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Utah Becomes First State to Call Porn a ‘Public Health Crisis’

On Tuesday, Utah became the first state in the country to designate pornography a “public health” issue.

The non-binding resolution will change no laws but, according to advocates, will begin a conversation about the harms porn causes among its users, most especially children who find porn easily on their hand-held devices.

Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert was quick to assure voters that the state government will not spend any money behind the designation and will not move to close down porn sites. Herbert, however, emphasized that the claims that pornography harms its users is “the full-fledged truth.”

There is a growing body of scientific evidence to back the claim. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) in Washington DC praised the move by Utah on Tuesday. The advocacy group links to many studies on its website that show porn can plausibly be considered harmful to users, including a 2015 study from the journal Behavioral Science that compares porn addiction to substance addiction.

Dani Bianculli, Executive Director of the Law Center at NCSE, said children are increasingly exposed to “really hard core porn leading to a wide-range of problems low self-esteem, body image disorders, eating disorders, depression, really problematic acting out behaviors, and risky sexual behaviors.”

Dawn Hawkins, Senior Vice-President of NCSE, warned about increased violence against women. She said, “Mainstream pornography today is incredibly violent against women. Eighty-eight percent of scenes in porn films today show aggression against women. This normalizes sexual violence against women, and that it is ok to go out and buy and sell women.”

She also said the U.S. court system is becoming overwhelmed with problems of child pornography and that there is “an epidemic of erectile dysfunction among young men and it is porn-induced.”

Anti-porn crusader Donna Rice Hughes, President of Enough is Enough, also praised the move by Utah. She said:

Enough Is Enough (EIE) applauds the historic landmark resolution by the state of Utah declaring pornography a public health issue. The resolution is being signed today by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert after overwhelmingly passing the Utah Senate and House. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, (SCR9), is the first time a state has said pornography is a “public health crisis,” language often used for anti-smoking and anti-drunk driving campaigns.

It is quite possible that, based on such a decision Tuesday, lawsuits could one day be brought against not only porn-producers, but also porn distributors such as Verizon and other cable operators that typically have huge menus of hard-core porn on demand.

Most pornography available today is likely against federal law since federal law bans obscenity, which includes shots of penetration and ejaculation. Patrick Trueman, who heads NCSE, used to prosecute cases for the Justice Department under the Reagan administration. He laments that such prosecutions have not been pursued in a long time.

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