Will this town be the first porn-free city in the world?

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Welcome to Toowoomba. If city leaders have their way, this town of almost 111,000 in Queensland, Australia could just become the first porn-free city in the world.

City leaders, local Christian ministries, a church group, City Women Toowoomba, and a local organization called Toowoomba Together that raises awareness about domestic violence issues are leading the effort. They are supported by mayor, Paul Antonio.

The campaign addresses porn as a public health disaster. It claims that porn promotes gender-specific stereotypes of dominance and aggression in men and violence against women. Those claims are supported by recent studies that show that consuming porn can hardwire pathologies in the human brain in the same way that drug use can, altering the reward center to compulsively desire the dopamine hit that viewing porn can bring.

City Women Chief Executive, Letitia Shelton of Toowoomba said that an actual porn-free city “sounds very ambitious and unlikely,” but she believes that curbing its negative influences, and shedding light on this issue, to be a worthy cause.

Recently, a rally was held in a public Toowoomba park that was attended by up to 300 people, mostly men, who publicly pledged, “I won’t view porn and I will help create a city free from porn.”

“I dare say there will be some negative comments about it,” said Mayor Antonio. “but we must begin a journey with one step. I think what we’ve focused on today is the real value of proper relationships. Pornography has no place in that.”

map_capitolsToowoomba is known as “The Garden City” and a family-friendly community. It also has several adult shops, a strip club, and a brothel. Mayor Antonio insists the city’s porn-free push isn’t aimed at those businesses.

“We’re not talking about the people who are visiting the brothel or going along to the strip club,” he said.

“We’re talking about the people who are impacted by pornography, and its impact on relationships…A proper relationship is the most beautiful thing a human being can have. I don’t think pornography has any place in a proper relationship.”

Last year, the National Boy’s Health Forum reported that boys aged 12-17 were the fastest growing users of pornography, and 88% of porn sites contained aggressive acts that were almost always directed at women.

John Minz, chairman of Toowoomba Together, describes porn and domestic violence as a “social cancer,” adding, “politicians and police are doing what they can in relation to drugs and alcohol, but who is taking responsibility in relation to pornography? The answer is no one.”

“We are promoting values of respect, tolerance and understanding. Against this constructive social change platform, we have pornography,” he said

“Our future is our young people, and the choices they make. How do we nurture that?…As parents, and as a community, we try and give them the best of the world. Exposure to pornography is not good, it shapes wrong attitudes that will affect their future lives.”

What distinguishes this push to make Toowoomba porn-free is that it is not just some puritanical campaign by outraged religious groups to change people’s behavior. It’s an inclusive drive supported by church groups, ministries, social groups, community leaders, local government, as well as citizens. It’s a joint effort to make their city a better place to live and raise children…and to become better people in the process.

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