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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 edu 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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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 edu 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.

30 review for Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lightreads

    I’ve been pushing this book at pretty much everyone I saw this past weekend, so a lot of you have already gotten an earful. For the rest of you: find this book, read this book, give it a long hard mull. For it is awesome. Right, so. The first half of this book deals with the way American law and culture addresses – and mostly fails to address – sex and children. From the unsurprising indictment of sex-ed to the discussions of the misogyny and powerlessness perpetuated by statutory rape laws, it’s I’ve been pushing this book at pretty much everyone I saw this past weekend, so a lot of you have already gotten an earful. For the rest of you: find this book, read this book, give it a long hard mull. For it is awesome. Right, so. The first half of this book deals with the way American law and culture addresses – and mostly fails to address – sex and children. From the unsurprising indictment of sex-ed to the discussions of the misogyny and powerlessness perpetuated by statutory rape laws, it’s a grim but utterly fascinating picture. The second half of the book offers up alternative solutions, snapshots of successful pilot programs, memorable and pointed anecdotes. This book is frank, inclusive, nuanced. Levine is entirely unwilling to leave anything to implication, and her frankness about the reality of the sexualized behavior children display as early as two or three is only part of the reason her road to publication was so rocky, as outlined in the introduction. This is a book about sex and culture and parenting, but it’s also a vicious but controlled screed against conservative politics, social inequality, sexism. It’s about all the things we aren’t doing that could help American children grow up into respectful, responsible sexual partners, and it’s also about all the things we are doing which perpetuate gender inequality and lead to unsafe behavior and even kill our country’s kids. Levine is a powerful writer, with a real knack for picking effective, thought-provoking statistics. The second half of the book is far more anecdotal than prescriptive, which I didn’t really mind. Partly it’s that this book was -- and is -- groundbreaking as a holistic, unified treatment of the topic, and the research data for some of the suggestions simply doesn’t exist yet. Levine does make some odd stylistic choices – I would have reversed the presentation of the sex-ed material and the chapter on pedophilia and child sexual predators (that’s child predators, as well as the adult kind) but I can see her reasoning. I also would have liked a more complete treatment of child sexual abuse within the family, but honestly that’s not what this book is about. What this book is about is information. The kind we receive as children is inadequate at best, flat out harmful at worst. Levine argues in concert with a long-held instinct of mine, and she has the research to back it up: exposing children to a saturation of sexual images and information which is positive, diverse, and inclusive is not only healthy, but absolutely essential for saving them grief, pain, and possibly death. And we might just make life better for women and minorities while we’re at it. Seriously, read this book. Not everyone will agree with all of it. I certainly didn’t – I made a bet with myself halfway through, paused to look up Levine’s biography, and went ‘yep, thought so,’ when her Libertarianism popped up. But this is the sort of book which is meant to sew discussion, and the thought behind it, and maybe some action.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Harmful to Minors is a unique book advocating a different approach to sex education and children's sexuality. The work is well-researched and I agree with many of the author's theses, though it doesn't attempt or pretend to be unbiased. Levine braves some very controversial waters by asserting that children should be, for the most part, left alone to explore their sexualities and that traumatizing children about sex and intruding on their privacy is ultimately harmful. She makes a convincing cas Harmful to Minors is a unique book advocating a different approach to sex education and children's sexuality. The work is well-researched and I agree with many of the author's theses, though it doesn't attempt or pretend to be unbiased. Levine braves some very controversial waters by asserting that children should be, for the most part, left alone to explore their sexualities and that traumatizing children about sex and intruding on their privacy is ultimately harmful. She makes a convincing case that many of the fears associated with children are misplaced and disproportionate. The book isn't without its problems: for example, I read with disbelief the author's assertion that child pornography consists of a few grainy images of children in bathing suits from decades ago that federal agents plant to arrest consumers. That may be what the police allowed Levine to see, but it isn't the whole story and it seemed as though she were dismissing the existence of anything harder-core. Similarly, she refers repeatedly to "consensual" statutory rape, and while her arguments that criminalization of sex between minors should be more nuanced carries weight, this still strikes me as an obvious contradiction by definition. Changing the law is one thing, changing the definition of terms on the fly is quite another. Finally, Levine admits that a lot of the issues she discusses aren't well researched, which is understandable, but relies quite often on constructions like "my instinct is," "I can imagine that," and other invitations to anecdotal expertise. Since I get frustrated and criticize more sexually conservative writers for this, I have to do it here too. In any case, the book is incredibly thought-provoking and interesting; it served as a good contrast to certain elements in Robert Jenkins's Getting Off.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Torie

    If anyone doesn't quite see how the ultra-conservative Christian Fundamentalist agenda is and has been effecting the most intimate decisions we make, including how we raise children, this book will break much of it down for you. It took me a little while to process some of the things that Levine was arguing, because it goes against so much of what I was raised with, and you'll see what I mean if you read the book. Once I situated what she was writing within the right frame of mind, I found mysel If anyone doesn't quite see how the ultra-conservative Christian Fundamentalist agenda is and has been effecting the most intimate decisions we make, including how we raise children, this book will break much of it down for you. It took me a little while to process some of the things that Levine was arguing, because it goes against so much of what I was raised with, and you'll see what I mean if you read the book. Once I situated what she was writing within the right frame of mind, I found myself understanding and agreeing with a lot of it. I was kind of amazed that a book written a few years ago could still not only be so timely but could speak to so many oppressive moves by the right wing that are taking place right now. The joke that is sex education ("abstinence only") being one of them. Coincidentally, I've also been following a lot of the same issues on a great blog called Feministing (http://feministing.com/). For sure check it out.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Deland

    I find myself constantly returning to this excellent indictment of the ways in which American culture psychically terrorizes its youth in its misbegotten efforts to protect children from sexual knowledge. Judith Levine is bold, brave, and right on- an excellent antidote for what passes for sex education these days. Read it!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    3.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this book and it led me to question and/or rethink many of my assumptions regarding children/youth and sex. Some important and interesting points: - As a therapist, I found the "therapy" chapter really interesting. I had some disagreements (see below) but found it refreshing to hear someone challenging some sacred cows of the therapy field. - It can be really damaging when we pathologize children's normative sexual behavior as abuse, molestation, or trauma react 3.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this book and it led me to question and/or rethink many of my assumptions regarding children/youth and sex. Some important and interesting points: - As a therapist, I found the "therapy" chapter really interesting. I had some disagreements (see below) but found it refreshing to hear someone challenging some sacred cows of the therapy field. - It can be really damaging when we pathologize children's normative sexual behavior as abuse, molestation, or trauma reaction. (Also, I thought she made a good point about how little we really understand about what IS "normal" sexual behavior for children.) - Statutory rape laws are really problematic, as is defining the "age of consent." The example story she tells about a young man who gets convicted of statutory rape is pretty sad. - Her critique of sex education points out that it's problematic to encourage young people to make sex all about love and commitment, because actually they are more likely to make poor safety choices in the context of romantic love (e.g. agreeing not to use a condom because you are hooked into the narrative of "This is true love and you are the only person I'll ever be with"). - Also, her critique of sex education points out that even those who are willing for teenagers to have sex, don't want them to ENJOY it. - I liked that she challenged the equation that girls' sexual activity = lack of self-esteem. This is really problematic and I think it's a really common belief/ assumption among therapists, teachers, and others who work with youth. A few issues: - Overall: This book was clearly written by a journalist with an ear for a good story. Throughout the book, the line "The plural of anecdote is not data" kept coming to mind. A great example can really serve to illustrate a point; but a great example doesn't necessarily PROVE a point. - Why does Levine have such a beef with Toni Cavanagh Johnson? (She's a therapist who writes about how to assess children's sexual behavior.) As I said earlier, it's true that we don't necessarily understand what IS normal sexual behavior for children. Still, as a therapist, I've always found Johnson's guidelines to be pretty sensible. (For example, judging whether a sexual behavior is problematic based on the child's affect and feelings about it, rather than saying a specific behavior is always right or wrong.) - She claims that being sexually abused is not linked to becoming a sexual abuser, because most ppl who are sexually abused don't go on to molest others. True, but (as I've always understood the research to show) most people who molest others had been sexually abused themselves. So clearly just being sexually abused doesn't automatically make you an abuser, but that doesn't mean there's no correlation. She doesn't address this at all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    I'm very glad to see a book of this kind out on the market. I've thought for most of my adolescent (and now young adult) years that adults were just silly when it comes to sex and children. A lot of the research presented in this book backs that up. We can often do more harm to our children trying to protect them from sex and sexuality than we do them good. I think this book is the kind of thing every parent needs to be exposed to before having a child so that they can make informed and healthy I'm very glad to see a book of this kind out on the market. I've thought for most of my adolescent (and now young adult) years that adults were just silly when it comes to sex and children. A lot of the research presented in this book backs that up. We can often do more harm to our children trying to protect them from sex and sexuality than we do them good. I think this book is the kind of thing every parent needs to be exposed to before having a child so that they can make informed and healthy decisions about how to raise their children into healthy and responsible sexual persons. I do have one very heavy criticism of this book, however, and that is why I'm withholding the five star rating. As I think that every parent should be reading this, I can see that most people will find this book intimidating. This isn't just because of its subject matter, but because the author consistently throughout the book uses obscure, archaic, and very sophisticated language to get her points across. This would be fine if academics were the only audience she hopes to reach, but I would like to believe she wants to get through to more people than that. A few things stuck out to me as particularly distracting or confounding while reading her work. She used the word catholic to mean universal while talking about sex education and values. Someone who was not savvy enough to check the dictionary for this may have simply read it as Catholic or thought that the only meaning of the word has to do with the Church. This is confusing and I think probably the most irresponsible use of any word in this book. There are other synonyms that will convey this meaning. There were also some cultural references that can be kind of obscure. There was something about a Martha Stewart approved must avoid something or other and I have NO idea what the author was trying to convey here. It drags away from the clarity and sends readers on a hunt for their dictionaries and the internet in general to figure out what she is talking about. The word "aver" was used to annoyance. I have no problem with complex language, but I don't feel like it has a place in this book. I think it is best left to fiction and people that need to paint complex meanings and pictures with their words. This is a work of nonfiction, and I think it should be simple, spelled out, and easily digestible to people of lesser education or academic background. These are the people that probably most need to read it, after all. Mostly, I think this book is a great thing. If the language was clarified and simplified so that reading through it flowed more easily then I think it would be perfect. Kudos to the author for tackling such a difficult and controversial topic and being courageous enough to keep fighting to have it published in the face of adversity.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Colesberry

    Brilliant and brave analysis of the incompetent and harmful efforts made to protect children and youth in this country from "harmful sexuality." In an age where nothing gains political capital like an effort to track and punish child molesters, Levine asks the tough questions such as, "Who exactly are these child molesters?" The answers will shock: Some of the so-called child molesters on the maps that parents scrutinize in paralyzed fear are flashers or a guy who got into an ill-advised relatio Brilliant and brave analysis of the incompetent and harmful efforts made to protect children and youth in this country from "harmful sexuality." In an age where nothing gains political capital like an effort to track and punish child molesters, Levine asks the tough questions such as, "Who exactly are these child molesters?" The answers will shock: Some of the so-called child molesters on the maps that parents scrutinize in paralyzed fear are flashers or a guy who got into an ill-advised relationship with a 17-year-old. This isn't admirable behavior, certainly, but a far cry from an accurate risk assessment tool for parents rightly worried about their children. Others of the child molesters that are discovered / invented by a social services system gone haywire are actually children themselves. Turns out that the devil-cult mania of the 1980s didn't go away when it was found over time to be utterly and completely without merit. (No material evidence for a devil cult was ever actually found. It was pure and simply mass hysteria caused by delusional "experts.") The devil-cult mania just transitioned into a child-molester mania. Amazing to me that we cannot summon the political will to educate our children in America or feed them when they can't get enough food or to properly care for their health (we have the highest infant mortality in the developed world, behind Japan, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and every European country save for Latvia), but any hairbrained proposal purporting to protect children from molestation is universally endorsed without examination of need or effectiveness. Welcome to America, the home of dumb, undernourished, unhealthy but blissfully unmolested children. Really bizarre.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ushan

    This country is obsessed with children and sex. A great deal of effort is expended on censorship in the name of making sexually explicit material inaccessible to children, even though there is no evidence whatsoever that children are harmed in any way after viewing it. I once made a presentation in the elementary school where my wife's son went; I wanted to point the browser on the classroom computer at my homepage, but I couldn't: as far as the school was concerned, the entire Internet except f This country is obsessed with children and sex. A great deal of effort is expended on censorship in the name of making sexually explicit material inaccessible to children, even though there is no evidence whatsoever that children are harmed in any way after viewing it. I once made a presentation in the elementary school where my wife's son went; I wanted to point the browser on the classroom computer at my homepage, but I couldn't: as far as the school was concerned, the entire Internet except for a few approved sites was pr0n. Child pornography represents the purest example of thoughtcrime in the modern-day United States, the theory being that viewing it could psych up the pedophiles so that they go out and molest real children. There is no evidence backing this theory; for all we know, the opposite might be true; a pedophile might harmlessly masturbate to the pictures instead of molesting real children. Yet the biggest purveyors of child pornography on the Internet are the police (when I read this I couldn't believe that this is the real world, not a Philip K. Dick novel, yet I hope that Levine's sources were reliable); if they honestly believed the child-pornography-causes-child-abuse theory, this would be like handing out free cans of gasoline and matches, tracking down everybody who took them, and prosecuting them for arson - and what if a real arsonist took them and they couldn't track him down? Children who engage in sexual play are labeled abnormal or worse, even though anthropologists tell us that this is a human universal in all the cultures they have studied. A 9-year-old boy from California once touched his 8-year-old sister's private parts; she told her friends, who told their teacher, who was obligated by law to call the child abuse hotline. A social worker labeled the boy "a budding sex offender"; both children were taken into foster care. The boy was forced to attend therapy, which involved keeping a journal of all his sexual fantasies; he later told Levine about another boy in the program whose sexual offense was mooning somebody. The children were reunited with their mother only three years after they were taken away. It is good to listen to the little boy who says that the emperor has no clothes. However, unlike in Andersen's tale, everybody will not pick up the truth. I am having a hard time imagining an American politician saying, "We have no evidence that possessing or viewing child pornography is harmful, so let's make it legal."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    A brilliant attack on right-wing (and left-wing) prudishness, abstinence education, and the evil homegrown American Nazi types who invented the myth of "child porn." However, in this book--published a few years ago, when the Internet may have seemed to hold more promise for creating a freer society than it does now--Levine tends to overrate the Web's potential ability to help youths become more sexually aware. By now, our native agents of repression have found ways to use THAT to ruin innocent p A brilliant attack on right-wing (and left-wing) prudishness, abstinence education, and the evil homegrown American Nazi types who invented the myth of "child porn." However, in this book--published a few years ago, when the Internet may have seemed to hold more promise for creating a freer society than it does now--Levine tends to overrate the Web's potential ability to help youths become more sexually aware. By now, our native agents of repression have found ways to use THAT to ruin innocent people's lives with phony accusations of "stalking", "child porn possession" and so forth, but HARMFUL TO MINORS remains crucial reading. Since then Levine has written a book about her "year without shopping" which I haven't read but which looks frivolous. Maybe she simply needed a break after years of researching what Albert Ellis called "the American sexual tragedy."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Jahn

    Levine critiques societal norms and laws concerning minors and sexual relationships. Using historical and legal data she presents a strong argument in favor of reforming laws and norms that supposedly protect children from harm. She covers a range of topics from the effects of abstinence only education and why this form of education does not provide minors with the tools to make informed choices to statutory rape laws that are in serious need of reform. Overall it is a great read, just be open mi Levine critiques societal norms and laws concerning minors and sexual relationships. Using historical and legal data she presents a strong argument in favor of reforming laws and norms that supposedly protect children from harm. She covers a range of topics from the effects of abstinence only education and why this form of education does not provide minors with the tools to make informed choices to statutory rape laws that are in serious need of reform. Overall it is a great read, just be open minded!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Herb

    I just re-read this about five years after first buying and reading it. Levine lays out her work in two halves -- the first laying out (and debunking) the anti-sex hysteria of contemporary America, and the second offering a considered sex-positive vision for kids and young adults. She's not afraid of the P-word -- pleasure. Five stars for a thorough and serious (and heavily footnoted) look at a difficult and important phenomenon. Four stars for still falling prey to some stereotypes about teens. I just re-read this about five years after first buying and reading it. Levine lays out her work in two halves -- the first laying out (and debunking) the anti-sex hysteria of contemporary America, and the second offering a considered sex-positive vision for kids and young adults. She's not afraid of the P-word -- pleasure. Five stars for a thorough and serious (and heavily footnoted) look at a difficult and important phenomenon. Four stars for still falling prey to some stereotypes about teens. Overall, a triumph of reason and compassion.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Ah, no. This is a very misguided book. The research that is cited is misinterpreted or twisted. I am not sure of the author’s intention- why would she argue that pedophilia does not exist? She continues to state that even if it does exist, it is curable. The author does not back this statement up with any research. She offers dangerous advice to parents. Please read with caution.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marrysparkle

    The overarching message of this book is not merely important to the adolescent development but imperative. Simply put, we must provide teens and preteens with better sexual education. Chapter after chapter, Levine details sad stories of children having to face real physical and emotional consequences due to their sexual ignorance. Instead of conveniently pointing the finger at one source (say, the saturation of the media's portrayal and framing of sexual images and sexuality in ONLY hetero-norma The overarching message of this book is not merely important to the adolescent development but imperative. Simply put, we must provide teens and preteens with better sexual education. Chapter after chapter, Levine details sad stories of children having to face real physical and emotional consequences due to their sexual ignorance. Instead of conveniently pointing the finger at one source (say, the saturation of the media's portrayal and framing of sexual images and sexuality in ONLY hetero-normative terms), Levine deconstructs and explains how different societal and cultural forces are equally to blame for inadvertently stunting kids sexual, spiritual and maturational growth. While I wholly agree with and endorse the overall theme of the book and the incredibly insightful recommendations that constitute the last few chapters, I felt that the the individual chapters could have been more persuasively written. While I admit, I come from a background that is rather socially conservative, I'm very progressive. While that may be the case, I found that Levine stuck to a few examples of children gone arwy to justify the message in each chapter. For example, the chapter regarding stautory rape and how such laws pressupose a females lack of consent, I felt, did not go far enough in convincing me that such laws should change.

  14. 4 out of 5

    João

    Should be absolutely mandatory reading. It questions so very many of the assumptions that we have about sexuality and how it pertains to children. You don't necessarily need to be convinced by some of the arguments, but they will (or should!) at the very least provide a lot of food for thought. I found myself being horrified at certain claims, only to later come around to the author's way of thinking by reflecting in the abstract and on some pretty relevant personal experiences. It's one of those Should be absolutely mandatory reading. It questions so very many of the assumptions that we have about sexuality and how it pertains to children. You don't necessarily need to be convinced by some of the arguments, but they will (or should!) at the very least provide a lot of food for thought. I found myself being horrified at certain claims, only to later come around to the author's way of thinking by reflecting in the abstract and on some pretty relevant personal experiences. It's one of those books that questions some things so fundamental to our understanding of the world, so far down the depths of what might be considered sex-positivity, that it will make even very liberal and open-minded people bask at the thought of discussing it. I was surprised at the effect it had when I tried to discuss it! It also contains stories of a society so systematically sex-negative (and of how that came to be!) that it creates so much pain for reasons so absurd you might want to order a punching bag along with the book. It is unfortunately fairly outdated at this point, and I would absolutely love to see a revision with new data. I wonder how things have changed so far, though in the US I suspect they haven't much. I hope I can find a recent history of sex-ed to read! Highly recommended!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Denae

    We live in a society where fear and ideology are the basis for many of the decisions made regarding children and sexuality, from the ever present panic about sexual abuse to the prevalence of abstinence only education despite the predominance of evidence that it does not work. This is underlying message Judith Levine describes in Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, a thought-provoking and intense work chronicling how we got to the place we are today and how these attit We live in a society where fear and ideology are the basis for many of the decisions made regarding children and sexuality, from the ever present panic about sexual abuse to the prevalence of abstinence only education despite the predominance of evidence that it does not work. This is underlying message Judith Levine describes in Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, a thought-provoking and intense work chronicling how we got to the place we are today and how these attitudes are dangerous and can damage our children. She discusses how both left-wing feminism and right-wing religious ideology created this environment and have helped it flourish. Thoroughly researched with extensive documentation, this is a work well worth reading attentively and carefully. You can read a more comprehensive review on my blog.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nara

    Still halfway through this, after two years. Which is not to say it's not excellent. I am totally on board with Levine's pragmatism and general take on the subject, and she writes well. But you know how sometimes reading something you agree with is very fascinating and invigorating and sometimes it's just, yeah, duh? I'm getting the latter, I guess, because I keep putting it down and not picking it up again. Still, this is stuff I think about a lot and she's really laid in out comprehensively an Still halfway through this, after two years. Which is not to say it's not excellent. I am totally on board with Levine's pragmatism and general take on the subject, and she writes well. But you know how sometimes reading something you agree with is very fascinating and invigorating and sometimes it's just, yeah, duh? I'm getting the latter, I guess, because I keep putting it down and not picking it up again. Still, this is stuff I think about a lot and she's really laid in out comprehensively and convincingly.

  17. 5 out of 5

    elizabeth

    I taught this book to college freshman, not realizing that it had the added boon of sneaking in some of the sex education that abstinence-only classes had denied them (so, um, do be prepared to answer questions that are about more than the rhetoric). The writing is clear, and her case for our misplaced fears of strangers lurking with candy is quite compelling, although I do think she down plays risk from family members. The fact that Americans are so afraid of pleasure that her publisher got sca I taught this book to college freshman, not realizing that it had the added boon of sneaking in some of the sex education that abstinence-only classes had denied them (so, um, do be prepared to answer questions that are about more than the rhetoric). The writing is clear, and her case for our misplaced fears of strangers lurking with candy is quite compelling, although I do think she down plays risk from family members. The fact that Americans are so afraid of pleasure that her publisher got scared says something or other about the farce of privatization of morality.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maijabeep

    The first half of this book is an excellent deconstruction of the 'abstinence only' program of sexual education and how farcical and damaging it is. This was, of course, preaching to my own personal choir. I found the second half the truly brilliant part - where Levine lays out what a truly progressive sexual education for children would be. I adored the focus on community and communal participation - as well as the emphasis on both romantic and physical want, for boys and girls both. Wonderful The first half of this book is an excellent deconstruction of the 'abstinence only' program of sexual education and how farcical and damaging it is. This was, of course, preaching to my own personal choir. I found the second half the truly brilliant part - where Levine lays out what a truly progressive sexual education for children would be. I adored the focus on community and communal participation - as well as the emphasis on both romantic and physical want, for boys and girls both. Wonderful book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James

    Some of the stuff in here is kinda boilerplate unreflective liberalism (esp. the stuff about gender and androgyny) but overall it's a scorching and in my anecdotal experience totally justified attack on the way that children in America are made to fear their own bodies and their sexuality and love the conformity and violence that is basically fucking us over all the time. Not particularly useful for teachers looking for tips on how to talk about sexuality with older teenagers without getting fir Some of the stuff in here is kinda boilerplate unreflective liberalism (esp. the stuff about gender and androgyny) but overall it's a scorching and in my anecdotal experience totally justified attack on the way that children in America are made to fear their own bodies and their sexuality and love the conformity and violence that is basically fucking us over all the time. Not particularly useful for teachers looking for tips on how to talk about sexuality with older teenagers without getting fired.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    An uncomfortable review for me to write, because the book is about kids' sexuality. But that's just the author's point: Levine sets out to neutralize harmful cultural assumptions about children and sex. Some of her arguments swung a bit too liberal for me; of course, I am a confirmed fence-sitter. All in all, a well-thought out book that provides a much-needed different perspective on the topic. An uncomfortable review for me to write, because the book is about kids' sexuality. But that's just the author's point: Levine sets out to neutralize harmful cultural assumptions about children and sex. Some of her arguments swung a bit too liberal for me; of course, I am a confirmed fence-sitter. All in all, a well-thought out book that provides a much-needed different perspective on the topic.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Philip Naw

    The author cites Lawrence A. Stanley, who was convicted of child pornography, as a valid source. In particular, she cites Stanley's playboy article, "The Child-Porn Myth." You can write in a academic style but sources like these do not support the author's claims. This is not scholarship. I don't know what the motivations behind this book were, but the scholarship is by no means convincing. The author cites Lawrence A. Stanley, who was convicted of child pornography, as a valid source. In particular, she cites Stanley's playboy article, "The Child-Porn Myth." You can write in a academic style but sources like these do not support the author's claims. This is not scholarship. I don't know what the motivations behind this book were, but the scholarship is by no means convincing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    James

    I read this shorty after it came out, and recently decided to reread it. It's message remains timely. We've allowed the health and education of our children to be politized, and it has been to their detriment. I read this shorty after it came out, and recently decided to reread it. It's message remains timely. We've allowed the health and education of our children to be politized, and it has been to their detriment.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Smith

    This is not a typical book, in some ways, and in others, it very much is. Harmful to Minors makes many fair points about infantilizing children, pathologizing normal behavior, and using people's protectiveness of children to pass censorship laws. On that note, I could recommend the book. Unfortunately, the ways in which it is typical far outweigh the valid points the author makes. I understand that many are in favor of birth control and abortion, but Ms. Levine seems to practically salivate at the This is not a typical book, in some ways, and in others, it very much is. Harmful to Minors makes many fair points about infantilizing children, pathologizing normal behavior, and using people's protectiveness of children to pass censorship laws. On that note, I could recommend the book. Unfortunately, the ways in which it is typical far outweigh the valid points the author makes. I understand that many are in favor of birth control and abortion, but Ms. Levine seems to practically salivate at the idea, literally claiming that women should not only not feel any regret after an abortion, but that some should feel joy. She also believes that since some partners might cheat on you, you should treat the situation like they probably will and therefore always wear condoms to protect against HIV. Protection against HIV is obviously important, but she seems to forget that some partners actually have sex in order to have children, or at least that they might be open to the idea. For Ms. Levine, sex is entirely removed from reproduction, not only partly like it might be for most people. And I suppose that's the only way she can support her narrative that sex is okay for teens and never harmful--if she can pretend that pregnancies aren't supposed to happen. Which changes her valid point that teenagers and children alike have a sexuality and tend to explore these things regardless of sex education to something a bit less reasonable. I wanted to like this book, but I felt the flaws were glaring whenever she got on her pet topics of birth control and abortion. Everything felt reasoned out but those topics.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I really like the first half of this book. Levine challenges all our Puritanican notions about protecting children from sex. She forces us to ask "What IS the harm to minors?" when it comes to sex. We think we just instinctively know what kids should and shouldn't know, see, or do but where do these ideas come from? (Hint: The Christian Right.) To me, the most interesting theme that runs throughout this book is agency. At what point does a child have control and say so over his or her own body a I really like the first half of this book. Levine challenges all our Puritanican notions about protecting children from sex. She forces us to ask "What IS the harm to minors?" when it comes to sex. We think we just instinctively know what kids should and shouldn't know, see, or do but where do these ideas come from? (Hint: The Christian Right.) To me, the most interesting theme that runs throughout this book is agency. At what point does a child have control and say so over his or her own body and when does this right belong with parents/schools/the law? I don't really know the answer but I know that more often than not we side with adults over kids and that this can have very damaging outcomes. If kids do not feel like they have sovereignty over their own bodies, how will they learn to protect themselves from predators, learn to give enthusiastic consent to sex, take charge of their lives outside the sexual realm? The second half is less effective for me. This half feels less organized and is more of an advice or "how-to" have good sex education, which is less interesting to me than her theoretical ideas.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roslyn

    This book has a lot of good points and is super interesting. But it must be read with a highly critical eye. I recommend reading it only after you have read Szaz's book The Myth of Psychotherapy (because otherwise you might buy in to the idea that there is such a thing as "healthy" and "unhealthy" sexuality, you might fail to see academia for what it is - a church, here to save your soul and mold you into their ideal). For me, Levine's greatest failure is her myopic academic views. I love freedom This book has a lot of good points and is super interesting. But it must be read with a highly critical eye. I recommend reading it only after you have read Szaz's book The Myth of Psychotherapy (because otherwise you might buy in to the idea that there is such a thing as "healthy" and "unhealthy" sexuality, you might fail to see academia for what it is - a church, here to save your soul and mold you into their ideal). For me, Levine's greatest failure is her myopic academic views. I love freedom too, as much freedom as possible, but societies with liberalized sexual customs historically have not done well compared to societies with tons of crazy property rights rules regarding its peoples sexuality. Which is to say: this book sounds really good, but it's like communism. Never study something only from your ivory tower removed from actual historical examples and life experience. If you include the latter, you have to question the ivory tower recommendations. You may not know exactly why communism and free sexuality don't work ... but it's clear that they don't.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cat Noe

    The low rating is not for the content or points made in this book; it's because I was, frankly, bored half to death in the reading. It's a little on the alarmist side for an anti-hysteria book, and despite the wealth of relevant scientific data available on the topic, this seems to focus almost entirely on the problems (and anecdotes) specific to American culture. That's fair, I guess. All the same, I'm finding Ellis to have a much more balanced and open-minded approach to the subject. Plus, he The low rating is not for the content or points made in this book; it's because I was, frankly, bored half to death in the reading. It's a little on the alarmist side for an anti-hysteria book, and despite the wealth of relevant scientific data available on the topic, this seems to focus almost entirely on the problems (and anecdotes) specific to American culture. That's fair, I guess. All the same, I'm finding Ellis to have a much more balanced and open-minded approach to the subject. Plus, he has a far better grasp on Freud than Judith seems to have managed. Not a total waste of time, but I'd hesitate to push it on anyone else.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    Very thought provoking. Sees sexuality as a continuum from birth through sexual maturity. And tells us to light up when young children explore their physical feelings and body parts. Points out that true pedophilia is very rare, and most criminal cases involve a teenager and a young adult. She implies that if a young person's first lover is 10 years older that's not necessarily a bad thing (boy, girl, gay or straight). I don't think a man could write a book like this without being accused of all Very thought provoking. Sees sexuality as a continuum from birth through sexual maturity. And tells us to light up when young children explore their physical feelings and body parts. Points out that true pedophilia is very rare, and most criminal cases involve a teenager and a young adult. She implies that if a young person's first lover is 10 years older that's not necessarily a bad thing (boy, girl, gay or straight). I don't think a man could write a book like this without being accused of all kinds of things.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rini

    I saw this book in my university's library and skimmed through it, needing something to read on the bus that day. I took it home and could not put it down for the next 14 hours. It's an interesting exploration of many issues that a lot of people find too shocking or improper to talk about. I commend the author for not only daring to approach this subject but also for doing it with such a compassionate and educated stance. I saw this book in my university's library and skimmed through it, needing something to read on the bus that day. I took it home and could not put it down for the next 14 hours. It's an interesting exploration of many issues that a lot of people find too shocking or improper to talk about. I commend the author for not only daring to approach this subject but also for doing it with such a compassionate and educated stance.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mk

    I read this book solely due to the huge controversy that surrounded it. Mainly, it argues that children are sexual beings and that denying this fact is dangerous. One interesting part is her take on the ways in which the media uses incidents of child sexual abuse to drum up fear about sexuality in general.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    The discussion of abortion in the US, Levine writes, has resulted in "resurrected 'jailbait' laws [that are often used to target gay men]." Levine complains that "the political center has shifted so far rightward and the symbolic time frame so far backward that even mainstream organizations are adopting anachronism and calling it innovation." The discussion of abortion in the US, Levine writes, has resulted in "resurrected 'jailbait' laws [that are often used to target gay men]." Levine complains that "the political center has shifted so far rightward and the symbolic time frame so far backward that even mainstream organizations are adopting anachronism and calling it innovation."

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