Libido malfunction

From Janet Jackson's pathetic Nipplegate to Bill O'Reilly's thrusting falafel, 2004 was a year of monumentally bad sex.

Published December 17, 2004 6:09PM (EST)

When it came to sex, this year blew, and not in a suggestive way.

It's been four full years now without a good pair of bedroom eyes in the White House, and we're beginning to feel the chill. It's not that we're not trying to find something to get lathered up about. This year, we've been treated to exposed breasts and on-camera blow jobs, read porn star confessionals and paeans to anal sex, even goaded harlot laureate Paris Hilton into further ludicrous behavior by making her a pseudo TV star.

This kind of overstimulation has left us rubbed raw and thoroughly desensitized. There is no eroticism here, only some really ugly nipple rings.

And a looming image of Bill O'Reilly soaping up a loofah mitt.

Yup, 2004 has been the year of Bad Sex. Really, really, really bad sex.

But is a year unexamined a year worth living? No. So below, broken into arbitrary categories, is a rundown of some of the anticlimactic moments in the giant wardrobe malfunction that was 2004.

The Exposure of Breasts and Their Painful-Looking Augmentations

Let's just get this one over with: Super Bowl halftime show. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are singing a duet in which Timberlake promises that he'll rip off Jackson's clothes by the end of the song. At tuneful climax, he fulfills promise, exposing Ms. Jackson (if you're nasty)'s right breast, which looks big, natural, and pretty attractive. Or would look big and natural if it weren't decorated with a spiky nipple ring that blocks most of the view, looks upsettingly heavy, and would draw blood from any suitor who approached the heaving bosom with too much ardor. Jackson covers her exposed flesh dramatically. Chaos reigns.

How the hell did this become the most talked-about sex story of the year?

It was nine fateful months later that B-list staple and Page Six family member Tara Reid walked into P.Diddy's birthday party in Manhattan, faced a rope line of her paparazzi tormenters, and stared at them blank-faced and oblivious as her dress fell down, fully exposing her left boob. The scene was ugly on its own: photographers laughing at the clueless Reid, snapping away until her publicist finally alerted her that the breeze she might be feeling was her missing clothing. But what really added insult to injured pride was the fact that her ineptly enlarged knocker had a ridge of purple welts around the nipple.

Gross and sad, yes. But it does present us with the chance to bid adieu to this particular chapter in American history with a line that could not be used enough in 2004: Thanks for the mammaries, ladies.

Libido-less Politics

Welcome to the American presidency, the sexless years. Trying to picture either George Bush or John Kerry having sex may be more psychologically scarring than the image of your parents doing it. For all the Swift Boaty testosterone coursing through the campaign, there were zero pheromones being emitted from the presidential stump.

John Kerry may have had a slim erotic edge simply because countless instances of hand-grasping and gazing adoration provided evidence that he was hot for his wife. Unfortunately, Teresa's passionate devotion to husband John Heinz, dead for 13 years, sapped Kerry's mojo.

Hope stirred when John Edwards joined the Kerry ticket, since he seemed to have a hint of that winking Clintonian appeal. But it only took a few weeks of staring at those dimples and that cherubic smiley face to conclude that John Edwards was in fact an animatronic doll escaped from the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney World. Candidate for First Beefcake Chris Heinz showed some promise, but the real Kerry family sexpot award goes to stepsister Alexandra Kerry, who donned a long black frock for a screening of her film at Cannes and faced a phalanx of flashbulbs, unaware that all the light would render her dress translucent. Hello, titties! But by May, we were immune. Another day, another set of mams.

Back at the White House, Laura Bush -- who, were she not married to an eunuch, might have been a bad-ass-librarian-who-puts-out first lady -- was allowed off the lithium drip long enough to get her daughters involved in the campaign. Like the Kerry offspring, Jenna and Barbara lent their father's campaign the only spark it had, mostly by dressing in slinky tops, getting loaded, and showing signs of lifelike exuberance, like the time Jenna stuck her tongue out at the photographers. Still, if this counts as sexy, we are seriously strapped for entertainment. At least Patti Davis posed for Playboy.

One mercy plea for future campaign strategists looking to squeeze a drop of sex appeal from their candidates: Avoid the term "flip-flopper." It doesn't matter who's saying it, being it or refuting it: It just makes people think of a dying mackerel.

Why Won't Anyone Say This Is the Worst Year in Hollywood in Recent Decades?

I just wanted to get that off my chest. And in addition to there being no great movies this year, there were very few hot ones either. Mostly we got culture-war combatants like decidedly un-sexy "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The Passion" (no, not that kind of passion, silly. It was a Jesus snuff film.)

The three big "relationship" movies: "We Don't Live Here Anymore," "Closer," and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," offered such a bleak outlook on what comes of sexual congress that they could be packaged as an encouraging gift set for those considering taking the veil.

The year's big sensualist film was Bernardo Bertolucci's "Dreamers," touted as the most shocking and lubricious movie of our lifetime because it featured lanky siblings who almost have sex with each other and a perplexed friend. "The Dreamers" was graphic, and it had a number of uncomfortably bloody scenes, but the truth is that incest simply doesn't rank high on the list of common turn-ons. If you want to do taboo, please bring back James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and some light bondage.

"Kinsey" dealt directly with sex. But when the end of your movie involves Liam Neeson doing his "Schindler's List" "I could have saved one more" shtick while his penis, pierced in the name of scientific investigation, drips blood on the bathroom floor, your loins are not exactly engorged with desire.

The most revelatory thing about this year in pictures is the way in which the Hollywood leading man has been re-envisioned. Where once Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman stood proud and erect, daring us to find anything squishy beneath their firm, potent exteriors, 2004 brought us men who were allowed to feel.

Behold this year's crop of movie heroes:

  • Tobey McGuire in "Spiderman": Wah! I'm a superhero and it's too much responsibility! I'm broke! I don't have a normal life! Kirsten Dunst is in love with me and I'm so wrapped up in my self-loathing to figure out what to do about it!
  • Jim Carrey in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind": Wah! My girlfriend and I broke up and I cannot handle the pain so I'm going to have my memory wiped! Wait! I don't want to have my memory wiped! Make it stop!
  • Paul Giamatti in "Sideways": Wah! I'm a divorced, alcoholic, failed novelist who steals money from my mother and who can't stand up to my best friend! Virginia Madsen wants to sleep with me but I am too consumed by my self-loathing to do much about it!
  • Zach Braff in "Garden State": Wah! I'm jobless and wallowing in self-pity, hooked on antidepressants and numb to the world! I can't even get it up for girls who sit on my lap. Then Natalie Portman loves me and I like her a lot but still come off as remarkably detached from her physically!
  • Bob Parr in "The Incredibles": Wah! I used to be a superhero and now I'm flaccid and emasculated and so I am going to run away from home to be a superhero anyway and screw up so badly that my wife and kids have to come and pull my ass out of the fire!

    Hrrrrr! Hot, hot, hot.

    What Happened to Sex on Television?

    It left the building with Bradshaw and her gang.

    Of course there's "The L Word," and we think that "Queer as Folk" is still on. But reality television has sucked all the chemistry out of good old fictional unrequited love. Where are the sparks of Sam and Diane, or Maddie and David, or Mulder and Scully? It's a sad day when one of the hottest clinches of the season is between James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in a pool (see: watching your mom and dad do it, politics section).

    Small consolation are those ubiquitous ads for Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and rest of their E.D. ilk. The unmatched pinnacle of the genre features the football being thrown through the tire swing -- over and over and over again. And what about that spry oldster couple who lounge in side-by-side outdoor bathtubs. Who has two outdoor bathtubs? Who has one? Perhaps the worst is the ad in which a middle-aged husband's imagination is sparked by some storefront lingerie, two geeky blue devil horns sprout from his head, and dicks around the country go instantly limp.


    Books fared much better in 2004, what with Jenna Jameson's readable autobiography, "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale," and Traci Lord's "Underneath It All." From a very different end (get it?) of the performative universe came former ballerina Toni Bentley's "Surrender," an ode to anal sex and a description of how she found divinity in her lower intestinal tract.

    Miscellaneous Things That Got Our Knickers in a Twist

    The New York Times published its biannual article about how our wacky teenage offspring are using something called the I.M. to summon each other to backyards and rec rooms, where they then pleasure each other (sometimes orally!) but do not commit to lifelong romantic bonds. It's called Friends With Benefits.

    Within two days, every adult in the continental United States completely forgot their 15-year-old selves, hit the panic button, removed the computers from their kids' rooms, and called friends to commiserate over deteriorating romantic, moral and sexual value systems. Somewhere, their post-60 parents smirked happily and ordered the grandkids a BlackBerry for Christmas. (Hey, nervous nellies, take a Xanax: A December study from the National Center for Health Statistics claims that the percentage of sexually active women 15-17 declined from 38 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2002.)

    And just last week, the Times declared that the craze for online dating is on the wane. Apparently, meeting someone you really click with is hard to do, even with the help of computer technology.

    No shit.

    Blow Jobs and the Twilight of the Pedophiles

    A major standout on the bleak landscape of 2004 celebrity scandal was the long-awaited release of "The Brown Bunny," Vincent Gallo's movie that people went to see mostly because it featured Gallo's former girlfriend Chloë Sevigny deep-throating his impressive, if oddly tapered, member.

    Then there was pop moppet Britney Spears, who was photographed going down on her scungerific then-boyfriend, now (second) husband, Kevin Federline.

    The only -- and I stress only -- good news about Britney's path in 2004 was that at least our national fetish with her was completely legal. At year's start, that was not the case for minors Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, or Lindsey Lohan, or her epic (though widely disputed) breasts. Now, we're free to ogle away. Happy 18th birthday, ladies!


    The rape charges filed against Kobe Bryant disappeared once we learned enough about his alleged victim (her name, that she had taken drugs and suffered depression in college, and that she had in fact had sex with other men besides Bryant) to know for sure that she was un-rape-able. An emotionally unstable young woman who has sex with multiple partners is, after all, penetration waiting to happen; it's just a matter of which professional athlete happens to walk by and fall helplessly into her gaping vagina first.

    The good people at the Smoking Gun published a helpful transcript of Bryant's initial interview with police. In it, Bryant first denies having intercourse with the woman, then admits that yeah, maybe he did tell her to blow him, and then told her "to get up (inaudible) she didn't know what she was doing." Worried about losing "my wife ... and all my endorsements," Kobe then admits that he did do the woman from behind and asked her if he could come on her face, which is a lot like the first story he told, in which he didn't have sex with her.

    The real highlight is when the cop points out these discrepancies, and that the alleged victim does seem to have bruising around her neck, and Bryant helpfully refers them to another extramarital girlfriend. "The strangling thing you have to go talk to this girl (inaudible) Michelle ... you know me and Michelle, that's what we, we do the same thing ... she'll tell you the same shit." The cops are understanding, assuring Bryant that they understand why he wanted the alleged victim, since she was an attractive young lady. Bryant's response? "She wasn't that attractive."

    Sorry, girls, this prince is taken.

    The Smoking Gun was also the Web site that brought us the full complaint by Fox News associate producer Andrea Mackris against her boss, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly. Mackris claimed that O'Reilly repeatedly harassed her, at one point suggesting that she "blow off steam" by using a vibrator, bragging about a "little short brown woman" in Bali who was "amazed" by his penis, and anticipating extramarital affairs with "hot" Italian women on his trip to meet the pope. Mackris also claimed that O'Reilly once called her while watching porn and spun a stunning erotic fantasy in which he would take her to the Caribbean and scrub her "really spectacular boobs" with a loofah mitt till her nipples were hard. This is hard to even write. And as if that weren't horrific enough, the conservative television host then got the word "loofah" confused with the word "falafel," bringing himself close to climax with the vision of squishing seasoned chick peas into his beloved's mons pubis.

    Back on earth, there was the resignation of Jim McGreevey, the governor of New Jersey, following his admission of an extramarital affair with a man, and his proclamation that he is "a gay American." Thanks, Jim! The whole thing wasn't so much sordid as it was sad, especially for his wife, Dina. Honey, so many of us have been there, though admittedly not on a national stage with a kid. Get a good therapist.

    The Really Bad Stuff

    There were also many terrible and not remotely funny things that happened this year, like the time that George Bush introduced a constitutional amendment that would ban homosexual couples from getting married. It sounded crazy, but it struck a compelling chord with the American people, who apparently like their gays hosting talk shows and teaching straight husbands how to dress better, not creating legal and fully insured families. Enough people came out in force to protect the sanctity of man-on-woman marriages like Kobe Bryant's and Bill O'Reilly's and Jim McGreevey's that they probably put George Bush back in the White House. And 11 states individually passed gay marriage bans. Good times, good times.

    For those of you who wisely participate in the morally sound practice of heterosexual banging, here's hoping you're not in the unfortunate position of being female and wanting to exercise any control over your reproductive capabilities. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court will probably shift during George Bush's second term. And if you, like most of us, hope to head off those illegal abortions at the pass, best of luck to you! New laws in several states make it legal for your pharmacist to refuse to sell you prescription birth control if he or she personally is not into birth control. This is, by the way, totally true. Can't find a local pharmacist who "approves" of the way you conduct your sex life? Tough noogies, as they say.

    Also? Creationism: V. Hot. Evolution: So five minutes ago.

    The Good News

    As of this week, there is some late-breaking good news on the sex front. First, Hollywood gossip has pulled itself momentarily from the sewer and provided us with a juicy scandal that seems not to involve anyone underage or with fake tits! No, this is just good clean pleasure stemming from famous people's messed-up sex lives! Our most favorite talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, is embroiled in a mess in which she and wraithlike "Arrested Development" star Portia de Rossi have abandoned their girlfriends for some sort of passionate union that's left everyone weeping in hotel lobbies after Christmas parties. Wheee!

    Ellen, you are so damn likable, we're really sorry you had to fall on your sword to give us something to look forward to reading about in the papers, but let me be the first to step up and thank you for it. (And let me also add my congratulations that this has nothing to do with that whack-job Celestia lady. She was such bad news.)

    In last Sunday's New York Post, there was also the inevitable, too long in coming, but exactly as delicious as we thought it was gonna be first intimation that Demi Moore's stepson/lover Ashton Kutcher may be secretly after one of her harem of oddly monikered daughters. According to the Post, he took Scout to the movies, brought her flowers, and held her hand. Demi, do not let anyone tell you that they did not see this coming from day one.

    Even the movies may give us a chaste but sexy little year-end treat. After this week's New York premiere of Martin Scorsese's new film, "The Aviator," it was agreed in a brief lobby poll that not one of the characters was flaccid: plumb crazy, but totally sexy and intense. In a poll conducted a couple of glasses of wine later, it was also agreed that every woman but one wanted to have sex with Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn.

    They're crumbs, sure. But after this dry, boneless year, we'll look in any direction we can for the warm, wet promise of future titillation.

  • By Rebecca Traister

    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.

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