Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex

Is a new book from researcher Judith Levine that hasn’t even been published yet, but is already at the center of a growing firestorm of controversy and criticism. People are already condemning the book as a “cover for child molesters” and the author has received death threats and the book’s publisher, University of Minnesota Press, has come under fire for even thinking of releasing it.

The trouble is that the two topics of “children” and “sex” tend to be big-time emotional reaction generators in people in general in the United States. Our rather puritanical approach to these two topics is that they should be kept as far apart as possible until said person hits at least the age of 18, and some folks would rather raise that age to 21. The idea being that something magical happens when a person turns one of those two particular numbers that suddenly makes them into fully functional and rational decision makers. In my opinion, too much of this debate has been controlled by the folks who suffer from knee-jerk emotional reactions who are great at ranting and raving that there “outta be a law” without taking a moment to step back and look at the situation in an intellectually honest way unclouded by their overly developed sense of outrage. It doesn’t help that when someone disagrees with that sense of outrage they’re accused of being part of the problem.

Judith Levine’s book appears to be taking exactly that sort of honest, unemotional look at the issues of sex and children and how one impacts the other from their exposure to each other in popular media to the interactions between an adult and a child ranging from incest to pedophilia. Some of the results of her research runs contrary to the “popular wisdom” (an ironic concept at best) that is current in our country at this time. A book of this sort has needed to be published for a long time as it seems to me no one has sat down and done a really critical look at the reality of the problem as opposed to the perceived reality we always hear about. Some folks would have you believe that anyone under the age of 18 can’t possibly be considered sexually aware or capable of making rational decisions about sex and that any exposure to sex below that age is damaging in the extreme. After reading an excerpt from the book at ABC News.com, I’m looking forward to purchasing it as soon as it’s released. This book could be an important part of the debate as we, as a society, try to come to grips with these issues. Especially in light of recent events.

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