A colleague of mine wrote this excellent article published in Psychology Today on this proposed bill.
Utah Declares War On Porn Epidemic
David J. Ley Ph.d.
Utah state Senate resolution that porn is addictive and destructive to marriage
Utah Declares War on Porn Epidemic
Republican State Senator Todd Weiler in Utah has introduced a resolution to the Utah legislature, calling on the State to recognize and oppose the destructive, addictive nature of pornography. Disturbingly, this legislative action is based on hyperbole and morality, ignoring much of what is known about pornography and its effects. Further, the Senator’s resolution relies on pseudoscience in a manner which has no place in governmental action.
The full text of the bill is available.
The bill suggests that pornography represents a public health crisis, damaging teens’ brains, affecting the state of marriage, increasing rates of rape and sexual violence, and causing a host of other social problems. Weiler calls on the State Government of Utah to engage in education, research and prevention efforts to address this “epidemic.”
It would take far too long to address in entirety, each of the insubstantial claims made by Weiler’s resolution, but a few salient points are clear:
WHEREAS, this early exposure is leading to low self-esteem and body imagedisorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior;
Weiler suggests that pornography exposure causes low self-esteem in teens, and leads to risky sexual behaviors. In fact, a massive study in the United Kingdom, which reviewed over 40,000 research articles on the effects of porn on teens was unable to substantiate any such effects. A longitudinal study conducted in the Netherlands found that pornography exposure in teens explained less than 1% of the behavior of such teens, including risky sexual behavior. Blaming porn for such problems is a distraction of the worst sort, ignoring the critical issues of education, poverty, family variables and substance use/mental health
WHEREAS, exposure to pornography often serves as childrens’ and youths’ sex education and shapes their sexual templates;
The Weiler resolution suggests that pornography often serves as sex education for teens and children. Here, surprisingly, we agree. Pornography unfortunately IS often a form of sex education for youth, most notably, when they have not received sex education which adequately prepares the youth for the world of modern sexuality. Weiler seems to be indicting the state of Utah’s sex education curriculum. One can only hope that he will thus support greater sex education efforts for youth in Utah. (Utah is currently embroiled in a battle against comprehensive sex education)
WHEREAS, recent research indicates that pornography is potentially biologically
addictive, which means the user requires more novelty, often in the form of more shocking material, in order to be satisfied;
WHEREAS, this biological addiction leads to increasing themes of risky sexual
behaviors, extreme degradation, violence, and child sexual abuse images and child pornography;
SCR 9 suggests that pornography use causes a biological addiction, which leads to desire for more extreme porn, and which causes sexual violence, including sexual abuse of children. Sadly, Weiler appears unaware of the wealth of research demonstrating that increased porn access in societies correlates strongly with a decrease in sexual violence and sexual crimes. Further, Weiler’s promotion of the concept of porn addiction in legislation, furthers psychological damage to the citizens of Utah. Research has shown that belief in porn addiction causes feelings of distress and depression, feelings unrelated to actual porn use.
WHEREAS, pornography use is linked to lessening desire in young men to marry,
dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity;
WHEREAS, this link demonstrates that pornography has a detrimental effect on the
It’s in the final terms of Weiler’s bill though, where his conservative interests become most clear. Throughout the resolution, it is clear that Weiler believes that it is men who watch porn, and women who are abused by it. There is a pervasive heteronormative tone throughout the resolution, suggesting that Weiler’s main concern is that pornography decreases males’ interest in marrying women and having children. The fact that pornography is often a safe, healthy outlet for women, and for those who are not heterosexual, and live in socially conservative areas such as Utah, seems ignored.
There’s really little new in Weiler’s resolution. The Meese Commission, US Senate hearings by Sam Brownback, etc, have all involved political efforts to deem pornography as a public health issue. Pseudoscience such as sex addiction, or the famous testimony about “erototoxins” often makes an appearance, to support the moral agenda which is truly behind these politics. In Utah, groups such as Fight the New Drug are presenting similar morally-laden pseudoscience in public schools, in place of sexual education.
Utah is, according to numerous reports, one of the states with the highest rates of pornography use in the US. In 2013, Weiler introduced a similar resolution, which was passed by the Utah senate, declaring that pornography was a “gateway” behavior which affected teens’ brains. Clearly, Weiler, and the Utah Senate are concerned about what high rates of porn use in their state will do. Perhaps they should instead be wondering what it means, that so many in Utah are unable to express or understand their sexual desires, and turn to pornography as a private outlet. Utah remains committed to abstinence only sexual education, and prohibits teachers from instructing teens about contraception.