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Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis” — so read the headline of last month’s PostEverything commentary by sociologist and anti-pornography activist Gail Dines.

Dines was writing in support of a resolution passed by the Utah state legislature in March, which declared pornography “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” The resolution claimed that porn led to problematic sexual templates and risky sexual behavior in adolescents, normalized the abuse and commodification of women, and could lead to difficulty forming intimate relationships or even addiction, among numerous other claims.

The essay generated more than 2,000 online responses before the comments section was closed, along with letters to the editor and commentary via other media outlets. Many of them were objections from outraged respondees who saw Dines’s article and the Utah legislation as the latest example of moral panic based on bias and fallacies, and the beginning of an assault on basic Internet freedoms — including the freedom to watch as much pornography as desired.

It’s true that much of the research around pornography remains somewhat unsettled, in no small part because it’s so difficult to conduct, and what does exist is often contradictory. The American Psychiatric Association decided not to name “hypersexual disorder” (which would have included a pornography sub-type) in the most recent edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5) after determining that there wasn’t clear enough evidence. Many note that after certain countries legalized porn, their incidence of sexual violence fell.

Even so, claims about pornography’s pervasiveness and potential harm aren’t unsupported. Researchers worry that it is contributing to warped views of sexuality and body image in adolescents, with results that follow on into adulthood. The website Pornhub claims to have had 21.2 billion visits in 2015 — almost 7,000 per second, with American visitors accounting for 41 percent of the traffic. And because so much pornography is free and easily available on private devices, research shows that 42 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 have seen porn — mostly accidentally.

After the New York Times highlighted a sharp increase in the number of teenage girls seeking genital cosmetic surgery, seemingly mystified doctors suggested that it was because girls are growing up in era where they can “go online and look up [airbrushed] images” that they then compare to themselves. Exasperated readers were quick to point out that these images probably weren’t anatomical diagrams, but pornography — readily available, but rarely realistic.

In adulthood, vast anecdotal evidence depicts young women alarmed by sexual partners whose expectations seem to have been formed by what they’ve seen in pornography, and men whose heavy usage has damaged their libido — a 2013 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 26 percent of men seeking help for erectile dysfunction were under the age of 40. Other research indicates that heavy pornography users are more likely to become sexually active early; more likely to see sex as merely a physiological function; and more likely to have tried to coerce others into sex — but it’s also unclear whether the porn or dysfunction came first.

Although Utah’s legislation has drawn jeers, the anti-pornography movement has been quietly gaining ground both in the United States and abroad. If the United States (or individual states) were to attempt to regulate pornography, we wouldn’t be the first to do so. In 2013, a countrywide ban on pornography was proposed in Iceland; in the same year, the United Kingdom adopted adult-content filters that required users to “opt in” in order to view pornographic content on Internet browsers, which were only recently lifted as part of the E.U.’s broader move toward “net neutrality.” Individual companies have taken their own stances: American Express refuses to process payments to pornographic sites, and Google seems to be moving such sites further down in search results and more actively filtering explicit images.

In a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only 39 percent of respondents said they would oppose legal restrictions on pornography. Is there compelling enough evidence that pornography is a public-health hazard for the government to intervene? If so, is there a way to regulate it without hampering free speech? Is the public-health approach the right one to take, and what do the frameworks of the debate about pornography say about the way we view sex?

Over the next few days, we’ll hear from:

Matthew Schmitz, writer at First Things

Mireille Miller-Young, professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin

Alexander Rhodes, founder of NoFap

Haley Halverson, director of communications at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Julia Long, feminist academic at Anglia Ruskin University

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the American Psychological Association published the DSM-5. The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association.