March 17, 2000 01:25am
Utah Adding Pornography Czar
by: Hanna Wolfson
(SALT LAKE CITY, UT) -- "Real Men Don't Use Pornography."
For months, the statement on a billboard greeted drivers as they arrived in Utah from Wyoming on Interstate 80, the massive letters printed across the portraits of several clean-cut men.
The billboard is gone now, but Utah's governor was expected today to sign into law a bill created in its spirit, giving the state the country's first pornography czar.
That person has little prosecutorial power, and no jurisdiction over the Internet or cable television. Instead, he or she will draft a new state definition of obscenity, help local governments ``restrict, suppress or eliminate'' pornography and provide information ``about the dangers of obscenity.''
Pornography has been debated intensely in Utah, where 70 percent of the population belongs to the Mormon church. Lawmakers already have passed bills banning Playboy from prisons and preventing minors from viewing pornographic Web sites at public libraries.
Pornography actually is difficult to find in Utah. A search through the yellow pages turns up a few listings for adult videos, and the adult bookstore most widely advertised in Salt Lake City is an hour away, in Evanston, Wyo.
``The irony of all this is that there have not been that many pornography cases lately,'' said Carol Gnade, director of the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ``This seems to be a solution without a problem.''
Republican state Rep. Evan L. Olsen, who sponsored the legislation, said his constituents asked him about the state's obscenity standards after discovering their children surfing for cybersex.
``I felt there's a lot of people who wanted to do something but didn't know where to turn,'' Olsen said.
The legislation sets aside $75,000 next year and suggests spending $150,000 in future years to hire an ombudsman to handle obscenity and pornography complaints.
``It's time to say what's happening here,'' said Gayle Ruzicka, chairwoman of Utah's chapter of the conservative Eagle Forum. ``Pornography has suddenly become a huge, huge business - beyond anything we ever imagined - and it's as addictive as drugs. People are asking for help.''
Utah is apparently the first state to name a general porn czar, though other states, including California and New York, have teams or individuals responsible for investigating child pornography.
Joan Bertin, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, said she wouldn't be surprised if other states jump on the bandwagon.
``There's a huge proliferation of entertainment that is more sexually explicit than ever before,'' Bertin said. ``So there's really both a loosening and a tightening at once, and I suppose that's to be expected.''