BOUNTIFUL - Though the law has no control over racy images, some local leaders are urging the public to speak out against them anyway.
Senator Todd Weiler and Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings both urged residents to fight against such images in advertising, movies, and television at a press conference last Friday. Referring to them as “gateway porn,” they stated that the public had the most power in being able to combat them.
“The courts will not protect your children,” said Weiler. “Because of the courts, the legislature has been handcuffed. The only people who can protect your children is you.”
Layton resident Dr. Jennifer Brown, who organized the press conference, stated that repeatedly seeing racy images can actually damage an adolescent boy’s pre-frontal cortex, which scientists believe controls decision making and complex cognitive behavior.
“Brains are very adaptable,” said Brown. “Our brains actually develop in response to the stimuli we’re surrounded by. This isn’t morals, this is science.”
The specific topic of the press conference was a flier mailed out by Wade Laser Clinic, a Bountiful-based business, which showed the torso of a topless woman covering her breasts with her arm (altered image below).
Weiler, who specified that the flier was not illegal according to current Utah law, read a portion of an e-mail he received from one of his constituents who received the flier. In the e-mail, the woman states that she tried to get removed from the mailing list only to discover that the fliers were sent out by zip code.
“If I chose their store or website, that’s one story,” read Weiler from the woman’s e-mail, who he declined to name. “But I cannot choose not to have these things sent to my home.”
The clinic has apologized for the flier, but those who spoke at the press conference urged residents to turn their attention to other companies who use suggestive images on billboards and mail-in fliers.
“For far too long, our community standards have been determined by gateway porn and harder stuff that’s been creeping in,” said Rawlings. “These companies are determining our community standards with false photos and images that are effecting the brains of our children. You’ve heard the phrase ‘you are what you eat,’ but as Dr. Brown’s research shows, we are what we see.”
According to Brown, a dentist who has spent the last several years studying neurological journals, racy images can stimulate the amygdala to the point where the prefrontal cortex shuts down. The more often the prefrontal cortex shuts down, Brown argues, the more permanent the effect.
“It becomes less strong than it could have been if it stayed online,” she said.
Seeing these images also elevates an adolescent’s testosterone levels. Chronically elevated testosterone levels, Brown said, are connected to increased sex drive and violent behavior.
“How can we be surprised when we throw these images at our adolescent boys, and we end up with a generation of young men addicted to pornography and who have trouble forming long-term relationships?” she said.
She and others also emphasized the effect such images can have on an adolescent girl’s self esteem and body image.
“I hate seeing advertising that says only one Barbie doll type of body is acceptable,’ said Weiler.
Rawlings suggested that this medical aspect highlights the flaw in the current law, which he said the Supreme Court framed as an issue of morality.
“We need to change the language and nature of the debate,” he said. “It should be focused on the physiological impact.”