The Year In Sex—Continuing in 2014

Many of the most important sex-related stories of 2013 will continue into this year. So it’s doubly important that we remember what happened—because in many ways they’re still happening.

Condoms mandatory in porn films?

Los Angeles County, the world’s porn producer, was Ground Zero last year for an unfortunate battle over the best ways to limit STIs in the industry—or, to be honest, over whether or not the industry will be driven out of California. Filmmakers, performers, and audiences agree that they want condomless porn, but the misleadingly-named AIDS Healthcare Foundation had different ideas.

After dismantling the existing effective testing regime, spreading blatant lies, and cozying up to officials and decency groups only too glad to rid LA of the scourge of porn production, the question still hasn’t been settled. If porn producers can’t sell condomed films (and performers dislike making them), will they go out of business?

No. That sound you hear is Las Vegas calling—the future capital of America’s porn industry, where they don’t bother with silly things like government regulation.

We haven’t heard the last of this conflict—there’s simply too much money involved.

Reproductive Rights: battleground in health care

The Religious Right and other “decency” groups continued their decades-long War On Sex with their absolutely predictable opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Their initial argument—that more health care for more people for less money is a bad thing—didn’t go over too well, so they chose another target: the requirement that corporations provide health insurance that covers normal 21st-century medical care, like contraception and abortion.

The argument that freedom of religion means company owners can choose which parts of a law to follow is a perversion of the Constitution. Churches and companies can’t refuse to obey traffic lights on the Sabbath, or refuse to let atheist police onto their property. Remember, insurance plans will only cover contraception—not require that people use it.

Birth control is America’s dirty little secret: over 95% of fertile women use it at some point, but it’s still not considered mainstream. And very few people are willing to stand up and say “I use birth control and I vote,” or “We got an abortion and we vote.” This trend will continue in 2014. Shame—the Religious Right’s greatest contribution to human reproduction since darkness.

The internet girlfriend who wasn’t

Men have had their lives ruined by a girlfriend since the beginning of time, but we’ve turned a historical corner when lives are being ruined by fake girlfriends. I don’t mean “she said she loved me but she didn’t,” I mean “I thought she existed, but she, um, didn’t.” Matei Te’o was going to be a rich and famous athlete. Now he’s simply the canary in the virtual coal mine.

It’s happened without the internet. But with the internet it’s going to happen more and more. And so will the opposite—men choosing fake internet girlfriends over live ones. In fact, this has become so common in Japan that there’s an entire subculture and vocabulary devoted to it. The current film “Her” is about a guy in love with his Operating System.

In just a few years you’ll be able to go to Best Buy and purchase computer software to simulate a handjob from anyone with a Wiki page. Soon after, people will start referring to “girlfriends” or “brick-and-mortar-girlfriends.”

Requesting permission to watch porn

In the never-ending conflict between those who watch porn (and don’t care if others don’t) and those who want to prevent others from watching porn (not being content to simply not watch themselves), enter Great Britain.

Yes, the UK has decided that you now have to ask permission to watch porn on your private device in your private home. ISPs are now required to filter “sexually explicit material” (wouldn’t you like to be the one who defines that for a nation?) from their service. If you want to watch porn, or anything else that’s being blocked (such as information on breast cancer, LGBT rights, or in one ISP’s case, the entire British Library), no problem, dearie—you just have to formally opt-in.

You don’t want people to know your viewing preferences? Too bad. You don’t trust that this information won’t someday be used against you—say, in a custody battle, passport hearing, life insurance decision, or criminal case? Too bad. You don’t like your government behaving like Iran, Saudi Arabia, or China? Too bad.

Well, this is a problem all the way over the ocean, right? Probably the result of drinking tea rather than coffee.

The policy has been proposed by the Canadian Parliament. And as long as there are votes to be gotten by lying about how porn is destroying America’s youth, can the U.S. be far behind? Remember, the American Congress was the first body in the world to censor the internet. There are still people in Congress so techno-ignorant that they think if you unscrew a light bulb, the electricity will come pouring out of the ceiling.

Miley Cyrus: we just can’t get enough

…and neither can she. The lass continued to reinvent herself in 2013 as straightforwardly interested in sex, appearing nude for much of her “Wrecking Ball” music video. She received a series of open letters from former celebrity Sinead O’Connor, cautioning Cyrus about getting too involved in manufacturing her image, focusing too much about sex, and wasting her talent.

You’ve heard of O’Connor, right? The one who launched her career with a shaved head, and tearing up a photo of the Pope on national TV–no image-burnishing there, right?

The story that won’t go away isn’t Cyrus or O’Connor; it’s the spectacle of young women defiantly, or foolishly, carefully, or jubilantly exploring their sexuality while they grow up in public. Those who masturbated to Annette Funicello, Marilyn Monroe, or Madonna in their youth shouldn’t stand in judgment of Cyrus now that they’re older. And those who think women should keep their clothes on shouldn’t watch when they take them off.

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