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, assessing 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.
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.
is a journalist, essayist, and author who has written about sex, gender, and families for two decades. Her articles appear regularly in national publications, most recent Ms., verve.com, and My Generation. An activist for free speech and sex education, Levine is a founder of the feminist group No More Nice GirlsI and the National Writers Union. She is the author of My Enemy, My Love: Woen, Men, and the Dilemmas of Gender, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Hardwick, Vermont.
is professor emerita of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Arkansas School of medical Science. She served as Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health service from 1993 to 1995.
"Finally, THE book parents, teachers, librarians, clergy, and health professionals need to help them educate our children and teens about the real facts that most things about sex are healthy and normal. In a voice that reassures the adults who care for our children, Levine tells us why is is harmful to keep from children the honest and critical information they need to feel and stay physically and emotionally healthy."
-- ROBIE HARRIS,
author of It's Perfectly Normal:
Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health
"A much needed contribution to the discussion about children's sexuality, adult fears and irrationality about it, and the moral, political, and public health risks of failing to confront anxiety and ignorance about children's erotic desires and needs. Levine makes a compelling case that respecting and celebrating such desires and needs are essential to this country's historic project of promoting 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' for everyone who lives here -- including those under 18. ... An exceptionally smart and readable book."
-- DEBBIE NATHAN, coauthor (with Michael Snedeker) of
Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt
Sharp, extraordinarily informed, and wittily incisive ... This is a major book, farand 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. 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 Innocense: The Culture of Child Molesting.
Printed in the U.S.A.
Jacket design by Brian Donahue
Cover photograph copyright
Rob Goldman / CORBIS.