On the heels of the CDC declaring that #yesallwomen who aren't on birth control should avoid alcohol, because it causes pregnancy, STDs, and violence (correlation not totally clear), another state resolution out of Utah seems to be hammering the point that the government is excellent at vilifying sex to distract from real issues of public health.Utah State Senator Todd Weiler (R) introduced a resolution to classify porn as a "public health crisis" that needs addressing in an effort to "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."
One of the key points on his list of grievances with porn is that it is "linked to lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity." Really? First of all, what mysterious force is porn exerting exclusively on young men that isn't also reaching young women? Second of all, perhaps young men are experiencing a dissatisfaction in marriage because they're are realizing that government-incentivized monogamy via tax subsidy is kind of creepy and invasive, not to mention an inherently classist, and therefore racist, construct rooted in the subjugation of women. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Another point he makes in the resolution is that porn "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." Again, what dark holes of the internet is Senator Weiler browsing? Because your average casual Pornhub consumer is definitely not accessing child porn. Porn is a legitimate business, a big one, and companies strive to keep their product aboveboard and legal.
Second of all, equating pain with pleasure is not the mark of a public health crisis, nor something that — last I checked — is or can be legislated. It's the mark of an utterly common sexual preference that ethical, educated, consenting adults know how to navigate without affecting the public health.
Just about the only thing that Senator Weiler got right on his resolution (grammatical error aside) is that "exposure to pornography often serves as childrens' [sic] and youths' sex education and shapes their sexual templates." This is very true! The internet gives us incredibly convenient access to information we may otherwise find difficult to access in our daily lives. For the children and youths, this means when they have questions about sex — and their classrooms, teachers, libraries, and parents aren't answering them — they can turn to the internet, which yes, hosts porn, for answers.
It is definitely problematic to shape one's sex education around mainstream porn. But the solution to that problem is not to pin porn as a public health crisis; it's to advocate for better, comprehensive, medically accurate, inclusive sex ed in schools. The irony, as Mic points out, is:
"Utah is one of 31 U.S. states that does not require schools to teach comprehensive sex education, and parents must "opt in" to schools' sex education programs by signing permission slips to allow their children to take the class."
Like the CDC telling sexually active women not to drink, instead of lobbying for more accessible birth control options or better consent education, the state of Utah blaming porn for its shoddy sex ed is distracting from the real problems at hand, which actually have very practical solutions. Then again, the last time we had a wide-scale, deadly sexual health crisis, the government literally ignored it for six years, so maybe this is a step forward after all.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.