Louisiana web users who want to view adult content must now provide a valid driver’s license or state ID to prove they’re above 18 years of age, thanks to a new state law that recently went into effect.
And while that might sound funny, Republicans want to pass a similar law nationwide.
The law, House Bill 142 (HB 142), says that any commercial website containing 33.3 percent or more of sexually explicit material must “perform reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of individuals attempting to access the material.” While all popular adult websites haven’t instituted age checks yet, if they don’t, they can be sued for non-compliance.
The bill was introduced by anti-LGBTQ+ state Rep. Laurie Schlegel, a woman who introduced legislation banning transgender kids from playing on school sports teams matching their gender identities.
Schlegel’s HB 142 says, “[Sexual content] is creating a public health crisis and having a corroding influence on minors.” It also blames adult content for “the hypersexualization of teens and prepubescent children… low self-esteem, body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior.”
The bill also says sexual content may “impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships, as well as promoting problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction.”
Louisiana is the second-poorest state in the country, with 17.4% of its population at or below the poverty line. It also has the second-highest rate of childhood poverty, with 26.8% of its children living at or below the poverty line. And this is what state lawmakers there are currently focused on.
Web viewers will have to enter information from their IDs into a third-party verification system that claims not to store the user data.
Schlegel says the bill is meant to protect children rather than penalize adults. However, if web viewers feel scared about entering their personal information into a verification system, they may turn to lesser-known websites that feature illegal content, one researcher worries.
Olivia Snow — a sex worker, professor, and research fellow at UCLA’s Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — told TechCrunch, “[The law is] really just further marginalizing sex workers, which I think is going to be the primary effect. I imagine this means that there will be an increased black market of premium [sexual] content that’s non-consensually disseminated.”
If Schlegel’s bill sounds ridiculous, don’t laugh. It may actually be a sign of things to come.
In November 2022, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill that would revise the federal definition of “obscenity” to essentially criminalize any web users who view or share “obscene” images online.
“The definition for obscenity [under Lee’s law is] so broad that it would encompass almost all sexual speech now legal,” adult industry advocacy group Free Speech Coalition (FSC) Director of Public Affairs Mike Stabile told The Mary Sue.
“It would also criminalize fans who share content, or couples who sext or share intimate images on dating apps. People don’t think of themselves as ‘[sexual content] distributors,’ but under this bill, even retweeting adult content or DMing a dick pic is a criminal act. The headlines are about [sexual adult content], but this bill criminalizes sex,” Stabile added.