Utah declares porn a “public health crisis”

Utah governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution yesterday declaring pornography a “public health crisis.”

The resolution, introduced in order to, in Republican State Senator Todd Weller’s words, battle the “pornography epidemic” spreading through the state and country, calls for “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level” in order to push back against porn production and consumption.

According to USA Today, “Weller maintains that the resolution is not a ban on porn or an attack on masturbation, but the first steps toward creating a plan to protect children and families from it,” which sounds a whole lot like an attack on masturbation to me.

As USA Today continues:

Utah governor Gary Herbert, via Wikimedia Commons

Utah governor Gary Herbert, via Wikimedia Commons

Ian Kerner, a psychotherapist and sex expert, says the anti-pornography movement is rooted in a long history of stigmatizing sex and masturbation.

“So much of the anti-porn movement is based on a sense of alarmism,” Kerner said, adding that the anti-pornography movement has blurred the line between child and adult access to pornography. “In this country, we really bundle together children and teens with consenting adults, and the issues are not the same for children and teens as they are for consenting adults.”

Utah’s anti-porn resolution comes at a time when there are a whole lot of actual public health crises in the state. Gun violence and  heroin overdose come immediately to mind. Amidst these actual crises, however, Utah’s leaders have chosen to focus on porn.

For what it’s worth, Utah ranked second-to-last in the United States in time spent per visit to Pornhub.com in 2015. The site didn’t publish data for visits per capita by state, although a 2009 study did indicate that Utah has the highest rate of paid online porn subscriptions in the country. Taken together, this suggests that Utahans are watching a lot of porn…and finishing quickly.

It’s also worth noting that Utah’s arguments against porn bear a passing resemblance to the arguments Ted Cruz used in his 2007 defense of a Texas law banning the sale of “obscene devices,” including dildos. Utah argues that their interest in restricting access to porn is to protect minors; so did Cruz. Utah argues porn is linked to “lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity;” Cruz argued that Texas’s ban on the sale of dildos was based on a government interest in promoting marriage.

All this is to say that when social conservatives pass laws and resolutions designed to discourage orgasms, all while insisting that they aren’t anti-orgasm, they’re only serious about the former.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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