Byline: Robert Stacy McCain, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A new book that says child molesters are not a major peril to children is part of a larger movement within academia to promote "free sexual expression of children."
The movement to legitimize sex between adults and children is "gathering steam," warns Stephanie Dallam, researcher for the Leadership Council for Mental Health, Justice and the Media in Philadelphia, an organization that deals with prevention and treatment of child abuse.
"Some people view children as the next sexual frontier," Ms. Dallam says.
Feminist writer Judith Levine's book "Not Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Kids from Sex" has been condemned by those who say she excuses sexual abuse of children - a charge she strongly denies.
Ms. Levine says she was "misunderstood" after a news article last month quoted her saying a boy's sexual experience with a priest "conceivably" could be positive.
"Do I advocate priests having sex with their child parishioners? No, absolutely no," she said in a telephone interview. However, she said, "The research shows us that in some minority of cases, young - even quite young - people can have a positive [sexual] experience with an adult. That's what the research shows."
Featuring a foreword by Clinton administration Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Ms. Levine's book endorses a Dutch law, passed in 1990, that effectively lowered the age of consent to 12.
Ms. Levine cites research about "happy consensual sex among kids under 12," and writes: "America's drive to protect kids from sex is protecting them from nothing. Instead, often it is harming them."
The book has sparked a political backlash against her publisher, the University of Minnesota Press.
The speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives condemned the book and called for the university to halt its publication. Instead, the university press last week ordered a second printing of 10,000 copies after media attention helped drive Ms. Levine's book as high as No. 26 on the Amazon.com best-seller list.
But researchers and activists say the book is only the most recent in a series of academic arguments for "consensual" sex involving children:
* In 2000, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco published an article, "Sexual Rights of Children," saying there is "considerable evidence" that there is no "inherent harm in sexual expression in childhood."
* San Francisco State University professor Gilbert Herdt, co-author of the 1996 book "Children of Horizons: How Gay and Lesbian Teens Are Leading a New Way Out of the Closet," said in an interview with the Dutch pedophilia journal Paidika that "the category 'child' is a rhetorical device for inflaming what is really an irrational set of attitudes" against sex with children.
* John Money, professor emeritus of psychology at Johns Hopkins University, gave an interview to Paidika about "genuinely, totally mutual" sex between boys and men. In the introduction to a Dutch professor's 1987 book called, "Boys on their Contacts with Men: A Study of Sexually Expressed Friendships," Mr. Money wrote that opponents of pedophilia are motivated by "self-imposed, moralistic ignorance."
* Harris Mirkin, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, published a 1999 article in the Journal of Homosexuality complaining that boys who have sex with men "are never considered ... willing participants, even if they are hustlers." He has also written that "children are the last bastion of the old sexual morality. …