A group of 19 conservative Republicans wants the Ohio House of Representatives to go on record to declare pornography a public health crisis.

The resolution, an expression of opinion that has no effect on state laws, blames a whole host of societal ills, such as sex trafficking and sexual assault and abuse, on the availability of images and videos depicting sex acts online.

House Resolution 180, introduced by Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, with the assistance of Citizens for Community Values, declares pornography "is a public health hazard that leads to a broad spectrum of individual and societal harm."

Ohio could join legislative chambers in at least 16 other states in passing resolutions taking stands against pornography. Ohio's model calls for addressing the "pornography epidemic" through education, prevention research and "policy changes."

The adult entertainment industry and some sexual psychology and health experts dispute assertions that viewing porn increases interest in rape among men and accelerates instances of human trafficking.

"We want to raise awareness of the issue," said Powell, a Darke County resident, saying pornography is addictive and that more efforts are needed to keep children from accessing sexual online content.

"We're saying, 'Enough is enough. We are tired of the exploitation of women and children in the state of Ohio.' ... It does not come without consequences to the abuse of women and children."

Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, said the resolution is "to get a conversation going about the harm pornography is doing ... it is not a victimless activity. Things like the #MeToo movement, the fight against human trafficking ... if you are not talking abut pornography, you're not serious about talking about those crises.

"This is an opportunity for government to say just because something isn't illegal, it doesn't mean it's right."

The Free Speech Coalition, the national trade organization for the adult entertainment and products industry, called such resolutions "outdated morality," saying in a statement, "No reputable, science-based public health organization has labeled pornography a public health crisis.

"For religious conservatives, anti-sex legislators, and anti-porn censors, the rise in accessibility of adult material, coupled with a conservative political moment, has become a cause for action," the group said. "The anti-porn activists may paint a picture of a world out of control, but the facts doesn’t support it. What the data shows instead is that men who watch porn are more likely to agree with feminist principles, to have better sex lives, and greater tolerance for sexual diversity."

Research has raised questions about the effect of explicit material on young kids, but links to other often-cited issues like human trafficking are tenuous at best, Emily Rothman, a community health sciences professor at Boston University, told The Associated Press.

The states' resolutions risk creating a stigma for marginalized groups like LGBTQ people and miss a key piece of the puzzle by leaving out calls for more robust sex education for teenagers, she said.

And, porn isn't like a deadly virus, Rothman said.

"If you stub your toe, that might be something you can't solve yourself, but that doesn't make it a public health issue," she said.

 

Reach Randy Ludlow at rludlow@dispatch.com or @RandyLudlow.