Historical Treatment of Childhood Sexuality

Child sexuality is a concept that has been highly taboo in western culture for centuries. Children historically and today are seen as “pure” and “innocent” asexual creatures easily tainted by adult sexuality and similar evils. This societal ideal of children and its harms are discussed in the article Imperiled and Perilous: Exploring the History of Childhood Sexuality (Egan, Hawkes, 2008). In their article Egan and Hawkes argue that society attempts to regulate and normalize children and their sexuality at every level. Children’s sexuality is treated as a sleeping demon that could potentially be awoken at any second rather than a normal cognitively present force within the child.
The social desire to regulate and control childhood sexuality as well as the sexual dichotomy of children as either innocent or deviant has serious consequences. It does not allow for the inclusion of elements of race, gender, or culture, which have huge implications on a child’s sexuality. As a result the article argues that children are treated both socially and politically as objects rather than individual beings. For example young girls sexuality (i.e. dancing) was controlled in the Soviet Union because it was believed that if it were allowed to run rampant it would “endanger the future of the soviet project”. Likewise the still present fear in the United States of the “homoerotic” male youth drives many political and social agendas.
In conclusion the authors suggest that the central problem in how western culture addresses child sexuality is that children are not given power to regulate, understand or control their own sexuality and bodies. Their voices are not heard in research or often even within their own homes. Children should not be viewed as incompetent or incapable but rather given higher levels of agency with regard to their own sexuality.
By Madelyn King (Post #7)
Reference:
Egan, R. D., Hawkes, G.L. (2008). Imperiled and Perilous: Exploring the History of Childhood Sexuality. Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 21(4) pp. 355-367

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~ by littlegoose08 on November 28, 2009.

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