When I think about the past year, I think how far we still have to go in this country in terms of how we talk about and treat sex. In 2014, literally millions of people gawked at photos (selfies or otherwise) of Kim Kardashian's naked or near-naked butt — and many more searched online for naked photos of A-list celebrities, thanks to hackers. However, society as a whole remains largely ignorant about the most basic elements of sex.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying photos of beautiful people of all shapes and sizes. However, to pay attention mostly to the salacious aspects of sex and not enough to the everyday aspects of sex that affect people's lives makes things more difficult than they need to be.
I've been answering sex questions for The Kinsey Institute for more than a decade and some of our most common questions still — still! — have to do with penis size, how to orgasm and pregnancy risk. Here it is, almost 2015 and with an internet full of information, and teenagers and young adults still struggle with basic questions about how babies are made and what their chances are that they could be pregnant when they don't want to be. They are high on anxiety and low on quality information. Many feel like they can't talk with their parents, which is too bad considering that their parents may be good sources of information, support or bridges for healthcare, STI testing and pregnancy testing.
Between high profile campus sexual assault and numerous rape allegations against one of the country's most celebrated comedians, our country is also in the midst of some critical conversations about what it means to want sex and to agree to it. Again, this should be among the most basic aspects of sex we get right! This movement is long overdue and it's on all of our shoulders. For so many years, when people told their stories about rape or sexual assault, parents and teachers and friends and siblings sort of sighed in resignation, comforted the person, and moved on. As in, "yeah, rape is terrible; I'm so sorry that happened to you."
It's only in the past couple of years that I started hearing my college students say, "That's it; we're done. We've had enough, and we need your help." I'm pretty certain it's this growing sense of young women and men being "done" with sexual assault that prompted the White House to take action and move campuses forward.
That's not to say all is bad in the world of sex and gender.
Just this year, Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox was on the cover of TIME magazine and, in the fall, was named a GLAMOUR magazine Woman on the Year. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance that night at Carnegie Hall and to see how it wasn't just the adults supporting this transwoman of enormous talent and courage, but the next generation of women (GLAMOUR always invites a number of very young women to attend) cheered Ms. Cox on the loudest. The world is changing for the better.
I have a similar optimism about marriage equality now that more than 30 states allow same-sex couples to marry. Love is love, as they say.
For 2015, I hope to see a country full of marriage quality, greater understandings of trans issues (even the most progressive among us could be doing better), and more of us finding ways to share good quality information about sexuality with one another. I am also eager to see the strong and creative ways that students of all genders approach sexual assault – and a path forward to ending it here in our community.