Harmful to Minors

Here’s an interesting story from the world of academic publishing. I’m not sure if it’s had an airing in the UK press. On 2 April, the Associated Press reported that “A month before its publication, a provocative book about children’s sexuality is being denounced by conservatives as evil and prompting angry calls for action against the University of Minnesota Press”.

Judith Levine’s new book, Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex, was rejected by a number of publishers before being accepted by the University of Minnesota Press — which only agreed to publish it after sending the manuscript out to review to five experts for comment, advice and approval, rather than the usual two.

In Harmful to Minors, Levine argues that abstinence-only sex education is misguided. She also suggests the threat of pedophilia and molestation by strangers is exaggerated by adults who want to deny young people the opportunity for positive sexual experiences.”Squeamish or ignorant about the facts, parents appear willing to accept the pundits’ worst conjectures about their children’s sexual motives,” Levine writes. “It’s as if they cannot imagine that their kids seek sex for the same reasons they do.” …

Levine said this week that she disapproves of any sexual relationship between a youth and an authority figure, whether a parent, teacher or priest. However, she believes teen-agers deserve more respect for the choices they make in consensual affairs, and suggests that America’s age-of-consent laws can sometimes lead to excessive punishment.

Predictably enough, the Right has weighed in. Radio looney Dr. Laura and other talkshow festermongers have denounced the book, sight unseen, and Robert Knight, the director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture and Family Institute, a group dedicated to bringing “Biblical principles into all levels of public policy”, is urging the University of Minnesota to fire the university press officials who decided to publish the book. He said this: “The action is so grievous and so irresponsible that I felt they relinquished their right to academic freedom,” and described the book as “very evil.” Not just evil, but “very evil”.A few days after the story broke, the Press announced a review of its policies. A snippet in the local paper, the Star Tribune, said this on 5 April:

In response to national criticism of a soon-to-be released book about children’s sexuality, the University of Minnesota on Thursday announced an external review of its publishing department.

The review will be conducted by a panel of experts from other academic and university presses during a two-month period, said Christine Maziar, a university vice president who oversees the University of Minnesota Press.
She said the review will cover policies and procedures for acquiring, reviewing and developing books.

“We’re going to turn this into an opportunity instead of a crisis response,” said Maziar, who is also dean of the U’s Graduate School.

Let’s hope so.Is this a story with a happy ending? On 10 April, the AP reported again…

Furor over book on youth and sexuality turns it into a hit

The furor over a provocative new book on youth and sexuality has helped turn it into a hit.

The University of Minnesota Press ordered a second printing of ” Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex” by writer Judith Levine.

It will print another 10, 000 copies of the book, a larger than usual second run, spokeswoman Allison Aten said Wednesday. The first run was 3, 500 books.

“We’ ve had strong orders for the book, so we decided to go back to press just because she’ s getting so much publicity, ” Aten said. The demand is coming from independent, chain and online booksellers, as well as wholesalers and distributors, she said.

Have a look yourself: excerpts are posted here. Enjoy.

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