Porn and Public Health

Public health threats typically include topics such as prescription drug misuse, antibiotic resistance, smoking, and stopping outbreaks. One of our neighboring states is adding ‘pornography’ to that list.

From that Washington Post:

It’s official: Pornography is a public health crisis. At least in Utah.

The state proclaimed as much Tuesday after Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed off on a resolution that deems pornography “a public health hazard” that can result in wide-ranging harm to individuals and society at large.

“We hope that people hear and heed this voice of warning,” Herbert said at a signing ceremony. “For our citizens know that there are real health risks that are involved and associated with viewing pornography.”

According to National Public Radio, “The resolution identifies a number of “individual and public health impacts and societal harms” it attributes to pornography, including:

  • Low self-esteem and body image in adolescents, who, according to the resolution, are exposed to porn at an average age of 11-12
  • The hypersexualization of teens “and even prepubescent children”
  • The normalization of violence, abuse and rape
  • An increase in the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution and child pornography
  • The objectification of women, which “teaches girls they are to be used and teaches boys to be users”
  • Impacts on brain development and functioning, including “deviant sexual arousal” and difficulty forming relationships

CNN.com is reporting that the “resolution has no punishing powers; it doesn’t specifically ban pornography in the state.” But it does claim that porn is evil, degrading, addictive, and harmful and therefore should be treated as a public health threat. Some experts aren’t so sure. From the New York Times:

Many of the studies used to support claims about the harmful effects of pornography were done in the 1980s, when it was not as widespread, according to Ana J. Bridges, a professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas. She said the studies should be viewed with a degree of skepticism because they gauged correlation, not causation. More recent studies have not been conclusive.

“A lot of the claims in the Utah bill, especially those that center around the notion of addiction like a drug or around erectile dysfunction or brain stuff — the research is entirely too nascent to be able to make those claims at this point,” she said. “At this point the science is a question mark.”

What do you think about Utah’s decision to treat pornography as a threat to public health? Is this simply a way to draw attention to the issue or do you believe it can gain traction in other states? Generating conversations around emerging health related issues is key to our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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