Review Harmful to Readers

Judith Levine
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Contrary to the implication of Steven Mintz’s review [The Youth Today Review of Books, October], my book, “Harmful to Minors,” does not have the “ultimate goal” of legitimizing adult-minor sex. One of its chapters suggests that not all sex between minors and legal adults is harmful or nonconsensual. This is not to trivialize the harms of sexual exploitation.

Indeed, my book argues that adults must balance two principles in dealing with youth sexuality: protection from harm and respect for their autonomy. In order for them to grow responsibly and happily into their sexuality, they need good sex education, which includes acknowledgement of the pleasures as well as the dangers of sex.

The ultimate point of “Harmful to Minors” is that unless adults – parents, educators, and policy-makers – begin to view youth as citizens with rights independent of their families, we will neither protect nor respect anything about them, least of all their sexuality. This is a message that readers of Youth Today would surely endorse.

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