Panel on Porn as Health Crisis Defends Controversial Resolution

Senator Todd Weiler (Republican - Woods Cross)
Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross)

Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature unanimously passed SCR 9 – Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis, which declared pornography a public health hazard. Sponsored by Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross), the resolution sparked a media firestorm around the globe.

Pornography was further debated Wednesday at July’s What Do You Think, Utah? panel discussion in downtown Salt Lake City. Moderated by Bill Allred, co-host of the Radio From Hell program on X96, the panel consisted of Pamela Atkinson, chair of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography; Rob Butters, director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center at the University of Utah; and Weiler.

Weiler said he started pushing the issue after being urged to do so by a group of concerned constituents in his district. Concerning the argument that pornography addiction is more of an issue for parents as opposed to the public, Weiler agrees but pointed out that the same can be said for other things. “Cigarettes is a parenting issue and alcohol is a parenting issue, yet the government has taken steps to try to restrict access to those substances.” That being said, Weiler isn’t trying to ban pornography. He wants to make it more difficult to access instead. “As a legislator, my only interest is children. I would never pretend to try to ban pornography. First of all, it would be impossible. Second of all, I don’t think that’s my role as a legislator.”

Steve Hartwick, a Democrat who is currently running against Weiler for his senate seat, took issue with the idea of rooting out pornography addiction with government regulations similar to smoking or liquor laws. “I think by the mid-twentieth century, America realized that it had a smoking problem. By 1950, most states had a legal smoking age; it was illegal to sell to minors. Restrictions were enforced and absolutely nothing changed. We still had a big-time smoking problem in America. We didn’t transition, or begin transitioning, into a non-smoking nation until the mid-1980s where programs were enforced to educate the youth of America. That’s where the transition began, through education.”

“People love to talk about sex. There’s no wonder you had so many people coming to your pornography conference. Everybody wants to talk about sex. Everybody’s attracted to this for lots of different reasons. What we don’t have, though, is a body of research that definitively links pornography to deviant behavior,” said Butters. He cautioned against labeling pornography addiction as a public health crisis. “I think we need to be careful when we call something an epidemic or a public health crisis because there are things that actually are public health crises. Domestic violence, sexual assault, childhood poverty, and obesity; there’s lots of things that are really important. I’m concerned that when we make this statement about something like pornography that we take resources away from things that we ought to be spending money on like dealing with our homeless problem downtown.”

Atkinson worries that today’s youth learning about sex through pornography instead of via sex education in school. “I used to say that our young adults used to get their sex ed in the backseat of a car… I work with a lot of low-income people and their kids. Now, they’re watching porn on their electronics and then practicing what they see in the backseat of the car. We’re not teaching in the schools healthy sexual relationships and the kids are learning it in completely the wrong way.” She also worries about the rise in violent porn. “We’ve jumped from that soft porn to the hardcore [porn], which shows physical aggression and treating women as objects.”

Weiler closed by saying that, if nothing else, at least the resolution’s passage has helped bring pornography more into the public consciousness. “If one more parent talks to their kids about pornography, I’ll count that as a success. If I played a small part in that, I’m grateful. But we need to make it safe to talk about pornography in the home.”

4 Replies to “Panel on Porn as Health Crisis Defends Controversial Resolution

  1. Even when people learn about the serious consequences of porn viewing they have a hard time stopping. One program that has proven effective at helping people stop viewing is in the book Power Over Pornography. It works and is easier to do than most others.

    1. Those who have such an addiction should pray and go to Church and be cleansed of this evil. Bring their children and learn how to respect our creator.

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