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Anti-porn rally aims at keeping sexualized ads out of community

Published: Friday, July 18 2014 9:10 p.m. MDT

Friday morning at 11 a.m., a group of concerned citizens, with the support of numerous anti-pornography organizations, will rally at The Square at 2600 South and 525 West in Bountiful to encourage scandalous-free, skin-free advertising.

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BOUNTIFUL — The day the advertisement hit Bountiful mailboxes, Sen. Todd Weiler's phone started ringing.

"You've got to do something," numerous concerned mothers told the senator, expressing their frustration that a postcard of a naked woman barely covering herself could be circulating in their community.

"This didn't come from out of state," said Weiler, a Republican who represents Davis and Salt Lake counties. "This was not from Las Vegas, this was from a Davis County business. That's very disappointing."

Friday morning at 11 a.m., a group of concerned citizens, with the support of numerous anti-pornography organizations, will rally at The Square at 2600 South and 525 West in Bountiful to express their concern, not just to Wade Laser Clinic, located nearby, but also to the community in general. They encourage anyone concerned about this issue to join them.

"The rally is to push back and say, this is not acceptable for businesses to use skin to hawk their products," said Weiler, who has worked on anti-pornography legislation and who will be speaking at the rally. "It violates our community standard in south Davis County, and we're going to push back and let people know we will not tolerate that and not silently allow this advertising to creep into our homes."

Wade Laser Clinic has spent the last two months apologizing to concerned residents and is embarrassed about the flier, said Dave Wade, marketing manager for the clinic.

Wade said he contracted with an out-of-state company to do a mass mailer for their services of liposuction/breast augmentation and while he signed off on the proof, when he received the glossy, oversized postcard, he realized they made a mistake.

"We wish we'd never gone through (with) it," he said. "We're trying to take steps to make sure nothing like that ever happens again."

His advice to other companies is to make sure they consider the collateral around their target demographic — which in this case was children who picked up the mail — and make sure their ad isn't offensive.

"Everybody's entitled to their own freedom of choice," he said, "and they deserve their rights to say what can and cannot be in their house.

Rally organizer Jennifer Brown appreciates the efforts of Wade Laser Clinic to make amends, but hopes the rally sends a message to other businesses that these types of decisions need to be made before questionable material is considered for advertising, given that it can cause serious damage to the young people who see it.

Brown, a dentist and mother of five boys, became an anti-pornography advocate several years ago when she began to notice the mass of sexualized images bombarding her children.

After spending years reading peer-reviewed studies on the impact of sexually explicit images on the brain, she quickly learned this wasn't a religious, moral or free speech argument, but rather a deeply scientific discussion about why children need to be protected from images they can't appropriately process.

"We shouldn't be subtly crafting these teenage boys to literally want to seek out porn, when they don't have the self-control and the knowledge to understand what's going on," she says.

What kids (and many of their parents) don't understand is that even subtle "soft-core," or "gateway" pornography like magazine covers, clothing ads or movie scenes set off a cascade of neurological reactions in the brain and leave lasting impacts.

When a child views a sexually stimulating image, the brain sees it as something new, unknown and potentially dangerous, which triggers the body's emotional stress-response system.

When stress pathways are activated by the brain's amygdala, adrenaline and dopamine are released, explains Amy F.T. Arnsten, a professor of neurobiology and psychology at Yale, in a paper on the stress signaling pathways in the brain.

Not only do these chemicals, along with others, begin to teach the brain that this image was pleasurable and should be sought after again, but the overactive amygdala begins to take over the rest of the brain and hijack higher orders of mental functioning.

"Psychological stress … impairs (prefrontal cortex) regulation but strengthens amygdala function, thus setting up a ‘vicious cycle,’ ” Arnsten writes. "Stress impairs higher-order PFC abilities such as working memory and attention regulation."

Not exactly what parents want their child to be struggling with, says Brown.

"(We want) parents to wake up just a little bit (and realize) that these images really do have an impact on their kids," she said. "(We hope) they're more careful where they take them, what they're allowing to be shown in their homes. (We want to) wake up more parents to the science."

Parents need to understand that the prefrontal cortex is especially sensitive to changes brought on by chronic stress — like being bombarded with sexualized images.

While other parts of the brain may take weeks of exposure, parts of the prefrontal cortex can "begin to change after only a week of stress or possibly even a single exposure," Arnsten writes.

Which is why billboards, fliers and advertisements in the community have got to be kept in the non-sexualized realm.

"We're trying to protect our children, protect our families," Brown said. "We're asking for decency in our community and that (businesses) will adhere to our community standards."

Bountiful adopted a community standard of decency in December 2002, which "encourages a wholesome environment for children and families" and asks that businesses and institutions in the city "adopt child-appropriate standards."

"If people remain silent, they're … letting businesses and the purveyors of this material know that it's OK," Weiler said. "It's incumbent on each of us to stand up and speak out when we see something we think is inappropriate. We need more people willing to stand up and say, 'We're not going to tolerate this in our community.’ ”

sisraelsen@deseretnews.com

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