TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate approved a nonbinding resolution Tuesday declaring proliferation of pornography a public health crisis that normalizes violence against women, corrodes interest in marriage and serves as a gateway to human trafficking.
Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, pushed through a resolution that reflected growing appreciation for personal and societal costs of pornography. Not long ago, she said, people would make snarky jokes about pornography. More people are realizing the industry’s capacity to weaken the social fabric of communities, she said.
“Now we know it’s not a laughing matter,” Pilcher-Cook said. “Many of us recognize pornography leaves tragedy in its wake.”
“There is no political ideology here regarding this subject. Pornography exploits and humiliates those being used, and it dehumanizes the user at the same time,” she said.
The vote on Senate Resolution 1762 was 35-4.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said he cast a vote against the resolution because it was inaccurate to include pornography as a public health issue. He said passage of the resolution in the House and Senate could be used as a pretext to manipulate state appropriations.
“I have always held the constitutionality of the First Amendment, including freedom of speech and expression, to be held sacrosanct, especially where such speech or conduct is private and held between consenting, mentally sound adults,” he said.
Haley said pornography was rampant and government should work vigorously to prosecute predatory conduct harmful to children, the disabled or to subject people to economic servitude.
Pilcher-Cook said consequences of pornography, as with sexual harassment, were better understood.
“Women are right to be angry when men treat them like objects and act like bullies, pigs,” she said. “Pornography is a notch above that by distorting a view of human sexuality that is contrary to authentic love.”
During the 2017 legislative session, the House approved a similar resolution. It pointed to scientific research showing consumption of pornography contributed to substance abuse, prostitution, criminal violence, child abuse, divorce and sexual exploration by adolescents.
Two Democrats in the House raised questions about whether poetry, paintings and other works of art could be defined as pornographic, despite a sense such expression would be protected by the First Amendment.