Vanessa* was 16 when she first sought out pornography on the web. Apart from a brief brush with adult material before the age of 10 (she searched for ‘American Girl dolls’ and stumbled upon porn), she had never before been exposed to the 'net’s vast cache of XXX content.

Now, she was a sexually curious teenager with an Internet connection. Within moments, she was surfing the gamut of explicit sex acts. She found some of it unattractive, rough, unrealistic; she found other parts of online porn provocative and seductive.

“A lot of it was very repetitive; women who all looked the same, really skinny, usually blond, big boobs, with guys who aren’t that attractive who … just go banging away,” said Vanessa, now a 21-year-old student at University of Toronto. “I kept digging away … trying to find things I found hot.”

As a member of Generation Y, a population of five million Canadians aged 18 to 30, Vanessa and her generational cohort have grown up with unprecedented access to graphic images of human sexuality. Just a generation ago, sexual images were limited to magazines on the top shelf at the corner variety store, videos from a shop’s back room or speciality cinemas and peep shows. Government censorship and obscenity laws limited access to the more graphic stuff.

But as digital natives, Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, has found porn available at any time, early on in life, privately accessible, free and truly unlimited. That access sets Gen Y apart from any other generation before it, although experts are divided on what, if any, impact it has on sexual attitudes and behaviour.

Googling ‘sex’ surfaces more than 2.8 billion results, from “sex videos” to “Kama Sutra tips” to Sex Addicts Anonymous, while ‘porn’ spits out almost 1.1 billion results (“free young porn,” “MILF porn,” “amateur porn” and many more).

Of the one million most popular websites, 42,337 – four per cent – are sex-related, stated Ogi Ogas, co-author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, in a recent Forbes article.

The volume of traffic to porn sites is more difficult to discern, especially in Canada, and data are piecemeal. Internet analytics firms approached by HuffPost would not disclose their numbers. Ogas’ study found about 13 per cent of all web searches were for erotic content, while ExtremeTech reports that the biggest porn site on the web, Xvideos, registers 4.4-billion page views per month, three times the size of CNN or ESPN.

In Canada, the Ipsos Mobil-ology study, which tracks mobile device use in this country, found 15 per cent of smartphone users between 18-34 indicate they access adult content on their device, though these numbers are undoubtedly understated. About twice as many Canadian males reported accessing adult sites on their smartphone as females.

Another study, SRG's Digital Life Canada Quarterly, says 40 per cent of Canadians aged 18-34 visit "adult entertainment" websites or stream adult oriented video on a monthly basis, and two-in-three do so at least occasionally. SRG estimates 10 million Canadians of any age access adult content online.

What can be said with certainty is that there is a lot of pornography online and a big audience for it.

“You can see every sexual act that one could imagine,” said Cory Silverberg, a Toronto-based sex educator with a focus on online pornography. “All of those early sexual experiences that can be so powerful, I think that those experiences are influenced when we see a lot of sex online beforehand. I think it informs us.”

The question of how online porn informs and influences viewers leads to a, ahem, stimulating debate.

* * *

“I think some guys get the idea that women don’t have gag reflexes,” Vanessa said, half-laughing, half-serious, while reflecting on the influence of porn on her sex life.

She has also noticed partners, male and female, “who get disappointed if they can’t get you off really quickly on the first try, preferably at the same time they get off,” as in porn, and a friend’s troubling experience with anal sex (“People think you can just dive in there, which is actually not how it works.”).

Gail Dines, PhD, an author and professor of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College in Boston, said the average child will first see online porn at the impressionable age of 11. At that age, common heterosexual porn conventions – women choking during oral sex and facial ejaculation, for instance – can desensitize young people and give them “unrealistic expectations” about sex, she said.

Dines recounts anecdotes about male students so influenced by porn that they pressed partners into having “porn sex” and shaving their pubic hair.

“Of course, we’ve always had misogyny. But we haven’t had it shaping male sexuality this visually ever before,” she said. “It’s shaping women’s sexuality, because the men they’re partnering with want them to do gonzo (hardcore, degrading) porn,” Dines said.

But others say porn can expand sexual horizons between consenting adults.

When Andrew*, a 28-year-old from Texas, got dial-up Internet access in his mid-teens, he was amazed by how easily he could find photos of acts that appealed to specific turn-ons he already knew he had, such as bondage and discipline. When he started to have sex with his first and only sexual partner – now his fiancée – in his late teens, Andrew put what he learned from years of watching online porn to use, from trying “porn positions” to more exotic acts.

“I’m into sexual humiliation, so I tried to do some things, like I put like a collar and leash on her and tried to walk around the room, and she didn't like that,” he said. Her rejection felt disappointing, as he had wanted to try it since age 10, although he respects her choice.

“Having sex with her in a ‘vanilla’ or usual, typical way, I’ve never been unhappy about that part,” he said. “But the fact that I have this resource that I can also explore other parts of my sexual life that I enjoy safely and in a way that I enjoy, there’s no problem with that.”

Andrew said his fiancée has grown more comfortable with his preference for kinky sex and has suggested engaging in it herself.

“The last thing I want is to make her feel like she has to do something she doesn't like to please me, because that’s not the case. It still kind of weighs on me,” he said.

Quick Poll

Does online pornography have a positive or negative impact on relationships?

VOTE

That’s not to say men and women cannot enjoy domination, or any other acts found in mainstream porn. But some can find it difficult to distinguish actual preferences from pressure, Vanessa points out.

“I guess it’s been generalized to: ‘All people like this.’ And I think the other problem is with mainstream, heterosexual porn. It’s not portrayed as something like, ‘Let’s do this because both parties will enjoy it,’” she said.

Besides influencing millennials’ sexual repertoires, some say porn can also influence behaviour. Mary Anne Layden, PhD, a psychotherapist and director of education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, said the earlier young men see Internet porn, the more likely they will engage in non-consensual sex, a term that includes deliberate deception or coercion. And when women see the same messages, “I think that these women tolerate early signs of boundary-crossing,” she said.

Vanessa disapproves of pornography that’s deliberately degrading, while Andrew said he tries to consume porn responsibly and avoid its troublesome predilection for misogyny, racism and “fetishization of non-consent.” However, he notes it’s not always easy to differentiate between ethical and exploitative porn.

The tendency to violence and degradation in porn interests researchers as well. Some maintain that adult videos – which portray physical aggression in 88 per cent of the scenes, according to one study – contribute to sexist attitudes in viewers, though a link between porn and sexual aggression is hotly contested.

* * *

Although millennials have access to an ever-widening library of often questionable sexual practices, they also have access to a community of sexual diversity and self-awareness never seen before, said Rebecca Sullivan, PhD, a professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in feminist media and cultural studies.

“Ninety-nine per cent of what’s going on is not fantastic. But there are some amazing networks of alternative sexualities, positive sexualities, politically oriented sexual-identity work that’s been going on. And it can be really explicit. And really challenging and wonderful,” she said.

When Kael Howl, a 25-year-old employee at a co-operative sex store in Toronto, seeks out online porn, she gravitates towards queer, feminist sites that show “different bodies, different genders doing different acts,” aside from heterosexual norms that tend to focus solely on male desire, she said.

She cites the work of Tristan Taormino, a feminist porn director, author and sex educator whose work has shown the actors’ conversations that occur before things heat up.

“They’ll say, ‘I chose this person because they’re very respectful to this, and that’s something I’m into as well. I’ve told them I don’t want them to hit my tits, but they can slap my face,’ so it really shows the negotiation process, which isn’t something we’re taught anywhere else,” Howl explained.

Still, critics say alternative porn tends to replicate mainstream porn’s formulas, as can amateur porn, which some consider a voyeuristic window into other people’s bedrooms. Others say a person could use less-explicit videos to acclimate an unwilling partner into uncomfortable sexual acts.

Howl also describes how viewing rough play showed her then-partner how to approach it.

More from Asking Y, HuffPost Canada's special project on the Millennial Generation:

“Watching these people enjoying being thrown around or slapped or choked a little bit, and seeing that they really enjoy that, and that it was very consensual, and that it can be hot and very respectful really helped them to ease off and be like, ‘Yes, I can still respect you and smack your ass,’” she said.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we are restructuring our sexual and intimate lives and accepting alternative forms of relationships,” Sullivan said.

Dines said the repetitive portrayal of emotionally detached sex in XXX videos has changed dating behaviour among millennials in a troubling way.

“Hookup sex has replaced dating. Men don’t want to date. They want to have as much porn sex with as many women as they can,” she said.

Layden said that attitude filters down into mainstream media, and that women who buy into it will later regret it.

“It’s so damaging and toxic to tell women it really will give you an intense relationship if you let him pull your hair,” she said. “It’s a lie.”

Others say casual sex empowers them, and they point to a variety of changing factors that have affected millennials’ ideas of relationships. Howl chalks it up to this generation reconsidering gender roles and the dynamic where people “find someone, fall in love, get married, have kids, white picket fence, work forever and die.”

After Andrew got engaged to his college sweetheart, they both decided to open their relationship to other partners.

“We lost our virginity to each other and we sort of thought ‘We’re in our physical prime, maybe it’s time we should see what else is out there while we still have a chance’ while still staying committed to one another because we love each other very much,” he said.

The conversation was inspired not by porn, but by blogs, he said, another form of sexual exposure available online for the millennial generation.

He expects that as life becomes more complicated with careers and children, outside relationships will become less frequent. For now, his fiancée dates a man she loves, and Andrew looks forward to having a second girlfriend – not a slew of liaisons.

“If people enjoy hooking up, I think that’s great. Go ahead and do that if you can do it safely.”

Researchers continue to probe the relationship between between porn viewing habits and casual sex habits. Others have looked at porn’s relationship to infidelity and sex addiction. The findings are decidedly mixed.

“I don’t think we can directly attribute porn to pretty much anything, good or bad. Our social and sexual lives are complicated, and porn is an influence and must be understood as an influence,” Sullivan said.

However, researchers found young men whose porn habits have numbed their response to dopamine can experience erectile dysfunction with a partner.

Some insist that it can lead to infidelity, or they even consider it a form of cheating, while others aren’t so quick to agree. Internet porn has also been identified as a contributor to sex addiction.

One study found unmarried couples who watched porn together had more sexual satisfaction and a more committed relationship than if one person had watched porn in secret, although Layden says women have reported it kills intimacy.

* * *

Not only do millennials have more access to pornography than previous generations, they also have more tools than ever to make their own.

Before cellphones, webcams and digital cameras, sharing amateur porn required now-antiquated tools such as actual film, swingers ads and postage stamps, Silverberg said.

“The thing now is, we all have some smartphone that has a pretty high-quality video camera in it. You can make it and you can upload it in seconds. And of course, once it’s up, it’s gone,” he saidd.

Vanessa learned the hard way. After her 18th birthday, she shot a webcam video of herself masturbating and posted it to a popular adult site.

“I have a bit of an exhibitionist streak. I thought I wasn’t identifiable in it. I think I generally wasn’t, you couldn’t really see my face, and I was like ‘You only live once,’” she said.

She told a few close friends but didn’t forward the link, expecting it to “disappear into the depths of the Internet.” It didn’t. Word got round to a friend of a friend who saw her and said, “I think she was in porn.”

Yet Vanessa still describes the video as a positive experience, having received flattering comments online about her size although she’s more “chubby” than the typical porn star.

Eventually, the site removed the clip, likely over age verification. As she applies to grad school theology programs, she considers removing other explicit photos she has shared online under pseudonyms.

Although Vanessa feels safe in her online anonymity, Sullivan believes her generation has difficulty grasping the permanency of the Internet.

“You don’t know where things go, you can’t control them, you don’t know who has access to it and what you think is private isn’t necessarily private,” she said.

In other words, as users struggle to understand new concepts of privacy around online sex, “Don’t underestimate your ability to get screwed.”

* * *

Porn and its complexities for the millennial generation aren’t in short supply, but experts agree one thing is sorely lacking: education.

“Because unfortunately, porn is not included much in sex education and it’s not talked about much in the home, kids don’t know that (it’s fake),” Silverberg said.

Vanessa dismissed her high school’s sex ed classes as inaccurate, incomplete, outdated and just plain awful. They covered the basics — the nuts and bolts of heterosexual sex and birth control, but not much else. And she said her “sex-shaming” mother didn’t fill her in on what is essentially Gen Y’s primary source of sexual information: online pornography.

Dines would like to see a shift in education as well, “a public health approach to pornography where you have sex education that’s real, that speaks to the reality of these kids’ lives, that talks to what it means to be male in this culture, what it means to be female.”

Ultimately, Vanessa said, “There needs to be a honest discussion of ‘What do you see here, is it realistic?’”

* Names have been changed in this article.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • BEST: A Whole Slew Of Sex-Positive Movies

    Okay, this is more a series of moments than a single moment. 2012 brought a refreshing number of films that tackled formerly taboo aspects of sexuality. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/the-sessions-review-helen-hunt-john-hawkes_n_1969584.html">"The Sessions"</a> explored an unconventional love story between a physically disabled man and his sex surrogate, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/18/for-a-good-time-call-katie-anne-naylon-phone-sex_n_1803089.html">"For A Good Time Call"</a> showcased the rewards female friendship, as hilariously revealed through the two main characters' adventures as phone sex operators. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ryan/magic-mike-my-date-with-a_b_1629479.html">"Magic Mike"</a> took on the world of male strippers, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/03/malgorzata-szumowska-elles-juliette-binoche-joanna-kulig-anais-demoustier_n_1469094.html">"Elles"</a> complicated the notion that student prostitutes are victims, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/hysteria-tanya-wexler-vibrator_n_1514213.html">"Hysteria"</a> told the story of the invention of the vibrator with humor and wit. If you haven't seen these films, we recommend you go rent them ASAP.

  • BEST: J.K. Rowling Writes A Dirty Novel

    The famous "Harry Potter" author proved her, um, flexibility by publishing her first novel for adults, which turned out to be very, very adult. According to Gawker's count, <a href="http://gawker.com/5947016/how-dirty-is-jk-rowlings-new-book-the-casual-vacancy-by-the-numbers">"The Casual Vacancy" contains the word</a> "breast" 17 times, "condom" 10 times, "c*nt" 8 times, "f*ck" 214 times and some variation of "penis" 10 times. We're not at Hogwarts anymore.

  • BEST: Ryan Lochte Plays A "Sex Idiot"

    When <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/30-rock-ryan-lochte-sex-idiot_n_1985169.html">Ryan Lochte played a "sex idiot"</a> on an episode of "30 Rock" in October, it seemed to meta to be true. It definitely was the role of a lifetime for the Olympic swimmer. The more Lochte we have in our lives, the better.

  • BEST: Trojan Gives Away Free Vibrators

    Valiant effort, Trojan! The condom company set up carts in New York City in August, where they <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/trojan-vibrator-giveaway-oked-brief-shutdown-meatpacking-district_n_1765340.html">gave away thousands of free vibrators</a> to some very lucky passersby. On the first day, the carts got shut down, but by the next day -- with proper permits in stow -- Trojan successfully gave women a whole lot of pleasure.

  • BEST: Obama Acknowledges That Contraception Is An Economic Issue

    Women are well aware of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/contraception-financial-educational-security_n_1917535.html">financial value of contraception</a>, but in an election year when some GOP politicians showed so little understanding of women's bodies, lives and choices (more on that later), it especially behooved the incumbent Democratic president to spell it out. Obama acknowledged the economic side of <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/17/barack-obama/obama-says-romney-suggested-employers-should-be-ab/">birth control access</a> during a presidential debate in October. He said: <blockquote>In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Because this is not just a -- a health issue, it's an economic issue for women. It makes a difference.</blockquote>

  • BEST: British Company Makes Most Amazing Tampon Commercial Ever

    In October, Bodyform, a British feminine hygiene company, responded to a snarky comment made on the company's Facebook page with a brilliant, hilarious video that poked fun at both feminine hygiene ads with their clear blue liquid and outdoor activities and the idea that these ads have actually deceived anyone about what periods involve. If you haven't seen it, go <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/bodyform-feminine-hygiene_n_1970565.html">watch it right now</a>.

  • BEST: Olivia Wilde Teaches Us That 'You Can't Lie To Your Vagina'

    Olivia Wilde became our new favorite person when she performed an honest and poignant monologue at Glamour's "These Girls," a night of monologues written by, for and about young women. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/olivia-wilde-rashida-jones-zosia-mamet-glamour-these-girls_n_1951752.html">Wilde spoke openly</a> about her divorce and the difficult process of admitting to yourself when a relationship isn't working. "You can lie to your relatives at Christmas dinner and tell them that 'everything on the home front's just peachy!' but you cannot lie to your vagina," she said. We agree.

  • BEST: Zosia Mamet Rails On Dating Norms

    In October, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/olivia-wilde-rashida-jones-zosia-mamet-glamour-these-girls_n_1951752.html">Zosia Mamet</a> uttered one of our favorite quotes about dating at Glamour's "These Girls" event. After discussing a particular date during which a boy suggested they spend a day together having room service at a hotel -- and then suggested that her father (David Mamet) pay for it all, Mamet said: "If you slept in my bed and Lewis and Clarked my body ... it might be nice for you to offer to buy me breakfast the next morning. Or a protein bar."

  • BEST: Adele Again Proves Herself A Body Image Hero

    In November, <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/adele-i-would-only-lose-weight-if-it-affected-my-health-or-sex-life-2012911#ixzz2F3faS7XD">Adele spoke out</a> about the media's non-stop discussion of her weight since her hit-filled album "21" catapulted her to musical superstar status in early 2011. "I've always been a size 14-16 and been fine with it. I would only lose weight if it affected my health or sex life, which it doesn't," she said, according to<em> Us Weekly</em>. We couldn't possibly love Adele more.

  • BEST: Television Wades Into Murky Sexual Territory

    TV shows pushed the boundaries of what we normally see and discuss on the small-screen when it comes to sexuality. "Mad Men" explored a <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/10/mad-men-finale-and-video-of-best-season-5-moments.html">dominant-submissive sexual dynamic</a> between Don Draper and his wife Megan, and Joan was pressured to prostitute herself for a business deal, while Kalinda on "The Good Wife" got into the very complicated <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/10/14/the_good_wife_s_kalinda_has_rough_sex_with_her_ex_husband_and_it_makes_no.html">intersection between eroticism and violence</a>. These scenarios weren't necessarily empowering or desirable for the female characters involved, but they did show that sex can take a turn that isn't empowering or romantic, and that whether or not that's a bad thing isn't always clear.

  • BEST: Liz Lemon Uses Office Supply Shopping As Foreplay

    No words necessary. Just <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lu408y9SYQ">WATCH</a>.

  • BEST: Caitlin Moran Outlines Her Thoughts On The Porn Industry

    Caitlin Moran made her thoughts on porn known In her laugh-out-loud amazing book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Woman-Caitlin-Moran/dp/0062124293">"How To Be A Woman."</a> (Although the book came out last year in Britain, it wasn't published in the U.S. until this year, so it makes our list.) This is one of our favorite excerpts: <blockquote>In a world where you can get a spare kidney, a black-market Picasso, or a ticket to ride into space, why can't I see some actual sex? Some actual f**king from people who actually want to f**k each other? Some chick in an outfit I halfway respect, having the time of her life? I have MONEY. I'm willing to PAY for this. I AM NOW A 35-YEAR-OLD WOMAN, AND I JUST WANT A MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR INTERNATIONAL PORN INDUSTRY WHERE I CAN SEE A WOMAN COME. I just want to see a good time. </blockquote>

  • BEST: Cindy Gallop Champions 'Real' Sex

    52-year-old <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/fashion/cindy-gallops-online-effort-to-promote-real-not-porn-fed-sex.html?_r=0">Cindy Gallop is on a mission</a> to show the masses what "real" sex looks like, and thereby counteract the influence of porn on individuals' sex lives. She told the <em>New York Times</em> that many young people are being taught that "what you see in hard-core pornography is the way that you have sex.” In response, Gallup launched MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, a website full of erotic videos submitted by real people. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/fashion/cindy-gallops-online-effort-to-promote-real-not-porn-fed-sex.html?_r=0">According to the <em>New York Times</em></a>' Cara Buckley, "Compared with the harsh lens of mainstream pornography, the videos come across as sweet, earnest, languid, playful and deeply human." If this gets us closer to Caitlin Moran's vision, we're all for it.

  • BEST: "Sexy Baby"

    Also in porn: After watching high school girls dancing on poles in a club in Florida, photographer Ronna Gradus and journalist Jill Bauer began working on a documentary that would demonstrate the way the porn industry affects ordinary women and girls. The film follows a retired adult entertainer, a 22-year-old young woman who has chosen to have labiaplasty and a precocious 12-year-old Manhattan school girl. Together their stories cast in stark relief how the contemporary porn industry has changed the way women and men evaluate women's bodies and how young women learn to be sexual.

  • WORST: Kristen Stewart Shamed For Being A 'Trampire'

    After photos emerged showing actress Kristen Stewart cheating on longtime boyfriend Robert Pattinson, she was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/trampires-why-the-slut-sh_b_1850940.html">called a "whore," a "homewrecker" and a "trampire,"</a> and as a result was <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kristen-stewart-dropped-snow-white-sequel-hemsworth-361945">dropped from the sequel</a> of "Snow White and the Huntsman." Blogger <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/trampires-why-the-slut-sh_b_1850940.html">Nico Lang summed up</a> one of the most disturbing aspects of the shaming Stewart endured. He wrote: <blockquote>... for young women, the culture of slut shaming that the Kristen Stewart scandal represents won't go away. I might not be concerned for K-Stew, but I am concerned for all the young women today who are tuned into this scandal, ones who are learning that it's not okay to screw up, ever.</blockquote>

  • WORST: Nora Ephron Dies

    When <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/nora-ephron-dead-dies-age-71_n_1627757.html">Nora Ephron died</a> in June, we lost not only a great filmmaker, screenwriter and author, but a woman with a lot of wise <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/nora-ephron-love-sex-quotes_n_1628857.html">thoughts on love and sex</a>. Here is one of our favorite Ephron quotes: "In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind."

  • WORST: The Men Of The Republican Party Reveal They Have No Idea How The Female Reproductive System Works

    In the lead up to the November 2012 presidential and congressional elections, a number of GOP politicians revealed how shockingly little they know about pregnancy and rape. Among the <a href="http://jezebel.com/5958480/team-rape-lost-big-last-night">worst offenders</a> were Missouri Republican Congressman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/19/todd-akin-abortion-legitimate-rape_n_1807381.html"> Todd Akin</a>, Indiana Republican candidate for Congress <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/richard-mourdock-abortion_n_2007482.html">Richard Mourdock</a>, Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/tom-smith-rape_n_1834234.html">Tom Smith</a>, Iowa Republican Congressman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/steve-king-todd-akin_n_1819049.html"> Steve King</a> and Illinois Republican Congressman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/joe-walsh-abortion-exception_n_1983701.html">Joe Walsh</a>. All but King lost their election bids on November 6th.

  • WORST: Stars Don't Know How To Keep Nude Photos Private

    Judging from the large volume of accidental nude photos that got Tweeted this year, it's clear that celebrities need a lesson or two in sexting etiquette. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/alison-pill-topless-actress-tweets-nude-photo_n_1878377.html">Allison Pill</a>, <a href="http://perezhilton.com/2010-05-28-hacker-posts-topless-photos-of-hayley-williams-on-her-twitter-account#.UM-ig5Pjkgt">Hayley Williams</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/tori-spellings-husband-dean-mcdermott-tweets-her-boobs_n_1099621.html">Dean McDermott</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/annalynne-mccord-tweets-topless-photo-at-random-fan_n_1194671.html">AnnaLynne McCord</a>, we're looking at you.)

  • WORST: Ryan Lochte's Mom Discusses His One-Night Stands

    During the Summer Olympics Ryan Lochte simultaneously became the best and worst public figure ever. We were endlessly entertained by his <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/amyodell/ryan-lochte-great-at-swimming-less-great-at-talk">interview skills</a>, his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/ryan-lochte-grill-london-olympics-photos_n_1719116.html">fashion choices</a> and his easy-on-the-eyes face and bod. But we had to draw the line at his<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/ike-lochte-ryans-mom-talks-one-night-stands-single-girlfriend-today-show_n_1733433.html"> mother discussing his sex and dating life</a> on national television. TMI.

  • WORST: Anne Romney Refuses To Acknowledge That Women Care About Birth Control Access

    In September, a reporter asked <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/07/ann-romney-marriage-rights-birth-control-arent-economic-issues-for-women/">Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, about birth control access and its economic impact on women</a>. She responded, "You’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about. This election is going to be about the economy and jobs." Actually, as a September study showed, women consider access to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/contraception-financial-educational-security_n_1917535.html">contraception very important to maintaining their financial independence</a>. And judging <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/gender-gap-2012-election-obama_n_2086004.html">by the way women voted</a>, contraception <em>was</em> in part what this election was about. Watch a video of the interview <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/07/ann-romney-gay-marriage-contraception_n_1865430.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003">here</a>.

  • BOTH: "Girls" Portrays Bad Sex Truthfully, Critics Say It's Not So

    We loved that <a href="http://www.indiewire.com/article/television/good-side-of-bad-sex-in-girls"> Lena Dunham's breakout hit "Girls"</a> portrayed early twenty-something sex as it often is, ranging from awkward and uncomfortable to unsexy and basically bad. We also applaud Dunham for putting her own normal, health body on camera, often in the nude, in a culture where airtime is usually reserved exclusively for waifish women. What we didn't love was some critics' <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/roiphe/2012/04/why_is_the_sex_on_the_new_hbo_show_girls_so_unfun_.html">shock at the mediocre to disappointing sex</a> portrayed, and especially claims that Dunham is wrong, that it <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/roiphe/2012/04/why_is_the_sex_on_the_new_hbo_show_girls_so_unfun_.html">isn't actually that way</a>. We remember being 22 and 24, and we can state without hesitation: sex in your early 20s is often that way.

  • BOTH: Women Make "Fifty Shades Of Grey" A Bestseller

    Who knew E.L. James would go from unknown Brit to household name in less than a year? The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/02/fifty-shades-of-grey-women-erotica_n_1316392.html">erotic novel</a> topped the <em>New York Times</em>' bestseller list and got lots of women (and men) thinking about what they wanted from their sex lives --- and that's a great thing. Less great: The degree to which the trilogy is about all of the gifts Christian Gray buys for Anastasia; Ana's unrealistic ability to orgasm in any position, on command; the wider cultural implications of the notion that women just want to be dominated; and the simple fact that, for all of its Charlie-Tango-Red-Room-Of-Pain appeal, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/the-15-bestworst-lines-from-erotic-bestseller-fif">"Fifty Shades" isn't very well written -- at all.

  • BOTH?: The Porn Search Engine

    Despite the plethora of easily accessible online pornography, this year it got even easier to get the specific XXX content Internet users desire. In September, a <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/the-15-bestworst-lines-from-erotic-bestseller-fif">porn-only search engine</a> (Search.xxx) launched. Helpful functionality, or will this expand porn's influence on real sexual relationships? Remains to be seen.

  • BOTH: "Female Viagra" Enters Clinical Trials -- In Nasal Spray Form

    Depending on how you look at it, either nasal sprays got a lot more sexy this year, or performance-enhancing drugs got a lot less. In October, a drug called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/female-viagra-nasal-spray-sexual-arousal-tefina_n_2050075.html">Tefina, meant to boost female arousal</a>, entered clinical trials. Sounds promising, but seriously ... couldn't we get it in pill form?

  • BOTH: Scientists Investigate The Female Orgasm

    The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/g-spot-exist-study-skeptics_n_1451742.html">G-spot is real</a>, maybe. But the orgasm you may or may not have there is completely <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-gray/female-orgasm-vaginal-debate_b_1417377.html">distinct</a> from the clitoral orgasm. Also, women can have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/orgasm-exercise-coregasm-female-orgasm_n_1365669.html">orgasms from exercise</a>, dubbed "coregasms." And apparently, according to proponents of a Viagra-like drug for women, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/female-viagra-nasal-spray-sexual-arousal-tefina_n_2050075.html">43 percent of women</a> suffer from some form of female sexual dysfunction. It's great that researchers are interested in female sexuality, but making whether or not women orgasm into a problem to be studied and solved suggests that certain ways of being sexual are good and some are pathological. And you know the last thing women need? One more entity informing them that they need to be fixed.