Oklahoma Law Is Causing A Lot Of Debate

Last week, an Oklahoma state senator introduced a bill that could drastically restrict access to pornography, making it a crime to view or possess any “obscene materials.” The measure would not only ban traditional “hardcore pornography,” but also a variety of sexually charged adult content, such as erotic photographs, drawings, and performance art.

State Sen. Dusty Deevers (R–District 32) filed the text of the bill, known as Oklahoma Senate Bill 1976, last week. If passed, it would make merely viewing any “obscene materials” a felony offense, punishable by up to 20 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000.

The proposed measure defines “unlawful pornography” as “any visual depiction or individual image stored or contained in any format on any medium” that includes various sexual acts, nudity, or sexual fetishes. This definition is so broad that it could encompass not only commercial pornographic videos, but also personal photos or videos shared between consenting adults in intimate relationships outside of marriage.

In addition to criminal enforcement, the bill also authorizes private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone they believe has produced, distributed, or even intends to produce or distribute pornographic material. Those found guilty of violating the law could be liable for damages totaling $10,000 for each image or depiction, plus court costs and the attorney fees of the person who sued.

This is not the first time that Republicans have taken aim at pornography in recent years. Several states have already passed resolutions declaring porn a “public health crisis,” and other bills have been introduced that would ban porn on devices unless users pay a fee or restrict access to online platforms that host pornography.

The rise of conservative concern over porn is reflected in the current wave of anti-porn legislation being introduced across the country. Some prominent conservative and Republican figures have been vocal about their desire to ban porn altogether, stating that it has no claim to First Amendment protection and calling for those who produce and distribute it to be imprisoned.

Despite the potential consequences, Deevers’ bill is just a small piece of a larger crusade against pornography that is gaining momentum within conservative circles.