Utah political leaders and anti-pornography activists said children’s minds are being corrupted in a world where graphic sexual images are a click away.
The remarks were made as a spirited defence of the state’s declaration that pornography is a public health crisis.
A parade of speakers, including Governor Gary Herbert spoke during a ceremonial signing of the declaration — calling pornography a plague, pandemic and scourge that warps children’s minds, threatens marriages and contributes to sexual violence.
The declaration in the predominantly Mormon state of Utah echoes an argument made by many conservative religious groups as porn becomes more accessible on smartphones and tablets.
“This isn’t just a religious moral issue,” said Republican Senator Todd Weiler, who sponsored the declaration. “Some people want to make this about sex education; no boy or girl needs to see those images to learn how families are created.”
Critics say Utah is overstating the effects of pornography, which some say can be a healthy sexual outlet for adults.
The Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment trade group, called Utah’s declaration an “old-fashioned” morals bill driven by ignorance and bias.
The coalition said in a statement that people who watch adult movies are more likely to have progressive views on sexuality and women’s rights — and that access to these movies correlates with a decline in sex crimes.
More than half of Utah’s three million residents belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), among the religions that have worked to shed light on what they consider the harms of pornography.
In Utah, the cultural aversion to scantily dressed women is evident. Magazines and TV ads featuring women in low-cut shirts or bikinis are considered by some to be soft pornography, and lingerie catalogues have been called “gateway porn”.
Herbert emphasised the resolution doesn’t interfere with anybody’s rights. He said Utah wants to take the lead in fostering more research and discussions about the dangers of porn.
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