The Hypocrisy Of Utah’s Anti-Porn Crusade

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a piece of legislation on Tuesday that formally declares pornography to be a “public health hazard” in his state.

This resolution, introduced in January by Senator Todd Weiler (R), rushed unopposed through the state Senate and House to make it to Herbert’s desk in a matter of months. Though it won’t impose a firm ban or criminal punishment, the legislation is a formal way for lawmakers to announce their disapproval of pornography.

Sen. Weiler’s resolution focuses heavily on how pornography warps children’s understanding of sex.

“Exposure to pornography often serves as children’s and youths’ sex education and shapes their sexual templates,” it reads. “It teaches girls they are to be used and teaches boys to be users. This early exposure [to pornography] is leading to…an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages.”

Weiler, one of the majority Mormon members of state legislature, has compared pornography addiction to tobacco addiction and has said marriages destroyed by pornography will burden the state government.

“Ultimately, if someone gets divorced, that affects the government because we end up with more children and spouses on welfare and other things,” Weiler told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Unlike hard drugs, he said that pornographic images could “haunt you for the rest of your life.” But the idea that pornography is a serious addiction has been rejected by multiple psychology organizations and researchers.

Plus, the risks of pornography are easily dwarfed when compared to the state’s history of skyrocketing STD rates among teens and a 36 percent rate of unintended pregnancies. Viewing pornography is one of the few sexual behaviors that isn’t partnered with these outcomes.

With one of the strictest laws around sex education in the country, the state offers little resources to help young people improve their sexual health. In February, the state legislature blocked a bill that would have replaced abstinence-only sex education with a more comprehensive curriculum, ruling that parents should be the only ones in charge of educating their children on sex.

Critics of the state’s anti-porn crusade believe it’s not worthy of the legislature’s precious time. In a February column, the editorial board of Utah’s Standard Examiner called it a hypocritical “ceremonial assault.”

“Our legislators have no problem jumping on the anti-pornography resolution bandwagon, but efforts to have a comprehensive sex education program in Utah schools was swiftly and overwhelming defeated by a House committee,” the editors wrote.

Despite the lack of evidence to support it, the “science” behind Weil’s resolution remains the selling point for most anti-porn organizations. The hip, Mormon-founded Fight The New Drug “Porn Kills Love” campaign claims to “keep things factual” with its research pulled mostly from Brigham Young University professors of Mormon family studies or Mormon neurologists.

In an interview with Rewire, clinical psychologist David Ley pointed to the real issue behind this fictitious fight.

“Porn isn’t addictive. It isn’t even harmful for the overwhelming majority of users. Fewer than one percent of porn users experience negative effects from their porn use,” Ley said. “But ten percent of people are afraid of their porn use. The message here is that porn isn’t addictive — but fear might be.”