Sometimes it’s nice to look back and be reminded of what mattered most in the year we are leaving. Many of us have busy lives filled with the everyday distractions that cloud our perspective on the bigger picture. And so, as the New Year approaches, I wanted to take a quick look back at 2015.

First, it was a surprising year for sex news. There was important political news, interesting research news, and lots of just plain fun and pleasure-focused news. And, there were a few strange and unusual sex news items that show our species doesn’t always have good taste or common sense.

On the political front, a big news story was the US Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nation-wide in June. Now, gays and lesbians can legally marry throughout the country. Of course, this was controversial for some Americans. Some even felt compelled to resist the decision such as Kim Davis in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages to same-sex couples.

Not surprisingly, there was other continuing news on the social issues front. Abortion and reproductive health were controversial in many places around the country, especially in more conservative states. Planned Parenthood of America has long been in the sights of conservative/Christian right groups because of its abortion services. This summer, a conservative group released a video online that purported to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing selling fetal parts from aborted fetuses for profit. Subsequently, Planned Parenthood said it only sold tissue for medical research and only received reimbursement for expenses. The report and video were completely debunked but it’s difficult to correct initial reports in people’s minds. The opposition to Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion groups was at a high level all year with calls for action while offering plenty of myths and misinformation.

Also, during the initial Republican presidential primary race, anti-abortion rhetoric has been at a high level, including language that could easily encourage violence against abortion providers. Judie Brown, the President of the American Life League, one of many anti-abortion organizations, said this year that “Because it’s acceptable to violently kill a baby, so why isn’t it acceptable to violently kill other people?” This provocative language, fed by far-right religious beliefs, is truly the equivalent of domestic terrorism. The ugly result of these attitudes can be easily seen. Shockingly, 3 people were killed and 9 others wounded when a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on November 27th. Apart from other comments, he railed against baby killing and was obviously a disturbed individual. But, he wasn’t too disturbed to be able to buy high-powered guns used in the attack.

Of course, we at SmartSex always encourage communities to institute comprehensive sexuality education in their curriculums for teens. We have learned that they have proven themselves highly effective against teen-pregnancy unlike abstinence-only curriculums. But, many parts of the United States still have limited sex-ed. While 39 states now mandate abstinence information, only 20 mandate that sex-ed include information on condoms and birth control and only 13 mandate that the information be medically accurate. Today, 23% of the states solely have abstinence-only sex ed. In fact, a recent Allan Guttmacher Institute survey found that “sex education today is much less likely to cover birth control, abortion, obtaining contraceptive and sexually transmitted diseases services, and sexual orientation, than it did in the late 1980s.” So we have quite a ways to go.

There were so many other sex-related stories we could cover, from sex popular pleasure techniques like “edging” to the growing issue of campus sex attacks, but so little space in the blog. In 2015, there was also a full spectrum of sex research news. We learned that couples that have sex about once a week are happiest. So the research says. We learned a wide range of info about human sexual conduct, sex education, sexual identity and much more from the CDC’s National Survey of Family Growth. And another survey from the CDC, called National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, helped us understand the levels of IPV, SV and stalking in our country as well as set some important baselines to use in following this behavior going forward. On a brighter note, new research revealed new facets of the female orgasm – including the importance of a creative outlook and hydration.

On the culture beat, television shows and movies were more open to broadened sexual expression and characters and themes relating to LGBT. Some were pretty dark themes as in “Knock, Knock” and “I Smile Back.” Other films explored new ways of looking at sexual identity – and even human-like identity – as in “Ex Machina,” or were comprised of one long sex session as in “Love” by France’s Gaspar Noe. Another interesting film, with lots of twists and turns in 2015 was “The Overnight.” Television wasn’t shy either about portraying stories about sex. The original sex researchers, the Kinsey’s, are portrayed in “Master of Sex,” a provocative new series. And Transparent opened up doors of acceptance for transgenders even more widely than Jenner.

And, of course, given human nature, the year also included many silly stories about human frailty and sex. I won’t mention the common news stories about various people hurt in auto accidents while engaging in creativity sexual activity. Nor will I tell you about this year’s Air Sex World Championships in Austin Texas.
But you can use your imagination.

So, it was a year in which we were confronted with a strong Religious Christian minority wanting to politically influence all our lives – and, because of their high-level of voting participation – influencing our national policies way beyond their numbers. At the same time, we are the beneficiaries of much greater knowledge about sex, sexual identity, and our potential as human beings – including the availability of the SmartSex app. Research of many types continues to enlighten us. And the increased sharing of personal experience about sexual experience – mostly through the internet – expands our knowledge of sexual expression.

But, we also have to remain vigilant about ensuring the rights of all of us to explore our own sexuality, protect the rights of LGBT citizens, and support reproductive rights and services such as those provided by Planned Parenthood and other providers. In sum, we need to stand up for a progressive sexuality agenda in the year ahead.

Happy New Year from all of us at SmartSex!

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