23 Comments

Is Utah’s Porn Problem Really a Public Health Crisis?

Hey Bloggernacle. All those snarky comments complaining about Utah’s porn use have been heard.  The problem is, I don’t think you’re going to like Utah’s solution.  Several media outlets, such as the Deseret News, and the Washington Post, are reporting that Utah is the first in the nation to declare that porn is a public health crisis.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not pro-porn.

But I am anti-bad science.

A psychologist I know wrote the following on his Facebook page.

A few reasons why using the term “sex addiction” or “porn addiction” (or hypersexual disorder, or others) may not be the best available way to describe the problem:


1. These labels often also include non-consensual sexual behaviors, thus putting in a porn viewer in a category with a child molester.
2. It is not clear if adding a disease model (addiction) to what is already clear as a problem regulating sexual behavior, adds anything to explain the problem. I.e., it may not be a necessary label.
3. There is not enough data to demonstrate that these labels are distinct disorders.
4. Therapists and others may unwittingly create a bigger problem. Some clients experience negative effects from labels, such as beginning to display symptoms of the new label that they had not had prior.
5. There is a lack of scientific consensus on the addiction model for these behavior problems, yet the public and many professionals widely accept it (because let’s face it, it’s sexy; it’s great marketing).

Fwiw, I’m not anti-the addiction model for behavioral issues, but I want to wait and see, and meanwhile use the best available treatment with my clients based on the available evidence. I know some people have found a lot of help with the addiction model. More power to them. I’m not convinced in my own practice, however.

The question is this:  is the term “sex addiction” even real?  The Salt Lake Tribune did an interest Trib Talk with 2 social workers in favor of a sex addiction model, and 2 academics against a sex addiction model.  You can listen for yourself whether you think sex addiction is even real.  I heard a story of a man whose bishop told him to visit a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting, only to discover he had a normal sex drive.  (There were people with a lot bigger problems than he had.)

Here are several links concerning whether porn addiction is even real:

Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment said that there are a lot of other things the Utah Legislature should be more concerned about than porn.

It’s been a big week for air pollution research. Following almost 67,000 people, researchers found there is a strong correlation between chronic exposure to particulate pollution, and death due to all types of cancer. In particular for every 10 ug/m3 of PM2.5 (which is about the annual average for the Wasatch Front),
there was an overall increase of 22% in death from cancer, and even higher rates for lung and digestive system cancers, and an extraordinary increase of 80% in death rates for breast cancer, the most common cancer in women. Any of your loved ones have breast cancer? This should make the issue of air quality very personal to everyone.

Remember that the World Health Organization declared air pollution the most important environmental cause of cancer. Remember also that one out of every two men, and one out of every three women will get cancer in their life time.

Send this information to your state legislators, Gov. Herbert’s office and our Congressional delegation. Tell them their love affair with dirty energy and disregard for cleaning up our air, is a serious risk to the lives and health of your family. And that if they won’t clean up our air, you’ll elect someone who will.

Why is porn a bigger problem than air pollution? Or health insurance for the poor?  (Utah still won’t accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, and thousands of poor have a public health crisis because they simply can’t afford health insurance and aren’t eligible for Obamacare.  Governor Herbert has sent 2 bills that have died in the legislature to help these people.)  Utah also has a prescription drug problem.  Why isn’t this a public health crisis?  Why isn’t obesity a public health crisis?

If Utah was trying to help minors escape porn and prostitution, or tried to cut down on sexually transmitted infections, and were putting efforts to avoid this, I can accept that as a valid public health crisis.  Last year, I wrote about how Ed Smart is trying to help women forced into prostitution and sex slavery, but the Utah legislature doesn’t seem be concerned about these issues, so I think the “public health crisis” label is an example of all talk, no action.  Are we really concerned about sex slavery and want to end it?  What is the legislature doing to combat these problems?  Why even declare porn is a public health crisis when there are so many other legitimate public health issues are a crisis?  Can you help me here?

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23 comments on “Is Utah’s Porn Problem Really a Public Health Crisis?

  1. Of course its a health crisis- that is a fact. Are questioning whether sex addiction is real? You have got to be kidding, of course sex addiction is real- thats a proven fact.

    There is nothing good that comes from pornography- not one single thing! We must all stand united to erradicate porn from our communities and society. Passing laws to acknowledge that porn is a public health concern is the first step in the right direction to establish future legislature to pass laws that limit its content and prohibit it from our places of public use such as schools and public libraries.

  2. Are questioning whether sex addiction is real?

    Yes, did you bother to read any of the links I already posted? I’m guessing no. If yes, please state why they are wrong. I’d like to see your “proven fact”, because all of my links said just the opposite.

    Rob, what is the devastating health consequence of viewing porn, and how is that worse than cancer, obesity, or no health insurance?

    In other words, it may be a spiritual health crisis, but how do you justify the crisis label in terms of damage to public health? What is the health cost? Lower insulin, higher cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, etc?

  3. Porn is what passes for sex education in Utah. And, in this sex-phobic society, any sex education must be resisted. Besides, it is cheaper for the legislature to distract from the real public health issues you raised (look. a squirrel!) than to devote tax money to them.

  4. Its obvious MH that you support pornography from your links.

  5. Rob,

    I’m sorry for your family experience with porn. I feel like it has clouded your judgment so much that you are making ad hominem attacks and you obviously haven’t read the links I posted.

  6. Here’s a link for you…www.fightthenewdrug.org. I don’t know if it’s a public health crisis or not but from sad personal experience of my own and of friends it is very real and is destroying families. Porn kills love and destroys souls and changes essential parts of the brain. I wonder if the lds church is behind this somehow…porn use is rampant in our church and women are speaking up louder all the time to share the pain and destruction left in its wake…just because one thing is being focused on doesn’t mean other things don’t matter. Making it a public health crisis may help less folks address it head on. As the mom of girl, one of my biggest worries is that they will marry a man addicted to porn.

  7. I’m afraid we (Mormons) just need a bogeyman. First it was The Gays, now it’s pornography… Anything to distract us from the real work of coming together in Christ and doing the real work to build Zion (ie addressing pollution, corruption, inequality, racism, abuse in all forms, human trafficking, lack of access to healthcare, homelessness, a living wage, food deserts in poor neighborhoods, doing something real to help refugees…)

    Our dear leaders would have us believe that gays and pornography are our biggest threats. (At least, that’s where they pay more than lip service.) And why are they so obsessed with sex anyway? If I weren’t Mormon I might think they were a bunch of dirty old men. Good grief!

  8. MH,
    Your links show a pro-pornography bias. What am I supposed to believe?

  9. Rob, if you’re going to misrepresent the links, this isn’t going to be a productive conversation. Your reading way too emotionally. Come back when you aren’t so emotional.

  10. I have a link for you…fightthenwdrug.org. There is scientific evidence supporting the claim that pornography harms the brain in addition to the emotional destruction it wreaks in families. Porn kills love. I can’t say if it being declared a public health crisis is appropriate or not but the fact it’s happening in Utah says something about the number of families it is affecting. It is real. I have witnessed it in my own family and those of others.

  11. MH,
    Why is it that your links only show the side of the story you wish to be true- that you are saying porn is no big deal.

  12. Rob, please quote me to avoid misrepresenting what I said. It’s not fruitful if you constantly misrepresent my position. I’m really getting tired of this and if you continue to misquote and misconstrue my position, I’m going to block you.

    I’m happy to have a real conversation, but I refuse to engage strawman arguments.

  13. I read every one of the links regarding whether porn addiction is real. But, every link is biased towards tge belief its not a problem, not a big deal, etc. One if the links even kind of bashed on Mormomns and was very dustasteful. There is a war going on about pornography. Whose sidevare you really on?

  14. I’m not on your emotional, irrational side.

  15. A couple of things that made a big difference in this debate, in my mind.

    1) A few years ago, when the American Psychiatric Association was updating the DSM, this debate seemed to figure rather prominently in the discussion leading up to its release. After all was said and done, including, I assume, discussions of studies like those reported by yourbrainonporn and fight the new drug, this highly influential professional organization was unconvinced to include hypersexuality or sex addictions in its official diagnostics manual (even though some variations of hypersexuality appeared in earlier versions of the DSM). From what I understand, it is not even included in the “needs further study” section of the DSM. Whatever I, or we as a Church may think about porn, I have to conclude that the science behind porn and sex addiction must not be conclusive.

    2) Another study that really stood out to me was one by Grubbs, where he showed that “religiosity” was a “robust predictor” of self-affirmed porn addiction. If I remember correctly, it was a better predictor than quantity of porn consumed. I am not qualified to really comment on the methodology and such. Coming from a religious background, that conclusion seemed significant to me.

    Bottom line as I see it. If the professionals in the field cannot even come to a consensus on whether porn is addictive or not, we as lay people are certainly not going to answer the question.

  16. Dave, the professionals in the field do not qualify as the benchmark for truth in this matter. Its absolutely ridiculous to believe that pornography isnt an addiction. If it wasnt then why is the pornography industry booming to the tune of in excess of 100 billion dollars a year. The APA wont classify it as an addiction or disorder because they themselves dispute how to define “addiction” and “disorder”. Their philosophy right now is based off of “what merits it to be called an addiction?” I found this blog post of interest https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-lies-trauma/201212/sex-addiction-beyond-the-dsm-v
    If we look to our prophets, what do they say about porn and sex addiction? They say it is real and have in the church their own professionals who work in the field of these addictions and disorders, regardless of what the APA sets to define, to help families recover from its devastating effects.

  17. I’m not sure why professionals like the APA are not benchmarks for the scientific truth in this matter. Perhaps this is my own failing, but, with examples of how prophets and apostles have gotten science wrong in the past (Pres. Kimball saying that masturbation leads to homosexuality or the long debates about organic evolution between Elders B. H. Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith), I cannot comfortably say that prophets and apostles represent the benchmark for scientific truth on this.

    Interestingly, I think that one of the key aspects of Elder Oaks’s essay on pornography last fall (Oct 2015 Ensign, I believe it was) was that he was willing and ready to discuss porn as only sometimes addictive (but always wrong). I think there is real value in recognizing that porn is wrong whether or not one is addicted to it.

    Clearly, as your link to Miss Katehakis’s article suggests (and she is certainly not the only one I see expressing similar opinions), the debate over whether porn and sex are addictive is still ongoing. Perhaps even future editions of the DSM will bring back some form of hypersexuality diagnosis. Some of this could be in how the APA’s definition of addiction evolves, and how the science around porn and sex behaviors continues to evolve. Only time will tell. Unless we really want to believe that the prophets’ and apostles’ adherence to an addiction model represents some kind of “revelation”. I don’t think any of them have called this a revelation, so I am not inclined to believe porn must be viewed as addictive.

    Interestingly, I have also seen some therapists, in response to the lack of support for an addiction model of porn, suggest that we can still treat “problematic sexual behaviors” in helpful ways without an addiction model. Some even say that such non-addiction models are superior in treating problematic sexual behaviors than the addiction model. I am not in a position to evaluate these philosophies and methodologies, but maybe there is more to the debate than a simple binary “porn is addictive — no it is not” discussion.

  18. “Addiction” takes several different forms and is manifest in different ways with different things. When I stopped smoking I took up the habit of eating hard candy. Now, some almost 20 years later I find myself always securing a bag of hard candy wherever I go. I have noticed that the same triggers that I used when I smoke hold true for the hard candy. I call it an addiction but I certainly could live without it. Addiction is hard to define in consensus because no one can agree on the terms, especially if it deals with a morality issue.
    I personally have seen the negative influence of what an indulgence of pornography over decades can do to families having witnessed it firsthand. I know without doubt that it can become an addiction because I have seen the extremes people I know go through to indulge upon it and how they become trapped to its addictive powers. Even so much that they knowingly have justified immoral and illegal behavior to satisfy that addiction. I have witnessed their trading of morals for the next great addreniline rush that pornography gives them and how it gets to a point that they absolutely cannot stop thinking about it and acting upon it, at every occasion that presents iself even if it means intentionally hurting someone they love. In a normal frame of mind, they wouldnt do most of the acts they committ, its just too hard for them to resist the chemical reactions their bodies produce when they indulge upon it and so they live from one porn event to the next carefully planning or setting private time aside to indulge upon it. They get to the point where they cannot stop thinking immoral thoughts and acting upon those thoughts and it controls their lives. Thats no different than a drug addiction.

  19. “the professionals in the field do not qualify as the benchmark for truth in this matter.”

    I can’t think of a statement that is more opposed to the scripture “The glory of God is intelligence.”

    You might as well have said “I’m stupid and damn proud of it, and no amount of learning is going to change my mind.”

    Seriously, if you’re going to say stupid things like this, you are no longer welcome to comment on my blog.

  20. I think this explains extermism quite well and is an example of Rob’s rhetorical techniques.

  21. […] few weeks ago, I discussed Utah’s attempts to call porn a public health crisis.  I don’t think such a designation is useful for a few reasons:  (1) the Utah Legislature […]

  22. […] few weeks ago, I discussed Utah’s attempts to call porn a public health crisis. I don’t think such a designation is useful for a few reasons: (1) the Utah Legislature […]

  23. I know this is an old post, but this link for LDS people explains the difference between shame and guilt, and why shame feeds pornography.

    https://byrslf.co/the-naked-people-in-your-ipod-f770a27fdb59#.qhy9mrm75

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