Harmful to Minors

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Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex (ISBN 0-8166-4006-8 [hardcover], ISBN 1-56025-516-1 [paperback]) is a 2002 book by Judith Levine. The foreword was written by former United States Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who resigned after suggesting that masturbation be destigmatized as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity.

In the book, Levine discusses United States laws concerning child pornography, statutory rape, and abortion for minors using a variety of studies and interviews with teenagers and adults alike (see Acknowledgments). Levine also analyzes abstinence-only sex education, which Levine considers counter-productive and dangerous.

Quotes

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  • The idea that sex is a normative- and, heaven forbid, positive- part of adolescent life is unutterable in America's public forum. "There is a mainstream sex ed and there is right-wing sex ed," said Leslie Kantor in 1997, when she was traveling the nation in her work for SIECUS. "But there is no left-wing sex education in America." She included her own organization in that characterization. Just fifteen years after Joyce Purnick's newspaper denounced the idea of chastity as antediluvian, the New York Times columnist felt compelled to insert a caveat into her critique of the new abstinence-only regulations. "Obviously," she began, "nobody from the Christian right to the liberal left objects to... encouraging sexual abstinence." There are two problems with this consensus. First, around the globe, most people begin to engage in sexual intercourse or its equivalent homosexual intimacies during their teen years. And second, there is no evidence that lessons in abstinence, either alone or accompanied by a fuller complement of sexuality and health information, actually hold teens off from sexual intercourse for more than a matter of months.
    • p. 93
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