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December 31, 2015

Win Some, Lose Some: The Biggest Sex Stories of 2015

This article originally ran in the December 2015 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the online edition. 2015 was a year when matters of sexuality were in the news. While there were some blows struck for gender equality, sex workers’ rights, and freedom of speech, there were just as many stories about attempts to promote “family values” at the expense of erotic expression. 2015’s SEXY WINS! Supreme Court Rules “Yes!” and Gay Couples Say “I Do”In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June that the Constitution guarantees the right to marriage to all people, including same-sex couples. Why do we care? Aside from all the tongue-in-cheek sass about business booming for greeting card makers, wedding planners and divorce lawyers, marriage equality is actual evidence of cultural evolutions related to sexual expression. This institutional change in our cultural bedrock is good for all forms of sexual expression, from spiritual and romantic to commercial—including adult entertainment. Jenner PoliticsAfter a life in the spotlight for everything from exceptional athletics to reality show shenanigans, Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman in April 2015. Why do we care? Though it’s unfortunate that we pay more attention to celebrities and renowned athletes, Jenner’s cultural clout made it possible for a gazillion people to become more familiar with a transgender experience, especially the process of identity. This is great for members of the adult industry community, as well as for society overall. New Ideas About the Oldest ProfessionRecently, global human rights organization Amnesty International chose to advocate for the decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex amongst adults, including sex work. The California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety is currently exploring “Human Trafficking: Identifying the Scope of the Problem and Potential Solutions”—which includes hearing testimony from Maxine Doogan, president of the Erotic Services Providers Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP).Why do we care? Though neither of these developments mark legal change (yet!), both demonstrate a willingness to challenge existing understandings of sex work and listen to the experiences of sex workers—the people who know best how laws and policies impact their daily lives. Imagine that!Clever Sexy Protests and DemonstrationsIn Portland, a group of friends came across more than 10,000 factory-rejected, phthalate-containing dildos—so they tied pairs together and tossed hundreds over city power lines, all in an effort to normalize sexual objects. In Austin, Jessica Jin started #cocksnotglocks, encouraging others to “open carry” dildos in protest of a recently passed bill that will allow anyone with a concealed handgun license to carry a firearm on any university campus in the state of Texas. Why do we care? Long considered items best kept private or discreet, each of these instances showcases civilians putting sex toys out there to challenge the status quo. 2015’s SEX BUMMERS On the surface, 2015 looks great. Our culture is moving toward equality on multiple fronts, and people finally seem to understand that classic idiom “Live and Let Live (as long as consent is involved).” But change up your search settings just slightly, and you get a different picture—one that showcases little change to the cultural ground on which our society is built. 2015 saw a staggeringly high of number of anti-abortion laws and restrictions, highlighting major steps backwards for women’s reproductive rights. Voters rejected an ordinance that would have established nondiscrimination protections in Houston, Texas—the fourth largest city in the U.S. And the Mormon Church sharpened its stance on homosexuality, now requiring children of gay parents to outwardly reject their families in order to remain active members. Our social world is not nearly as progressive as we may think. Here are a few more sex bummers that occurred in 2015. Hollywood’s Anti-Sex LeagueThough Amnesty International recommended the decriminalization of sex work, a handful of Hollywood leading ladies—some of whom have played a sex worker in the movies—felt compelled to object.Why do we care? It’s easy to dismiss people who fancy themselves experts simply because they’ve engaged sex work-related narratives as part of their creative processes, but this is not to be ignored. Hollywood voices are very powerful. And our culture tends to listen to them far more keenly than it does to sex workers themselves.Rentboy Raided and RoutedStarted by 1997, Rentboy.com was a commercial social networking site intended to connect sex workers with potential clients. The site also sponsored a number of community events including parties, an annual awards show, and a “Love What I Do” worker visibility campaign. In August, federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security and NYPD officers raided Rentboy’s headquarters in New York. The site is currently seized, and legal proceedings are pending.Why do we care? Rentboy operated seamlessly for almost 20 years, and then one day—blammo! The feds’ calculated surprise attack of Rentboy is not unique (recall the HotMovies raid of 2010), and it could happen to any aspect of the adult business operating in a legal gray area.Mandatory Condoms in Porn (Part 84,000)It’s starting to feel like that, right? Yet another outlandish, misleading proposal from AIDS Healthcare Foundation and another narrow save by tireless efforts from the Free Speech Coalition. It’s hard to keep paying attention … But the news as of November 2015 should make everyone in the adult industry join the united front. The most recent iteration of the “mandatory condom” bill has qualified for the 2016 ballot. Why do we care? California voters get to vote on workplace regulations that, in addition to requiring performers to wear condoms, would require producers to pay for vaccinations and testing for STIs, among other stipulations. California voters have proven before that they are 1) easily misled and 2) apply civilian understandings of private sex practice to occupational sex work. Life’s Short. Hack an AffairIn August, stolen customer information from AshleyMadison.com was released to the public. User account details and log-ins, as well as seven years worth of credit card information and other payment transaction data, were all included in the data dump. Why do we care? I love a good Hypocrites Exposed! story as much as the next person and truly enjoyed reading that conservative politicians and businesspeople and that Christian vlogger guy all enjoyed a little action on the side. But what AshleyMadison tells us about the quality of our culture is not nearly as fun. Rather than considering the interpersonal relationship issues that may be at play when one partner decides to engage in clandestine behaviors, society is still quick to point the finger at porn and other adult services. RUNNING HOT & COLD Most things are both good and bad, hot and cold. Here are a few stories that go both ways. ‘Female Viagra’ Approved by the FDAFlibanserin (street name: Addyi) has been approved by the federal drug agency for treatment of women’s hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a condition characterized by low sexual desire.Why do we care? Science is paying attention to (read: dollars are getting spent on) women’s sexualities and desire! And certainly “female Viagra” has the potential to help some women. But rather than work in a localized manner akin to “male Viagra,” Addyi manipulates brain chemistry, essentially treating HSDD in a manner similar to a mood disorder. Presumptions about what women should want from sex are overwhelming here. You should be DTF, ladies—no matter why you’re not too into it otherwise. The Playboy Bunny Is Keeping Her Tail ONAfter over 60 years, Playboy announced they will no longer feature nudes in their magazine pictorials. Why do we care? In a world overrun with easy access sexy media, perhaps Playboy’s decision is attempting to change the standards bar. People will read, hopefully, even without pictures of celebrity boobs. But this decision also speaks to sex media saturation. Where is the space in erotic imagery if even the most legendary brand has had to pull out of the game? Equal Internet Access, For NowIn late 2014, the United Kingdom passed a litany of production regulations—from no spanking to no squirting—that would severely limit sexual expression, particularly of women’s sexual pleasure. Then recently, the European Union adopted rules stating Internet service providers must treat all Internet traffic “without discrimination, restriction, or interference,” regardless of content. Why do we care? Even though the U.K.’s production regulations are disconcerting, the EU’s commitment to accessibility is encouraging.  PRIVATE LIVES, PUBLIC LIES 2015 has been a banner year for sex scandals. From the self-righteous and hypocritical to the truly horrific, let’s take a look at what some people really have going on inside their pants. Fallen ‘Heroes’ Though it’s easy to lay on the sarcasm now, Bill Cosby, Jared Fogle and even Josh Duggar were once considered inspirational leaders by legions of people. In 2015, however, we finally began to pay attention to allegations that TV dream dad and cultural critic Bill Cosby was a serial rapist. Jared Fogle, former Subway spokesperson and the face of “real life” weight loss, pled guilty to charges related to having sex with underage girls and exchanging graphic depictions of minors engaged in sex acts. And it was revealed that Josh Duggar, one of 19 poster children for extremely conservative Christian proselytizing, had molested five underage girls. Oh, and his digits were also part of the AshleyMadison data leak. Do as I Say, Not As I Do (Part 1)Republican Dennis Hastert was the 51st Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2015, Hastert was indicted on federal charges of structuring bank withdrawals amounting to $952,000 in order to evade bank-reporting requirements, among other charges. (Law requires reporting withdrawals over $10,000) Federal prosecutors said that the money was to conceal misconduct that happened decades prior—sexual misconduct with young men students when Hastert was a high school teacher over 30 years ago. Do as I Say, Not As I Do (Part 2)In a fine example of hypocritical fools with technology, Indiana House Majority Leader Jud McMillin resigned from in September after sending a video of himself fraternizing with a woman who wasn’t his wife to his entire contacts list. Ironically, during his five years in the legislature, McMillin crusaded heavily to “protect the integrity of the institution of marriage” and cosponsored the state’s anti-gay “religious freedom” bill. Karma, baby—it’s a bitch. Marc Jacobs, Scandalous Hero!On the other end of the hypocrisy scale, fashion designer Marc Jacobs made headlines in October when the New York Post reported Jacobs hosted a 10-person orgy. And where did he find 10 guys to fill out his living room? Grindr. Never the shrinking violet, Jacobs responded to accusations of sexual debauchery with a resounding yes!—he’s gay, had an orgy, and has every right to enjoy sex. He is taking a break from Grindr, though. Chauntelle Tibbals, Ph.D., is a sociologist and author of Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment. Visit her on Twitter at @drchauntelle.

 
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