[Library: Books, general] Ipce Newsletter E 13, June 2002
Burning a Book Before It's Printed
America today, it is nearly impossible to publish a book that says
children and teen-agers can have sexual pleasure and be safe too,"
writes Judith Levine in the introduction to Harmful to Minors: The
Perils of Protecting Children From Sex (Amazon.com). The book, on
which she has been working since the mid-1990s, was rejected by one
publisher after the next, its content called "radioactive" by
one of them. The University of Minnesota Press accepted the manuscript a
year ago -- a decision it now almost certainly regrets.
UMNP description of the book reads as follows:
radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act
about children's and teens' sexuality.
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.
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.
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.
book has been endorsed by Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who wrote the foreword, and
by authors Robie Harris, James Kincaid, and Debbie Nathan. But a
misleading interview with the author in late March quickly triggered a
national wave of protests against the book, mostly coming from religious
fundamentalists. The article by Mark O'Keefe (Newhouse News Service,
published in the Star Tribune) titled "Some in mainstream
contend certain cases of adult-minor sex should be acceptable"
discusses recent scientific studies of adult-child sexual interaction. One
of these studies is the controversial meta-analysis by psychologists Bruce
Rind and Michael Bauserman that found that negative effects of adult-child
sexual contact "were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and
that men reacted much less negatively than women." [..]Their study
has been subject of loud scientific and political controversy (so much
that the US House of Representatives eventually unanimously passed a
resolution condemning the study).
study is cited by Judith Levine in her book, which is described in the
article as follows:
soon-to-be-released book, "Harmful to Minors: The Perils of
Protecting Children From Sex," is being advertised by its publisher,
University of Minnesota Press, as challenging widespread anxieties about
an interview, the book's author, journalist Judith Levine, praised the
Rind study as evidence that "doesn't line up with the ideology that
it's always harmful for kids to have sexual relationships with
said the pedophilia among Roman Catholic priests is complicated to
analyze, because it's almost always secret, considered forbidden and
involves an authority figure.
added, however, that, "yes, conceivably, absolutely" a boy's
sexual experience with a priest could be positive.
I was a minor, I had sex with an adult," she said. "He was one
of my first lovers. My heart was broken, but my heart was broken by a lot
of boys, too. I'd say on balance that it was a perfectly good
with the little information provided here, it is already obvious that this
is a gross mischaracterization. From the UMN press release, it is clear
that Levine's book discusses much more than just pedophilia. Her statement
about a relationship between a boy and a priest is abridged, and it is
unclear to which question she responded. Levine's last statement could
come out of a completely different context, e.g. statutory rape laws (how
old was she when she had sex with an adult?).
on this almost propagandistic mischaracterization, a media campaign
against the book quickly followed. One of its main spokespersons is Robert
Knight of the religious fundamentalist propaganda organization
"Concerned Women for America", which is also anti-homosexual,
anti-evolution and anti-abortion. Two days after the Star Tribune
story, CFI released the following statement:
Academic Cover for Child Molesters, CFI Says
Urges University of Minnesota to Fire Officials Responsible for Book
Advocating Adult-Child Sex
D.C. - "Child molesters are getting a big boost toward legitimacy
with the University of Minnesota Press' publication of a book advocating
sex with children," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women
for America's Culture and Family Institute. "Harmful to Minors:
The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex is every child molester's
dream--and every parent's nightmare."
Elders, who was Bill Clinton's surgeon general, wrote the foreword for
this evil tome," Knight says. "Not content to advocate for
adults teaching children to masturbate, she is giving cover for adults
having sex with kids--so long as the kids give their consent. Everybody
except for the molesters and their apologists knows that children cannot
give meaningful consent to sex. Everybody knows that children are coerced
into giving 'consent,' and that the damage can last a lifetime. The author
of this book, Judith Levine, is Exhibit A. She was molested as a child and
now advocates it for other children.
molesters have already misused a 1998 study published by the American
Psychological Association to justify their perversion; now they will be
citing this hideous book to excuse their crimes against children.
the Regents of the University of Minnesota do not act quickly to fire
those responsible, the people of Minnesota and their elected
representatives should move quickly to replace them," Knight said.
should also note the small notice at the bottom of the press release:
Knight, a former media fellow at the Hoover
Institution, wrote and directed The Children of Table 34, a
documentary about Alfred C. Kinsey's use of children in sex experiments,
and is the author of The Age of Consent: The Rise of Relativism and the
Corruption of Popular Culture (Spence Publishing).
Children of Table 34 is a professional, expensively produced "documentary" that
has been used to discredit Alfred Kinsey's groundbreaking and unique work
on human sexuality -- because some of his data on child sexuality came
from a pedophile's personal records. As a propaganda expert, Knight was
the right man for the job of destroying another book that advocated a
positive attitude towards children's sexuality.
managed to get his message, which was based on a misrepresentation in
another article, into the international Associated Press wire news
service, from where it was then broadcasted to millions of homes, over
websites like MSNBC, ABCNews, CNN and others. The AP story quotes Knight
as saying that "the action is so grievous and so irresponsible that I
felt they relinquished their right to academic freedom." He calls the
book "very evil", although he admits he hasn't read it. He also
claims that "this book will aid and abet child molesters because it
gives a pseudo-scientific rationale that can be used by a defense
in their expanded version of the AP story, at least allows Levine to make
Levine says her quote was misconstrued and that she does not approve sex between authority figures such as parents, priests and teachers and the minors in their charge. However, she argues that teenagers should be given more credit for the choices they make when they become involved in relationships with adults.
endorses the Netherlands' approach to age-of-consent laws. In 1990, the
Dutch parliament made sex between adults and children ages 12 to 16 legal
as long as there was mutual consent. The child or the child's parents can
bring charges if they believe the minor was coerced into sex.
believes the Dutch law is a "good model" for the United States
because it recognizes children as sexual beings who can determine their
future while not ignoring the fact that they are weaker than adults and
still need legal protection. U.S. consent laws, she says, mistakenly put
all minors under one category without recognizing their ability to pursue
designating a class of people categorically unable to consent to sexual
relations is not the best way to protect children, particularly when
'children' include everyone from birth to eighteen," Levine writes.
"Criminal law, which must draw unambiguous lines, is not the proper
place to adjudicate family conflicts over youngsters' sexuality. If such
laws are to exist, however, they must do what [social psychologist Lynn
M.] Phillips suggests about sexual and romantic education: balance the
subjective experience and the rights of young people against the
responsibility and prerogative of adults to look after their best
interests, to 'know better.'"
hysteria surrounding my book is precisely what my book is about,"
Levine said. "There are some real dangers [facing children] in the
world, of course. But we need to look at them realistically and separate
the real ones from the exaggerated ones."
Levine also clearly states that she doesn't think children below the age
of 12 can have positive sexual experiences with adults. "I deplore
rape, sexual abuse of children and any way that a person is forced to have
sex against their will," Levine says. "I am a feminist, and I am
glad that our legal system has laws against rape. For anybody to say I
promote child abuse is absurd."
course, given the emotions already invoked by calling Levine a
pedophile-defender, her rebuttal was not enough. State Rep. Tim Pawlenty,
majority leader of the Minnesota House and Republican candidate for
governor, called for the stop of the book's release, according to the Star
recent weeks, the headlines have been filled with the stories of victims
sexually abused as children," he said in a prepared statement.
"This kind of disgusting victimization of children is intolerable,
and the state should have no part in it."
said Wednesday night that he has not read the book but became upset after
reading articles about its content.
deserve to know why the name of one of our most respected institutions is
being associated with this endorsement of child molestation,"
the UMN has so far mostly defended its release of the book, it had
reportedly received more than 200 mostly negative responses by early
April, and has now announced to review its publishing guidelines. While
the press release still defends the book, it sends a chilling message to
all those wishing to inititiate rational discourse of children's
we have here is a classical case of an attempt to kill a book before it is
even released. Apparently the rationale of current statutory rape laws,
which has put many juveniles in prison for consensual sex, as well as for
sexual abstinency education, a major cause of teen pregnancies, is so weak
that anyone arguing against it must be singled out and completely
discredited in a well-funded ad hominem campaign.
of Levine's previous writings are interesting to gauge where the author is
standing. For example, in Shooting the Messenger: Why Censorship Won't
Stop Violence, she argues against using the media as a scapegoat for
school violence as was done in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings.
In A Question of Abuse (Mother Jones 1996) she tells the tale of a
young boy who was treated -- and psychologically destroyed -- for being a
"sex offender" at the age of 9. She describes the "children
who molest" scare, which I have already discussed in my Right to
Pleasure article. To understand the child sexual abuse scare, the book Making
Monsters: False Memory, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria (Amazon.com)
is an absolute must.
you want to protest the smear campaign against Levine's book, you can
contact the University of Minnesota Press to show your support:
course, pre-ordering the book will probably send the strongest message.
attempted suppression of Levine's book raises another question: How many
books about controversial subjects never find a publisher? What is the
value of free speech if nobody is willing to make your speech heard?
Hopefully, the Internet and books published through print-on-demand will
eventually make it possible for non-technical authors to reach large
[Library: Books, general] Ipce Newsletter E 13, June 2002