An Inclusive Litany

3/26/02

Promotional text for Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, by Judith Levine, with a foreword by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn M. Elders. The book, published in April by the University of Minnesota Press, immediately went into a second printing:
A radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children's and teens' sexuality. Sex is a wonderful, crucial part of growing up, and children and teens can enjoy the pleasures of the body and be safe, too. In this important and controversial book, Judith Levine makes this argument and goes further, asserting that America's attempts to protect children from sex are worse than ineffectual. It is the assumption of danger and the exclusive focus on protection—what Levine terms "the sexual politics of fear"—that are themselves harmful to minors.

Through interviews with young people and their parents, stories drawn from today's headlines, visits to classrooms and clinics, and a look back at the ways sex among children and teenagers has been viewed throughout history, Judith Levine debunks some of the dominant myths of our society. She examines and challenges widespread anxieties (pedophilia, stranger kidnapping, Internet pornography) and sacred cows (abstinence-based sex education, statutory rape laws). Levine investigates the policies and practices that affect kids' sex lives—censorship, psychology, sex and AIDS education, family, criminal, and reproductive law, and the journalism that begs for "solutions" while inciting more fear.

Harmful to Minors offers fresh alternatives to fear and silence, describing sex-positive approaches that are ethically based and focus on common sense. Levine provides optimistic, though realistic, prescriptions for how we might do better in guiding children toward loving well—that is, safely, pleasurably, and with respect for others and themselves.

"Sharp, extraordinarily informed, and wittily incisive ... This is a major book, far and away the most wide-ranging, well-informed, and judicious we have on the subject. Levine's wisdom is compelling, and she offers the best kind of sophisticated and skeptical analysis. Each chapter is full of surprises, yet offers sensitive and gentle pointers to all of us, kids and adults, who are looking for ways out of these crushing dilemmas. It's a crusading book that is also kind, a very rare phenomenon, and it comes down always on the side of trusting not only our kids and their pleasures but our own."

—James Kincaid, author of Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting

[Ed.: In case you were wondering, Levine commented in response to widespread outrage that "yes, conceivably, absolutely," a boy's sexual relationship with a priest could be positive.]

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