SALT LAKE CITY—The heart of Mormon country has spawned more than its share of anti-porn crusaders, but a new site appears to be aimed at giving Morality In Media a run for its money... literally.
FightTheNewDrug.com, a new website that claims that viewing adult content is tantamount to using addictive chemicals, got its hard launch on Tuesday, at a "special kickoff breakfast" at the Little America Hotel here, attended by, among others, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
The site is the brainchild of four activists, Ryan Werner, Cameron Lee, Clay Olsen and Beau Lewis, about whom little is known beyond what they themselves have written on the site: Werner runs triathlons; Olsen "loves teaching" and has a "background in marketing"; Lewis, who's listed as the founder of the 501(c)(3) organization, is an accountant; and Lee is a "networking genius"... not to mention, president of the Latter-Day Saints Student Association, a credit not listed on the site. It's unclear whether the other founders are also Mormons.
As is typical of anti-porn sites, there's a section called "Stories," where so-called "porn addicts" get to tell their tales of woe, but for a site that claims that its mission is based on science, and urges visitors to "Hear the facts directly from the fighters," there's precious little available. The "Fighter Facts" button leads to a screen with no content whatsoever (but they're supposedly "Coming Soon"), while the "Science" button leads to three areas: "The Physical Effects of Pornography," "The Un-Sexiness of Pornography" and "The Pornography Pandemic."
"We have always known that children’s brains change constantly as they develop, and the assumption was that adult brains became 'set' and fixed in a particular way that was stable for the rest of one's life," reads the introduction to the "physical effects" section. "Recently, however, neuroscientists have been surprised to discover the degree to which adult brains change over time, a phenomenon known as 'neuroplasticity' (with 'plastic' expressing the idea 'malleability'). For instance, recent studies have shown that when individuals learn a language, their neural networks expand[;] when they start a meditation routine, their brain pathways adjust[;] and when individuals are abused, neural pathways are similarly altered. If learning new languages or peaceful moments of meditation change the brain, what about even more intense or stimulating activities? In what way might watching something on a television or computer screen shape the brain?"
Yes, that's right: All these folks have is speculation; there really is no science that has produced experiments that link the dopamine produced by the brain's pleasure center—production that can be stimulated by addictive drugs—specifically to viewing sexually explicit material rather than taking part in any other pleasurable activity, like eating or sex... or running a triathlon.
"With all addictive behaviors, however, it is more than a dopamine spike itself that occurs," the site continues. "Repeated exposure to pornography, or any drug of abuse, over time, will inevitably affect the dopamine system—most commonly leading the VTA-NAc pathway to develop a tolerance to the chemical. That is, in order for an individual to get the same sensation that he or she used to get, more dopamine is needed to produce a similar feeling or 'high.' As happens with any drug, this growing tolerance requires increases in both frequency and intensity of the drug to compensate for the decreased pleasure."
Trouble is, every single reference to this alleged increased tolerance leading to decreased dopamine production (others have claimed that endorphin production is the culprit), which in turn leads to increased use of the stimulant, is to studies of drug abuse; not a single one references even video-game playing, much less porn.
So much for any attempt to use actual science.
The other two sections make typical claims about porn use: That it subverts actual interpersonal relationships, and that its prevalence in society, even though the site admits that "Pornography is naturally appealing" is "exerting more cultural influence than ever before," and has "become a public health issue."
But aside from the site's claim that it's the nexus of a "global campaign against pornography," it's really just another tired attempt to roil the proles—something with which Utah is well familiar.
Despite the fact that Utah has more subscribers to adult websites per capita than any other state in the union, Attorney General Shurtleff seems to have devoted his life to suppressing sexual expression in the state. Recall, for instance, his creation in March of 2000 of the administrative post of "porn czar," one of whose duties was supposed to be to draft a new state definition of obscenity, to help local municipalities restrict, suppress or eliminate porn and to offer "information" about the "dangers of obscenity." The job lasted about three years, sucked up about half a million tax dollars, and produced no results... except to inspire an "adult entertainment tax" of 10 percent on all nude dancing and escort services in the state. The tax was supposed to bring in $1 million annually to state coffers, and though it's been in existence for about six years, having withstood a lawsuit by strip clubs, just how much revenue the tax has brought in is not available through public records.
So watch out, Morality In Media: Looks like the Mormons intend to give you fundamentalist Protestants a run for your (supporters') money!