Abstract of Childhood and the Institutionalization of Sexuality. Paper presented at a conference of the Midwest Sociological Society (MSS), 1979.

Childhood and the Institutionalization of Sexuality

Dealt with is the assumption that our understanding of sexuality, & especially child sexuality, might be affected & broadened by analysis within the conceptual framework of sexuality autonomously institutionalized. Sexuality autonomously institutionalized is defined as sexual conduct as socially accepted activity with norms & goals of its own, without regard to its special relationship to marriage or procreation. The autonomous conceptualization of affectional-erotic sexuality moves the focus to a higher level of abstraction & permits the inclusion of a whole range of nonmarital, nonprocreative sexual conduct, not as deviant or as residual but as potentially legitimate conduct. Society has been reluctant to extend the privilege of affectional-erotic sexual conduct to children. Discussed in relation to change are: (1) the recognition that even neonates have need for physical contact, for stimulation & warm intimate relationships with others, (2) the awareness of the relativity, from society to society, of sanctions applied to child sexual conduct, (3) sexual conduct within the family (not only within marriage), & (4) a nascent children's rights/children liberation movement advocating & supporting the freedom & rights of children, including their sexual rights. It is sociocultural, not biological-constitutional, change that brings about change in affectional-erotic conduct. Hence, change in child sexual activity could be rapid & marked in a permissive & supportive society.

Floyd M. Martinson