Today, the Utah Legislature passed a noxious bill which calls pornography a ‘public health crisis,’ and links it (erroneously) to everything from sexual dysfunction to violence against women. The claims and the implied proscriptions harken to the dark days before adult film was legal, and when sex and sexuality were only discussed behind closed doors, if at all.
The Utah bill is an old-fashioned morals bill, not one grounded in science. Throughout history, there has been concern from moralists and censors that speaking about sex frankly, whether in the form of adult entertainment or Kinsey or Mapplethorpe, would somehow corrupt society.  In fact, actual science shows that viewers of adult entertainment are more likely to hold progressive views on sexuality and women’s rights, to be more educated on sexual health, and access to adult entertainment correlates pretty clearly historically and geographically with declines in sex crime.
No reputable, science-based public health organization has labeled pornography a public health crisis. Not the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or any state health department.
The true public health crisis is the lack of adequate, science-based sexual health education in United States, perpetuated by socially conservative politicians like these for over 35 years. This has led to unbelievably high STI and HIV infection rates amongst our young, as well as a teenage pregnancy rate of 26 per 1000 in the USA vs 6 per 1000 in Europe. Regressive policies like this will achieve nothing.
Utah has now enthusiastically contributed to an incredibly disturbing trend seen across this country. Angered by the advance of progressivism, inclusion, and a growing acceptance of sexual expression and openness, its self-appointed morality police have cherry picked facts and cited advocates rather than scientists. Rather than a success for traditional American values, it is in fact a gross violation of them. There is little difference between these actions and those we see in other states attacking sex education, women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of the LGBTQQI community. The common thread linking each of these battles is a coordinated, large scale war on progressive values. In regard to pornography specifically, for those who seek to be the sole source of authority on morality and expression, consenting adults engaging in displays of healthy sexuality must indeed be anathema.
The issue at hand is not adult entertainment or sexuality, but bills like this that traffic in shame and stigma. We need a society where sexuality is spoken about openly, and discussed in nuanced and educated ways, not censored. We can and must work together to prevent non-adults from accessing adult material. Unfortunately, legislators in Utah and elsewhere are often uninterested in actual solutions — such as the use of software for parents to block access to adult sites, industry-sponsored age-verification systems, and talking with children about online activity  — in favor of moralistic campaigns that traffic in ignorance and bias.