2012shift

2012’s Most Talked-About Sex Scandals

From Gen. Petraeus to John Travolta, this year saw a lot of allegations (and some confirmations) of bad behavior by the famous and powerful.

1. Gen. David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell’s email-documented romance.

T. Ortega Gaines/Charlotte Observer / MCT, Tim Boyles / Getty Images, AP Photo/The Seattle Times, ISAF via Getty Images

This one definitely wins for complexity: The affair between a CIA chief and former general and his biographer, exposed by another woman who claimed said biographer had sent her harassing emails. And that woman, Jill Kelley, turned out to be an insolvent socialite who ran a questionable cancer charity and may or may not have exchanged inappropriate emails with General George Allen (he says there was no impropriety). And that’s not even considering Jill Kelley’s twin. Despite all this, the affair has faded somewhat from the public eye, with some pointing out that coverage of the news has veered into misogyny and others wondering whether Petraeus really did anything so wrong.

2. The Secret Service’s stingy visit with Colombian prostitutes.

Cadena SER / AP

This scandal broke when Secret Service agents staying at a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, allegedly refused to pay sex worker Dania Suarez (above) what she was owed. In addition to the resignation of several agents (including supervisor David Chaney, who also raised eyebrows by posting pictures of himself ogling Sarah Palin), the scandal sparked an investigation suggesting Secret Service agents might also have visited prostitutes in El Salvador, Panama, Romania, and China. Which in turn suggests that this scandal, though it has cooled, may stay alive for a long time.

3. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s prostitution-ring investigation.

Jacques Brinon / AP, REUTERS/Seth Wenig/Pool

This scandal broke last year when Nafissatou Diallo accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in a New York hotel room. But news of Strauss-Kahn’s alleged misdeeds continued unabated in 2012 — he was accused of attending sex parties linked to an illegal prostitution ring, he was investigated in connection with an alleged gang rape (though this investigation was dropped), and he and his wife Anne Sinclair split up. But Diallo recently settled her civil suit against him (she’s rumored to have gotten as much as $6 million), so 2013 could be quieter for DSK.

4. Kleiner Perkins’ harassment and discrimination lawsuit.

/Meg Perotti/Handout / Reuters

Ellen Pao (right), a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, alleges that another partner (not pictured) coerced her into having sex with him, and that when she broke things off, the company retaliated against her repeatedly for years. Her lawsuit, which is ongoing, has raised larger questions about how Silicon Valley companies treat female employees. We’ll probably still be hearing about it, and the issues it raises, in 2013.

5. John Travolta’s alleged masseur battery.

Vincent West / Reuters

Two masseurs sued Travolta for sexual battery this summer, claiming he made unwanted advances on them while they were giving him massages. The allegations were serious — one masseur said Travolta touched his genitals and masturbated in front of him without his consent — but both lawsuits were eventually dropped.

6. Rupert Sanders and Kristen Stewart’s photographed kiss.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images, Juan Naharro Gimenez / Getty Images, Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images

Stewart’s alleged affair with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders apparently got her kicked out of future Snow White movies and earned her the ire of RPatz fans everywhere. But then rumors began circulating that the whole thing was a publicity stunt — and whatever the case, Stewart bounced back well enough to appear at Wednesday’s Hurricane Sandy benefit wearing neon shorts, so clearly she’ll survive.

7. Vito Lopez’s blouse-related harassment allegations.

Mike Groll, File / AP

In one of the year’s more upsetting and highly publicized workplace harassment cases, former employees of New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez said he told them not to wear bras to work, and groped and kissed several of them without their consent. In a sentence no elected official wants written about them, the Times noted, “Several of the women interviewed said they felt intimidated by Mr. Lopez, and as a result endured persistent inappropriate remarks, personal questions, and suggestions on how to button their blouses.” Lopez was censured, but went on to win reelection — so while this scandal ranks highly in grossness, its impact on Lopez’s career may have been low.

8. Editor Marc Smirnoff’s hand-holding harassment case.

The interesting thing about this scandal is that both accuser and accused agree on what happened: Marc Smirnoff, then-editor of the literary magazine Oxford American, made a 19-year-old female intern ride home with him from a retreat, asked her to hold his hand, and then took her to his favorite “make-out spot” (they apparently did not make out). The difference is that she (not oddly) viewed this as harassment, whereas he saw it as “trying to see if we could revive our relationship, professional and personal.” An investigation found other instances of sexual harassment, and he was fired in July.

Design by John Gara for BuzzFeed

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