Utah officially passed a resolution declaring pornography to be a public health crisis. Sounds good, right? People need to recognize that using pornography can have lasting negative effects.
S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis says, in part:
WHEREAS, pornography is contributing to the hypersexualization of teens, and even prepubescent children, in our society;Yes, porn can do serious damage.
WHEREAS, due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the Internet, young children are exposed to what used to be referred to as hard core, but is now considered mainstream, pornography at an alarming rate;
WHEREAS, the average age of exposure to pornography is now 11 to 12 years of age;
WHEREAS, this early exposure is leading to low self-esteem and body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior;
WHEREAS, exposure to pornography often serves as childrens' and youths' sex education and shapes their sexual templates;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, recognizes that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature and the Governor recognize the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.Utah isn't all resolution and no action, though. They also passed HB0155, creating a law that:
- requires that a computer technician who finds child pornography in the course of the technician's work shall report the finding to law enforcement or the federal Cyber Tip Line for child pornography; ...
- provides that the willful failure to report the child pornography is a class B misdemeanor;
- provides immunity for a computer technician who reports in good faith or acting in good faith does not make a report
As if we don't have enough people in our criminal justice system already, now we are going to add computer technicians who don't report images that are or could be considered child pornography.
The law provides immunity for a tech who...acting in good faith does not make a report. How do they decide if the tech is acting in good faith?
The law says:
good faith may be presumed from an employee's or employer's previous course of conduct when the employee or employer has made appropriate reports
...which means, the more people a tech reports, the safer the tech will be if he or she decides not to report someone.
What child pornography will computer technicians most likely encounter? In a world where nearly every teen carries a phone with a camera and in a world where, as the Utah resolution says, there is an increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior, it is probable that computer techs will discover nude selfies of teens.
Yes, that is considered child pornography and someone in possession of those images can be charged with receiving, distributing, or creating child porn. Serious crimes that carry serious mandatory minimum sentences if charged in federal court. If computer techs report the images to the federal Cyber Tip Line, it is likely that the "crime" will be a federal crime.
How badly do we want to punish teens for what is, for better or worse, normal teen behavior? Do we want a world in which teens take nude selfies ... or a world in which teens take nude selfies and have a criminal record?
Is criminalization the only way to discourage unwanted behavior? We saw what happened during Prohibition, when criminalization drove the booze industry underground where violence was the only enforcer. We have seen what forty years of the War on Drugs has gotten us: the recreational drug industry is driven underground where violence is the only enforcer and where illicit drugs are still widely available, less expensive than ever, and often more powerful.
We know what the outcome will be and yet legislators still try the same failed trick of making unwise and unwanted behavior illegal.