April 9, 2014 – Pawtucket, Rhode Island – The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health is proud to award its first Comstock Block Award to Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT). The CSPH Comstock Block Award is awarded semi-annually to individuals and organizations who have furthered The CSPH’s mission of reducing sexual shame, by thwarting efforts aimed at hindering the dissemination of information about sexuality to their communities.
The inaugural honor acknowledges SEAT for their tireless work to bring Sex Week to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus, despite legislative condemnation. The six-day, student-planned, and student-funded series includes activities ranging from aphrodisiac cooking to discussions on sexual assault, binge drinking, and pornography.
“SEAT has single-handedly helped to reduce fear in their community,” says Megan Andelloux, ACS, AASECT, and founder/director of The CSPH. “SEAT has created conversations. They have expanded minds, increased options, shared resources, and made the world a slightly safer space. As a result, SEAT has increased the health of our country.”
SEAT’s fight for Sex Week at UT-Knoxville began with a non-binding resolution that denounced the event. In addition to the resolution, Tennessee Senate leaders issued a letter to UTK, warning state funding for the University could be in jeopardy, despite no taxpayer funds having gone towards Sex Week planning and execution.
Despite this turmoil, as a result of SEAT’s bravery, Sex Week at UTK went on to prosper: a petition opposing legislative involvement boasting 3,500 student signatures was presented at the statehouse, and an additional 650 student letters were sent to lawmakers.
Unfortunately, the future of Sex Week at UTK and similar programming currently remains unclear, as Tennessee legislature considers two bills specifically aimed at thwarting the program. One bill would require state universities to divide student activity fees based on groups’ memberships; the second bill would prevent schools from hiring outside speakers. Both actions, if passed, would impede on the functioning of student groups as well as universities across the state.
“Thank you for being willing to take such huge risks, which have affected your lives, in order to increase the sexual health of others,” Andelloux said. “I consider it a great honor to have worked with the SEAT team at UTK.”
The Comstock Block Award is so named after the infamous Comstock Act of 1873, and the subsequent laws, of which vestiges endured even into the 1990s. The Act made it illegal to publicize, distribute, or possess any “obscene” materials through the US Postal Service – including information on contraception. The Act also banned mail distribution and import of abortion / contraception materials from overseas.
“UTK has been met with massive challenges while trying to provide educational opportunities in the sexual health realm, not unlike those the Comstock Act would have blocked,” adds Andelloux. “The SEAT students, especially co-founders Brianna Radar and Jacob Clark, have worked incredibly hard, and The CSPH is proud to recognize their work.”