Jun 04 2012

Reading Levine’s Harmful to Minors

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In Harmful To Minors, Judith Levine mentions something quasi-in-passing, that just raised an interesting flag for me.

Levine makes note that:

“Loving touch seems to promote not only individual health but social harmony as well. Tiffany Field, the director of the Touch Research Institute at Miami Univesity’s medical school, compared children on the playgrounds of Florida with those in Paris and found that adult touch from parents, teachers, and babysitters was correlated with peaceful and cooperative play among the children. The neuropsychologist James W. Prescott made even grander claims. Analyzing information on four hundred preindustrial societies, he concluded that a peaceful society starts with touch…

“Anthropologists concur that America is an exceedingly ‘low-touch,’ high-violence culture. But America’s diversity, mobility, and high immigration probably belie any biological relationships between the first characteristic and the second. A more likely interpretation of thse facts and Prescott’s other findings is social. A culture that lavishes gentle attention on its young also may encourage tolerance of the vulnerable and discourage physical power-mongering. People brought up to be aggressive and suspicious of intrusions against their own body’s ‘boundaries,’ on the other hand, will be more self-protective and territorial and thus more belligerent, both socially and sexually…

“…[H]uman touch acquires meaning in a culture, and primary among those meanings is whether or not a given touch, response, or even body part is sexual. Before a Western child has been ‘civilized,’ the penis, clitoris, vagina, or anus may be sources of pleasant feelings, like the knees or back, or interesting orifices into which to poke things, like the mouth or ears – not secret or thrilling ‘sexual’ parts. Even claimed evidence of the biological ‘naturalness’ of child sexuality is surreptitiously meaning-laden…”

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