Though pornography may be the only thing some of us are still enjoying at the tale end of 2016, at least one Virginia lawmaker would like to have it declared a public health hazard.
The Washington Post reports that Republican Robert G. Marshall wants the General Assembly to do something about pornography’s influence on our culture, and has proposed resolution HJ 549, which states that porn creates many social ills, but contains no actual suggestions for what action to take against it. The measure is calling for recognition of the supposed dangers of porn, not an outright ban, and leans heavily on language about gender-based violence:
“WHEREAS, because pornography treats women as objects and commodities for the viewer’s use, it teaches girls that they are to be used and teaches boys to be users; and WHEREAS, pornography normalizes violence and abuse of women and children; and WHEREAS, pornography treats women and children as objects and often depicts rape and abuse as if such acts are harmless . . .”
Marshall is an outspoken conservative, who has connected with libertarian and liberal issues, such as privacy and surveillance, and the compensation of Virginians who were faced with forced sterilization during a eugenics program conducted by the state between 1924 and 1979. He may attract support across the aisle with this measure.
For instance, Democrat Sen. Barbara A. Favola told the Washington Post that though she is frequently at odds with Marshall over his anti-choice positions, she agrees that porn has negative consequences on society. She says, “He’s right; pornography does have a negative impact on public health, and it does lead to lots of other issues. I’m going to look at it.”
However, as the measure has no proposed action attached to it, it is difficult to know how declaring pornography a public hazard would play out if such a declaration formed legislation. Laws presented as a way to make sex workers safer frequently disguise punitive outcomes, such as California’s complicated Prop 60. Marshall said in an interview on Thursday that his goal is absolutely to go past a declaration towards action, stating, “Before smoking was identified as a problem, at least the recognition that it led to certain pathologies was a starting point to put restrictions on it.”
He added, “If you recognize it as a problem, then you’re going to try to find ways to solve it within the framework of the statutes we can pass and the institutions we have.”
Marshall apparently believes that porn could be as dangerous as cigarettes, but the effects can only be understood if studied at length.