Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to sign resolution calling porn a ‘health hazard’

A state with a national reputation for wholesomeness is taking aim at a medium with quite a different reputation: the pornography industry.

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert is planning to sign two pieces of legislation on Tuesday that aim to combat what’s called “a sexually toxic environment” caused by porn.

One is a resolution and one is a bill:

— S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis.

This resolution declares that pornography is “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”

The resolution claims Utah would be the first state in the nation to make such a declaration.

It cites what is says are numerous detrimental effects of porn, including the treatment of “women as objects and commodities for the viewer’s use.”

It also says pornography “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”

The resolution has no punishing powers; it doesn’t specifically ban pornography in the state.

Jon Cox, spokesman for the Republican governor, said the point of the resolution is to raise awareness and education. “We want Utah youths to understand the addictive habits” of porn that are “harmful to our society.”

— H.B. 155 Reporting of Child Pornography.

This bill is more specific, and has enforcement muscle.

It requires that computer technicians who find child pornography during their work should report it to law enforcement officials. The bill further stipulates that “the willful failure to report the child pornography” would be a class B misdemeanor.

H.B. 155 also specifies that Internet service providers are not liable if the provider “reports child pornography in compliance with specified federal law.”

Herbert is expected to sign the bills at the Utah State Capitol at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Claims of addiction

The Utah Coalition Against Pornography hailed the move on its Facebook page Monday. It encourages people to head to the Capitol and “celebrate and recognize this historic moment!”

The bills have the support of people such as Dawn Hawkins, the executive director of National Center on Sexual Exploitation in Washington, who is scheduled to appear at the signing.

In an interview in 2015, she said, “Pornography encourages viewers to view their sexual partners in a dehumanized way, and it increases the acceptance and enjoyment of sexual violence and harmful beliefs about women, sex and rape.”

In a video interview on the Salt Lake Tribune website in February, State Sen. Todd Weiler, chief sponsor of both pieces of legislation, said, “Pornography today is like tobacco was 70 years ago,” comparing the addictive effects.

An interesting backdrop to this legislation: In 2009, Harvard Business School study found that residents of Utah were the highest per capita purchasers of online adult entertainment in the United States.

Not everyone agrees porn is necessarily and automatically a problem.

Dan Savage, author of a nationally syndicated sex advice column, said porn can be a tool when dealing with discrepant desires or libidos, such as in the case of new fathers, who can turn to porn for variety or stimulation.

“We have a hard-wired desire for variety. Porn allows you to scratch that itch without physically cheating on your partner,” he told CNN in 2015.

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