If journalist Judith Levine intended to stir up controversy with her new book HARMFUL TO MINORS, she succeeded in spades. As word about the book spread, it was attacked for presenting pedophilia as an "alternative lifestyle." Levine rejects that characterization, calling it an example of the "hysteria" that prompted her to write the book.
While Levine does not condone pedophilia in its technical sense -- that is, sexual relations with pre-pubescent children -- there's little else she rules out of bounds. Levine denies that sex between minors and adults is always wrong. She writes that teens seek out sex with older people for what she considers "understandable reasons."
In an interview with Newhouse Newspapers, Levine demonstrated just how far "understandable" could be stretched. She said, "Yes, absolutely," when asked if a sexual relationship between a priest and a boy could be a positive experience for the boy. She added that "some research" suggests that such "experiences" can be "positive" for "even young children."
In Levine's telling, the real danger in sexual relationships between minors and adults comes not from the relationship but, rather, our reaction to the relationship -- or, as the title of one of the book's sections puts it, "the enemy is us."
To fight this "enemy," Levine suggests revising laws governing sexual consent. She holds up Dutch law, which allows kids as young as twelve to consent to sex, as an example for us to follow. This would only be part of a shift in societal attitudes towards sexual lives of our kids that she recommends.
In many respects, it doesn't matter if Levine's book does or does not endorse pedophilia specifically. Either way, the result is the same: Children will be sexually active and, as a result, exploited and damaged at younger and younger ages.
But is Levine really so radical, or is she just carrying our culture's attitudes about sex to their logical conclusions? She is to sexual liberation, in my opinion, what Peter Singer, the Princeton professor who advocates infanticide, is to the culture of death: She shows us the deadly consequences of the secular worldview.
That worldview denies that sex has anything to do with morality or truth. It considers traditional sexual morality, most notably the biblical morality, as a way of controlling people, especially women. And attempts to curb sexual liberties are repressive and, thus, emotionally harmful.
For Levine and our culture, there are no prohibitions when it comes to sex. What matters is consent and avoiding exploiting or being exploited. Of course, these are thin reeds with which to protect our children -- or even ourselves -- from harm.
The only way to effectively oppose pernicious nonsense like Levine's book is to attack the worldview that makes this kind of wrong-headedness possible. Ironically, HARMFUL TO MINORS, Levine's book may help Christians by giving us an apologetic argument. After all, if we force people like Levine to take their arguments to their logical conclusion, we expose the fallacy of their belief system. We show that it simply doesn't work. What people must see is not only is a book like this dangerous, but even more dangerous are the presuppositions about life that underlie it.
For further reading:
Frank York and Jan LaRue, PROTECTING YOUR CHILD IN AN X-RATED WORLD (Tyndale, 2002).
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Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, THE CHRISTIAN IN TODAY'S CULTURE (Tyndale, 1999).
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David Crary, "U Press book on kids' sexuality called 'evil,'" Pioneer Press, 3 April 2002.
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