The year in sex: 2013

From gay marriage to Miley Cyrus, these are the moments that defined our sexual culture this year

Topics: Sex, Love and Sex, Pornography, 2013, Editor's Picks, Best of 2013,

The year in sex: 2013 (Credit: AP/Frank Micelotta/AP/Carolyn Kaster/NINETY1FOTO via Shutterstock/Salon)

Yes, there was the “sex tape” of Farrah Abraham and Sydney Leathers, and yet another Disney star with a sexting scandal. There were fake Internet girlfriendsdebates about online dating ruining marriage and new apps that helped us hookup or protect ourselves from STDs. And the perennial debates over whether sex addiction exists and whether porn hurts relationships continued. But these were the moments that defined out sexual culture in 2013.

Marriage for everyone more of us!

A whopping seven states — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New Mexico — legalized same-sex marriage. And the good news didn’t end there. Justices ruled that California’s Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, was unconstitutional and struck down the the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby extending federal benefits to gay couples (and inspiring perhaps the best New Yorker cover of all time). There was major win in the court of public opinion, too: 52 percent of Americans say they are for legalizing gay marriage in all states. But, folks, the battle isn’t over yet.

Miley Twerkin’ Cyrus

Look, I’m sorry, this hurts me more than you — but there is no keeping Miley Cyrus off this list. From her tongue-thrusting antics at the Video Music Awards to her topless and damn-near crotchless photo shoot with professional creep Terry Richardson, the 21-year-old’s antics were inescapably controversial this year. Cyrus is best seen as an avatar of everything we value, and everything we fear, in young women (hint: it’s their sexuality). As Roxane Gay wrote in Salon, “Before her, we were breathlessly dissecting Britney, and Amanda, and Selena, and Christina, and Demi, and Rihanna. Famous young women are disproportionately subjected to our opinions because we witness their coming of age. For every generation, there is a famous young woman to judge as if the fate of all young womanhood lies in her hands.” Not to mention THE VERY FABRIC OF SOCIETY. We have just one question: Who’s next? (And to whomever she may be: We’re terribly sorry.)

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Rape-apology all-stars

It was a banner year for rape apology. On the mild end, there was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which included the rape-y lyrics “I know you want it.” Somewhere in the middle was CNN’s Poppy Harlow sympathizing with two young men convicted in the Steubenville rape trial. At the extreme, there was Judge Todd Baugh who said that a 14-year-old sexually assaulted by her 49-year-old high school teacher was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher and that she was “older than her chronological age.” (Oh and by the way, that 14-year-old “in control” also committed suicide.) Here’s hoping that in 2014 more people follow our guide, “How not to be terrible when talking about rape.” But here’s a handy pointer for those too busy rape-apologizing to read the whole thing: Don’t blame the victim.

What Hunter Moore hath wrought

Revenge porn has been making headlines for a while now, but 2013 was the year of legislating against it. Several states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, introduced bills to make it a crime to publish online nude photos without permission. Just this month, a California man was arrested for running a revenge porn site and allegedly extorting victims. Now activists are working on a federal law to criminalize it. Yet, somehow we don’t expect revenge porn to disappear in 2014.

The condoms and porn debate, round 5,098,289

The adult industry shut down three times this year after performers tested HIV-positive. After the most recent case, Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, asked, “Are we still going to be having this argument when there’s the 10th shutdown or 20th? Or the 50th infection?” But the Free Speech Coalition, which oversees the industry’s testing policies, says that at least three of this year’s four performer positives involved off-set transmission. And so the debate promises to continue: Should condoms be required in porn? Is testing enough? And who, exactly, gets the final say — lawmakers, voters, adult performers or porn viewers?

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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