Sexuality and Childhood

Most contemporary discussions of childhood and sexuality open by noting that the terms are particularly contested and fraught when brought together, the focus of intense public concern, ambivalence, and unresolved tensions. This may be in part because in Western culture the disputed and always-ambiguous boundaries between childhood and adulthood so often hinge on the question of innocence, which in turn has been defined in terms of sexual ignorance. Crossing this boundary, acquiring (adult) sexual knowledge or experience, even through abuse, has signified not only loss of childhood but also of the protections due to innocent children. Anxieties also circulate around the question of whether children are being appropriately socialized into sexuality and by whom (parents, the school, other experts, the media, young people themselves). Historically, ...

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