Porn now classified as a “public health crisis” in 17 states — but there’s still no research to back that up, scientists say

Porn now classified as a “public health crisis” in 17 states — but there’s still no research to back that up, scientists say

Without any basis, Politicians are making a crisis out of libido

SexJanuary 10, 2020 By Will Brendza

Seventeen different states across the US have passed resolutions declaring porn a “public health crisis,” and in Washington, four Republican representatives are pushing for the government to start enforcing obscenity laws against the porn industry. 

According to these lawmakers and the special interest groups behind them, porn is becoming a very, very serious problem in the US. It’s fueling the fires of objectification, violence against women, child sex abuse and sex trafficking. They’re pushing to have porn classified as a potential health emergency and putting most (if not all) of the blame for the world’s sex crimes and sexual immorality, on porn. Porn is the problem, they say. Porn is root of all sexual evil.

However, experts on mental and psychological health do not agree with the politicians on this pornographic matter. The science does not support the claims that are being made, experts argue; lawmakers are trying to push an agenda. One that could actually endanger public health, and make the problem much, much worse.

This trend to classify porn as a “public health crisis” started with one loud (and likely sexually repressed) dentist from Utah. This woman wouldn’t stop calling her representative, Senator Todd Weiler, pestering him, asking him what he was doing about “the porn problem.” Sounds like a fun lady. Right?

Anyway, as a lawyer, Weiler understood that the First Amendment wouldn’t allow him to go after porn legally. It was well within people’s rights as Americans, to watch whatever and however much porn they want, without consequence.

But then, the senator was approached by the National Center for Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), one of the most prude organizations in the country. The NCSE suggested that Weiler push to have porn classified as a public health crisis, because doing so would give the state the power to address it like a health issue. 

“They told me, ‘If you can pass this, we can get this passed in 15 more states,’” Weiler recalls. “’We just need one legislator to stick his neck out.'” They explained.

And Weiler was their man. He adopted the idea and in 2016 he got a resolution passed through the Utah state government declaring porn an official “public health crisis.”

That spark was all the NCSE needed to spread a wildfire of sexually repressive legislation. NCSE took Weiler’s resolution and ran with it, to sixteen other states, as promised, convincing all of them to follow suit, fabricating crisis out of libido.

And recently a handful of Republican legislators stepped forward with a letter for Attorney General Bill Barr, calling for obscenity laws to be leveled against the porn industry, as a way to fight hardcore pornography.

Porn is melting people’s brains, the NCSE and supporting lawmakers argue. It’s an addiction that is sweeping the nation, that’s making men violent towards women, it’s cultivating pedophiles, it’s encouraging sex trafficking and encouraging people to rape each other senseless. It’s a cesspool industry, spoiling society with naughty kinks and an infinite supply of hardcore, softcore and totally bizarre fantasies. It must be stopped, they say.

And the basis for these claims? Not surprisingly, they don’t really have any.

Which, is exactly why researchers from Boston University decided it was time to put their two cents in. They published an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health, that rebukes this push to classify porn as a public health crisis. It’s baseless, the scientists say, and could actually endanger the health of the public.

“The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt, not reflective of best available evidence," Dr. Kimberly M. Nelson and Dr. Emily F. Rothman, both faculty in the Department of Community Health Sciences at BUSPH, wrote in the editorial.

Calling something a public health crisis that isn’t actually a public health crisis is a dangerous game. It could result in unnecessary policy changes and shifts in funding, the scientists warn. It also raises a “boy who cried wolf” issue: By calling something like porn a public health crisis, politicians are diluting that term. Ebola outbreaks are a public health crisis; opioid addiction is a public health crisis; mass famine is a public health crisis. The term should be reserved for real crisis that actually threaten human health or social stability. Otherwise the phrase loses its power.

And for what? So a bunch of religious, anti-sex, conservatives can force their moral values down everyone else’s throats?

It’s not worth it and, like the scientists point out, it could actually harm people. There is no scientific research to suggest that porn addiction is a real thing, or that watching porn excessively makes people into pedophiles or wife-beaters. And, furthermore, by calling those people’s porn habits an “addiction” or “health problem” we are pathologizing them and their use of porn, according to David Ley, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Albuquerque.

“We need better methods to help people who struggle with the high frequency use of visual sexual stimuli, without pathologizing them or their use thereof,” Ley writes. “Rather than helping patients who may struggle to control viewing images of a sexual nature, the 'porn addiction' concept instead seems to feed an industry with secondary gain from the acceptance of the idea.”

Which is to say, by classifying porn as an addiction or public health crisis, we are validating the need for “treatment.” It’s not so unlike the days when being gay was considered a medical affliction, and was treated as such: with gay conversion and electro-shock therapies. In retrospect that was a huge mistake and a major misclassification that had psychological consequences on those hospitalized for their sexual orientation.

If you treat porn in a similar way, we’ll get a similar result. And, likewise, that’s not going to look very good through the 20/20 lens of hindsight.

On top of all that, if lawmakers start making laws against porn, restricting access, production and availability of it, the product will just move to the black market. And that’s where questions about health and safety become real: because that’s when sex trafficking for porn gets serious; that’s when crime takes over and women are mistreated, when age is disregarded and when the cost of making a porno goes above and beyond dollars and cents.

The government should have no say in this matter. Politicians who don’t like porn, should just avoid it, instead of trying to classify it like a disease outbreak. We The People have every right to watch this stuff — it’s a natural inclination, not a crisis of morals.