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Harmful to Minors:

New Book Defends Pedophilia

Week of April 8, 2002

Sometimes it is all I can do to refrain from starting a column with “See, see, see!”  After mucking through the thoughts of Judith Levine, author of  “Harmful to Minors:  The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex,” my resolve is weakening. 

            Why?  Try this:  “Pedophiles are not generally violent, unless you are using the term ‘sexual violence against children’ in a moral, rather than a literal, way.”  And “Sexual contact with a child does not a pedophile make.”  Or “What harms children is not sex per se, but the lousy circumstances under which they may have sex,” Levine’s input to a panel discussion on childhood sexuality.  She gets more explicit, but this piece runs in family newspapers and my gag reflex can only take so much.

Excerpts from the book have been on the Internet since at least 1998 while Levine sought a publisher.  It’s release this month leaves one wondering whether the North American Man/Boy Love Association managed to scrape up the dough to buy a mimeograph, but the book is actually a product of the University of Minnesota Press. 

The University of Minnesota is a state-run institution.  I’m not sure how this fits their educational mission, though if I were a taxpayer there I might want a few rounds with Governor Ventura, retired wrestler or not. 

Judging from excerpts and pre-release publicity, Levine seems to have three basic premises:  Pedophilia isn’t a bad thing if it’s done right; children should be allowed to consent to sex with adults and each other; and, Americans only disagree with the first two points because of Puritan, moralizing conservatives.

Good heavens, if you can’t find Puritan, moralizing conservatives in Minnesota then I don’t know where to look.  Lest one think I’m exaggerating Levine’s views, the real struggle is to tone them down enough to get this printed and still make my point. 

Levine’s defense of pedophilia rests largely on her belief that child molestation is not inherently violent, which is what we used to hear about rape.  She questions whether “so-called pedophiles” (her term) even exist, asserting that children have sexual feelings in which adults should help them safely indulge.  

In a promotional interview, Levine said “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.”  Note that she carefully includes both teens and younger children, as she does throughout the book excerpts. 

In the panel discussion, Levine described a favorite photo in which “a naked three- or four-year-old, draped loosely in a blanket, dozes on a deck above a muddy river.  Her face is lax, her mouth ajar, her pale body languid ... It is precisely this ambiguity, this mystery, that makes (the photographer’s) pictures so emotionally lush, and – to me – so sexy.”  Levine isn’t just talking about the average 16-year-old hormone bomb; she means toddlers, too. 

Tagging people as Puritan, conservative, and moralizing is usually enough to marginalize their opinions but it won’t work this time.  Levine is part of a slowly growing movement to legalize sex with and between children, however most folks of every stripe will be revolted – for a while.

Which is where the “See, see, see!” part comes in.  Standards of sexual morality, belittled as “taboos,” have fallen away until little is off limits.  Levine’s dream is the logical conclusion, the result of shucking universal truth in favor of individual urges and notions.  It’s a slimy, slimy slope.

            If you don’t believe Levine will ultimately get her way you’re more of an optimist than I.  I only hope Americans can still summon enough of their inner Puritan to draw one last, unbreakable, line.




Also on "Harmful to Children"


Robert Stacy McCain, The Washington Times:

Bryan Dowd, Minneapolis. Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota:






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© 2002 Brent Morrison