The big news in Utah for the last few days is that our state government has officially declared pornography a public health crisis for Utah. I don’t disagree with the legislature that porn is problematic. Studies show Utah has a high use of porn. Other studies show the damage porn addiction can inflict on the porn user as well as current or potential relationships a porn user might have. Not to mention porn’s connection to sex trafficking and rape culture.
However, for the last few days I have encountered a niggling voice saying, “There’s something wrong with this.” So, here’s what’s wrong with it:
Utah lacks comprehensive sex education in schools. What exists is abstinence-based (a form of sex ed notorious for being ineffectual), if there is any discussion at all. In my high school health class, there was NO sex ed. There were snippets of anatomy, but even that was incomplete. My school pretended sex didn’t exist and sent pregnant teens to a “special” school.
Utah also has a culture that is extremely sex-negative. With no proper sex ed in schools, and a sex-negative culture that limits teens’ comfort in asking questions, teens turn to porn for their education.
It’s a nice gesture to call porn a public health crisis, but if during the last legislative session, our representatives vetoed a bill that would have broadened sex ed to be comprehensive, a nice gesture is all it is–it accomplishes nothing.
Oh, and let’s not forget the number of untested rape kits in Utah. More than 60 percent of rape kits in Utah are untested. If you’re going to decry porn because you think it can lead to rape (it can), you have to do something about the rape culture at large!
And what about Utah’s other great public health crisis? It doesn’t take much research to know that our air is toxic–a deep breath outside in January will suffice on that front. Doctors say the air can cause infertility, miscarriage, and other fetal health risks. Those at risk for asthma or other respiratory ailments are warned to limit their exposure to outside. Runners have to choose between continuing to run and risk their health, or hightail it to a treadmill–neither one a compelling option.
And what has the legislature done about that public health crisis? Not much, that’s what. But don’t worry, they did sign a bill to invest in a Californian coal port.
Another potential crisis is our location on the Wasatch Fault. A recent study suggests the Wasatch Front could have a 6.7 earthquake within the next 50 years. It’s not a secret that the Wasatch Front is an earthquake waiting to happen, yet we are woefully unprepared for a large quake. Studies estimate that the death and injury toll would be devastating. And yet all we have in terms of preparation is the ridiculous Great Shake Out each spring. Hiding under my desk for a few minutes while I’m at work does nothing to prepare for an earthquake. We need investments to retrofit hazardous buildings, not a yearly gimmick that most people ignore.
So, yes, porn is an addictive media that causes problems for relationships and society. Many feminists have been saying so for years (while also broadening the scope of the problem to include regular movies, ads, TV and other media, decrying female objectification and normalized porn). But what’s the plan here? This nice gesture feels like an attempt at a moral high ground that ignores the obvious realities that surround it, that others have noted for years and years. It feels like a slap in the face to other health issues that have more direct solutions.
Thanks for the nice gesture Herbie, but if it’s not followed up with some serious action, I’m going to continue to assume you are next to useless.