They say itís a first step, one that could help change societyís views on pornography, sexual assault and domestic violence. The start, approved by the Winona County Board Tuesday, would change the countyís travel policy to favor hotels that do not offer pornograpic films in rooms.
Except in instances where it canít be avoided, employees will now have to choose from a list of lodging services when doing county business out of town that do not offer pornography programs on television, even the pay-per-view kind.
Members of the Winona County Sexual and Domestic Violence Primary Prevention Project lobbied for the measure, called the ďClean Hotel Policy,Ē during Tuesdayís meeting. The policy request was granted with a unanimous vote, although County Board member Marcia Ward abstained.
Ward said she wanted to hear the other side of the story and more information before voting on the request. She said she didnít disagree with the policy, but wondered where the restrictions would stop. What about hotels that have bars, asked Ward, or smoking rooms? Should the county also restrict employee travel from other establishments allowing activities that may be bad for a person?
Chuck Derry of the Minnesota Menís Action Network and the Gender Balance Institute in Clearwater said that there is a direct correlation between pornography and sexual and domestic violence. The measure approved Tuesday is a step toward the goal of changing the social norm related to some of the causes of these kinds of violence, he said.
Primary prevention, he said, is about changing the environment. When recent studies have shown that one in three Minnesota women is either sexually or physically assaulted in her lifetime, Derry said the fact screams that our environment includes widespread acceptance of violence against women and children.
Hotel pornography is a problem, said Derry, because there is a direct connection between pornography and violence about women and children. Often, such films show a manís pleasure tied to a womanís pain, he said, showing studies that have calculated just how prevalent violent acts are in these films.
Derry said that a Minnesota Department of Health study showed that in 2005, the cost of sexual violence alone in Minnesota topped $8 billion. Part of the measure, he said, is to ensure that taxpayer dollars related to employee travel donít go into the pockets of businesses offering services that exacerbate societyís acceptance of such violence. Itís a first step, he said.
ďI think itís a no-brainer,Ē said County Board member Dwayne Voegeli of the policy change. He said he would also like to see the board pass a resolution asking that the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) to support the issue among other counties, too.