This week I would like to highlight a danger existing in our society that government could and should address. Even though government cannot totally solve this issue, it can take some action to better protect the public. The issue I’m talking about is pornography and the ease of access to it via the internet.

In fact, pornography is a public health crisis. In this newsletter you’ll see why.

Last session I introduced a resolution to highlight this issue.

Fifteen states, including 2 of Iowa’s neighbors  – Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia have all passed resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis in the past two years.

It is time Iowa does too.

Pornography perpetuates a sexually toxic environment. Anyone who doesn’t think we have a sexually toxic environment has their head in the sand.

Pornography is contributing to the hyper-sexualization of teens, and even prepubescent children, in our society.

Due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the internet, young children are frequently exposed to what used to be referred to as hardcore, but is now considered mainstream, pornography.

A study of university students found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls had seen internet pornography during adolescence.

This exposure leads to low self-esteem and body image disorders, an increase in sexual activity at younger ages, and a greater likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior such as sending sexually explicit images, hookups, multiple sex partners, group sex, and using substances during sex as adolescents.

Exposure to pornography often serves as children’s and youths’ sex education and shapes their sexual templates.

Because pornography treats women as objects and commodities for the viewer’s use, it teaches girls they are to be used and boys to be users.

Pornography often depicts rape and abuse as if they are harmless. It also fosters more hostile sexist attitudes of men towards women, increased acceptance of rape myths, greater likelihood of sexual harassment or sexually coercive and forceful behavior by adolescents, increased male sexual aggression against women by men who are frequent consumers of pornography or who use violent pornography, and increased verbal and physical aggression among both male and female consumers of pornography.

Pornography increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, and child sexual abuse images (i.e., child pornography).

Potential detrimental effects on pornography’s users can impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal (i.e., animal and/or child pornography use), and promote problematic or harmful sexual behaviors such as child-on-child sexual behaviors that occur in schools, playgrounds, homes or other settings.

Recent research indicates that pornography is potentially biologically addictive, which means the user requires more novelty, often in the form of more shocking material, in order to be satisfied.

This biological addiction leads to increasing use of pornography featuring themes of risky sexual behaviors, extreme degradation, violence, and child sexual abuse images (i.e., child pornography).

Pornography use is linked to difficulty in forming or maintaining intimate relationships, lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity, demonstrating that pornography has a detrimental and destructive effect on the family unit.
There are many research studies that have been done to demonstrate the truth of the individual and public health impacts and societal harms of pornography that I have outlined here.

You may wonder about why pornography would be a public health crisis since it’s not visible the way alcohol and drugs are. That is because its use tends to be more hidden, behind closed doors, especially if it has developed into an addiction. In addition, there is sense of guilt and shame that accompanies it that makes the user tend to stay in the dark.

In addition, another reason we might find ourselves surprised to think pornography is a public health crisis here in our nation is that we have become so accustomed to regular exposure to it that we have become desensitized to it and not realize how sexually toxic our environment truly is. Due to the way they are wired, men are likely more keenly aware of this than women are.

Some might say, this is just a religious issue, it doesn’t belong with government. Well, I would say it might start there but it has ended up spilling over into society wreaking havoc in the lives of children and families to the point we now have a crisis and an epidemic on our hands.

You may not realize it but it is true that federal law prohibits the distribution of obscene adult pornography on the internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops, through the mail, and by common carrier.

It is also true that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld obscenity (legal term which includes pornography) laws when they are challenged on First Amendment freedom of speech grounds. The court has ruled that pornography is not protected speech, just like other forms of speech are not protected, like blackmail and defamation.

The pornography industry does not obey laws just because they are on the books. They only sit up and take notice when they are prosecuted. They have shown that when the laws are enforced, they regulate themselves.

It is time for the U.S. Department of Justice to vigorously enforce existing federal laws against illegal pornography distributors and producers. And we need to do better here in Iowa too.

Until vigorous enforcement comes, we need to address the crisis problem of easily accessible pornography on the internet. There is a need for education and policy change at the state, and national level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.

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Author: Press Release