An American Travesty: Legal Responses to Adolescent Sexual
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Harmful to Minors: The
Perils of Protecting Children from Sex.
In this important and controversial book, Judith Levine
asserts that America's attempts to protect children from sex are worse
than ineffectual. It is the assumption of danger and the exclusive
focus on protection--what Levine terms "the sexual politics of
fear"--that are themselves harmful to minors. She debunks some of the
dominant myths of our society, and examines and challenges widespread
anxieties related to youth sexuality. Her third chapter addresses
therapy imposed on children who misbehave sexually, showing clearly how
experts define behaviors as pathological and abusive based on moral
judgments rather than scientific understanding or the presence of harm.
She gives an in-depth case study of one child who received therapy, as
well as descriptions of several treatment programs, and demonstrates
that the trauma inflicted by the “cure” may be far worse than the
Adolescence, Sexuality, and
the Criminal Law: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
Gain an understanding of the threat to freedom that is posed
by state regulation of adolescent sexual behavior. The authors write
that sexual autonomy and human dignity encompasses both the right to
engage in wanted sexual activity and the right to be free and protected
from unwanted sexual aggression. Experts from several disciplines use
case studies, legal analysis, empirical examinations, and tables and
figures to present an insightful contribution to the debate surrounding
child sexual abuse. Chapter 1 provides an
analysis of the background, the legislative process, and the content of
recent EU legislation that goes far beyond combating child
pornography and child
prostitution by making a wide variety of previously legal adolescent
behavior serious crimes. It notes that this massive criminalization and
the equation of adolescents with
children caused heavy criticisms among experts, but these criticisms
not prevent the new legislation from becoming law.
By Philip Jenkins, Yale Univeristy Press, 1998, 320 pages.
ISBN 0-3000-7387-9, $29.95 Hardcover
Alarm over threats of child sexual abuse has not always been as widespread as it is today. Periods of heightened concern have been followed by troughs of neglect, as in the 1920s and 1960s. Jenkins discusses the social, political, and ideological factors that have influenced public opinion about sexual crimes, both real and imagined. Denying that any particular view of sex offenders reflects a static, objective reality, he concludes that "Pedophiles represent a very minor component of the real sexual issues faced by children." Observing the panicked responses to specific cases, such as the murders of Polly Klaas and Megan Kanka and the McMartin Preschool prosecution, Jenkins posits the paradox that children statistically have more to fear from family and neighbors than from strangers. His well-researched study of a controversial subject is recommended for scholarly collections on child abuse and sex offenders.
The Stop Child Molestation Book.
This book is included here not to endorse its point of view,
but rather to illustrate the kind of thinking that is common among
therapists who attempt to control children's sexual behavior through
authors start with a laudable goal--to drastically reduce the
occurrence of child molestation--but their proposed methods target the
children themselves--as offenders. Claiming that one out of every
twenty boys will develop pedophilia in childhood or puberty, they
recommend that all parents question their sons in sixth grade about
their sexual fantasies. Any boy who is suspected of having sexual
thoughts involving younger children, or who has been molested by an
older child or adult, is to be referred to a sex-specific therapist who
will test him using Abel's own sexual interest test, lie detectors,
or a plethysmograph
connected to his genitals. If the boy tests positive, treatment
would include isolation from other children, constant monitoring of
sexual feelings and behavior (sometimes by plethysmograph), high doses
of sex drive reducing drugs,
sensitization, and aversion therapy with ammonia. These
methods could be imposed on the boy indefinitely regardless of parents'
or his own objections. Abel and Harlow show no
concern for the emotional trauma and intense stigma these methods would
inflict on boys, or the new class of lepers they would
create--consisting, presumably, of 5% of all boys. Instead, they
rationalize such abuse with the claim that protection of normal
children takes precedence over the welfare of those who are deviant.