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.
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,