Senate committee passes resolution describing porn as a ‘health crisis’

File photo form March 2015: Republican Sen. Todd Weiler speaks on the senate floor at the Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City. Weiler, wants to declare pornography a public health crisis, echoing an argument being made around the U.S. by conservative religious groups as porn becomes more accessible on smartphones and tablets. Utah lawmakers are scheduled to discuss the resolution Friday, Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY – A resolution declaring pornography a “public health hazard” unanimously passed in a Senate committee Friday afternoon. The resolution isn’t a ban on pornography, its sponsor said, but rather a needed step toward education and discussion.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler, who has introduced anti-pornography legislation in the past, testified before the Utah Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee Friday that mounting research shows the negative impact pornography has in individuals and families.

As pervasive and readily available as pornography has become thanks to the Internet, Weiler and resolution supporters argue, discussion and education, and possibly policy changes, need to take place to protect children from being exposed to it.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 9, or SCR9 for short, has drawn national and even international attention as it has been picked up by news agencies across the country and in the United Kingdom.

“It’s not just a kooky thing that some, you know, politician from Mormon Utah came up with,” Weiler said, according to the Associated Press. “When I was a kid, people might sneak a Playboy magazine and look at it. Now, you’ve got all kinds of horrible, graphic images that are available to anyone with an Internet connection one or two clicks away.”

“I’m not approaching this from a religious standpoint,” Weiler said Wednesday. “This is based on science, this is based on research.”

Through SCR9, Weiler wants the state to adopt the stance that “pornography perpetuates a sexually toxic environment” and is a significant risk to the healthy sexual and relational development of children, teens, and society as a whole.

He told the committee that the Washington-based National Center on Sexual Exploitation approached him with the resolution last fall and asked him to introduce it.

Various expert witnesses and a handful of self-described recovering pornography addicts testified before the committee in favor of the resolution.

Among the witnesses was Dr. Brian Willoughby, who teaches at Brigham Young University’s College of Family, Home and Social Sciences. He told the committee that he has studied the impacts of pornography for many years.

Pornography is very pervasive among teens and young adults, Willoughby said, adding that 90 percent of young adult men reported veiwing pornographic material in the last year.

Willoughby said studies concerning exposure to pornography have shown an association with sexual confusion, substance abuse, multiple sexual partners and other negative impacts.

The problem is not short-term either, he said, adding that pornography can also distort other aspects of healthy relationship development. That can lead to divorce, affairs, and a general sense of unhappiness, he said.

“Porn has changed into something we cannot comprehend,” said Dr. Adam Moore, a family and marriage counselor. He said pornography today isn’t the soft-core porn people dealt with in the past. Today’s porn is very violent, especially toward women, he said.

Clay Olsen, CEO and co-founder of “Fight the New Drug,” a group that focuses on educating youth about pornography, said “Youth are dealing with this issue to an intensity and scale we have never seen.”

As youth of both genders are exposed to pornography, Olsen said, it potentially changes their views on what is acceptable.

According the resolution, children as young as 11 are commonly exposed to porn. Some of the witnesses told the committee children can be exposed as early as nine years of age or younger.

“This early exposure is leading to low self-esteem and body-image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior,” the resolution states “…Exposure to pornography often serves as childrens’ and youths’ sex education and shapes their sexual templates.”

Other witnesses testified that they have seen marriages and families destroyed because of pornography, and said there are currently no interventions on the societal level to deal with the negative impacts of pornography use.

One man who described himself as a recovering addict said he lost his marriage due to a porn addition that lasted for over 30 years. Now clean for seven years, he’s remarried and is doing well, he said, and stands in support of the resolution.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, who presided over the hearing, asked if anyone at the hearing was “brave enough” to speak against SCR9. No one replied.

Noting that Weiler hopes for some sort of policy change to ultimately emerge from the potential passage of SCR9, Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, asked Weiler what type of changes he was looking for.

The resolution is just a first step, Weiler said, one he hopes changes the discussion surrounding pornography.

(Porn) is legal for adults, that’s not going to change,” Weiler said, adding he would like to see other states pass similar resolutions which would possibly encourage action at the federal level. A possibility he mentioned was the concept of Internet providers blocking pornography by default, yet allowing those who want to view it an option to bypass the block.

“We are on fire with this problem,” said Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal. “It is becoming a terrible scourge in our society today.”

Van Tassell also said his office has been flooded with emails concerning of SCR9. “Nothing has generated the emails this has,” he said.

Ultimately, the five-member committee unanimously passed the resolution with a favorable recommendation.

Though Weiler calls pornography a “real crisis,” and the committee agrees, not everyone sees it that way.

John Stagliano, owner of a California-based porn video company called Evil Angel Productions, said pornography offers a healthy outlet for sexual desires. Stagliano suggests that without that option, people would try to satisfy their needs outside the home and sex crimes would increase.

Dr. Carl Shubs, a psychologist in Beverly Hills, California who specializes in issues of sexuality, said calling pornography a public health crisis is “way off on so many levels.”

Shubs said anything can be addictive, but that many people find pornography enjoyable and use it in a healthy way. Some couples watch it to enhance their relationships, and some without partners view pornography it to fill a void, he said.

Children viewing pornography is a parenting issue, Shubs said.

What people consider pornography varies.

“One person’s pornography may be another person’s eroticism,” Shubs said. “One person’s art may be another person’s pornography.”

Fighting porn has been a concern of conservative religious groups for decades. But there’s been an uptick in concern over the past 10 years given the accessibility of the Internet.

In Utah, where over half of the state’s three million residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church has established its own version of the 12-Step recovery program that focuses on combating pornography addiction and addictions in general.

In 2013, the church also launched a website called “Overcoming Pornography,” which aims at aiding those who believe they have become addicted to pornography.

Not everyone who views pornography becomes addicted, just as not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, Willoughby said. However, pornography and it’s effects are so pervasive that something needs to be done, he said.

Weiler also reiterated that the resolution is not a bill banning or regulating pornography in any way. Its purpose is to spur public awareness and discussion “in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation.”

Though pornography is legal, so is tobacco, Weiler said. Decades ago advertizing for tobacco was prevalent and unrestricted because society didn’t understand the negative health impact that came with it. Over time, though, public opinion changed.

“Public opinion needs to change on pornography,” Weiler said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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13 Comments

  • beacon February 6, 2016 at 8:17 am

    I’m not sure how one really legislates to control pornography. I’ve had to deal with pornography in a relationship during my life and it certainly did not add to the intimacy I felt with my partner. My partner was being mentally intimate with the pornographic visions not with me. Needless to say, the relationship did not last, and I can only assume that he may be sitting alone enjoying himself and his pornographic images while I’m off in a non-pornographic loving relationship. I’m sure there are couples who both share the strangeness that I feel is required to want to have pornography in ones life, and that’s fine for them. The pornography of today with all the violence against women IS a problem. It is not an “innocent” venture into eroticism and enhancing one’s otherwise lacking sex life. I do feel, also, that pornography hurts many girls’ and women’s self images generally even without the violence. But, adding violence in a society where there is already enough violence against women, is unacceptable. The purveyors of this stuff may make up excuses for how it adds to people’s lives and their relationships and that parents are responsible for protecting their children, but in the final analysis, they are just earning a living by tapping into the basic lust of many weak people and getting rich on it. Not a very admirable profession, in my opinion, but it’s just my opinion.

    • .... February 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      is that your Mormon opinion ?

      • beacon February 6, 2016 at 6:35 pm

        I’m not Mormon. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion on the issue. I feel it’s a problem.

        • .... February 7, 2016 at 4:03 am

          So is it a Mormon problem ?

          • beacon February 7, 2016 at 9:43 am

            Is it a problem that Mormon’s use pornography or that Mormon’s want it controlled? You’re not specific. Since I’m not Mormon, it’s apparently not just a problem for Mormons.

    • mr.washington February 6, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      It hurts many girls and women’s self image?? And violent against women? Ummm it also can hurt a boys or a mans self image to sweatheart!! But I forget women are always the victim 🙁 boo hoo poor beacon.

      • beacon February 7, 2016 at 1:18 pm

        Well, since I’m speaking from the perspective of a woman, I have focused on the self image problems that affect women. Interesting to know that men also suffer. My experience has been that men are the ones who want pornography, so that’s my frame of reference. Your “boo hoo” is very cute but adds nothing to a discussion.

  • theone February 6, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Wow, just wow, these people have nothing better to do than shove their particular brand of morals down every ones throat. A health crisis is more in line with air quality, teen suicide, obesity, drug addiction, alcoholism, and the list goes on. What one does for entertainment like watching porn is none of their business! Get out of my privacy you dingbat delusional twerps.

  • .... February 6, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Porn a health crises ! is it covered by Obamacare ?

  • Curtis February 6, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Our Lords and Masters in the Utah Legislature constantly affirm their allegiance to Utah Values. If, as has been often reported, the residents of Utah are major consumers of on-line porn, then isn’t viewing porn a Utah Value ?

  • Allie February 6, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Let me get this straight…this guy just wants to introduce a resolution saying that porn basically bad for your health? Didn’t they say that about drugs? The solution was “Just Say NO!” As with the war on drugs, the war on porn is just a lot of hot air. Everyone wants to talk about it, but no one does anything substantial to stop it. They should stop wasting time talking, writing, and voting on this kind of useless legislation, and put something together to stop it. But, at a 90% viewership, this might be hard to do.

  • 42214 February 6, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    So let me get this straight. Zealots like Mesaman chastise us “outsiders” for immigrating to a culture that we should have known was anti-drinking, anti-smoking, anti-gay, anti-equal rights, anti anything non Mormon. Then we unsuspecting fools find out Utah has epidemic levels of pornography use, prescription drug abuse, and overdose deaths. Maybe some of us did immigrate here thinking this was a more wholesome society only to find out we were naive and misled.

    • .... February 6, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Well of course it’s the state cult

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