I found I was never able to recapture what it seemed I was missing.

Nearing the end of my freshman year, I owe most of my progress towards a healthier sexuality to the existence and impact of Sex Week on our campus.

Sex Week has taught me that it’s natural to have questions and more than acceptable to ask them; that masturbation is self-care, not something to be ashamed of; that sexual exploration is an empowering and life-changing process. And most importantly, Sex Week has taught me the importance of communication and the power of my voice–in giving consent, in providing direction, and in asserting my opinion. I’ve become more comfortable in talking about sex, whether my experience with sexual assault or my sexual identity or just flavors of lube.

I’ve come to decide that healthy sexuality isn’t the end goal I initially thought it to be, but really more of a journey–it comes with wrong turns, missteps, and setbacks, but also victories and a few pleasant pauses to enjoy where you’re at. As Sex Week co-founders Jacob Clark and Brianna Rader get ready to graduate, I think it’s important that we thank them for equipping our student body with the tools to make the journey easier. Without Sex Week, I would not have made it nearly this far.

*Brianna and Jacob have graduated since this post was written; SEAT and Sex Week are also, like the author of this blog, incredibly grateful for their work and sacrifices, and wish them more than the best as they go on to their postgraduate lives.

Singles Awareness Day

By: Third Year UTK Student

This past Valentine’s Day has marked a very important milestone in my 21-year history with the holiday. The difference became palpable as I briefly stopped shoveling potato chips into my mouth long enough to hear my roommate making Valentine’s Day plans with his girlfriend. Incredulous, I stared in his direction open-mouthed, baffled and wondering how I was so unaware of the proximity of the day. As I resumed my snacking, I couldn’t help but ponder the Valentine’s Days of my past. I spent the larger portion of my childhood with 20+ valentines, each student bringing candy and cards for their peers. As time went on, though, I couldn’t help but notice my unintentional trend of celebrating Singles Awareness Day on February 14th. Each year I sat in glum and wondered what lead me to be a party of one on a day that is so apt for a party of two. I dreaded the holiday, reveling in the misery of single life with my solo comrades. We’d each consume enough wine for two, sprawl out on the couch, and cry about how life could be so cruel to leave us so loveless. I obsessed how alone I was, and I couldn’t wait each year for February 14th to be over so I could head to Walgreens and clear the shelves of discounted Valentine’s candy.
This year, I am as single as ever. A Buzzfeed quiz even told me that “being single to you is like breathing or falling asleep — it’s second nature.” This year, however, when I was suddenly faced with the realization that I yet again had no date plans, I wasn’t upset. I didn’t fret or complain or whine. Instead, I went online, found a cute scarf, and bought it for myself. Whether or not it’s socially acceptable, this year I am happy to be my own Valentine, even if it’s solely for the excuse buy myself cute things. 

You, in Two

by: Third Year Student

I found love with you
Passionate, unconditional, warm love
Fun, incredible, sensational love
Love that I never knew before you

Our love turned to more, more than of friend
Nobody knew of the love that we shared
And we knew it was growing, growing without end
But we didn’t care and we went as far as we dared

You, who I called my best friend, my confidant
You, who made me laugh, who made me smile
You who made me feel invincible

But down came the sun
On the forbidden love that blew
For though I loved just one
You put your heart in two

And you said it wasn’t right
That we loved each other
And though I begged with all my might
You left me for another

You, who I called my best friend, my confidant
You who broke my heart, who broke my mind
You who made the wrong choice

The choice you made
Was made in fear
Of what others would say
Of what others would hear

Because though our love was as a pearl
Your mind was set below the sky
You felt like your love had to be a girl
Though our love was guy to guy

I love your beard

by: third year UTK student

I grew up in a very sexually “vanilla” area of the Midwest, meaning that anything other than a husband-and-wife going at it in missionary with the lights off was a foreign concept to me. Cosmopolitan Magazine was where the devil had his vacation home, and homosexuality was worse than missing the perfect deer from your tree stand.

Living in such a sexually-deprived, rural wasteland made me under-develop my own sexual desires and fantasies. I knew I was attracted to boys, but the number of boys that weren’t related to me or my friends made my options back home limited. Needless to say, college has really opened my eyes to the world of sex and sexuality, and I’ve become much more open minded. However, it took me a solid year to fully accept things about my own sexuality, with a notable example being my… fetish.
Fetishes were something I always associated with creepy serial killers, like Norman Bates’ creepy Oedipus complex he has going on in Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho,” or weird body parts, like Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish that prompts him to feature feet in every one of his movies. I never knew that “real” people actually had them, and I was scared that I was one of the “weird ones” that did.

I realized I had a thing for beards gradually, noticing more and more that my celebrity “10/10 would bang list” changed with an actor’s facial hair, with many gaining crush status when they grow their traditional “hiatus” beards or for movie roles.

Things really picked-up when I started somewhat-dating a bearded fellow my sophomore year. That’s when I realized how turned-on I was by the feeling of a beard, both on my face and in… other areas. 
I loved the prickly feeling and getting hairs in my mouth. I loved spending the next few days gently touching the parts of my chin and neck that had ‘beard burn’ with a thrill I had never experienced before. His attractiveness hinged on his beard’s status, and I would even bite it when we were fooling around.
Despite all the beard-lovin, I refused to admit that it was a fetish. 

“I just really like beards, okay,” I would insist. “They’re good looking and make men look lumberjack-ey”

My friends would roll their eyes and insist, “You follow multiple bearded models on Instagram and beard-centered blogs on Tumblr. Beards distract you from stories you’re telling. ‘No-Shave November’ is one of your favorite ‘holidays.’ You have a fetish.”

I was in denial, though. Which is sad; in actuality there is nothing wrong with a fetish. It’s just a person acknowledging the fact that something about a person or thing really just gets their sexual gears turning; they’re really just “super turn-ons.” The only thing they do is make a person more attracted to another person. They don’t make a person a serial killer or “weird.”

So join me: accept your fetish with pride and use it as a helpful tool in picking a future sexual partner. With all of the delectable options this university has, any criteria that can help narrow down the potential partner group is a plus. 

Oh and if you have a beard: call me.


By: Third Year student

I lost my virginity on a Wednesday.
It was the right time.
He was the right guy.
There were candles and wine.
I imagined this as the most special night of my life.
On paper, it was perfect.

But paper is not reality.

I had just taken a three-hour exam.
I was tired and nervous.
He was a veteran to the game.
The candles and wine didn’t make things special.
It hurt …. a lot.
I’m glad it happened, but it was nothing like I expected.