In one of the more dramatic flourishes of legislative rhetoric, the American state of Utah has declared that pornography is a “public health hazard” of epidemic proportions. Local governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Tuesday that articulates the state’s belief that porn “perpetuates a sexually toxic environment [and] is contributing to the hypersexualization of teens.” The resolution is not a binding law, and its sponsor, state senator Todd Weiler, says that he’s not trying to ban pornography. He prefers to make an analogy to tobacco, whose harmful effects were widely recognized in the latter half of the 20th century and people withdrew from smoking without the need for an outright ban.
While it may seem superficially prudish, this declaration does make some valid points. Among them is the recognition that “exposure to pornography often serves as childrens’ and youths’ sex education and shapes their sexual templates.” With the ubiquity of web access and the abundance of porn on it, young people do indeed have many more opportunities to see bad actors copulating than to be educated about the act in its proper context. So it’s actually quite good that Utah is resolving to promote further education and research on the subject. Then again, maybe more research should have been done before also declaring that porn “can impact brain development and functioning [and] is linked to lessening desire in young men to marry.”