SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, Utah became the first state to declare pornography a public health crisis, and now two other states have followed suit.
Though many found Utah’s initial declaration unnecessary or uncalled for, both Virginia and South Dakota have joined Utah in defining porn as a harmful influence that has reached “crisis levels.”
The Virginia State House passed a resolution by a vote of 82 to 2 in January that denounced pornography as “perpetuating a sexually toxic environment.”
The State House and State Senate in South Dakota both recognized pornography as a public health crisis in a unanimous vote, citing the “broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms” that pornography causes.
Both states noted that advances in technology and increased access to internet have made pornography a lot more accessible, especially to younger children.
According to Virginia’s resolution, the average age of exposure to pornography is now 11 to 12 years of age and South Dakota’s resolution noted that 27 percent of older millennials (25 to 30 years old) said they had first viewed pornography before puberty.
The resolutions also both recognized that pornography is quickly becoming the first sex education that many children and youth receive and “shapes their sexual templates,” which can contribute to “the hypersexualization of teenagers ... low self-esteem and body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages and an increased desire among adolescents,” according to Virginia's resolution.
Pornography may also normalize violence against women and children “because pornography generally treats women (and children) as objects and commodities for the viewer's use,” South Dakota’s resolution reads.
The National Center for Sexual Exploitation hopes the anti-porn resolutions will "pave the way for greater awareness and national dialogue on the issue … (and) lay groundwork for future legislative efforts to protect children in publicly funded schools and libraries from being unintentionally exposed to pornography.”
The resolution in Utah called for education, prevention, research and policy changes to address the “epidemic” of pornography, and South Dakota and Virginia’s resolutions call for similar changes.
Both resolutions propose the development of recovery programs and education to counteract the “sexually toxic environment pornography perpetuates,” and cite the importance of helping families understand the gravity of the issue.
Neither of the resolutions go as far as some politicians have in Utah, like Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who proposed a change in state law this year to allow people to sue companies that put pornography on the internet.
Detractors have criticized the decision to call pornography a public health crisis, especially by politicians who may not be as well-versed in public health as experts in the field, but the trend seems to continue.
According to both resolutions, “The Legislature recognizes the public health crisis created by pornography in this state and acknowledges the need for education (and) change at the community and societal level in order to address the epidemic that is harming the people of our state and our country as a whole.”
Liesl is a reporter at KSL.com, section editor of KSL Tech and a student at Brigham Young University. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @liesl_nielsen.