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Child Sex Advocate Comments and Comment Line (Gag Alert)
E-mail Message | 04/20/02 | University of Minnestota Press/Judith Levine

Posted on 04/03/2002 10:02:06 PM PST by Persuasion

Levine comment line: (612) 627-1977

We appreciate and respect your concern.  The University of Minnesota 
Press in no way condones child sexual abuse, nor does Judith Levine, the 
author of "Harmful to Minors," believe sexual abuse is ever justifiable.

We are glad to have this opportunity to clear up some misperceptions 
about the book, which has not yet even been published. Some of the talk 
radio and on-line coverage that the University has been made aware of 
clearly take the author's arguments out of context.  The book does not
endorse pedophilia or any type of sexual abuse of children.  It merely 
recognizes that it occurs, and advocates understanding children's 
reactions to these experiences, some of which may be traumatic and some 
of which may not, in order to provide appropriate understanding, and help
and support, if needed.

Prior to publication, the book was evaluated by five scholars, 
including two psychologists, and it carries a foreword by Dr. Joycelyn
Elders, the U.S. Surgeon General from 1993 to 1995.

I am attaching to this email a question-and-answer dialog with Judith
Levine that may be of interest.  It is also pasted into the body of 
this message, below.  I don't expect you to agree with Levine -- many
of us here have our own disagreements with the book -- but it may 
answer some of your own concerns.


The University of Minnesota Press


Q & A for HARMFUL TO MINORS: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex
By the author, Judith Levine

How can protection be harmful to minors?

Protecting children is one of our chief duties as adults, whether we 
are parents, professionals, or friends. But we also have to ask: What are 
we protecting them from? My book says that sexuality is a fact of life, 
and a potentially wonderful part of growing up for children at all stages of
their lives. It's not sex itself that is harmful to children, but the
conditions under which they might express themselves sexually that can
leave them vulnerable to harms like HIV, unwanted pregnancy, or sexual

In our country, there are people pushing a conservative religious
agenda that would deny minors all sexual information and sexual 
expression. They're the people behind abstinence-only education, the 
child-pornography laws that get people arrested for taking pictures 
of their babies in the bathtub, or laws that make abortion risky and
traumatic for young women.

These so-called protections are more harmful to minors than sex itself.
But most people don't have an agenda. They're just nervous thinking
about children as sexual beings - and they're worried that something 
bad might happen to a kid they love. I'm not saying we should stop caring. 
But let's care realistically. Do we really want to strip sexuality out of 
young people's lives?

Are you saying there are no real sexual dangers to children? What about
pedophiles on the Internet? What about AIDS?

One of the main points of Harmful to Minors is to separate the real 
risks from those that are exaggerated or even invented. So let's look at 
these two examples.

Pedophiles on the Internet: In spite of sensationalist press coverage,
there is little evidence that the Net is crawling with child molesters.
Yes, kids do from time to time encounter unwanted sexual chat online 
(though you never know if the sender is 15 or 55). The question is, is
this dangerous? A recent study published in the New York Times showed 
that kids can deal with these messages. Most just don't respond, and the
vast majority say they don't find them troubling or scary. It's like 
the flasher you might have encountered in the park when you were a kid. 
Those guys were usually pitiful. But when they were scary, you got out of 
there fast. In other words, you figured out the risk and dealt with it. 

Chances are, you didn't get put in therapy, or on the witness stand -- if
you even told anyone about it.

Should men flash little girls in the park or send dirty messages to
kids' chat rooms? No, of course they shouldn't. Should people be 
punished for molesting children? Absolutely. Anyone who forces sex
on any person of any age should be punished. But we have moved beyond
appropriate responses to serious offenses to hyperbolic responses to 
offenses with unproven harms, such as the assumed harm to a child of 
involuntarily glimpsing a penis, or reading sexy language online.

How do we know what's harmful to kids?

I think a good start would be to ask them what their experiences feel
like, instead of always assuming we know. There's almost no research
that asks kids what they do, what they feel, or what they think. We must
help kids when they're hurt sexually. 

But it does a child no good to be told she's been terribly 
victimized when she may have undergone a merely unpleasant experience.

What about AIDS?

AIDS is a grave danger to youth. New HIV infections are rising among
teens, and AIDS is the leading cause of death in people from 25 to 
44. These infections and deaths are highest among poor people of color,
especially women and gay men. Almost a third of gay black men in their 
20s are HIV-positive.

But sex does not cause AIDS. Certain behaviors, such as unprotected
vaginal or anal intercourse with an infected person, do. I heard Deb Roffman,
the sex educator, say that the expression "sexually transmitted disease" is 
like calling TB a "breathing-transmitted disease." We don't blame breathing
for "causing" tuberculosis.

Our current policies aren't helping young people protect themselves
from AIDS. Just the opposite. For instance, the federal government is 
now funding -- to the tune of nearly a billion dollars -- abstinence-only
education in public schools, which specifically denies students all
information about contraception or condoms, except to say they can 

Teachers in abstinence-only classes must tell students that the only 
safe, acceptable form of sexual expression is between married heterosexuals.
Where does this leave sexually active teens, especially gay or lesbian
teens? Certainly not safer.

Your book says that kids need more sexual information, not less. Won't 
that encourage them to have sex?

All the research shows that sexuality education does not encourage
kids to have sex earlier. Nor does knowing about sexual feelings or
behavior. In fact, kids who learn about contraception use it when they 
do start having intercourse, whereas kids who get the classes without 
that information also have intercourse -- but they don't protect 
themselves when they do. And kids who understand more about themselves
sexually are better at making the right decisions for themselves.

The fact is, most kids will say yes to sexuality at some point during 
their childhood or teenage years. Our choice as adults is whether or 
not we will help make those experiences safe, consensual, and happy.

I'm a parent. How should I teach my kids about sex?

It is common to hear from professionals that parents are the primary 
sex educators. In a general way this is true: children learn a lot 
about sexual relations at home, even if their parents never talk about 

They see if their parents are respectful and affectionate to each other,
whether they're relaxed or uptight about sexy language, jokes, or TV 
shows. Children are touched lovingly (or not) by their parents. And kids
may be the victims or witnesses of sexual violence at home. That's 
education, to be sure.

Concrete information about sexuality is a different story. Most parents
say they'd like to be their kids' main source of such knowledge, but only
a few manage to provide it. In poll after poll, moms and dads admit to
being tongue-tied when it comes to actually talking the talk. As for kids,
they tell pollsters they wish their parents would talk with them more about
sex. But when if their parents do it, the kids admit to turning off because 
they feel their parents are prying or preaching, or just don't get it.

Maybe we should stop blaming ourselves for doing it wrong and accept that 
moms and dads aren't necessarily the optimal sex educators of their own 
children. I think this has to do with the incest taboo. You don't tell your
kids about your sex life -- that would be kind of icky. And once they've got
anything like a sex life, your kids probably don't want to tell you about it
either. This built-in reticence is the reason school-based sex ed was invented
in the first place! Parents shouldn't give up on trying to talk plainly about
sex. But they can also support their children's sex education by standing up 
for comprehensive programs at school, uncensored public libraries and computers,
and by encouraging them to form close relationships with trustworthy adults 
other than their mothers and fathers.

Speaking of parenting, you have no children.  What got you interested in this
subject -- and what right do you have to talk about it?

I've been reading and writing and doing political activism around sexuality for
25 years. I saw how bigoted attitudes about women's sexuality had hurt women and
girls --for centuries. Remember, women were once considered "innocent," which 
meant we were supposed to not want or enjoy sex.

Finally, women stood up and said, "We're sexual! And thank you very much, we'll
look after ourselves." Children were the last "innocents" to protect..

As I said, we do have to protect children from real dangers. But that doesn't 
mean protecting some fantasy of their sexual "innocence." I have a niece and
nephew and many friends who are children and teens. I've taught freshman in 
college. Maybe because I'm not a parent, kids sometimes feel more comfortable
talking to me. Besides, as a famous (and childless) children's-book editor once
said, "I was a child myself.  And I haven't forgotten a thing."

Parents are doing the toughest job in the world. It's understandable that they 
are scared, and that they feel that no amount of protection is too much. These
feelings must be respected -- they're at the heart of some of our best instincts 
about children. But we also should respect children and teens, which means 
giving them some privacy and some room. If we let them, I think kids can be
emotionally smarter and more responsible than we usually give them credit for.

You say we should give kids a chance to be responsible. What about being moral?

That's a crucial question. Humans are not like other animals. We don't just have
bodies, we have minds and feelings and cultures and laws. For us, sex always has
a moral component.

That said, I think the teaching of "sexual morality" is a redundancy. We may want
kids to protect themselves yet accommodate others, feel pride in their
individuality yet tolerate difference, we may hope they can balance spontaneity
and caution, freedom and responsibility. These skills require learning respect,
cooperation, and caring -- moral values that apply to all realms of their private 
and public lives, not just sexuality. Sexual morality doesn't boil down to "Just 
Say No" or "Just Do It." It means learning how to make decisions in complex and
sometimes ambiguous situations -- like life.

But let's be honest about the moral value of pleasure, too. Sure, Americans can 
be prim about pleasure. But the Puritans weren't our only ancestors. Happiness 
is such an all-American value, it's in the Declaration of Independence:  Life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.And though I don't believe Thomas 
Jefferson mentioned this, part of happiness is sexual happiness.

Are you saying to kids, "Just Say Yes?" Simply standing up and cheering for
pleasure isn't enough. For adults to be moral about children means creating the 
conditions, in families and as a nation, that allow every child to thrive. The
same conditions that prevent thriving in other ways also contribute to a failure
to thrive sexually.

For instance, poverty. Eighty percent of teen moms come from poor families.
Poverty is even a major correlate of sexual abuse. Not that middle-class kids
never get abused, or that poor people are sexually craven. But poor families 
suffer more stress, they're less educated, and have less stable living 
situations. All that leaves children vulnerable, sexually and otherwise.

Sexism is another social condition that affects what sex is like for girls
and boys. Deborah Tolman at Wellesley has found that girls who are most 
concerned about acting feminine are least likely to use contraception or 
withstand unwanted sexual pressure, while those whose own their sexual
desires and who don't care about being "girly" seize more control over their
sexual lives. Boys, meanwhile, are taught that masculinity means always being
ready for sex and never getting too emotionally involved. That might give
boys more chance to express their sexuality, but it also deprives them of 
experiencing it more deeply. 

Sexual equality would let girls and boys to say no -- or yes -- when they 
really want to and are ready to, and discover what sexuality means to them.

Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
By Judith Levine Foreword by Dr. Joycelyn M. Elders

Published by University of Minnesota Press, available May 2002.


Levine comment line: (612) 627-1977

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: book; childsex; levine
If you'd be so kind as to freep this line...
1 posted on 04/03/2002 10:02:06 PM PST by Persuasion
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To: Persuasion
As soon as I pick my jaw up off the floor.

I'm sure when they wrote about the pursuit of happiness that they weren't referring to base animal lust.

This whole thing is just plain disgusting.

2 posted on 04/03/2002 10:24:08 PM PST by JH147
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To: Persuasion
Speaking of parenting, you have no children. What got you interested in this subject -- and what right do you have to talk about it?

This was precisely the question I was waiting for when I heard about this pathetic book.....As I suspected, this FREAK, Levine, has no children.

Disregard the rest because no self-respecting parent would consider this slime an "authority" on this subject.

Oh, and her "25 year research"?:

I've been reading and writing and doing political activism around sexuality for 25 years. I saw how bigoted attitudes about women's sexuality had hurt women and girls --for centuries.

Nuff said.

3 posted on 04/03/2002 11:09:26 PM PST by eric_da_grate
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To: Persuasion
As an added bonus, check out this familiar "blast from the past" at the bottom of the article....She tossed in her 2 cents worth of "reasearch":

By Judith Levine Foreword by Dr. Joycelyn M. Elders

4 posted on 04/03/2002 11:13:17 PM PST by eric_da_grate
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: BurkeCalhounDabney

It's just gets WORSE AND WORSE, doesn't it? I thought Elders' endorsement alone was enough to BUNK this sick book.

Thanks for the info!

6 posted on 04/03/2002 11:38:01 PM PST by eric_da_grate
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To: Persuasion carries a foreword by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the perverted, deviant, Clinton appointed U.S. Surgeon General from 1993 to 1995.
7 posted on 04/03/2002 11:46:38 PM PST by ppaul
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To: BurkeCalhounDabney
I have read that book. I was appalled. This boy's circumcision was botched, burning off his penis. Dr. Money persuaded the parents to raise him as a girl. It was supposed to prove the popular feminist theory that gender identity depends only on how a child is raised, not biology. It totally screwed up this guy's life.
8 posted on 04/04/2002 12:50:24 AM PST by knuthom
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To: ppaul carries a foreword by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the perverted, deviant, Clinton appointed U.S. Surgeon General from 1993 to 1995. Weren't those three kind of redundant? ;)
9 posted on 04/04/2002 7:49:19 AM PST by Persuasion
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