Re-evaluates the relationship betwen parents and their children on a variety of subjects surrounding sex and emphasizes a common-sense, positive, ethics-based approach to teaching youngsters about sex.
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"In America today, it is nearly impossible to publish a book that says children and teenagers can have sexual pleasure and be safe too," writes journalist Levine (My Enemy, My Love). Levine has somehow pulled that off. Western European countries assume that "sexual expression is a healthy and happy part of growing up"; thus Levine argues that sex is not necessarily bad for minors, and that puritanical attitudes often backfire. According to her, as the age of sexual initiation drops in America, the age of consent is rising. She observes that most so-called pedophiles are attracted to teenagers rather than kids an important subtlety recently aired in the media. (Still, her call for common sense on pedophilia is marred by an inadequate acknowledgment of the extent of online child porn, as documented in Philip Jenkins's recent Beyond Tolerance.) She notes the disturbing trend toward pathologizing young children's eroticized play and criticizes mainstream America for letting the Christian right steer sex education toward an emphasis on abstinence. Compounding that, she says, the right wing has expunged abortion discussions. A Ms. and Nerve.com contributor, Levine argues, contra Mary Pipher (Reviving Ophelia), that love may ruin teenage girls more than sex. At one point, Levine cogently contends that the term "normal" is "subjective and protean"; she prefers "normative," which means "what most people do." It's a good start to confronting some vital questions.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Journalist and free-speech activist Levine (My Enemy, My Love: Women, Men, and the Dilemmas of Gender) here argues that trying to protect young people from sex can actually exacerbate or even create the much-feared sexual danger. Her well-documented horror stories of zealotry and incompetence are chilling; Levine is particularly good at showing that abstinence-based sex education leaves many teens without the information they need to make intelligent choices. Misrepresentations of fact, unfounded assumptions, the runaway media hype offered by so-called experts, conservative agendas, and simple conformity, she writes, largely determine our approaches to censorship, "the pedophile panic," youthful sexual behavior, sex education, abortion, and the suppression of information about sexual pleasure. These factors, she holds, predispose young people to have bad sex with unwanted outcomes. Instead of overreaction and overprotection, adults need to saturate their children's world with accurate, realistic information and images of love and sex, including sexual pleasure. Her book, which provoked considerable controversy even before its publication, provides no easy answers to a complex question but is highly recommended as a wake-up call. Martha Cornog, Philadelphia
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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