clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

When Cardi B, Utah and porn meet in a tweet

Rapper Cardi B attends the the Road to “Fast & Furious 9” Concert at Maurice A. Ferré Park on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Miami, Fla.
Scott Roth/Invision/AP

The hip-hop artist Cardi B either just made a case for mandatory religion studies or why celebrities can be some of the least credible voices on cultural change. Probably both.

The dust-up on Twitter began with the Grammy award-winning rapper slamming Utah for “restricting porn and not regulating the disgusting things that happens in the FLDS,” adding, “that cult is disturbing.”

Given the replies, it’s clear people are confusing Utah’s predominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a fundamentalist sect that has no tie to the church or its official doctrines. The FLDS group is a small and radical offshoot that has little influence in Utah, and its leader, Warren Jeffs, is serving a life sentence in prison for sexually abusing children. So yes, Cardi B is right to describe his actions as disturbing.

The Church of Jesus Christ does not claim “molesting children” to be part of its teachings, as Cardi B suggested, and its members do care about limiting the influence of pornography, as most religious people do. Porn demonstrably undermines the aims of a religious life by crippling family units, lowering a user’s self-worth and promoting a trade that fosters violence against women and frequently engages in sex trafficking. And this is where Cardi B’s influence falters.

The “restriction” she’s most likely referring to in her Twitter attack is HB72, a bill that Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed into law that requires wireless devices sold within the state to automatically enable filters for “blocking material that is harmful to minors.” Adults, of course, have the freedom to turn off the filter.

The common sense of the measure can’t be spelled out more plainly. The average age of exposure to pornography varies from survey to survey, but the American Psychological Association pins it at 13 years old. The youngest participants in that study reported coming across pornography as early as age 5.

Young minds aren’t spared from the effects. Per Jennifer Johnson, a professor of sociology at the Virginia Commonwealth University, porn is strongly linked to shaping views about intimacy and sexual activity. It’s correlated with sexual violence, toxic attitudes of masculinity and degraded sexual health. The porn industry is rampant with sexually transmitted infections and abuse. It has strong ties to sex trafficking and child exploitation.

Pornhub, the foremost website for the sleaze, is estimated to be the fourth most popular website in the world after filtering for portals like Google and Facebook. It recently came under fire for profiting off videos of minors, sexual assaults and revenge porn.

In short, it’s everywhere, and children are getting exposed to it at alarmingly young ages. Utah’s law, then, makes perfect sense, and it dovetails nicely with the state becoming the first in the nation to label pornography as a public health crisis in 2016. Consider the Utah law preventive care.

Utah’s lawmakers have given the state some credibility when it comes to limiting the scope of adult content. Cardi B, unfortunately, doesn’t have the same credentials.

Her music and videos flirt with content that would make even a “mature” audience blush. Her controversial song “WAP” made it to Billboard’s No. 1 last year while breaking streaming records along the way. At the Grammys two weeks ago she performed a rendition of the track that left entertainment types fawning and conservative commentators nonplussed at how network television could air the number.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting Cardi B’s work is on par with videos on Pornhub, but the fact that most of her 17.6 million Twitter followers probably support her in questioning why a backward state in the West would care about restricting porn consumption speaks to a larger cultural appetite for entertainment that openly mocks sanctity and denigrates the value of life.

I’ll give her a pass for confusing religions — as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve heard it all — but we shouldn’t be so quick to brush aside a culture that delights in offense and celebrates the salacious. Thankfully, maybe a few less children in Utah will accidentally bump into it.