The laws that govern our sex lives are determined at the state level, so that means that where you live can have a dramatic effect on what your life looks like in many ways.
While red states like Alabama and Georgia are restricting access to abortion, their blue counterparts are fighting to protect it. Over a dozen states have declared porn a public health crisis, while two others have welcomed the industry with open arms. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling in 2015, same-sex marriage was still banned in 13 states.
Want to dive deeper? Below, one legislative statistic per state, spanning topics that include abortion, contraception, sex education, consent, equality, and more.
In May, Alabama passed the country’s most restrictive abortion law, outlawing the procedure at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
When, or if, it goes into effect, a doctor who does perform an abortion could face up to 99 years in jail.
Earlier this year, Fairbanks, Alaska, passed a bill that protects against employment and housing discrimination based on sexual identity.
According to a 2017 survey, 85 percent of Arkansas schools tell students to “say no to sex.” The state is currently mandated to stress abstinence when sex ed is provided.
In 2012, the city of San Francisco voted to ban public nudity. Still in effect, the ban does not apply to permitted events.
A comprehensive sex education bill has moved forward to the Senate in Colorado. If it passes, the bill would prohibit instructors from “explicitly or implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology.”
In Delaware, a strip club cannot be within 1,500 feet of another strip club, adult bookstore, or peep show.
In 1986, the first HIV-specific criminal laws were enacted in Florida, Tennessee, and Washington.
Georgia’s “heartbeat” law would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, despite the fact that many people don’t realize they’re pregnant until after this point.
Other states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi, have also passed similar laws. Many have already been challenged or blocked, and as of now, none have gone into effect.
Hawaii became the first state to legalize abortions in 1970 on the request of the woman.
Idaho is one of four states that requires medically inaccurate information—that a medication abortion can be stopped after the woman takes the first dose of pills—be provided during abortion counseling.
Earlier this year, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that “offers a more nuanced definition of consent” in sex ed in public schools, beginning in sixth grade.
The Supreme Court case Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc, in which two South Bend, Indiana, strip clubs challenged the state’s regulation of “indecent behavior,” established that nudity is not protected under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression.
In Iowa, knowingly infecting an uninfected partner with an STI is a class D felony if there’s “a reckless disregard as to whether the uninfected person contracts” said STI.
If that person does not become infected, it’s a misdemeanor.
In 2019, Kansas legislators introduced a bill that would block internet porn access on all devices, unless users paid a $20 fee to unblock it.
The state of Kentucky has an incredibly broad definition of child pornography—according to one Kentucky law firm, even teens jokingly “mooning” each other over text could potentially be charged with a felony.
Louisiana is one of three places that allow anyone to consent to an abortion, regardless of age. However, the state has also passed a “heartbeat” ban, though it may not go into effect.
Maine is one of eleven states that requires life skills for “family communication” be taught in sex ed.
In April 2019, legislation protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy was passed.
In 2018, Michigan extended the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases. Victims under the age of 18 can now file within 15 years of the assault or by their 28th birthday (whichever occurs later).
Minneapolis sex shop Smitten Kitten is the driving force behind Bad Vibes, a campaign to improve the quality and safety of sex toys, neither of which are regulated by law.
In 2018, the Mississippi Supreme court ruled that married same-sex couples have the same parental rights as different-sex couples.
In May, state officials tried to shut down the St. Louis Planned Parenthood, which is currently the only health center in Missouri that offers abortions.
In 2017, legislation was passed in Montana that expanded the legal definition of sexual assault. One thing included in the package of bills is that victims no longer need to prove a sexual assault included force or a threat; a lack of proven consent is enough to prosecute.
A Nebraska statute dating back to 1944 says that no one “afflicted with a venereal disease shall marry in this state.” An annotation adds that anyone knowingly entering into a marriage with an STI is barred from getting an annulment.
This year, a bill was introduced to ban prostitution in Nevada, which is the only state where sex work is legal.
New Hampshire is home to its very own porn industry, thanks to the fact that it’s one of two states where it’s explicitly legal to produce porn. (The other is California.)
New Jersey allows physicians to treat partners of people with chlamydia and gonorrhea without seeing the partner—but only when the couple is straight.
New Mexico law allows teens between 14 and 18 to consensual sexting—which means the sexts have to be “knowingly and voluntarily” sent and received.
In New York State, it’s legal for women to be topless in non-commercial settings. However, “While the state law limits the ability of women to work topless, there is no similar law regarding shirtless men.”
North Carolina law does not recognize the right to withdraw consent after it has been given.
North Dakota has voted down an LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill five times in the past ten years.
Earlier this year, a new law in Ohio set the legal age of marriage at 18 years old for both parties.
There is, however, an exception that can be made for a 17-year-old who wishes to marry: The couple cannot be more than four years apart in age, must have juvenile court consent, and go through a 14-day waiting period.
HIV education in Oklahoma teaches that, among other behaviors, “homosexual activity” is considered to be “responsible for contact with the AIDS virus.”
Oregon is one of a handful of states where pharmacists can prescribe birth control—and insurance will still cover it.
In Allegheny County, sex workers’ cellphones can be considered “instruments of crime” if they’re used to set up appointments.
South Carolina is one of three states that requires a negative discussion of sexual orientation during sex education classes. (Alabama and Texas are the other two.)
South Dakota mandates a 72-hour waiting period between pre-abortion counseling and receiving an abortion; weekends and state holidays can not be counted towards the 72 hours.
In Tennessee, a 2017 law was passed that says it’s illegal for a minor to have, send, or distribute sexually explicit images of another minor.
Texas requires minors receive parental consent to purchase contraceptives when paying with state funds. (Utah is the only other state that also requires this.)
In 2000, Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions for gay couples.
In 1967, the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia led to the elimination of all state laws banning interracial marriage.
West Virginia is one of the few states where strip clubs are allowed to have full nudity, serve alcohol, and provide full contact during lap dances.
Camp NCN, a “sexual freedom campground” where attendees are legally allowed to have sex outdoors, is held in Black River Falls, WI.
Sex education is not mandated in Wyoming, but when provided, it must include life skills for avoiding coercion.
This story has been updated to include a new bill that passed in Arizona, which repealed the state’s previous law that sex education could not include the “promotion of homosexuality.”