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December 15, 2016

Sexperts Call Out 'Fight The New Drug' Nonsense In Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—It only takes about ten hours to drive the 715 miles from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City—and that's a good thing, because Utah seems to have become a hotbed of sexual repression since its legislature passed, and Gov. Gary Herbert signed, Continuing Resolution 9 last March, which declared pornography to be a "public health crisis." Of course, the argument could be made that the Mormon-heavy territory has long had problems with sexual freedom, what with their creating the position of "porn czar" in 2001 and their massive funding of California Prop 8, which challenged the legality of the state legislature's same-sex marriage law, which challenge was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the good news is, there may be a bit of light at the end of that very long, very dark tunnel, in the form of an opinion piece authored by sex therapists and social workers in the Salt Lake Tribune, titled "Utah students need real sex ed, not 'Fight the New Drug'"—the title referring to the Mormon-created organization (FTND) whose main activity has been to put up billboards all over Utah and San Francisco (!) reading "Porn Kills Love." "Pornography used to be a matter of personal opinion," reads the org's "Mission Statement." "Some people felt it was natural, normal, and even expected it to be consumed. Others felt it was “bad” or “wrong” due to their own religious beliefs or political views. However, few people, if any, seemed to have concrete evidence to support their points of view. As young college students not too long ago, we came across the recent science of how porn affects the brain and we were shocked! After further study we began to find that porn not only had negative effects on the individual, but that pornography’s influence was causing huge problems in relationships, tearing apart families and that production of pornography was often inseparably connected to the world of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. The research was clear that pornography has negative neurological effects, is damaging to relationships, and is impacting our society as a whole." Of course, that "recent science" is the horseshit put out by such organizations as the National Coalition on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), the Witherspoon Institute, Dr. Judith Reisman and others, none of which is accepted by impartial researchers—and that's what the op-ed writers like family therapist Natasha Helfer Parker and licensed clinical social workers Kristin Hodson, Kristin Marie Bennion and Shannon Hickman tackled in their Tribune piece, which notes that FTND has been spreading this manure in Utah public schools—without even getting approval from school boards or even parents. "Claiming that pornography affects the brain like a drug and that cutting back can lead to withdrawal symptoms is false," Parker and her cohorts write. "Drugs introduce chemicals into the brain. There is not a single study that demonstrates what neurochemicals are released in the brain when watching porn, nor that these neurochemicals are any different from those released while eating chocolate or watching football. "The largest published neuroscience study of this topic to date, as well as a series of published behavioral studies, shows that those who report problems viewing sex films do not resemble any other substance or 'behavioral' addictions," they continue. "According to their own website, 90 percent of FTND attendees end up agreeing that 'pornography releases the same chemicals in your brain as other hard drugs' compared to 43 percent who believed this prior to their presentation. FTND is advertising their ability to successfully spread false information." As the article sadly points out, "For many kids growing up in Utah this will be the only form of sex education they will receive," and the state seems happy to keep it that way, having consistently voted down requests for sex-ed funding in the state. Almost needless to say, Fight The New Drug's staff weren't too happy with the Parker et al op-ed piece, and the Tribune gave them—pretty much FTND's entire staff, in fact—a chance to respond. And equally needless to say, their response is filled with half-truths and bad science (in the sense that the "scientific studies" they reference either don't say what FTND claims or are irrelevant to the question of whether porn is "addictive"). "FTND does not, and has never attempted to provide, substitute or circumvent sex education curricula in schools," the FTND response states. "Like other guest speakers brought in by schools, FTND presentations are independent of the important work of ongoing health and sexual education classes." That might be fine if Utah actually had anything approaching objective sex education, but in most cases, FTND's propaganda is the only "sex education" the kids get—and as noted, it's not approved by school boards; the group contacts individual teachers to gain access to the students, or gets in through approval by the local PTA. And consider their weasel-worded excuse for going behind the school boards' backs: "We are committed to following all district and school policies, and would never give a presentation if we believed we were acting against a statute or guideline of any kind." They also deny they're religiously based, though most of the group's leaders have close ties to Mormonism and/or the religious Brigham Young University.  To its credit, the Salt Lake Tribune allowed a response to FTND's horseshit, this time from the big guns: Respected neuroscientists like Dr. Nicole Prause, Dr. James Pfaus, Dr. Janniko Georgiadis and several others with similar qualifications. "The op-ed from FTND activists disregarded the scientific method," the Ph.D.s note in their response. "The studies described by FTND are not rigorous. The assessment of possible positive effects was not included in any of the studies cited. Sex film users were not sampled in any representative way, and the studies ended up with biased samples reporting distress regarding their sex film use. Further, none of these studies provided controls for masturbation, an activity that almost always coincides with sex film use and is more likely to actually drive any claimed health effect. Most cited studies rely on self-reporting, an unreliable measure of sexual behavior that does not correspond to objective observations. "There is extensive evidence showing that the hypothesis that pornography use is universally harmful is false," they continue. "In a nationally representative survey, only a tiny percentage of those who viewed sex films reported problems due to viewing (less than 2 percent of men, less than 0.05 percent of women). There is no evidence for permanent escalation over time. When asked balanced questions, studies find mostly positive effects of sex film use and viewing results in brain responses that resemble those of other innocuous pleasures in the brain." The group also cites the beneficial effects of using porn: "Positive effects include enhancing sex, including sexual desire for the current partner, comfort with one's own appearance, comfort for sexual-orientation minorities, feelings of happiness and joy and reducing violence and sexual assaults and physical pain. Sex-film viewing also has been associated with more egalitarian attitudes, higher education, more prayer and religiosity at high use, and are commonly used in sex therapy. Female sex film performers have higher self-esteem than matched controls." Sadly, FTND is likely to continue to find itself welcome at many Utah public schools—but at least readers of the Salt Lake Tribune have been exposed to the falsehoods FTND has been feeding their kids, and maybe some of them will actually take it upon themselves to give their children a realistic and positive sex education.

 
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