Update: Utah Declares Porn A Public Health Hazard

Photographed By Lauren Perlstein.
Update: Well, it's official, folks. On Tuesday, Utah governor Gary Herbert signed S.C.R. 9, a nonbinding resolution declaring porn a "public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms." The resolution doesn't ban porn (it's the legislative equivalent of a finger wag), but it does set forth a slew of overexcited, unsubstantiated objections to it. According to S.C.R. 9, adult entertainment of any kind "increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography," not to mention, it "often serves as children's and youth's sex education and shapes their sexual templates." Oh wait, that one's probably totally true, because in Utah, "sex ed" is abstinence-based. Maybe passing a resolution about how to combat the state's 700% rise in chlamydia cases would be a better use of the government's time?
This story was originally published on February 2, 2016.

Porn: popular, controversial, and now, freshly up for debate on a state Senate floor. Last week, Utah Republican Sen. Todd Weiler took moral disapproval of porn to a legislative level by introducing a state resolution that would declare porn a "public health crisis."

S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis
claims that there's a "pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation" and that watching porn is "linked to lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity," as well as "the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography." And this isn't child porn the resolution is talking about — it's all porn.

Weiler's resolution also calls for "education, prevention, research, and policy change" to fight this fearsome "epidemic." This is instead of, you know, efforts to improve public K-12 education or address energy issues or combat poverty, because apparently, what individuals choose to do in private and on their own time urgently requires government intervention. God forbid that any young man feel less inclined to marry, right?

"The resolution is based on science that shows that compulsive pornography use has the same impact on the brain as a drug addiction," Weiler told Refinery29. But perhaps someone should remind him to cite his sources. According to Valerie Voon, MD, PhD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of Cambridge, "We need more studies to clearly state that [compulsive porn-watching] is an addiction." In fact, a 2015 study suggests that your brain doesn't treat porn in the same way it does actual addictive substances, like cocaine or cigarettes.

"I believe that pornography is harmful and is undermining marriages and families in Utah," Weiler added. "I hope the resolution will lead to a greater discussion about the addictive and harmful nature of pornography."

The compulsion to watch porn can and does interfere with some individuals' lives, and education to demonstrate that porn is fantasy, rather than reality, could prove valuable for viewers who conflate the two. However, linking all porn to societal ills with no evidence shames both those who make porn and those who watch it, when in fact, porn can be a healthy, exciting component of an individual's or couple's sex life. This finger-pointing also sidesteps substantive conversations on what really perpetuates obvious evils, like rape, abuse, and child porn.

Utah, however, is still providing abstinence-only sex ed, with teachers prohibited from encouraging contraceptive use. Open conversation about porn seems a long way away.

This month, we're sharing steamy personal stories, exploring ways to have even better sex, and wading through the complicated dynamics that follow us into the bedroom. Here's to a very happy February. Check out more right here.

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