Gary Herbert (Reuters/Mike Theiler)

Today in the GOP war on sex: Utah governor signs a resolution declaring porn a "public health hazard"

Gary Herbert thinks masturbation to porn addicts men and keeps them from wanting to marry real women


Amanda Marcotte
April 21, 2016 1:58PM (UTC)

Republicans have fallen into the habit of using phony claims of "protecting" women to attack LGBT people and to deny women reproductive rights, so it shouldn't be any surprise that this faux chivalry was invoked by Utah governor Gary Herbert to justify a resolution he signed Tuesday denouncing porn as a "public health hazard."

It's hard to convey how ridiculous this resolution is, a true masterpiece in the art of freaking out about how the sex perverts are going to destroy the world. There are literally 18 "WHEREAS" clauses making assertions like, " WHEREAS, pornography use is linked to lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity" and "WHEREAS, recent research indicates that pornography is potentially biologically addictive" and, in the inevitable feigned concern for women, "WHEREAS, because pornography treats women as objects and commodities for the viewer's use".

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This pearl-clutching about porn objectifying women is hard to take from the same abstinence-only sex police that tell stories about how women who have sex are the equivalent of a chewed up piece of gum or a rose with no petals, metaphors that quite literally treat women as commodified objects whose value depends on how "new" their packaging is.

But that's all window-dressing anyway. All this chatter about objectification and addiction is nothing more than the sex police borrowing 21st-century concepts they don't really bother to understand to make the same old puritanical impulse seem modern and even scientific.

But there's no evidence that porn is addictive or that it discourages men from marrying.  In fact, the latter argument is downright offensive to women, as it assumes the only reason a man might have any interest in being with a woman is not because of love or companionship, but because he needs a little more visual stimulation to orgasm than he can get looking at a Victoria's Secret catalog.

It is not helpful to women to tell them that they have nothing to offer a man that he can't get better watching strangers on the internet have sex for the few minutes it takes to rub one out.

This is just the latest development in a nationwide surge of Republicans, often under the guise of "protecting women," attacking sexual rights and sexual health care. The attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights are the most prominent examples, but there's been a steady drip-drip of anti-sex efforts happening on all sorts of fronts.

For instance, Republicans in Alaska have been trying to pass increasingly convoluted restrictions clearly meant to keep comprehensive sex education out of the schools. Various versions tried to block Planned Parenthood from offering any sex education or any person who isn't a licensed teacher at the school, which is clearly about keeping nurses, doctors, and professional sex educators (read: people who actually know things) from being brought in to offer lessons that, say, the English teacher isn't equipped to handle. The current version requires sex educators to be approved by a local school board, which again is clearly an effort to make it harder for schools to bring in health professionals who might, gasp, tell the students how to prevent pregnancy and STIs when (and yes, that's when, not if) they have sex.

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No surprise that Utah is the state for this new development in the Republican war on sex. The state, especially the Republican party, is still under heavy Mormon control. While you'd be hard-pressed to find any conservative Christian who is okay with masturbation, the Mormon church tends to be even more hysterical about the universal and frankly harmless practice of self-love.

Take, for instance, a video made by Brigham Young University-Idaho (Gov. Herbert went to BYU in Utah) that went viral in 2014. The video is meant to support young men in their fight, deemed the "Great War", against the urge to masturbate and suggests that young men help each other fight what the narrator clearly regards as a grave and dangerous sin. (The "battle" against masturbation is portrayed literally as young men fighting in the dirt and mud of war while shots are fired in their direction.)

"The young man is spiritually wounded on the battlefield of the Great War," the narrator intones of a young man who presumably caved into the urge for self-love. "In our modern society, the enemy has spread fear of getting involved when someone’s in trouble and has fostered a social stigma against people who speak up in the face of evil.”

“Don’t be silent. Don’t leave the wounded on the battlefield," the narrator advises. Which is to say, if you suspect your friend might occasionally spend his free time masturbating, give him a hard time about it. For his own good.

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This urge, to throw one's self, uh, nobly between the young men of Utah and their own befouling hands, is likely the driving force of Gov. Herbert's resolution, and not actually a sincere concern to protect women. Because no one who actually cares about women thinks it's a good idea to marry them off to men who are so horny they don't care if you're an orangutan in a bridal gown, so long as he finally gets to orgasm.


Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. Her new book, "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself," is out now. She's on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Anti-porn Resolution Gary Herbert Gary Herbert Porn Gop War On Women Utah Governor Utah Porn

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