Judith Levine’s “Harmful to Minors”

Amy Benfer

“Harmful to Minors” author Judith Levine talks about why American parents are afraid of their teenagers’ sexuality.

What’s so bad about good sex?

One of the things I say in my book is that at least a gay kid comes out as having a sexuality, and thus you have to deal with them as a sexual person. I think the best sexuality education, and the best attention to the whole child and the teen, has often come from the gay and lesbian community.

You can say to straight kids, “Don’t have sex until you get married,” but if you tell gay kids that they can’t get married, there is not much they can do. Actually, I suppose the right is still saying to them, “Don’t ever have gay sex until you die.” But for those mainstream educators in the middle, to deny the existence of those who might be gay in your classroom is certainly not serving every student’s need.

“A much needed contribution to the discussion about children’s sexuality, adult fears and irrationality about it, and the moral, political, and public health risks of failing to confront anxiety and ignorance about children’s erotic desires and needs. Levine makes a compelling case that respecting and celebrating such desires and needs is essential to this country’s historic project of promoting ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ for everyone who lives here-including those under 18. . . . An exceptionally smart and readable book.” —Debbie Nathan, coauthor (with Michael Snedeker) of Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt