By a UTK sophomore
i’ve never had sex.
while my lack of experience never really meant anything to me in high school, that mindset changed by the time i got to college. the majority of my friends (easily over 90%) have had sex. the conversations i’ve had with my friends about their sex lives are often hilarious, and i’m glad they’re comfortable talking to me about that part of themselves. while i’m truly happy that my friends are having fun and enjoying themselves, i can’t help but wonder what i’m doing wrong. i hate it when i can’t find the answers to amusing, sex-related icebreakers, but i especially hate that i can’t relate to my friends. this inability to relate generates massive insecurity. am i not aggressive enough? am i too loud when i laugh? do i have too much acne on my face? is my body undesirable? are my self-esteem problems that obvious? the list of questions is indefinite and disheartening.
while i know that my self-worth is not tied to the amount of sex i have or haven’t had, i find it often difficult to separate the two. it’s difficult to exist in a society where women are demonized for the amount of sex they have, but that is another topic for a different day. i shouldn’t feel this way. i shouldn’t feel like i’m an inadequate or incomplete because i’ve never had a dick inside me. i shouldn’t feel like i’m missing something because i have never been eaten out. i shouldn’t be jealous or envious of other people for having sex, and i definitely shouldn’t be beating myself up about not having sex. BUT I DO. i don’t really have any solutions to get rid of these feelings. i don’t know what i’m supposed to do, and that terrifies me.
By a UTK student
Closer together and further apart. There is no progression. Only memory, trust, constant creation. Sensitivity, trying to figure out is this ok for you and is it ok for me, what do you want and what do I want, constantly changing every second. Whether that’s space or closeness. We all need closeness, right? Except sometimes we need space. Every second is progression, regression, push and pull, give and take. Do we keep trying? At what point do we give up and decide we need to be safe? I feel safe with you.. and you feel safe with me, right? But not safe with the closeness. This kind of closeness that brings up old pain. Safe with me, but not safe with the pain. I don’t want to make you feel that pain if you don’t want to. I don’t really want to feel my old pain either. Love, just closer and further pain. No rules, no expectations, just every second feeling out if this is ok. If this is what we need, to keep breathing.
Before college and my first Sex Week, I probably only heard the word sex said in my house twice. Once when I was little and asked what sex was, and the second time when my parents ignored the first and I asked again. I never even knew what a vagina was until the fifth grade when we watched a “Your body and you” video. I never in all my 18 years of living at home heard the words vagina or penis. My parents were like many in my hometown, leaving sex education in the hands of the public school system. Sure I learned all the basics like; what a vagina is, what a penis is, and how they all work, but I never fully understood how it all worked together. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school when my best friend lost her V-card, did I realize that I still had no idea what sex really was.
Coming into college I was terrified of sex. I figured by now most people at least knew how sex worked or had had it before. Hell, by this point I had only had one boyfriend in high school. So I started to dwell on how sucky I would be at sex. What if I couldn’t please my boyfriend? What if he couldn’t please me?
All of these questions were running through my mind until the first Sex Week event I went to. I know for a fact I heard the words sex, vagina, and penis at least 20 times each. It was such a change to hear these words being tossed around like it was completely normal. Then I realized that sex IS normal. My whole view of what I thought sex was or was not changed. No longer was I scared that a man would find it weird or funny that I was still a virgin, because after Sex Week I did not/do not give a rat’s ass what he or anyone else thinks about my sex life. For the first time in my life I am comfortable with my sexual decisions and attitudes. Thanks to Sex Week I am able to feel free from the pressures of society, to think or act or do sex a certain way. I see that sex is a great thing and doesn’t need to be a “behind doors” subject.
BY: UTK Second Year
Water filled up halfway, it stops at the surface, partitioner of ubiquitous clarity and dark abyss, where close-eyed I lie on my surfboard. Six-foot balsa buoying, kissing the waves and teasing the divide, my surfboard effortlessly floats: light, strong, long, right. I am ready.
To ready for the oncoming Waves, shifting and changing, formed from the froth or elevated from the floor, with my surfboard I ride. Rising, under feet grains graining, side-stepping to level, between feet grains grinding on my surfboard. We ascend and ride, I, flutter-eyed.
Low I stay to my surfboard, cutting through and swerving on that big body of water that seeks to envelop us. Angling we please it, too far we dip and washrag wipeout. Palm out and blind-eyed I reach out for my surfboard, unknowingly towards nothing yet everything known.
Needed, appearing, the seven-foot link keeps from my sinking an end. From my foot, to the surface and to my surfboard, I am reunited and rushed. Surface-broken splash, open-eyed I embrace my surfboard. Lifting up and lying out, refreshed we float, and all is good-good.
BY: UTK FIRST YEAR
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.