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Republican Rep. Ross Spano, sponsor of HB147 a bill declaring pornography a public health risk.

 

February 14th 2018 will go down in history as the date of one of the deadliest school shootings in the history of our nation. Families wept, students mobilized, and citizens around the country began to demand action. As the conversation surrounding gun control and mental health has heightened and Floridians are in an urgent state of wanting action, the Florida house decided to focus its attention on a bill that would declare pornography a public health risk in Florida. The vote on the bill (HB 147) came at the same time Florida legislators declined to hold hearings on another bill that would ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles like the one used in the Parkland shooting.

Republican Representative Ross Spano introduced the resolution, with reasoning that, “research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior,” and therefore its availability, especially to adolescents, should be restricted.  

Teen Vogue magazine details how, if it is adopted, this resolution would place Florida among the growing ranks of states to frame pornography exposure, specifically to minors, as a sort of contagious disease. Many of these resolutions, including Florida’s, cite concerns about how “exposure to pornography often serves as children's and youths' sex education and shapes their sexual templates,” to quote some of the states' wordings.

"...the root issue with pornography and its effects on teen behavior stems from the lack of comprehensive sex education in public schools, not necessarily the consumption of porn.

This is a moment to pause - further analysis would reveal that the root issue with pornography and its effects on teen behavior stems from the lack of comprehensive sex education in public schools, not necessarily the consumption of porn. If teens were equipped with the tools to process this material when encountered, wouldn’t that reduce some of the harmful effects cited above?  

Now let’s revisit the research used by Representative Ross in his reasoning for this resolution. There was a review of 20 years’ worth of research published in the Journal of Sex Research on the effects of pornography on adolescents. The research found that study conclusions may have "methodological and theoretical shortcomings," and that they may be skewed by bias of the researchers that conducted them. Still, the Teen Vogue magazine article goes on to say that according to the journal review, there is a consensus that porn consumption by minors correlates to an increase in casual sex, sexual aggression, and gender-stereotypical beliefs around sex.

Knowing this is disturbing to say the least, but I argue that the consumption of pornography by teens is not the public health problem that needs to be addressed but rather the public health crisis is the lack of availability of quality, comprehensive sexual health education programs throughout Florida schools that can help adolescents make the healthiest choices for themselves when it comes to their sexual health.

"Florida teens need sex ed."

Florida teens need sex ed. There, I said it, and I stand by it because for teens to be able to appropriately frame content in pornographic material, they need to be educated in relationships and enthusiastic consent, sexual assault and coercion, and negotiating condom use - all topics that are part of a quality comprehensive sex ed program.

No, I am not advocating for teens to watch porn. But I do live in a world where adolescents have cell phones, social media accounts, and laptops and I know that the search of one word on Google can lead to a plethora of porn site search results. Adolescents listen to music that has sexual innuendos in almost every line and they can see what many of us would consider pornographic material on nightly TV.

Stop using this smoke screen and allow trained, knowledgeable educators to provide students with the comprehensive sexuality education that they need and while you’re at it, really take some time to address mental health issues and gun control as well. Now that’s what I would call legislative action to address Florida’s Public Health Crises.

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