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Florida House Declared Porn a "Public Health Risk" Yesterday, but Assault Weapons Are Still Fine

Say what you want about Tampa-area state Rep. Ross Spano, but he truly cares about the dangers our children face in the 21st Century. Just six days after Florida was forced to live through one of the most horrific school shootings in American history, in large part because a deranged teen was able to legally buy a military-grade AR-15 rifle in Florida, Spano appeared at the state capitol in Tallahassee and took a principled stand against the greatest danger facing our children today.

Pornography.

That's right. Spano watched Omar Mateen light up the Pulse Nightclub with a semiautomatic rifle in 2016, offered his "prayers" to Parkland victims in a Facebook post, and yet has spent his time post-Parkland focusing on ridding America of consensually filmed videos of people rubbing their genitals on one another for fun instead of banning the sort of assault weapons that are literally tearing American children into pieces. In fact, the Florida House voted 36-to-71 yesterday to kill an assault-weapons ban proposed by Rep. Carlos G. Smith.

But a few hours earlier, Spano's porn bill comfortably passed by a voice vote. The measure declares that "pornography is creating a public health risk and contributing to the hypersexualization of children and teens." The resolution claims pornography "sexualizes children," glorifies rape, ruins marriages, and can encourage people to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. Spano's bill places pornography on the same "public crisis" pedestal that opioids currently occupy, which is insane.

The research on these topics is way more complex and nuanced than Spano makes it sound, and some of his claims, like the idea porn could push you to cheat on your spouse, seem to be completely fabricated. Sexual-health professionals pretty uniformly agree there does not appear to be any sort of specific "health crisis" related to pornography at all.

Sure, porn raises thorny questions about sexual expectations, body-image, and the objectification of women. There are anti-pornography advocates who make cogent points about the industry's negative impact on society. But the proliferation of pornography has brought about positives, too, like introducing people to different sexual acts and subcultures, letting people explore same-sex desires, and destigmatizing sex workers. Sex educators and researchers have been engaging in a nuanced, interesting conversation about 21st-century pornography for years — and they damn sure don't need a Christian wingnut like Ross Spano getting involved.

Spano has been pushing this bill for months. Obsessively. This could, perhaps, be because Spano is himself unusually intrigued by porn: Despite his claims to be a devout, married Christian, Spano got caught "liking" a pornography tweet last month, on the very day he proposed his anti-porn legislation.

Thanks to the intrepid folks at the Orlando Weekly, we now know that Spano (or someone else using his account, but come on) "liked" a video on an account called "Goddess Lesbian" posted on January 8, 2018. The clip showed one woman receiving oral sex while she sat on another woman's face. (Here's a link to the very obviously not-safe-for-work video.)

Of course, some of the blame for yesterday's vote falls on House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the person in charge of scheduling the vote. As scores of commentators noted yesterday online, this meant the Florida House literally decided on the same day that pornography was more harmful to American society than assault rifles. Smith even asked Spano why the House was hearing the anti-porn bill instead of his assault-weapon ban, but Spano reportedly just said that the House can focus on more than one issue at once.

As the Tampa Bay Times noted yesterday, Spano himself chairs the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee — an elephant graveyard where gun-control bills go to die. If you needed any more proof the Florida Legislature is a broken mass spinning out of control, wholly divorced from the concerns of everyday people and actively hostile toward basic democracy, you've found it.

The world is broken! In the meantime, let's let Ross "the Porn Guy" Spano carry us out with a rousing rendition of our nation's anthem:

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