In an earlier post I argued (here) that we are seeing a cultural war over the definition of childhood; namely between a conservative, romanticised vision; a bourgeois, materialist vision and what I call the natural child, the child free to be themselves, free of all adult expectation.

Much of the concern over sexualisation comes from the conservatives who have created an unrealistic ideal of the ‘innocent’ child. This ideal is a rather late invention. A combination of Victorian romanticism revisioned after WW2. It is largely the construction of adults afraid of the adult world: if only we could return to a period of innocence. These conservatives are deeply afraid of childhood sexuality, indeed, as they are afraid of their own adult sexuality. In their world children are in danger from sex. Predators lurk everywhere, children are damaged by an early awareness, but more importantly (and this is the real concern) a sexualised child does not conform to conservative moral standards.

Never mind that child psychologists and sexologists accept that children do have a sexuality. Of course, it is a child’s sexuality, not an adult sexuality. Regrettably many conservatives believe that sexuality must necessarily be adult, so they can’t see, or don’t want to see, children’s sexuality. They consistently impose adult concepts and motivations onto children.

But what is children’s sexuality? It varies according to the child’s developmental level. In general it is playful, curious, ephemeral and spontaneous. It is about discovering the delights of the body. It is running, spinning to make yourself dizzy, tickling, cuddling, using water, wind, grass, leaves, etc, against the skin. The child has not yet learned adult concepts and distinctions so it does not understand boundaries. Certain things feel nice, others don’t. Many girls experience their first orgasm during play; sliding down a pole, being tickled, running, playing with water from a hose. They may only realise this when they have their first conscious orgasm and remember that they have felt the sensation before. Some however, discover it through masturbation.

Of course we must protect children from harm but we must also protect the space to allow them to explore their sexuality.  The predator exploits children for his own pleasure, but so too does the moral conservative; only he exploits the child to support his fear and his moral ideology.

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5 Responses to The Childhood Culture Wars: Dani Brubaker

  1. Emily Talmadge says:

    I would like to personally thank you for writing this. There are so many things wrong with the “mindset” and the media. The media never does a story about art, expression, modern dance or writings of how good it is to feel unique & the liberation that comes with it. They twist it to appear there is something wrong with a persons own dicovery of how they view life. That results in a social media driven attack. Please keep writing & I will keep reading. Emily T.

    • Ray says:

      Thanks Emily, rest assured I will keep writing. You might like to know that Dani contacted me privately to endorse my interpretation. She said I had managed to put into words what she tries to do in her photography.

  2. JohnC says:

    It is bizarre that American “moral conservatives” are sexualising small children, and implying the world is full of repressed sexual perverts. The reality is that most of those sexual perverts are in America, the country which is leading the moral decline and rise of rampant promiscuity.

  3. Ron says:

    OK Ray, you are officially my hero. This is a another key to the puzzle for those who really want to understand what it is to be human, be a child and what a healthy adult-child relationship is about. An important distinction about what a bona fide pedophile is that he/she gratifies his needs at the expense of the child. The same can be said for any other form of abuse including that perpetrated against the environment in general. Some of us have a temperament that predispose us to enjoying the company of children. Other people simply cannot stand children. Like all relationships, good ones are a two-way interaction and children are no less human for being “less developed”. Yes, children have sexual impulses and will express them according to their personality and their own comfort level with the people they associate with. The part I haven’t worked out yet is the dynamic of societal norms, like telling a child to conform to certain behaviors in public, among intimates/family and in private. What self-righteous control freaks will have a problem with is that there is no single correct solution to this problem. Human beings have distinct properties that can be scientifically demonstrated, but there are also many “ways of life” that are perfectly healthy and will vary because of the natural differences between individuals. Naturist cultures are a strong case in point. That revelation has made me more compassionate toward control freaks, because it must be frightening to some that there is no proper answer to every question and that causes them to gravitate toward monolithic moral systems.

    • Ray says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about social norms. It is difficult for children to exist outside any given social norm; for them to become ‘outsiders’. Children have an inherent desire to conform to social and peer norms. However, what people forget is that the norms themselves do not matter. For example, many naturist children in Anglophone countries must hide their naturism because it is outside social norms. However in countries like France and Germany where there are large naturist communities, they have no need to hide. Indeed, it may be the child who insists on wearing clothes that is ostracised on their summer holidays at a European naturist resort. It is not nudity that is harmful, but being ostracised for being different.

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