Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex

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Now available in paperback, Judith Levine's controversial book challenges American attitudes towards child and adolescent sexuality-especially attitudes promulgated by a Christian right that has effectively seized control of how sex is taught in public schools. The author-a thoughtful and persuasive journalist and essayist-examines the consequences of "abstinence" only education and its concomitant association of sex with disease, and the persistent denial of pleasure. She notes the trend toward pathologizing ...
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Overview


Now available in paperback, Judith Levine's controversial book challenges American attitudes towards child and adolescent sexuality-especially attitudes promulgated by a Christian right that has effectively seized control of how sex is taught in public schools. The author-a thoughtful and persuasive journalist and essayist-examines the consequences of "abstinence" only education and its concomitant association of sex with disease, and the persistent denial of pleasure. She notes the trend toward pathologizing young children's eroticized play and argues that Americans should rethink the boundaries we draw in protecting our children from sex. This powerful and illuminating work was nominated for the 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Harmful to Minors is a fresh taste of truth, a surely needed wake-up call to common misconceptions of sexuality and youth.
Publishers Weekly
"In America today, it is nearly impossible to publish a book that says children and teenagers can have sexual pleasure and be safe too," writes journalist Levine (My Enemy, My Love). Levine has somehow pulled that off. Western European countries assume that "sexual expression is a healthy and happy part of growing up"; thus Levine argues that sex is not necessarily bad for minors, and that puritanical attitudes often backfire. According to her, as the age of sexual initiation drops in America, the age of consent is rising. She observes that most so-called pedophiles are attracted to teenagers rather than kids an important subtlety recently aired in the media. (Still, her call for common sense on pedophilia is marred by an inadequate acknowledgment of the extent of online child porn, as documented in Philip Jenkins's recent Beyond Tolerance.) She notes the disturbing trend toward pathologizing young children's eroticized play and criticizes mainstream America for letting the Christian right steer sex education toward an emphasis on abstinence. Compounding that, she says, the right wing has expunged abortion discussions. A Ms. and Nerve.com contributor, Levine argues, contra Mary Pipher (Reviving Ophelia), that love may ruin teenage girls more than sex. At one point, Levine cogently contends that the term "normal" is "subjective and protean"; she prefers "normative," which means "what most people do." It's a good start to confronting some vital questions. Agent, Joy Harris. (May) Forecast: Levine's book was bought by a trade publisher, then bounced around one editorial board called it "radioactive" until it found its current publisher. It's already drawn pre-pub fire from conservative groups for its content and an interview Levine gave, in which she said that sex between a priest and a youth could be positive a statement she later modified, noting that she disapproved of any sexual relationship between a youth and an authority figure. All this talk will only help sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
Are some teens sleeping with adults? Are some teens and children actually harmed by being "protected" from useful information about sexuality? Is family hostility a leading cause of homelessness among gay youth? Yes-to all of the above. Teenagers need factual information about sexuality, and shying away from this controversial book would be a grave mistake, especially for librarians who should be committed to intellectual freedom and a balanced library collection. This groundbreaking book gives information that most people do not even want to think about but should want to learn about. Through news stories, historical information, visits to classrooms and clinics, and interviews with young people, Levine provides information about the sexuality of children and teenagers, especially in relation to mass media. She explores censorship, pedophiles, hebophiles (adults who have sexual relations with teenagers), pornography, Internet predators, crimes of passion, statutory rape laws, misinformation associated with sex education, homosexuality, sexual pleasure, teenage pregnancy, children who molest other children, and sex play between children. The tone here is extremely straightforward. Levine does not hesitate to be frank about sensitive topics such as violence against abortion clinic employees, the failure of abstinence-only sex education in relation to the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), and hysteria displayed by adults who learn that young children are naturally curious about sex and bodies. Levine presents a realistic, well-researched gem that is highly recommended and should be read by public and school librarians, health care workers, parents, andolder teens. Index. Source Notes. 2002, University of Minnesota Press, 299p,
— Sheila Anderson
Library Journal
Journalist and free-speech activist Levine (My Enemy, My Love: Women, Men, and the Dilemmas of Gender) here argues that trying to protect young people from sex can actually exacerbate or even create the much-feared sexual danger. Her well-documented horror stories of zealotry and incompetence are chilling; Levine is particularly good at showing that abstinence-based sex education leaves many teens without the information they need to make intelligent choices. Misrepresentations of fact, unfounded assumptions, the runaway media hype offered by so-called experts, conservative agendas, and simple conformity, she writes, largely determine our approaches to censorship, "the pedophile panic," youthful sexual behavior, sex education, abortion, and the suppression of information about sexual pleasure. These factors, she holds, predispose young people to have bad sex with unwanted outcomes. Instead of overreaction and overprotection, adults need to saturate their children's world with accurate, realistic information and images of love and sex, including sexual pleasure. Her book, which provoked considerable controversy even before its publication, provides no easy answers to a complex question but is highly recommended as a wake-up call. Martha Cornog, Philadelphia Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560255161
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 8/10/2003
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Author's Note
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Peril and Pleasure, Parenting and Childhood
I Harmful Protection
1 Censorship: The Sexual Media and the Ambivalence of Knowing 3
2 Manhunt: The Pedophile Panic 20
3 Therapy: "Children Who Molest" and the Tyranny of the Normal 45
4 Crimes of Passion: Statutory Rape and the Denial of Female Desire 68
5 No-Sex Education: From "Chastity" to "Abstinence" 90
6 Compulsory Motherhood: The End of Abortion 117
7 The Expurgation of Pleasure 127
II Sense and Sexuality
8 The Facts: ... and Truthful Fictions 141
9 What Is Wanting?: Gender, Equality, and Desire 155
10 Good Touch: A Sensual Education 178
11 Community: Risk, Identity, and Love in the Age of AIDS 199
Epilogue: Morality 218
Notes 227
Index 277
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2007

    A very good book that challenges religious leaders

    This is a very good book that I have read recently. It's conclusions on pedophiles do not go far enough in my opinion (I believe that pedophiles are quite normal, perhaps because I myself am one). This book is something that all people should read, and take to heart.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    DECEPTIVE & DANGEROUS

    I rated this book a 1 star because I couldn't give it a no star. This book promotes pedophilia, and is dangerous to children in our society. I wouldn't waste the time, energy or money on this book. Ms. Levine should be ashamed of herself for promoting this attitude to make money. Or possibly arrested.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2003

    Don't be fooled by the Christian Right!

    This book is important, daring and thoughtful. Perhaps it doesn't take the most popular viewpoint, but then again, since when has the most popular viewpoit been right? Read it and open your eyes!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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