Public health threats in the news today include contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and the potential spread of the Zika virus in the Southeast due to infected mosquitoes. But Utah’s politicians are taking action against what they think is an even greater public health problem: pornography. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution declaring porn to be a “public health hazard” harming individuals and society. Among Herbert’s goals are fighting porn addiction. But sex experts say that sex addiction isn’t a problem. In fact, it doesn’t even exist.
The Utah resolution does not come with any enforcement powers, nor does it ban porn. Instead, politicians claim the measure is a step toward education and awareness. An aide to Gov. Herbert told CNN that one goal of the resolution is to inform Utah’s youth about the “addictive habits” of porn, and its harm to society. Todd Weiler, a state Senator and the chief sponsor of the resolution, claimed that the addictive properties of porn are like those of tobacco.
The text of the resolution takes great liberties with descriptions of sexual behavior, describing frequent pornography use as a “biological addiction.” Current scientific and medical practice disagrees with that characterization. A 2015 neuroscience report published in Biological Psychology showed the findings of a study that evaluated the brain activity of those who watched porn and those who were actual addicts. The electrical signals of those watching porn was nothing like those of the brains of addicts, according to the Daily Beast.
Porn use is neither an addiction, nor is it a mental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the so-called bible of mental health professionals, has never included sex addiction or porn addiction in any of its five editions. “In fact, it was rejected because there was a lack of credible scientific evidence,” sex therapist Ian Kerner told National Public Radio.
While Utah has a reputation of being squeaky clean and wholesome, appearances might be deceiving. CNN points to a 2009 Harvard Business School study that evaluated online purchases of adult entertainment in the United States.
Any guesses where the highest per capita purchases of online porn were found? That’s right, it was Utah.