From Miley Cyrus to Feminist Porn, a Look Back at the Year in Sex

Miley Cyrus blew up the Internet twerking with Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards. (AP photo)

Miley Cyrus blew up the Internet twerking with Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards. (AP photo)

Nothing captures the national imagination like a story about sex, and 2013 was no exception. Robin Thicke stirred controversy with his summer chart topper, “Blurred Lines,” and politician Anthony Weiner’s wiener once again made national news. The New York Times trumpeted the “refreshingly retro” return of pubic hair, while across the nation abortion opponents continued their efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade. Closer to home, the curtain fell on Peepshow after a four-year run at Planet Hollywood, a comprehensive sex education bill stalled in the Nevada Legislature, and men’s lingerie made its debut on the Vegas catwalk.

From popular music to pornography, here’s a look at some of the more memorable sex-related stories that made headlines in 2013.

Gay Marriage for the Win: In June the United States Supreme Court handed down two major victories for gay marriage. It struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), extending many federal benefits to couples wed in states where gay marriage is legal, and announced it would not rule on California’s Proposition 8, essentially clearing the way for gay marriage in the nation’s most populous state. Gay marriage is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. As for Nevada, a case is currently pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Although we won’t know the outcome until sometime in 2014, supporters of gay marriage hope it’s only a matter of time until same sex couples can legally wed in Nevada.

Sex Goes Pop! One of the most talked about moments of 2013 was a latex-clad Miley Cyrus humping a foam finger and twerking her little heart out at the Video Music Awards. It was a performance that left some people scratching their heads and others exclaiming, “You go, girl!” What followed were a series of conversations about race and cultural appropriation, sexual empowerment and objectification, and the challenges of growing up in the often harsh and unforgiving media limelight.

DonJonPosterSized Hollywood Tackles Porn Addiction: The big screen gave us Don Jon, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson. What could have easily lapsed into an oh-so-predictable story of one man’s experience battling porn addiction turned into a more interesting and nuanced tale about what it means to lose oneself in the world of fantasy, from Internet pornography to chick flicks to advertisements that sexualize everything from lipstick to beef burgers. Meanwhile, actress Evan Rachel Wood accused the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) of censoring female sexuality after it cut a scene involving cunnilingus from the film Charlie Countryman.

A Troubling Tale: Alissa Nutting’s debut novel Tampa told the squirm-inducing story of 26-year-old Celeste Price, a beautiful, blonde teacher who preys on 14-year-old boys. Ripped from the tabloids, and based on the infamous case of Florida teacher Debra LaFave, Tampa’s raw depiction of female lust, obsession and pedophilia is masterfully crafted, resulting in a book that’s disturbing to read yet difficult to put down.

Feminist Pornography: 2013 might go down in the record books as the year when feminist porn emerged from the shadows. The first international conference on feminist pornography took place at the University of Toronto, and mainstream media outlets, from Cosmopolitan to Salon, ran articles that asked “What is Feminist Porn?Publishers Weekly heralded the newly-released Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure as a “must-read collection.” (Full disclosure: I wrote a chapter for the book.) And even Justin Timberlake tipped his hat to the growing movement during a skit on Saturday Night Live, quipping: “I do feminist porn because I know how to treat a lady right.”

HIV and the Adult Industry: Since August at least four adult film performers have tested HIV-positive, causing the trade group that oversees sexually-transmitted infection testing for performers to issue three moratoriums on porn production and further fueling debate about condoms in porn. In September, director Tristan Taormino announced that she would require all performers she works with to test for STIs according to industry standards and use condoms, reversing her previous policy of condom-optional sets. “As a feminist pornographer,” Taormino wrote on her blog, “part of my mission is to support fair labor practices and create a positive work environment on my sets. The health, well being, and safety of the performers is my priority, and I believe that using condoms in addition to rigorous testing is the best way to prevent STI transmission.”

WendyDavisSized #StandWithWendy: Texas Senator Wendy Davis became an overnight sensation in June after she staged an 11-hour filibuster to thwart SB 5, a bill designed to restrict abortions after 20 weeks and close 37 of Texas’s 42 abortion clinics. Twitter blew up with hashtags supporting Davis and people across the country stayed up until the wee hours of the night watching live streaming from the floor of the Texas Senate. The bill eventually passed, but the image of Davis in pink tennis shoes, standing for hours without water, food or a bathroom break, became a symbol of strength and determination for reproductive rights activists everywhere.

Who We Lost: Harry Reems, who starred in the 1972 film Deep Throat, died in March at age 65. Burlesque legend Dixie Evans, known as the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” passed away in Las Vegas on August 3 at 86. Acclaimed photographer and director Carlos Batts died unexpectedly in October at age 40, leaving behind his wife and muse, adult performer April Flores. Porn pioneer Al Goldstein, the outspoken publisher of Screw magazine, died on December 19 at age 77.

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