Kudos to the state of Utah! Last month, Utah officially declared that pornography is a public health crisis.
Signing an official resolution stating the pornography is a “public health hazard” that harms both individuals and society, Utah Governor Gary Herbert later tweeted that “this is a bold assertion not everyone will agree on, but it’s the full-fledged truth.” The resolution passed the Utah Legislature with unanimous votes of approval from the House and Senate.
Although it doesn’t ban pornography or provide funding to combat it, this is a symbolic victory in a state where 82% of sex offenders acknowledge getting involved early with pornography, and when finding it not satisfying any more, acting out on real humans.
We’ve long known that pornography objectifies girls and women, which is the act of treating a person as an object or commodity with no regard for their dignity or personality. But the Utah resolution outlines a number of public health and societal “harms” including:
- lowering self-esteem and body image in adolescents
- hypersexualizing teens and children (encourages acting in adult sexual ways)
- normalizing rape, abuse, and violence
- increasing the demand for child pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking
- teaching girls they are to be “used” and boys to be “users”
- affecting brain development and function, including difficulty forming relationships and “deviant sexual arousal”
- causing “biological addiction,” meaning the user requires increasingly more shocking or vulgar material in order to be satisfied
Even more alarming is the research that notes that female porn users are less likely to intervene when they see another woman being threatened or assaulted, and are slower to recognize when they are in danger themselves.
It is estimated that internet pornography sites get over 450 million unique visitors every month – more than Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix combined. And over 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography before age 18 – much which is easily available 24/7 on cell phones and iPads.
Many propose that hypersexualization of females is less about sexuality than it is about sexism and about who holds the real power in our society. Whatever you believe, pornography, objectification, and hypersexualization are all damaging to girls and women, and our work is to prevent this.
We cannot change the world we live in, but we can teach girls and women healthy ways to navigate through it, protect themselves, and have the strength and confidence to avoid being mistreated.