See Also: UT’s Third Annual Sex Week
Will the University of Tennessee’s very own Sex Week Girl soon be known to the world as That Hookup Young Lady?
It could happen. Brianna Rader, who co-founded UT’s Sex Week with Jacob Clark in 2012, graduated after the second Sex Week in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in medical humanities. She is now pursuing a masters in global health sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Never one to tolerate downtime, she is simultaneously in the “founder/CEO type role” for a San Francisco-based team developing a mobile-friendly Web app called Hookup. Its goal: to provide an edgy and entertaining place for teens and young people to anonymously learn about sex and sexuality from trusted sources.
“Imagine Sex Week but now in app form,” says Rader.
Hookup’s first big user testing runs April 6-19 right here at UT’s third annual Sex Week, and she’d like to launch a product late this fall.
“It’s creating a bit of buzz here in the Bay Area, so hopefully it’ll grow and take off,” Rader says. “I hope the user testing at UT will help us figure out what does and does not work—get rid of the kinks, edit the features. I’ll continue to recruit team members and apply for some funding.”
The app would involve alternative revenue sources and be free for users, says Rader: “This is in some ways a public service for youth, so I would never want to charge money to use it.”
Like the long-envisioned and systematically developed Sex Week, Hookup is no whim for Rader, who says she’s had the concept for about a year now and has received guidance from many experts. “The timing was never right, and it would have been difficult to develop something like this from Knoxville. Living in the Bay Area where these projects are more normal was one of the pros of attending UCSF for graduate school.”
Hookup’s two other core team members are UT alumnus T Sripunvoraskul, a Bay Area designer who agreed to participate in a “Startup Weekend” with Rader shortly after they reconnected, and Laura Trigeiro, a full-stack developer the two Vols met at the competition. Rader manages tasks, creates content, and steers. “I’m also the domain expert, since Hookup is about sex education—T is the designer and Laura the developer. All women—pretty rare for this type of technical project.”
For testing, the Hookup product is a Web app only (dohookup.com), but eventually will expand to native apps for Android and iPhones. Rader’s ultimate vision includes six features, but for now there are three, all—like Sex Week sessions of old—characterized by her preferred combination of scientific and medical accuracy peppered with culturally literate and often edgy titles and marketing mottoes. Ask a Sexpert lets users submit anonymous questions for responses from sex experts, while the Foreplay feature (which will not be in the UT test) involves playing rounds of daily games and winning sex facts. “We’re currently focusing on Sperm Invaders—an egg shoots at attacking sperms,” she adds.
Third up is Share Your Story, where users can anonymously share experiences about sex and relationships and also up-vote their favorites in the feed.
Even the Facebook page manages to be edgy, encouraging, and a little disquieting with its shout-out to “Pop Your Cherry: Be the first to use Hookup by signing up on our website.”
They’ve done a bit of user testing in the Bay Area, and Rader expects different user patterns from East Tennessee testers. “Teens in the Bay Area receive comprehensive sex education in schools, so they have a base of knowledge, unlike many who have grown up in Tennessee with our legally mandated ‘abstinence only’ sex education.”
Meanwhile, she has taken last February’s Tennessee House Joint Resolution 661, which condemned she and Clark and other student organizers of the 2014 Sex Week, in stride. A friend even made up a couple of “Condemned” T-shirts for the duo.
“I wear mine quite a lot—it looks nice with my pink pants and navy cardigan,” she says. “I don’t give much thought to the Tennessee General Assembly, but it does provide for some great icebreaker content or pick-up lines out here in San Francisco. I’ve joked a few times that I’m in San Francisco seeking asylum.”
She and Clark selected and trained their successors last spring, and she says Sex Week was her most meaningful commitment in college.
But she is not inclined to begin a Sex Week at UCSF. For one thing, the enrollment is entirely biomedical sciences graduate students.
“And they don’t really need one,” she quips. “San Francisco is just one giant Sex Week.”
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