Harmful to Minors
April 4, 2002 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Harmful to Minors In the introduction to her book she writes that " 'Harmful to Minors' launches from two negatives: Sex is not ipso facto harmful to minors; and America's drive to protect kids from sex is protecting them from nothing. Instead, often it is harming them." Is she right, some think she is just evil.
posted by onegoodmove (24 comments total)

shouldn't we hold out on our opinions till we've read her book? it seems a little premature to start judging the work considering it won't see publication for another month.
posted by dobbs at 3:33 PM on April 4, 2002

shouldn't we hold out on our opinions till we've read her book?

No, we shouldn't. It's perfectly acceptable to discuss and form opinions on the author's thesis, as presented in the linked article.

Now, it's entirely possible that the article is inaccurate and/or oversimplified. There may be nuances to the author's opinion which cannot be covered by such a short article. But that does not mean we should not form opinions about what the author is saying, only that we should be open to changing our minds once the book is published and have more detailed information.

If we all decided to withhold judgment any time we did not have complete information on a subject, politicians would be much more likely to use the Nixonian "I have a peace plan and can't tell you what it is" strategy, safe in the knowledge that no one would criticize it, not having full information.

(Sorry for the hijacking, please return to discussing whether pornography is harmful to minors.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:16 PM on April 4, 2002

Her commentary here may help-- from Politicizing Puberty: The Zoning of Childhood Sexuality In Art, Advertising and the Ameriican Household. (Nerve.com)... As does James Kincaid's list here--

1. Acknowledge that the cultural "problems" we have are those we want, that we construct "problems" in the form they are in because they do something for us -- you and me.

2. Acknowledge that it's not somebody else "presenting" sex; directions on what to regard as sexual and what to do about it come as a river we are all swimming in and generating.

3. Stop treating our culture as if it were a Gothic novel, packed with only the Virtuous and the Demonic.

4. Stop pretending we can solve "the problem" by rounding up enough pedophile monsters and caging or killing them.

5. Stop titillating ourselves with endless talk of kids and sex, displacing all of it onto Others at the same time. At least be honest.

6. Focus on real problems kids have: emotional and physical mistreatment, neglect, inadequate nutrition, housing, education, love, hope.

7. Stop countenancing/encouraging hitting any kid for any reason.

8. Leave them alone. If we stop thinking of kids as extensions of ourselves, or as "victims," we might allow them some substance and independence.

9. Tell ourselves the truth: in our culture kids and the erotic are overlapping categories and we cannot help but find kids erotic, which is not so bad, considering that we find lots of things erotic without attacking them. Most of us do not, for example, hump the legs of guests at parties.

10. Change our paradigm: power is only a word; safety is not a worthy Utopia; we can find finer things to do than "protecting."

Emphasis mine on #5--The one unspeakable irony of our current moral panic about pedophiles is how it's pornography-by-extension. I agree with Kincaid's contention that it's something we, as a culture, can't stop talking about. Talking and talking and talking--witness the plethora of posts here on the topic. Everyone gets to weigh in with moral horror--we, as human beings, seem to need paragons of absolute evil to hate and hunt--but Levine's concerns with the damage it does to children is on target.
We just can't seem to terrorize them enough. I'm of the opinion that stories about attacks on children are attacks on children, by extension, on one level or another.
posted by y2karl at 4:55 PM on April 4, 2002

Our obsession with sexual and sexualized children is so intense we need to displace, disguise and deny it. To help us out, we have instituted a form of story-telling, a sanctimonious porn-babble designed to eroticize kids, blame it on somebody else and keep the talk going.

Kincaid, from the article linked above, in answer to the question, Are children inherently sexual beings?
posted by y2karl at 5:03 PM on April 4, 2002

Can we burn her now? Or do we need to wait so the books are available as tinder?

[preview] Wait a minute, leghumpers again?
posted by NortonDC at 5:39 PM on April 4, 2002

Are children inherently sexual beings?

Only someone who hasn't lived with a four-year-old could ask such an abysmally stupid question. Every toddler masturbates, at least until the parents freak out at it and lay a big ol' Sex Is Bad guilt trip on the kid. And even then, the little blighters are almost guaranteed to play "doctor" a few years later, even in spite of the knowledge that Mumsy and Dadsy wouldn't approve.

Life is all about sex. The propagation of the species is the ultimate driver.

IMO, there are only two harmful things around sex:
* sex that is forced on others is harmful.
* the message Sex Is Bad is harmful.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:02 PM on April 4, 2002

More important, sexual contact with a child does not a pedophile make. "The majority of reported acts of sexual abuse of children are not committed by pedophiles," but by men in relationships with adult women and men, said John Money, of Johns Hopkins, a preeminent expert on sexual abnormalities. They are men like Charles Jaynes, who wrote in his journal about a fast crush on a "beautiful boy" with "a lovely tan and crystal-blue eyes" and in whose car police found literature from the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) but who had an adult girlfriend and was rumored to be lovers with Sicari, who also had a girlfriend.

Oh Jesus, more of these NAMBLA whackos.

First of all saying sexual contact with children does not a pedophile make is like me catching a man having sex with a dog and then the man tells me he's not into beastiality because he has a girlfriend. He's having sexual contact, which is sexual, and then tells me he's not into beastiality.

Ok that is a horribly stupid example, but I can't think of anything else now.

"Its perpetrators very rarely use force or cause physical injury in a youngster...Bringing themselves down to the maturity level of children rather than trying to drag the child up toward an adult level, many men who engage in sex with children tend toward kissing, mutual masturbation, or "hands-off" encounters such as voyeurism and exhibitionism."

Ok Mom's and Dad's, how would you like it if NAMBLA people run up to your child and kiss them, or have mutual masturbation with them? I guess its ok, because the child isn't being physically hurt! Next thing you know those deaf lesbians down the road will be trying to have a deaf baby... oh wait, they already are!

I also heard on the radio that this book is trying to get child molesting terms changed around to things like "intergenerational relationships" to make them sound better.
posted by Keen at 6:34 PM on April 4, 2002

According to Nambla, they aren't so much about cruising for 15 year old boys and laying them down behind the local Arbys during their lunchbreak from lady footlocker, but about accepting and appreciating young homosexuals whose parents beat the shit out of them after their shift at Arbys.
posted by Settle at 7:00 PM on April 4, 2002

Sex abuse arrests, prosecutions and convictions involving children under the age of twelve are, statistically, rare, as these are, statistically, the rarest of crimes. We all know Jon Benet Ramsey's name because there just aren't that many Jon Benet Ramseys. But we talk and talk and talk about them.

And meanwhile, we define the age of majority ever upward, so we don't run out of things to talk about, I guess.

In my state, a nineteen year old with a sixteen year old girlfriend or boyfriend can end up as a registered sex offender. For life.

If a sixteen year old shoots someone, an adult, say, they can be tried as an adult and spend years in prison. If they have sex with someone over eighteen, an adult, say, they're a child! a child! and they can spend years in therapy while the adult does the prison time.

Am I the only one here that finds this kind of weird?

Acknowledge that the cultural "problems" we have are those we want, that we construct "problems" in the form they are in because they do something for us -- you and me.

posted by y2karl at 7:12 PM on April 4, 2002

I think some states have exceptions in those cases. Not all do. This is because laws are not perfect and neither are the people who made them.

What I find disgusting is that so many men are obsessed with girls *my* age, which is to say old enough but barely. This might be a natural impulse...it probably is (I'm too young to know I suppose), but it should be taken into account when a middle aged man does a 17 year old thinking she's 18. Fact is, he's a sex offender, a deviant etc. by both penalty and definition, yet his fantasies do not differ from many many other men. And I am probably exagerating the tastes of most men here - I'd suspect that they have to stop themselves from being actively attracted to girls who are obviously too young.

And then there's the question of Balthus. Can we blame him for seducing his sons' c.16 year old girlfriends away from them? His rendering was worthy of Ingres
posted by Settle at 7:29 PM on April 4, 2002

7. Stop countenancing/encouraging hitting any kid for any reason.

Whoah, whoah, this attitude is more harmful than not... Hell, the one time after I was older than six where my mom hauled off and gave me a smack across the face is the one memory I have of that year, and it's left such an impression on me for the rest of my life that I've never, ever pushed her that far again.

Child abuse is bad (I'm not implying that reguarly beating children is good) -- but not disciplining your child properly, in a way they understand, is almost as bad.
posted by SpecialK at 7:31 PM on April 4, 2002

Note to parents - there are a lot of misconceptions about disciplining children. Not to get too off topic, but punishment should appear to be very little trouble to the parent. Acting angry and making a big deal out of the crime will make the kid feel empowered...obnoxious. Treat them like adults who act childishly, they'll act like adults soon enough.
posted by Settle at 7:34 PM on April 4, 2002

Although, as with adults, a good smack can do wonders. Take my last enlglish teacher in High School for instance.
posted by Settle at 7:35 PM on April 4, 2002

five fresh fish:
IMO, there are only two harmful things around sex:
* sex that is forced on others is harmful.
* the message Sex Is Bad is harmful.

Let me suggest some others:
Scores of other sexually transmitted diseases
Cervical cancer (which is related to early sexual activity)
Pregnancy in young teens and preteens, who lack emotional and intellectual resources for successful parenting, and usually the financial resources as well, and whose future achievement in other areas will be eliminated or blunted by an early pregnancy.

Yes, the risks of these can be minimized (although not eliminated) with foresight, but we're talking about children and young teens here, whose concept of risk leaves a lot to be desired.

Sex between consenting young teens ought to be strongly discouraged. Not criminalized, but discouraged.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:03 PM on April 4, 2002

This might be a natural impulse...it probably is (I'm too young to know I suppose)

Get the back of the ear towels, someone just fell off the turnip truck!
posted by y2karl at 8:14 PM on April 4, 2002

Slithy_Tove - As an aside, early sexual activity and cervical cancer are related because of the semi-silent propogation of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) among sexually active portions of our society. There's some evidence that condoms don't always prevent infection.
posted by SpecialK at 8:19 PM on April 4, 2002

I think this is an issue one really cannot come out purely on one side or the other.

1.) I think certain statutory rape rules are necessary because of a minor's lack of legal independence.

2.) We should be more accepting of the sexuality of children, yes. Protecting them from media, for example, is often unnecessary. Is there any evidence, for example, that "children" aged about 13-18 are harmed by seeing sexually explicit imagery? Plus, sexual activity such as masturbation is perfectly healthy & normal

3.) Sexual contact should not occur between children and adults. I would define this more specifically I suppose as between minors and people more than about five years older than them. There's too much possibility for manipulation and abuse. Someone in about the same level of development would be more appropriate.

4.) Obviously, education about birth control, and even about the seriousness of sex, discouraging promiscuity, for example. We don't want sex cheapened too much.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:24 PM on April 4, 2002

I'm too young too know because THE YOUNGEST ONES are really the only ones AVAILABLE. I don't need to fantasize about THEM when THEY are after ME.

Fine, I admit I know nothing of the ways of the world.
posted by Settle at 8:57 PM on April 4, 2002

Settle: no they're not. they're after ME (i'm 25). and sometimes they're real good at pretending they're older.
posted by milkman at 9:20 PM on April 4, 2002

You never forget what it is like to be young, Settle, no matter how old you get, and never imagine what it must be like to be old, no matter how young. One is as easy as the other is hard.
posted by y2karl at 9:27 PM on April 4, 2002

I guess that makes me better than you

*feels warm inside*

Thanks karl!

"Pedophile!! That's an awfully big word for a seven year old!!"
posted by Settle at 10:36 PM on April 4, 2002

> ...he's not into beastiality because he has a girlfriend.

(Who also fucks dogs.)

Anyway, public service announcement:

The word is spelled "bestiality" and should even be pronounced as such (though the "beast-" pronunciation is an acceptable alternative). There is no such word as beastiality.
posted by pracowity at 1:48 AM on April 5, 2002

Oppps... thanks for the heads up pracowity. Ahh, it made sense when I typed it. I've never heard it pronounced as it should, just the "beast" thing...
posted by Keen at 3:51 AM on April 5, 2002

Slithy: I'd argue those are a subset of "forced." No one would rationally choose to catch an STD or become pregnant before they were ready to parent.

IOW, one might reword the simple phrase I used into something akin to "non-consensual sexual activity yadda yadda" and then describe how children can not be considered consenting sexual partners because their understanding of the consequences is incomplete and/or wrong.

Works out to basically the same concept, and pretty much reduces down to my two points.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on April 5, 2002

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