walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Judith Levine, _Harmful to Minors_

I read through page 48, then I just couldn't take any more. Having gone over the reviews on Amazon, I feel like my take on this book is a very solitary one; most of the people who had issues with it complained about the them-vs-us/blame the right perspective they saw in the book (altho interestingly enough, a lot of them actually liked the book other than that, which is sort of a clue right there).

What has stopped me is 3 instances of error/dishonesty that I just can't get past. One (using "normative" rather than "normal" for what can only be called specious (sounds good; happens to be totally false) reasons I've already posted about. The other two that stood out:

(1) In the introduction, she tosses out a statistic that a quarter of teenagers contract STDs. p xxiv: "One in four of these adolescents contracts a sexually transmitted disease each year, with genital herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia leading the list." No note; no source. R. and I have tracked this data, together and independently, over a long period of time. We haven't seen all the studies, but we've never seen anything like this. Yes, perhaps close to a quarter of teens get an STD. But the top of the list is _always_ occupied by HPV, with the rest trailing consistently in the single digit percentages. (Also in the intro, she refers to STDS as "serious to fatal". Er, HPV, so not that big a deal.)

(2) Really misleading use of notes. This happened several times, but this really stuck in my craw, p 44: "Attorney General Janet Reno's decision to lay siege to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, was based in part on rumors of child abuse going on inside. 100 In the ensuing conflagration, eighty people died, including twenty-four children. 101"

Here's note 100:

"Evidence suggests that statutory rape, or sex with minors, did occur at Waco. David Koresh did so with the parents' consent, because his followers believed it "was his religious duty to father 24 children by virgin mothers." Because the parents cooperated, the state did not bring charges. Dick J. Reavis, the Ashes of Waco: An Investigation..."

If Levine wants to say, hey, getting a bunch of wack jobs to let him rape their children is NOT a good reason to kill children, I will so support her. Fine. Law enforcement maybe did not handle the situation in an optimal -- or even a good -- way. But you have to go to the note to find out that _yes_ child abuse was happening, and even there, she doesn't _call_ it child abuse, she calls it "sex with minors".

Three strikes is enough for me to stop, especially after the debacle that was my experience with Kristin Luker's book.

However, I'm now going to go off on a bit of a tangent, based on the aforementioned little trip through the reviews of Levine's books on Amazon.

(1) According to a review, the book that she published after this book detailing her father's descent into Alzheimer's: "She makes herself examine her relationship with her father (which has always been fraught) and her mother (whom she resents for leaving her ill father for another man)." And: "As her father worsens, Levine gets closer to him." The review also indicates that her manipulation of the meaning of normative is being accepted unquestioningly (which is a big chunk of the problem with specious claims -- they sound plausible, so people don't check them). (Reed Business Information review)

(2) A still more recent book about not buying (the Reed Business Information review has some hilarities in it) has an ALA review which includes this gem: "Many of her points are intentionally provocative; for instance, not buying makes her feel vulnerable and having to ask for help."

While I don't know Levine, as near as I can tell, she does not have children of her own, which does not necessarily mean she's insensitive to some of the issues surrounding children's sexuality, but which in my experience is worrisome. A lot of people who were damaged by their own upbringing figure it out before they have kids; some of the rest figure it out after they have kids. The ones who never have kids often were the most damaged, and are the least able to separate enough from the parents who messed with them to realize that, well, their parents messed with them.

Let's just say there's some low hanging evidence here.

To speak in favor of both Levine and _Harmful to Minors_, I will note that her description of "child porn"/sexual predators and so forth is refreshing and eye-opening. I had suspected that a lot of this stuff was ginned up (maybe not entrapment, but maybe not that far off); she supplies some support for that belief. It is entirely possible that large chunks of the book that I didn't read include a lot of similar information that would be valuable to have. So this isn't precisely a negative review of the book, so much as it is a set of observations as to why I was unable to read it, and why I'm very suspicious of her as a person. Sampling later in the book suggests, for example, that she advocates supervision of small children. Don't ignore play that involves a lot of touching, but don't interrupt it, either, as long as it is friendly and safe. This is an approach I could fully support. (See chapter "Good Touch")

But then a few pages later on, her discussion of "privacy" for children (just like her favorable comment about how children sharing beds with adults a couple centuries back pushes them towards the adult world -- not so much; it keeps them safe and alive) is problematic beyond belief.

So. Good luck to you if you want to read it. I'm putting my copy up on TitleTrader.

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