Republicans Think Online Porn Is a "Public Health Crisis." Here's Why They're Wrong.

Republicans Think Online Porn Is a "Public Health Crisis." Here's Why They're Wrong.

While the rest of the nation worries about gun safety, Republicans are busy railing against the porn industry as they prepare for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.    

CNN reported an anti-porn amendment proposed by North Carolina delegate Mary Frances Forrester passed on Monday, becoming part of the GOP's official draft party platform. "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions," the new amendment reads. 

The amendment was inspired by a Utah resolution declaring internet porn a public health crisis, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert back in April. Now Republicans are pushing the crusade against porn onto the national agenda. 

In an interview with Yahoo! NewsForrester called internet porn an "insidious epidemic," saying she collaborated with the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America while working on the amendment. The group's website states its mission is: "helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy." 

In the new amendment, legislators are harping on children's mental health, arguing that young people are more likely to become "addicted" to internet porn, while simultaneously conflating porn with unrelated issues, like sexual predators on social networks

"It seems to be for young people, they do not have the discernment and so they become addicted before they have the maturity to understand the consequences," Forrester told Yahoo! News

Twitter users responded to the announcement with a heavy dose of sarcasm. 

One could argue that porn is having a negative effect on teens, in the same way media at large can influence teens' behavior. But there isn't enough scientific evidence to prove that porn addiction is an "epidemic" by any stretch of the imagination. 

In 2015, a study by neuroscientists Nicole Prause and Vaughn Steele showed the brain activity of self-identified "porn addicts" didn't resemble the brain patterns of people addicted to drugs and other biologically addictive substances. Prause told the Daily Beast that "addiction appears to be the wrong model" for classifying this problem. 

Further, the American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly rejected attempts to officially enter "sex addiction" into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, while simultaneously publishing articles with statements like, "Science is far from settling this debate. ... Promoting certain therapies may be ill-advised." 

Standard treatments for addiction try to get people to avoid watching porn entirely, a goal that can prove tricky for porn consumers. However, experimental programs run through Utah State University, which focused on addressing negative sexual feelings and reducing porn consumption without banning it forever, proved immensely successful at helping people who wanted to change unhealthy viewing habits.  

There's still much more research on the issue that needs to be done before we can say for sure if porn is a health issue at all, and if so, how it's actually influencing the public. 

"The issue isn't porn," Cindy Gallop, founder of the sex-positive website MakeLoveNotPorn, told Vice News. "[It] is the total lack of an open, healthy, honest conversation about real world sex."

Correction: July 13, 2016
Due to an editing error, a previous headline on this story misstated the premise of Republicans' stance on online porn and public health. The headline has been updated.

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