Inspired by Feminist Professor, Utah Mormons Combat Porn… Out of Concern for “Public Health”

There’s a dangerous legal drug that needs to be outlawed or curbed… and it consists of images of naked people having fun. That’s right: porn is in legislators’ crosshairs again, and this time, they’re not trying to present dirty pictures as an assault on morality but as a public-health crisis.

Feminist professor and anti-porn activist Gail Dines has been among those leading the charge, asserting that

… porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality — for the worse.

Dines believes that porn can induce men to sexually harass and rape women, and that porn actors are vectors of disease.

Just as censorship advocates Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, and other non-sex-positive feminists did in the 1970s and 80s, Dines (pictured) has found strange but admiring bedfellows within the theocratic wing of the Republican party.

Gail2011-web-portrait

One of her biggest fans is a state senator from Utah, the Brigham-Young-educated Todd Weiler, who, after meeting Dines, was inspired to write a bill that he introduced into Utah’s legislative proceedings. The text says that

… the Legislature and the Governor recognize the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.

The Utah legislators voted in favor — unanimously.

Writes James Hamblin, a senior editor at the Atlantic,

When the text of the bill made it to the Internet, Weiler recalls, it “went viral” and he was “immediately inundated with criticism.” This was, in part, over contentious claims being presented as simple fact, like “WHEREAS, pornography use is linked to lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity.”

When Hamblin presses Weiler for details, the senator demurred on the science, referring Hamblin to a group called Fight the New Drug (the drug being pornography, of course). FtND, which has already garnered 1.2 million followers on Facebook, is prone to shouty, ultra-short slogans like:

  • Porn Hates Families.
  • Porn Addiction Escalates.
  • Porn Leaves You Lonely.
  • Porn Kills Love.

The organization, though based in Utah, says it isn’t officially affiliated with the Mormon Church. But

its founders are all Mormon, and its facts rely on claims from Mormon author Donald Hilton’s He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The group’s leader Clay Olsen has explicitly distanced his group from the larger sect. His group opts for a newer-age revelation, explaining on its website, “As young college students not too long ago, we came across the recent science of how porn affects the brain and we were shocked!”

FtND emphasizes the supposedly addictive dopamine release that accompanies watching porn, and concludes that the neurochemistry is similar to the risky pleasures of taking cocaine or meth. That’s piffle, says the American Psychiatric Association. For one thing, real addiction — to drugs and alcohol — increases morbidity and mortality; watching porn may be problematic if done to excess, but it won’t kill you.

And besides, most consumers of porn have the situation — dare I say it? — well in hand.

What’s more, UCLA neuroscientist Nicole Prause found in one study that pornography

… increased people’s likelihood of being aroused by other media, and increased the desire for sex with their partners.

So much for porn “killing love.” Also,

The journalist Maria Konnikova recounted last year in Aeon that when Danish criminologist Berl Kutchinsky charted sexual aggression in the two decades after Denmark and Sweden legalized pornography, the crimes did not increase in step with pornography distribution, but actually declined. This suggested to him that pornography was an outlet for sexual expression [rather] than a driver of problematic real-world behavior.

These experiences go back decades. I grew up in relatively liberal Holland, where sex shops were plentiful, and hardcore porn was sold in kiosks and bookstores, alongside cooking magazines and news periodicals. The country has long had a comparatively low rate of sexual assaults, and there is every indication that coercive or selfish behavior in the bedroom is rarer in the Netherlands than it is in North America.

We’ve also seen a massive drop in rape rates in the United States — all the more remarkable because the decline took place in an era when near-universal Internet access made a flood of porn available to all, um, comers.

The same is true for domestic abuse, and for certain other markers of public health, such as teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. All those trends are, mercifully, down, at least when you plot the numbers over the last 10 to 20 years.

Oh, by the way: In February, when Utah lawmakers all voted aye on Weiler’s bill, they shot down another proposal — a bill that would’ve offered comprehensive opt-in sex education to all the state’s school pupils. Utah remains a believer in the delusion that abstinence-only education is effective.

Which raises the question, What does the state’s political elite want? For kids to learn about sex via a carefully constructed curriculum that addresses their honest questions? Or for kids to learn about sex via Pornhub and Kink.com?

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P.S.: Hamblin’s article comes on the heels of the revelation that U.K. lawmakers are increasingly worried about porn movies and photos that depict anal sex. Gay anal sex is fine, mind you, but women might have to be protected from backdoor entreaties by men.

[The] Department for Culture, Media & Sport is concerned about the prevalence of anal sex in online pornography. In a report on age-verification rules for British porn websites, the department frets that anal sex is not sufficiently pleasurable for women and wonders whether porn may be pressuring the poor dears into it.

Our overseas cousins have already prohibited commercial fetish porn that shows “spanking, caning, and whipping beyond a gentle level,” as well as footage featuring “verbal abuse.”

(Image via gaildines.com)

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