I’m in the process of reading an excellent non-fiction book at the moment, “Harmful to Minors: The Perils of protecting children from sex” by Judith Levine. Only made it about halfway through so far, but it’s a brilliant read already.
Published in 2001, it’s at least as relevant today as then — and refreshing to see one more voice among the very few willing to speak truth and cite sources instead of simply parroting the politically palatable lies and hysteria that (sadly) seem to dominate discourse on the subject today.
From the inside cover blurb of the dust jacket: “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.”
The book starts with a foreword by Dr. Jocelyn Elders — y’know, the former U.S. Surgeon General who was fired from that job for daring to say that masturbation is a natural and healthy thing to do (gasp! The horror! Quick, clutch your pearls with me! Let’s all scream in unison, “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” Whew! That’s better… almost let in a bit of sense there, didn’t we?) and continues through several themed chapters, each addressing an area of common misconception, or bad public policy, or backwards social standards. She makes simple, easily understandable arguments for her positions and references primary sources, shows parallels between the current moralistic panics and similar ones throughout history, and brings into sharp relief much of the absurdity surrounding the contemporary received wisdom — making a solid case for why the measures taken to “protect” children from anything and everything to do with sex are the things which are truly (as the title states) harmful to minors.
Looking forward to finishing the rest of the book soon, and perhaps I’ll write a bit more when I’ve done so! If you have the opportunity, pick up a copy. Try your local public library if nothing else — you might just find that a shot of truth, neat, no chaser, will open your mind… and maybe even give you a glimpse of something other than irrational fear to motivate you!