Utah declares porn a “public health crisis,” furthering a Mormon myth about porn addiction.

Utah Declares Porn a “Public Health Crisis,” Furthering a Mormon Myth About Porn Addiction

Utah Declares Porn a “Public Health Crisis,” Furthering a Mormon Myth About Porn Addiction

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
April 20 2016 5:31 PM

Utah Declares Porn a “Public Health Crisis,” Furthering a Mormon Myth About Porn Addiction

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The unanimous resolution says watching porn makes men more likely to cheat.

Purestock/Thinkstock

Utah officially declared pornography a “public health crisis” in a resolution Gov. Gary Herbert signed at the state capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The text of the resolution claims that porn has a “detrimental” effect on brain function, contributes to “emotional and medical illnesses,” and gives rise to “deviant sexual arousal.” State Sen. Todd Weiler introduced the resolution in January; it passed the state legislature—unanimously!—in March. “Weiler maintains that the resolution is not a ban on porn or an attack on masturbation,” USA Today reported.

So, a curious Utahn might ask, what is it? The resolution says Utah needs “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level,” but it does nothing to provide those things, nor does it offer any evidence for the claims it makes. It’s a nonbinding, symbolic measure to legislate morality and shame Utah residents for seeking out a product that most people consume at some point without ill effects.

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The resolution is also a response to the menace of a porn-addiction epidemic, a myth perpetuated by the Mormon church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints calls porn addiction “a plague like we have never seen” in a video that says porn “destroys lives.” “[God] knew about pornography, that this would be the plague of our day,” a Mormon church official says in the video. Utah is home to a growing number of counseling facilities and treatment centers specializing in porn addiction. They teach that there is no acceptable amount of porn to watch; anyone who consumes porn is considered an addict. Utah’s new anti-porn resolution contains language that echoes the Mormon church’s doomsday predictions: “Pornography equates violence towards women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography,” the resolution reads. “Pornography use is linked to lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity.”

These arguments have also been advanced by secular anti-porn activists, including Gail Dines, who wrote in the Washington Post earlier this month that the porn industry is “hijack[ing] the physical and emotional well-being of our culture.” But Weiler, a Mormon, told the Atlantic he got the resolution’s facts from Fight the New Drug, an anti-pornography group founded and run by Mormons. The group is best known for the “Porn Kills Love” billboard campaign that elicited a resounding ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ from the entire Bay Area last year.

Weiler has been a reliable source of clutch soundbites and analogies throughout the resolution’s germination. “If you start with meth or heroin, everyone knows that’s addictive. A lot of people will get kind of lured into pornography, and they don’t know it may actually consume their life,” he told the Atlantic. At Wednesday’s signing, he raised a specter even scarier than that of a generation raised on porn instead of Sesame Street. “We have restaurants, fast-food restaurants—some of which cater to children—who are providing free and unfiltered Wi-Fi, as well as public libraries,” Weiler said. “If a library or McDonald's or anyone else was giving out cigarettes to our children we would be picketing them.” Yes, we would. And the minute libraries and McDonald’s franchises start recommending erotic novels and penis-shaped chicken nuggets to children, Utah should pass a resolution condemning those practices. Until then, the state should hold off on the do-nothing moralizing.