on 30 April 2002
I just finished the book, 'Harmful to Minors' by Judith Levine and all I can say is WOW!, is this book long overdue. It is sensible, concise and intelligent from cover to cover, and is a must read for any parent suffering anxiety over raising a child in the current alarmist atmosphere surrounding child sexuality. There has been plenty of controversy in the US over the publication of this book, mostly from the right-wing x-tian conservative faction. After reading this book it has become glaringly obvious that they have not read it. Perhaps a few have skimmed it looking for choice morsels which they can extract from the surrounding context and infuse with their own meaning (you know, much like they do the bible), so let me set a few things straight. Not once in 'Harmful to Minors' does Ms. Levine excuse or advocate abusive coercive or violent sexual behavior with children (or anyone else for that matter). On the contrary it seems that Ms. Levine cares very deeply for children. What the book does do is research the origins of our current alarmist attitudes and examines how this prevailing hysteria about child sexuality can do children more harm than good. (just one example among many, parents may become increasingly afraid to show physical affection to children, thus depriving them of much needed loving contact.) The book also examines present US laws, policies and trends in sex education and how they fail children on almost every level. (another example:the age of consent laws which protect an 8 year old from unwanted sex also 'protect' a 17 year old from sex with her 18 year-old boyfriend.) This book gives us a disturbing insight into our increasingly vigilant restriciton of normative activities in children - 'playing doctor' is now seen as sexual misconduct, sending love-notes in class is 'sexual harrassment' and an adolescent mooning resulted in him being placed in a restrictive and brutal program for child 'sex-offenders'. But the best thing Levine does in the book is offer some sound ideas and solutions for raising children out of this oppressive hysteria. 'Harmful to Minors' does NOT advocate any form of child abuse. What it does advocate is raising children in a happy, healthy, safe, loving and informed envronment with lots of affection, care and respect. How can anyone argue with that?
on 11 May 2009
Judith Levine's popular compilation of modern studies on sexuality is an important wake-up call for people to resist the power of social conservatism in the area of sexuality as much as anywhere else. In "Harmful to Minors", she convincingly lays out the case for a positive, non-moralistic and non-puritan approach to sexuality and in particular children's sexuality. Ever since Freud and Kinsey broke the silence regarding this subject in their respective societies, the idea of children having, wanting and even enjoying sex and sexuality has been an absolute taboo in the nations where social conservatives rule. Yet nevertheless all modern studies of sexuality point out that it is true, and not only that, but that trying to stymy this development is actively bad for the mental health of the kid and his/her social development.
Levine's book has of course caused an uproar, but this is more proof of the hysteria surrounding the subject and the degree to which the idea of sexuality as a positive and pleasurable thing, even for younger people, has been repressed than proof of its untruth. It is therefore unfortunate that a big part of the book discusses the political and social issues surrounding this repression itself; while this is important and interesting, the amount of text spent on scientifically proving the need for nonrepression of sexuality is relatively little (though still easily sufficient to prove the case). This makes it easier for people to dismiss it than if it had had a more thoroughly scholarly tone.
Nevertheless, Levine's point is obviously true and it is imperative that modern and developed nations like the United States adopt a more progressive approach to sexuality, not just to remove the effects of religious moralism from this sphere, but also because repression of sexuality and information about sex leads to psychological problems, social awkwardness, sexual disease, unwanted pregnancies, rape, abuse and suicide. It is not sexuality that is dangerous - it is the repression of sexuality that is the real danger to children and adults alike.
on 17 July 2013
I completely disagree. As a rape victim subjected to grooming I'm very well versed in it's effects. Labelling concern for children as 'hysteria' is ridiculous. What's happening to children is hypersexualization, and it is grooming children for sex. What's worrying is the attempt at making children seem less vulnerable than they actually are; and almost amounts to victim blaming. Quite frankly, the cover alone is disturbing, nice shock tactics.
If you want real information, try reading The Sexualisation of Young People by Dr Linda Papadopolous, a report commissioned in London by the British govenment earlier this year, or The World Health Organization's report on violence against women and children published last month.