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British actress Olivia Williams with sabre fish.
As the year draws to a close, it turns out that — much to everyone’s surprise — when it came to sex, 2006 didn’t totally suck. There were long-awaited climaxes, news about sexual health that didn’t make you want to defect, satisfying chapters in the sex lives of the rich and famous, a couple of profitably dirty scandals, and more exposed celebrity poon than you could shake a paparazzo’s camera at. Of course, there was also some nasty sex: stuff that made you want to avert your eyes until everyone was finished and hosed down.
So without further ado, let’s take it all in, broken into arbitrary but organizationally helpful categories: the good, the bad and the Britney.
Screech for America, or the Year in Celebrity Sex Tapes:
Yes, there are now enough opportunities to watch grainy images of famous people penetrating their fans and each other that we can devote an entire year-end category to them. Thank you, Internets.
When it comes to the most eyeball-searing performance, my money’s on Dustin Diamond, who some of you may (or may not) know as Screech from the mid-’90s high-school Saturday morning comedy “Saved by the Bell.” Screech’s sex tape features the former big-haired nerd talking his way into a purported two-woman bachelorette party and persuading the veiled celebrants to have sex with him with such persuasive one-liners as “You grew up with me, baby!” Ew. The video’s lowlight is a toss-up between the moment where Screech reads aloud from a double-headed dildo box in a voice that is just so … Screech, “This dong is incredibly versa-tile and extremely satisfying,” or when he cannot contain his postcoital excitement, braying to the camera: “Poop was involved!” OK, who am I kidding. That was the lowlight, primarily because poop was, in fact, involved.
Still, Screech’s nastiness is almost less stomach-churning than the contemptibly foul 1999 Scott Stapp-Kid Rock sex tape that was released in abridged form this year. Don’t know who Scott Stapp is? Neither did I until I saw a bunch of groupies with fake tits going down on him! (He was the lead singer of the Christian rock band Creed and exudes yuck as he looks at the camera while being serviced and says, “It’s good to be the king.”)
The best of the rest includes the model Carolyn Murphy, who successfully prevented her ex from releasing their privatest honeymoon memories to the world but not before we got a glimpse of her doing some embarrassing nekkid prancing. Irish fox Colin Farrell memorably pointed the camera at Playboy Playmate Nicole Narain’s cat and purred, “Baby, you have the most beautiful pussy.” But when he concluded a cunnilingual session by growling, in comically impassioned brogue: “I could do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” the vibe curdled. And in the coals-to-Newcastle department, there’s supposedly a tape of Britney Spears and her Fed-ex floating around. Talk about something we literally don’t need to see more of (see Year in Snatch, below).
Didn’t they almost have it all, or the Year in Celebrity Divorce:
Known psycho Heather Mills and her gullible knight, Paul McCartney, take this year’s prize for the year’s biggest no-duh-divorce, fending off competition from Pam Anderson and Kid Rock by virtue of having been married for more than 35 seconds and from Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown by virtue of not being crack-challenged. So far, the Mills-McCartney split has included such humdingers as Mills’ accusations that her husband ordered her to stop nursing adorable little alimony-bait Beatrice because “They are my breasts!” and refused her a bedpan, forcing the one-legged former model to crawl to the bathroom in the middle of the night. After 45 years in the spotlight and a certain subtle deftness with the whole publicity thing, McCartney remained publicly civil toward his bride, while the tabloid market was mysteriously glutted with reports about Mills’ call-girl past and a batch of naked photos of her from the ’80s, which Salon’s Scott Lamb summed up with the headline “Hey, Nude!”
Category douchebag — OK, maybe “confused douchebag” — was handily won by Lance Armstrong, who broke up with Sheryl Crow (for whom he left his wife and kids a couple of years ago), took up shirtless rock-climbing with Jake Gyllenhaal and Matthew McConaughey, told some gay jokes about them at the ESPY awards (“I thought you liked it in the rear!”), and then denied to Details that he was gay. LiveWrong.
The year’s most divertingly messy split took the form of a Charlie Sheen-Denise Richards-Richie Sambora-Heather Locklear-David Spade pentagram of D-list delight, and included allegations about Sheen’s predilection for youthful porn and a stunt in which Locklear pulled up outside the house of her husband-stealing former BFF Richards and blasted “Livin’ on a Prayer” from her car speakers. This is just the kind of classy shit we need more of from Hollywood’s adults. Heather, we lurve you. This imbroglio receives Year in Sex bonus points for having a soundtrack by ‘Jovi.
Remainders: Christie Brinkley’s Ken-doll spouse Peter Cook was caught cheating on her with a 19-year-old. Hilary Swank outed her freshly dumped husband Chad Lowe as a recovering drug addict in the single most insipid Vanity Fair profile ever (Um, she so supports him in his recovery from addiction? And also his recovery from having been dumped and being outed as a drug addict by her?) And Ryan Phillippe bailed on his marriage to Oscar-winning wife Reese Witherspoon — who we suspect is a little more like Tracy Flick than we like to imagine, but still, candy-assed escape tactic, Ryan — by doing his 23-year-old Reese-clone costar Abbie Cornish.
Sadly, Katie Holmes did not bail on marrying Tom Cruise, father of her Asian baby. Their Italian ceremony included Scientology vows about how girls need combs and cats, and a guest list that would have been sailing the “Love Boat” had this been 1978. Good luck, honey.
HPV, whee! or the Year in Sexual Health:
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d compose during the Bush administration: Thank you, Food and Drug Administration!
After years of molasses-like (if molasses were slow on account of its ideologically motivated corruption) bureaucratic delays, the feds finally coughed up permission for Plan B to be sold over the counter. Unless of course you’re a teenager. Sorry, kids. We live in a world that would rather fund a deeply creepy purity ball for you and your pa than arm you with anything that might improve your chances of having a happy and healthy reproductive life. Better luck next life.
This year also saw the approval of a vaccine for human papillomavirus, an STD that affects 80 percent of American women by the time they hit 50. HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer, and the FDA’s approval of the vaccine to fight it should prevent a lot of ill health in future generations. The FDA also recommended the vaccine be given to girls aged 11-12, since it is most effective when administered before first intercourse. But that claim is facing a lot of opposition from the religious right, which argues that it would interfere with abstinence-only programs. Because, as you well know, readers, human papillomavirus vaccinations make teens horny.
Speaking of which, in the wonderful world of hormonal contraception, medical wizards this year discovered that the pill has been linked to a loss of libido for women. Nuh. Uh.
But birth-control enthusiasts rejoice! Scientists are well on their way to developing a male pill that promises no hormonal side effects, just a temporary suppression of sperm and a spooge-free climax. Oddly, many guys are not clamoring to get their paws on it; messing with your body to control reproduction is for girls!
And according to the government, reproduction itself isn’t just for girls — it’s for women of practically all ages, from menarche to menopause, all of whom should start taking folic acid and treating themselves as “pre-pregnant” regardless of whether they have any intention of having children soon or ever! Because we all owe it to our unborn and possibly never-to-be-born children to treat our bodies as if they might at any moment achieve their highest calling by becoming holy vessels of birth. Women looking for an effective response to these new government guidelines might consider voting against assholes in future elections.
In other news, kissing is good for your health? So, apparently, are multiple partners. Good news for Ted Haggard! Who, in related news, was sadly born too early to benefit from the sound advice of his wackadoo evangelical colleague Jim Rutz, who authoritatively proclaimed in December that consuming too much soy “is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.”
Queen of the Hill, or the Year in Sexual Politics:
2006: Nancy Pelosi takes over the House. Hillary Clinton is a leading contender for president. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is sworn in as president of Liberia. Michelle Bachelet wins the presidency of Chile. Angela Merkel is chancellor of Germany and recoils on behalf of women everywhere when George Bush gives her a little G-8 massage. Ségolène Royal is the Socialist candidate for president of France. Someone fetch Eve Ensler; we’re having a feminarchy!
This year the ham-handed political sex scandals belonged to the boys. I’m looking at you, Mark Foley. And you, Don Sherwood, who gets some kind of Supreme and Most Highest Bonehead award for strangling his mistress and still thinking he could retain his congressional seat.
Katherine “If you are not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin” Harris, George “I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman” Allen, we are going to miss you both. But you, Rick “Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?” Santorum, I think I’ll miss you most of all. TTFN, crap weasels!
This fall, New Jersey lawmakers recognized same-sex civil unions, even while residents in many states voted to ban them. Perhaps vice presidential daughter Mary Cheney and her girlfriend, Heather Poe, who will welcome a gay-parented bundle of joy in 2007, should consider renting in Asbury this summer.
South Dakota voters kicked to the curb an abortion bill that would have left women unable to obtain abortions in almost every situation except… well, let the fervid imagination of state Rep. Bill Napoli paint a picture for you: “The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated.” That girl is the only one who was ever going to be allowed to have an abortion under the proposed South Dakota ban. But only if Napoli had been allowed to watch.
And as previously mentioned, Christmas came early in Colorado, when New Life evangelical leader, George Bush buddy, and anti-homo crusader Ted Haggard was outed for having had a three-year relationship with male prostitute Mike Jones. But don’t worry, believers. Haggard claims never to have had sex with Jones — he just bought meth, got man massages and admitted to some “sexual immorality.” Haggard, bless his self-loathing homophobic soul, stepped down just before the election. Fellow evangelical and Mars Hill Church founder Mark Driscoll naturally blamed the whole mess on Haggard’s wife Gayle, who just didn’t know how to keep a gay man satisfied.
In a late-breaking follow-up, Paul Barnes, the founding pastor of another Colorado evangelical church, resigned in December, confessing to his congregation that he had had sexual encounters with other men. “I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy,” Barnes admitted. It should be evident to those paying attention that either his wife was a real woofer or he drank to much homo-making soy milk as a kid.
In a startling display of rugged Slavic candor, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russia’s Liberal and Democratic Party leader, this fall revealed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized his country’s policies in Ukraine only because she’s single. In an exclusive Pravda interview delicately headlined “Condoleezza Rice’s Anti-Russian Stance Based on Sexual Problems,” Zhirinovsky explained that “Rice released a coarse anti-Russian statement … because she is a single woman who has no children … Such women are very rough … They can be happy only when they are talked and written about everywhere: ‘Oh, Condoleezza, what a remarkable woman, what a charming Afro-American lady! How well she can play the piano and speak Russian!’ … If she has no man by her side at her age, he will never appear. Even if she had a whole selection of men to choose from, she would stay single because her soul and heart have hardened.”
Incidentally, I am totally not making this up. “Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers,” Zhirinovsky continued. “She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age.”
Am I alone in thinking that what this dude needs is one hour as a guest of Oprah Winfrey?
In December, Zhirinovsky picked up some surprise support from Laura Bush, who declared in an interview with People magazine that “Dr. Rice, who I think would be a really good candidate [for president], is not interested. Probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she’s an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job.” Bush’s eyes then briefly came into focus and she was able to spit out the words “Help me!” before being reconnected to her sedative drip.
Vanity fairies, or the Year in Media Sex:
This year Keith Olbermann became a favorite of the left-leaning set. But some viewers may have been taken aback by his willingness to speculate about whether Paris Hilton has ever received a face full of ejaculate, or by the e-mail he sent to a viewer in which he called colleague Rita Cosby “dumber than a suitcase of rocks,” or by the blog penned by a former lover of his alleging that the cable anchor doesn’t use condoms and that after manually bringing her to a faked climax, he crowed, “This is the finger I use to write the show.” I wonder if it’s the same finger I use to flip off Keith Olbermann.
Vanity Fair created a stir with its “New Hollywood” issue, on which cover starlets Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley were asked to pose naked while clothing designer Tom Ford, clad in a full suit and his gelatinous ego, slavered all over them. Rachel McAdams, the chick who refused to strip for the shot, was shown the door. You’d think these girls would have learned by now that they’re not going anywhere in this business unless they take their clothes off.
At Forbes, Michael Noer earned himself a fan club by arguing that men should not marry career women because they will be less likely to vacuum the Cheetos off the floor, take care of you if you’re six — I mean sick — or bear you hordes of children. Ex-New Yorker writer Caitlin Flanagan agreed, letting women know that if they just quit their jobs and gave enough BJs, their husbands might love them enough to support them through cancer.
And according to Washington Post journalist Laura Sessions Stepp, increasing instances of male impotence on college campuses are being caused not by drugs, antidepressants, or drinking, but by the cold-shower turn-off of sexually aggressive women who enjoy getting laid. But that’s OK! Not doing it is the way to go in college and beyond, according to the federal government, which this fall instituted new abstinence guidelines aimed at keeping us pure into our 30s. Unless, of course, we’re married, and especially if we’re married evangelicals with run-down wives and meth dealers who give awesome back rubs.
Cock-tease-alicious, or the Year in Sexy Music:
Year in Sex special correspondent Mary Beth Williams pointed out that this year the notion of cockteasing became a major musical theme. Flashy abstainers include Nelly Furtado’s double-header “Promiscuous Girl” (“You expect me to just let you hit it/ But will you still respect me if you get it? … What kind of girl do you take me for?”) and “Maneater” (“Maneater make you work hard/Make you spend hard/ Make you want all of her love”), Fergie’s “Fergalicious” (“I ain’t easy, I ain’t sleazy/ I got reasons why I tease ‘em/ Boys just come and go like seasons”), the Pussycat Dolls’ “Beep” (“Every boy’s the same/ Since up in the seventh grade … Want to hold me with their hands … I keep turning them down”) and Gwen Stefani’s “Wind It Up” (“When the beat comes on, the girls all line up/ And the boys all look, but no, they can’t touch.”)
So what to make of this? Clearly the idea that women are not fuck toys is, all in all, a fine sentiment. Except that as long as everyone is dressing up to be looked at by the boys, and not getting any … then aren’t we just reaffirming the female position as object, without the pleasure of getting off? Way to stick it to the man, ladies.
Last but not least, the Year in Snatch:
Nip slips were so 2004. This year the thing to do was to denude your ladyflower, wear a short skirt and no underwear, and then spread your legs wide as you emerged from a limousine. Exposed O’Keeffes included those of Kate Moss, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and, of course, Britney Spears, who flashed so much cooter the week after her marriage broke up that at this point many of us could probably provide police with an accurate sketch.
The larger artistic theme of the flashing series is hairlessness. And nobody summed up our general confusion on this topic better than “Saturday Night Live’s” Amy Poehler, who eloquently opined, “Ladies, what’s up with all the deforestation going on down there? You need hair down there! It’s a backup system for underwear! … I remember when a lady garden was as big as a slice of New York pizza!”
Among the many theories of why why why why why these young women are choosing to expose their hooches, let me just float this one: Maybe, for these ladies, who feel stalked by paparazzi, flashing the old biscuit is a tacit “fuck you,” an attempt to assert dominance and reclaim control of the most public of private exposures. By revealing their genitalia, Lohan, Moss, Hilton and Spears are disarming predatory photographers by giving away the prize those photographers are, at heart, looking to take by force.
That, or they totally know that it will make them even more famous. Either way, ladies, you’ve made your point. So stow the beavers and bid farewell to 2006. (“So long, sugar tits!”) It’s 2007.
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For more Salon year-end stories, click here.
Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter. More Rebecca Traister.
British actress Olivia Williams with sabre fish.
Gillian Anderson, aka Scully, with a conger eel.
British actor Nickolas Grace with a red mullet.
French actress Aure Atika with a parrotfish.
French-Portuguese actress Barbara Cabrita with a herring.
French actress Caroline Ducey with a barracuda.
French actor Emmanuel de Brantes with a barramundi.
British DJ Godlie with a redfish.
French/American actor Jean-Marc Barr with a mako shark.
BBC star Jeany Spark with a seabass.
Opera singer Joanna Bergin with a mackerel.
Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada with a bonito.
French actress Mélanie Bernier with a European eel.
British actor and director Serge Hazanavicius with a thicklip grey mullet.
French jazz guitarist Thomas Dutronc with a dusky grouper.