Infant and Child Sexuality: A Sociological Perspective
by Martinson, Floyd M. (Floyd Mansfield), 1916-2000
First published in 1973 by The Book Mark (Gustavas Aldolphus College, 800 West College Avenue, Saint Peter MN 56082, USA).
Copyright © 1973 Floyd M. Martinson
This edition of October 2000 by Books Reborn
viii, 146 p. ; 28 cm.
This reproduction of Infant and Child Sexuality is made available online with permission from the current copyright holder, Beatrice Awes Martinson.
This edition has been OCR scanned from the 1973 edition.
About the Author
Ph.D., Sociology, University of Minnesota, 1953; Tulane University, 1957-58; Professor of Sociology, Gustavus Adolphus College, 1945 to present; Visiting Professor, Uppsala University, Sweden, 1967-1968; National Institute of Mental Health, 1973; Member, Commission on Marriage, Lutheran Church of America, 1966-1970; Author of Marriage and the American Ideal (1960), Sexual Knowledge, Values, and Behavior Patterns: With Especial Reference to Minnesotan Youth (1966), and Family in Society (1970).
||I. Infancy (0-2 years)
|II. Early Childhood (3-7 years)
|III. Preadolescence (8-12 years)
|IV. A Few Words of My Own
We know very little about sexual experiences of children. There are many reasons for this, not the least is the fact that until recently we have not admitted, and have not wanted to admit, that "normal" children have sexual experiences. Freud alerted us to the sexual potentialities of the young, but still we were loath to research the subject.
We need not and should not wait longer in researching the sexual potential and sexual experiences of normal children, though there will be pockets of resistance. The rewards will be greater than the fears and threats that will accompany inquiry and free discussion. Sexually speaking, what are the young capable of experiencing? What are they experiencing? Many parents, teachers, and others interested in childhood and the effect of childhood experiences on adult life will appreciate such inquiry.
This is such a study, albeit an exploratory one. It addresses itself to the following questions. At how young an age do children have the capacity to engage in sexual experiences? What kinds of experiences do the young have with each other as well as with persons older than themselves? What are the consequences of these encounters for the young?
This is not the first time these questions have been asked. In the past they have been dealt with largely within a psychoanalytical conceptual framework. The conceptual framework used here is sociological, focusing on the affectional, and more especially the sexual, encounters of the young with other persons. What little sociological study there has been has been of a survey nature, reporting on the incidence of various sexual phenomena. And most surveys have been directed at the experiences of none younger than the adolescent. These surveys answer such questions as, At what age does dating begin? What is the incidence of premarital intercourse, et cetera? On the other hand, there is a paucity of survey and in-depth studies of the affectional encounters of infants, children, and preadolescents. This is especially true of encounters as seen from the perspective of the young participant. Surveys as "slices of data" are valuable in showing how prevalent various kinds of behavior are, but taken alone, they oversimplify the picture. They tell us little or nothing about how the subjects (in this case the children) define and experience their situations. By letting the young speak for themselves regarding the nature of affectional encounters, the interaction of the participants, and the consequences, we hope to add a quality to the knowledge of encounters of the young.
In beginning any research project one makes a thorough search of the literature, especially looking for data from the researches of others who have utilized a compatible conceptual framework. The search for data on affectional-sexual encounters of infants, children, and preadolescents has been made, and the findings, mostly from surveys, are incorporated along with new case data in the chapters to follow.
The new data which the study supplies comes from several sources. From over one thousand sex histories--recall--that I have collected from college students while teaching courses in human sexuality and marriage and the family, from interviews with two hundred unwed mothers receiving case work services through a large private child-care agency in the Upper Midwest, and from case material obtained in six communities where we observed and interviewed around the general question, What is it like to grow up (sexually) in ________ community? Four of the communities were in the Upper Midwest--two rural, one inner city, and one suburban. The other two communities were in the urban industrial Northeast--one an urban residential area and the other an outlying community. I have also read and incorporated data from Alfred Kinsey's interview notes on a sample of children two to five years of age, data which have not been previously published. Permission to utilize these data was granted by the Institute for Sex Research (the Kinsey Institute), Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
Recall of sexual encounters is possible from about age three. For earlier ages one cannot rely at all on subjective data as such. One must utilize the observations of mothers, researchers, and others who have been particularly close to the infant and young child. Among others, Larry and Joan Constantine have graciously offered me the use of data on a small number of child sexual experiences that they gathered incidental to their study of multilateral marriages.
The study is exploratory. The sample population is not representative of any one clearly defined universe. The majority of persons supplying sex histories are youthful, high school educated, middle-class, white, Protestant, and from the Upper Midwest. The study makes no attempt to record the incidence of various kinds of sexual encounters, since we have no clearly defined and meaningful universe. We are here concerned with the quality, not the quantity of the affectional-sexual encounters of the young in terms of what it is like and how it feels for children to be participants in such encounters.
The book is divided into three major sections. The first deals with affectional-sexual encounters of infants from birth to three years of age. The second deals with the encounters of children three through seven years of age. The third section deals with preadolescents from eight to twelve years of age.
Hopefully, this study will be of value to students of human sexuality, primary, secondary, and college teachers, counsellors of the young, parents, as well as to young people and the general reader.
This book is privately published. Twenty-nine publishers were offered the privilege of publishing it. All thought that it should be published, but each thought that some other publisher should have the privilege!
Many persons played significant though varied roles in the research and writing that led to the final publication of the manuscript. I would like especially to recognize the contributions of Paul H. Gebhard, Julie Ann Lindahl, Beatrice Awes Martinson, and Edwin J. Nichols.
Center for Studies of
Child and Family Mental Health
National Institute of Mental Health
May 15, 1973
There is probably no human activity about which there is greater curiosity, greater social concern, and less knowledge than sexuality, particularly infant and child sexuality. If we ever hope to understand infant and child sexuality we must improve on the theoretical and conceptual base, develop testable hypotheses from the different theoretical systems, and carry out the designated research. We especially need theoretical alternatives to the psychoanalytic theory of infant and child sexuality. We have too long been complacent about leaving the explanation of sexuality of the young to psychoanalysis. Freud (1915) had no intention that it should be so. He insisted that his conclusions were based on psychoanalytic investigations alone and that these needed to be amplified by studies in other spheres, including sociology. Freud himself turned to a sociology of sex in his later years when he gave much attention to the opposition between civilization and the freedom of sexual expression. (Jones, 1955).
There are currently several theories as to how and when human beings develop sexually and arrive at patterns of sexual behavior. From a physiological point of view, it has been said that preadolescent boys and girls do not desire each other sexually because certain glands are not functioning. The testes, for example, after a period of activity prenatally, enter a period of hormonal quiescence until the onset of puberty. (Money, 1973). At puberty, when the glands secrete their hormones, boys and girls awaken sexually and have an urge to engage in sexual activities. Hence, it is because of social restraints that they do not indulge in sexual license. (Udry, 1966, p. 104). According to the hormone theory sexual inadequacy, frigidity, and impotence are the result of too few sex hormones, too many, or the wrong kind. (Broderick, June 1964). Hence, most persons develop this sex urge at puberty but some develop it abnormally early and some develop it abnormally late or not at all.
According to psychoanalytic theory, the libido, the basic life force, is present from birth, and even the infant has sex needs which are met in sucking, elimination, or manipulating the sex organs. The ages seven to eleven are seen as a period of relatively decreased intensity of the biological drive and are referred to as latency. Relieved from the internal stress and conflict occasioned by the severe internal pressure of the drive, the latency child supposedly busies himself with learning about the outer world. The vivid fantasy life and creativity of childhood is replaced by fact-finding, collecting, the acquisition of skills, memorization, et cetera. The period from eleven to thirteen years of age is seen as one of relative peace. But it is short-lived; indeed it may not in some cases be distinguishable at all. Preadolescence then anticipates the onrush of intensified sexual drive for the second time--the first time being during infancy, the second being at puberty.
The emphasis on latency as well as general disregard of sexuality in infancy and childhood in hormone theory has brought both the hormone theory and psychoanalytic theory into question by sociologists in recent years. Anthropologists had earlier questioned latency theory because of the sexual activity observed among children in permissive primitive societies.
Social scientists suggest that the conception of a latency period, a time of life without passion, may be something of a fiction. (Douvan and Adelson, 1966). This period is more complex than we have realized. Nevertheless, the contrasts between this period and other periods of development are impressive. Relative to what precedes and follows it, the preadolescent period is indeed low in drive and conflict; the child is absorbed in the quiet growth of ego capacities. Erikson (1950) calls it a stage of life which is dominated by "industry." The child begins to develop skill--reading and writing, of course, but also the myriad opportunities of a complex culture--sports and games in an infinite variety, the arts and crafts, collections and hobbies, and riddles and jokes. Persons who have observed children on the verge of pubescence in the children's groups of the Israeli kibbutz, for example, report that the sense of shame developed at about the sixth grade is not merely a shame phenomenon. It also involves hostility toward boys; attempts to create unisexual showers is, among other things, an expression of this hostility. According to one nurse, the relationship between the sexes at this time was "terrible." They practically "hated" each other, would not talk to each other, and were constantly involved in petty altercations. (Fox, 1962).
During late preadolescence friends focus on activity--on what they are doing together--and not on each other as persons. (Douvan and Adelson, 1966). There appears to be little interest in a friend's personality as such. Sexually precocious children are no more advanced in general personality development than are other children. (Maccoby, 1966). Friendship is not yet relational; it is an adjunct to something else, the partnership in work and play. Basically, the preadolescent's emotional commitment is to his family, rather than to his friends. The girl at this age has ordinarily not begun to date. The sexes still meet on the playground and judge each other by skill at running, at basketball, at other activities, rather than by sex. The fact that one participant is a boy and the other is a girl may be quite incidental to the activity. Soon, however, most of the girls will secretly, or openly, compete for the attention of boys, and a balance must be found between ties of friendship and the demands of dating.
During recesses at school we used to play ball together. I distinctly remember running up and down that gym floor, Jim and I (a girl) trying our best to beat another couple. We girls tried to teach the fellows to dance, but they were not much interested.
Tom and I became the best of friends in fourth grade. Throughout our grade school years we were virtually inseparable. Ours was a typical childhood relationship, one between two people who, by chance, happened to be of the opposite sex.
Our parents thought that everything was cute and perfectly harmless. Actually from my standpoint, all was quite harmless.
But, according to sociologists, if there is an innate period it can be modified, for the notion of an innate predetermined psychological sexuality does not correspond with existing evidence. According to a social theory of sexual development, the individual begins life with a biological capacity for sexual maturity and a psychosexual plasticity capable of developing along a variety of lines depending upon the definition of social roles in his particular culture and community as well as upon his unique learning, especially during the formative periods of life. (Brown and Lynn, May 1966).
Rather than passing through a set series of sexual stages determined by physical growth, children develop at different rates and in a wide variety of directions depending upon how they are raised. In some communities they may go through the classic series of stages in attitude toward the opposite sex; pre-school friendships, elementary school dislikes, followed by junior high school awakening and high school attraction and involvement. In other communities, perhaps only a few miles away, the series of stages may be quite different. Broderick found communities in the United States in which there were well-established romances going on in the kindergarten class and a great deal of giggling and gossiping over couples. Among these five year olds, who-is-going-to-marry-whom was a common subject of conversation. By eight and nine years of age children played kissing games at their parties. By ages ten and eleven nearly half had begun to date and most had a series of crushes on adults and other children. Ninety per cent of the fifth grade boys in one community were involved in what Broderick referred to as "special" relationships with girlfriends. In another community the crowning social event of the year was the class dance, a "date" affair in which a Queen and King of the fifth grade were chosen. (Broderick, 1966).
Anthropologists have complained for years that both the hormone and the psychoanalytic theories failed to account for the sexual activities of young children in certain primitive societies. United States data has shown that romantic interest in the opposite sex begin in infancy or early childhood, depending on the degree of permissiveness and stimulation in the social environment. This is not to deny the marked impact of puberty upon sexual attitudes and experiences.
Psychoanalytic theory of sexual development has had more emphasis in the human sexuality literature than it deserves, particularly in the literature on infant and child sexuality. This is so, first of all, because psychoanalytic theory, though grand, mystical, and rich in insights, has not produced many empirically verifiable hypotheses. For experts in child behavior to use unverified pyschoanalytic insights as fact is unbecoming and potentially dangerous to those who depend on their counsel. Secondly, psychoanalytic theory has drawn what empirical support it has largely from observations of small samples of clinical populations rather than from broad representative samples. In other words, samples of children and adults who are ill, children and adults who have been brought to a therapist or clinic because of some behavior problem have provided the major source of samples in the past. Psychoanalytic theory, though inadequately tested, has been utilized as a source and justification for after the fact causal explanations of various manifestations of sexual behavior.
What we need is not the abandonment of psychoanalytic theory, however. Psychoanalytic theorists must continue to derive and test hypotheses using psychoanalytic concepts. But what is needed more is that other behavioral scientists with other theoretical and conceptual orientations, including sociologists, do more to test social theories of sexual development using large (rather than small), representative (rather than clinical) populations. It is well known and generally accepted that any aspect of human behavior, including sexual behavior, benefits from study and research using alternative theoretical frameworks.
Sociologists have had much to say about adolescent and adult sexuality in the past, but have given very little attention to infant, child, and preadolescent sexuality. This book brings together what is known to date in the sociology of the sexuality of the young. We begin with the sociology of infant sexuality.
The human infant--here defined as being between the ages from birth up to but not including three years of age--is a creature of potential. The development of that potential, whether related to mental, physical, or sexual-erotic aspects of growth, occurs at a very rapid rate during the first two years of life. Actually the sensing mechanism is at work much earlier than that--by about the eighth week of gestation. (Liley, 1972). Until recently the human fetus in situ was not accessible to study. It was thought that quickening (when the fetus begins moving limbs and trunk) did not take place until the sixteenth to twentieth week of gestation. Fetal movement is necessary to the development of bones and joints, but the fetus apparently also moves for the sensual reason of making itself more comfortable in the uterus. The fetus is responsive to pressure and touch--tickling the scalp and stroking the palm, for instance, elicit reactions. In fact, the areas from which a cutaneous reflex may be obtained are very generalized in the fetus. (Langworthy, 1933). It is possible that the fetus is also experienced in sucking before birth. It is not uncommon to detect the fetus sucking thumbs, fingers, or toes. We can conclude that at least habituation and perhaps even some sensate learning can take place during the gestation period.
That sensate learning is possible before or outside of the achievement of self-awareness is at least tangentially supported also in studies of infant "socialization" among other mammals. Harlow's report (Harlow and Zimmerman, 1959; Harlow, 1962) on affectional patterns of rhesus monkeys deprived of interaction with a mother figure is a case in point. Being deprived of the learning situation provided in normal dependency-affectional and sexual behavior patterns as the monkeys grew older. The human infant, a pliable but non-ambulatory bundle of soft and spongy bony tissue with a resultant uncanny ability to achieve unusual postures both prenatally as well as after birth, can only interact with people as they come to him. At a rapid rate, however, the infant develops the capacity to locomote, thereby facilitating the development of the ability to be the initiator of encounters with others. The newborn's whole body of impulse and potential can be viewed as an undifferentiated potential for physical and emotional and social experience. (Comfort, 1963).
Sexual-erotic development, as all development, takes place at different rates and in different ways in different individuals; development in the affectional-sexual-erotic area is not separable from development in other areas. As an infant develops, every aspect of his life experience is capable of affecting every other part. This is markedly evident in the case of the infant whose motor development has progressed to the stage where he no longer must await, but can actively seek encounters with others, whether they be an infant running to hug daddy hello or an infant opening his arms as an indication of his desire to be held.
The earliest encounters of infant and mother can hardly help but contribute to the sensory and affectional awakening of the infant arousing sensitivity in his body and stimulating the growth of sexual consciousness. Evidence of a child's capacity for sensory pleasure in the first year of life is apparent. From birth to one year of age the mouth is the chief pleasure zone of the infant, but he responds to total body contact as well. (Renshaw, 1971). The chief pleasurable activity in the first year is sucking at the mother's breast or thumb sucking. However, the progressive development and orderly shift of sexuality from the mouth to other parts of the body (feet, thighs, abdomen) is evidenced in the activities of the infant when he is naked or when being bathed. His fingers wander searchingly over other parts of his body exploring the ears, the navel, the nipple region, and the genital area. Whether the infant is free to explore and stimulate his own body depends largely upon the parental acceptance of the infant's nakedness and freedom of bodily activities.
Even prenatally, as we have already indicated, the human begins to develop a system of tensional outlets. These include changing positions in the womb, pre-sleep rocking in the crib, bedshaking, head banging, as well as handling of the genitals and possibly some masturbating. Removal of clothes and attempts to run around naked occur between one and two years. (Ilg and Ames, 1955). By two years the infant has already incorporated some of these impulses into forms of expression permitted by society, and although rocking, head banging, and some masturbating occur (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 271), much of the two year old's release of tension is manifested by displays of strong affection toward parents--kissing, for example. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 322). Dolls and teddy bears receive much attention as well. Feeding, toileting, dressing, and being taken for rides is characteristic of things that occupy the two year old's attention. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 366). The evidence of underlying sexual development is exhibited in other achievements of the infant. Naming of the genitals with the use of a word for urination, distinguishing boys from girls on the basis of clothing and haircut (rather than on the basis of bodily differences), and differentiating adults by such words as "lady" or "man" are among these achievements. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 322).
At two and one-half years of age the infant has added still more to his understanding of the socio-sexual scene. His differentiation of male and female roles has increased markedly. He is aware of his gender and the fact that he is like his parent of the same gender and different from his opposite-gender parent, as well as his opposite-gender peers. He can now differentiate the gender of children by the terms boy and girl. The two and one-half year old may well have incorporated a non-verbal generalization that boys and fathers have distinct genitalia and stand when they urinate while girls and mothers do not. This age marks the beginning of interest in the physiological differences between sexes. The infant is very conscious of his own sex organs and may handle them when undressed. Inquiries concerning mothers' breasts are common. All in all, the infant has reached a point where, because gender distinctions are possible, socialization into a male or female role can and does occur. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 322; Ilg and Ames, 1955, p. 203).
Toward the end of infancy, or early in childhood, erotic feelings become centered in the genitalia and definite periods of sex play can be observed. (Ribble, 1955, p. 26). Sex interest increases with age and is variable in that some infants and children are much more interested than other infants in the whole subject of sex. There are the highly motivated who show an early and intense interest in trying things out for themselves but ask few questions as well as those who are less interested in activity and more interested in asking questions about sex. There are others who are disinterested in the topic of sex.
The infant shows a distinct sexual nature and develops a great deal in the first two years. Whatever the means, whatever the extent of curiosity, and whatever the restrictive or permissive forces, the infant of 0-2 years acquires sexual experience, knowledge, attitudes, and feelings that may influence his whole life.
Before specifically discussing the affectional and sexual behavior of infants, we will more systematically and conclusively establish that infants have the somato-sensory capacity for erotic behavior.
Boy babies are sometimes born with erections, and there is no reason to believe that the capacity for such marked physiological response develops any later in girls. In a study of nine male babies of ages three to twenty weeks, tumescence (penile erection) was observed at least once daily in seven of the nine. (Halverson, 1940). Individual responses varied greatly from five to forty erections per day. Tumescence was accompanied in a large percentage of instances by restlessness, fretting, crying, stretching, and flexing the limbs stiffly. The behavior following the detumescence was in the nature of playful activity or relaxation. Parents often report having observed erections in infant boys. (Conn, 1940a).
Pelvic thrust movements in male and female infants eight to ten months old appear to occur as part of an expression of affection in which the baby holds onto the parent, nuzzles the parent, and rapidly thrusts and rotates the pelvis for a few seconds. (Lewis and Kagan, 1965). It appears to be more an evidence of pleasure, an ecstatic rather than an erotic mood. This kind of behavior decreases with a decrease in close holding of the infant as the infant becomes ambulatory. Pelvic thrusts have also been observed among primate infants; infantile sexual behavior in all mammals is perhaps the rule. (Bowlby, 1969, p. 158).
A newborn infant is responsive to external stimulation of the genital area. (Sears, Maccoby and Levin, 1957, p. 176). A gentle touch, or the rubbing of clothes or bed coverings, seems to attract attention. If the infant has been active or restless, or is having a crying spell, genital stimulation appears to quiet and relax. In the third or fourth month of life, genital stimulation is sometimes accompanied by smiling and the making of a few soft sounds. The boy baby from birth is likely to have an erection on such occasions. Girls show similar responsiveness. Internal sources of stimulation, such as a full bladder or a full bowel, also produce sensory reactions. (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 175ff). These reactions are less likely to be accompanied by signs of pleasure and relaxation than are reactions to external stimulation.
Spitz (1962) makes an important distinction between genital play and masturbation in infancy. He observes that infants in the first year of life mostly are not capable of the direct, volitional behavior required for the behavior pattern that we call the masturbatory act or masturbation. Any more or less random play with various parts of the body, including the genitals, that can be observed is nonspecific activity and should be labelled as genital play and not as masturbation.
Yet occasional infants do specifically stimulate themselves sexually. Kinsey (1953, p. 142) reports one record of a seven-month-old infant and records of five infants under one year who were observed to masturbate. Twenty-three girls, three years or younger, appeared to reach orgasm in self stimulation. Kinsey's unpublished interview data contains notations from interviews with a small sample of two year olds and their mothers. One mother reported that her son had the habit of rubbing against a doll's head to masturbate. Another reported that her son's masturbating was deliberate, prolonged, and accompanied by an erection. Cuddling and kissing parents and others was reported for both boys and girls.
Kinsey reported more records of small girls than of small boys masturbating to orgasm at an early age. This does not agree with the findings of Levy (1928), however. Levy reports that direct stimulation of the genitals occurred in over half of a group of boys under three years of age whose mothers were interviewed by him, as contrasting with only four out of twenty-six girls. Koch (1935), like Levy, reports more masturbation among infant boys than among infant girls.
Kleeman (1966) reports on one boy's discovery of his penis and genital self-stimulation during his first and second years as follows. The boy got an erection from several sources including self-stimulation, but he was easily distracted. He talked well by age two and and asked questions about his penis. He watched it bounce up and down when he sucked in. He got an erection under water running into the tub when taking a bath. Perhaps one day in seven he would stimulate himself intensely. Three days in the week he might explore or stimulate his genitals slightly to moderately, and the other three days direct little attention to them. At times he could be quite "seductive." He suggested to his mother that she squeeze his penis; she distracted him. On occasion he put his favorite inanimate companion, his "doggie" between his thighs and squeezed several times. He had a partial erection. He began to distinguish between what boys and girls looked like. He was especially affectionate toward other infants.
It cannot be assumed, of course, that behavior that appears to be erotic to adults is actually erotic in the consciousness of the infant since the infant lacks the well developed erotic imagery that is available and so important in adult sexual activity. Also in the sexual realm, sociocultural influences come to so modify and interpret biological influences that a straight-line developmental continuity from infancy to maturity cannot be assumed. (Simon and Gagnon, March 1969). In societies that take a tolerant and permissive attitude toward erotic expression in infancy, fingering the genitals becomes an established habit of occasional occurrence. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 188). One of any number of examples that can be given is that of the Marquesa. Sex play was common practice from the earliest ages among the Marquesa and not only tolerated but encouraged. (Kardiner, 1939, p. 205-206). They recognized the erotic impulse in childhood and accorded it the right of free exercise. They eroticized the child by masturbating it to keep it quiet. In the case of the girls, labia were manipulated as a placebo, but also to encourage the growth of large labia, which to the Marquesans was a mark of beauty. Such activity was, no doubt, also erotically stimulating. There was social recognition of all sexual activity in childhood, and there were no restrictions against encouragement to exercise it freely; it was allocated the same place in the child's world that it occupied in the adult's.
In sum, there is sufficient evidence to show a capacity for specific and intense somato-sensory activity occurring in both male and female infants. A sensory response system is present beginning in the early prenatal period. It is necessary to life itself. Some zones of the body are more responsive to stimulation than are others even in the first year of life--the so-called erogenous zones--mouth, anus, genitalia. The capacity for specific response to stimulation develops over time with more at each age level responding to genital stimulation. (Gagnon, August 1965). So the infant has the capacity for erotic activity. He needs to learn how to utilize that capacity as an aspect of personality, as a part of his fantasy life, and as a resource in interpersonal relationships.
During the first several years of life the infant's relationship to others centers mostly on relationships with the mother (or a mother substitute) and involves having physiological needs met--most especially the need for food. Feeding is necessary to survival; but feeding is also an occasion for intimate contact with other persons as a part of the infant's exploration of the environment. Objects are experienced by putting them in the mouth, by sucking, by touching, eating, and biting. This basically auto-erotic stage lasts for the first five or six months of life. (Hurlock, 1950, p. 485). Yet, from as early as two months of age onward and increasingly through the first year of life, infants are not so much passive and receptive as active in seeking interaction. The majority of infants provide evidence of the need for the proximity of others sometime during the first quarter of the first year. (Ainsworth, 1963).
Attachment is a two way process. Attachment behavior between mother and infant is behavior through which a relationship is established that initiates a chain of interaction which serves to consolidate the affectional relationship. In studying interaction of twenty-eight babies with their mothers Ainsworth (1964) catalogued thirteen patterns of attachment besides those associated with feeding--the rooting response, sucking, and search for the breast. From the infant's side, the thirteen include differential crying, smiling and vocalizing, visual-motor orientation, crying when the mother left, following, scrambling, burying the face, exploring from a secure base, clinging, lifting the arms and clapping the hands in greeting, and approach through locomotion.
Preference for the mother is not present at birth; it must develop out of the feeding and caring experience. The infant's earliest posture is one of undiscriminating responsiveness. In the first few weeks of life it can be assumed that the infant experiences the mother, and particularly her breast, as part of himself. (Spitz, 1962). The first few weeks of life can be characterized as an around the clock time of sleep alternating with waking periods in which the infant's contact with the mother is dictated by hunger rather than by any other drive or appetite. But the mother and the infant are two independent psychophysiological systems. They interact through specific mechanisms of stimulation and pacification. (Segal, 1971, p. 203). And in the process circular social interaction becomes more discriminating and the relations between the two become numberless and infinitely varied. (Spitz, 1962).
Most mothers in the nuclear family common to the United States do not share the intimate care of their offspring with another adult (although more and more fathers are becoming involved) and are in a position to develop an unusually close relationship with their baby. Caldwell and Hersher (1964) found that such mothers, in contrast to mothers who shared care of the infant with others, were less intellectualized in their relationships with the baby, were more sensuous in their touching and handling, were more likely to vocalize, were more active, and more playful with their babies of six months of age. At one year of age they were rated as more dependent upon their babies for the achievement of their own need gratifications. In general, the data suggests a slightly comfortable and involved relationship between infant and mother in the cases where the mother had exclusive responsibility for the child care role.
Infants show differing personality traits, strengths in their aggressive instincts for example. Some are placid. Some are quiet. Some are noisy and active. These temperaments stay with them as they grow. (Finch, 1969). There are also male-female behavioral differences present at birth, though research findings are as yet few in number. (Korner, 1973). The male infant has greater muscular strength at birth, but the female is in no way less active or expressive. On the other hand, the female infant from birth shows more oral sensitivity, engages in more frequent mouth dominated approaches, and is a more frequent and more persistent thumb sucker. Newborn females also exhibit greater cutaneous sensitivity than do males.
Parents also treat male and female infants differently right from the start, hence there is constant parental reinforcement not only of innate differences but also of differences in what society regards as gender-appropriate behavior. In other words, the infant's unique male or female characteristics, as well as cultural expectations, may affect the nature of parent-infant interaction from the day of birth and onward. Moss (Segal, 1971) found, for instance, that mothers had significantly more contact with infant boys than girls on such variables as "attends" and "stimulates-arouses."
Infants can also be divided into two categories based on the extent to which they seek close personal contacts--non-cuddlers and cuddlers. (Schaffer and Emerson, 1964b). Non-cuddlers reach this developmental stage somewhat later than do cuddlers.
Non-cuddlers show displeasure at being restricted and contained from the early weeks--initially through restlessness. At nine or ten months, when they can crawl or walk away, resistance to handling becomes still more pronounced. This does not mean the non-cuddlers show a lack of orientation toward the mother; she is still treated as a "haven of safety" and when frightened, the non-cuddler seeks her proximity. Their means of establishing proximity is, however, different from that of cuddlers. Instead of the close physical contact which other infants seek, the non-cuddler either makes visual contact with his mother, establishes a physical contact such as holding onto her skirt, or hides his face against her knee. Apparently it is not contact per se that is avoided by non-cuddlers but the restriction of movement that is involved in cuddling and holding encounters. In motor development the non-cuddlers are ahead of the cuddlers, reaching such milestones as the ability to sit unsupported, to stand holding on, and to crawl considerably sooner than the cuddlers.
Resistance to close physical contact does not appear to be primarily a social phenomenon but an expression of an innate, more general aspect of the infant's personality. Nor is the non-cuddling pattern a bad sign prognostically; it is not a determent to development as persons.
It appears, therefore, that for some infants intimate contact is not acceptable. Certain forms of it may be appreciated, such as rough play and being carried. But the closer more intimate kind of physical contact which appears to be so satisfying to some infants is resisted and actively avoided. As a result, the total amount of handling received by non-cuddlers is likely to be considerably less than that received by cuddly infants. The nature of the non-cuddler's interaction with others assumes a less direct and tactile form.
In sum, infants approach encounters in an active-selective rather than a random-passive manner. They form attachments for others on the basis of the kinds of stimulation they want and get. Non-cuddlers compel their parents to find a kind of interaction with them that is suited to their tastes. They force adults to revise their behavior; adults must deal with them on their own terms. Rather than cuddling them, they must communicate and interact with them in other ways--smile at them, speak to them, rock or roughhouse with them, and play with them through the medium of toys. Whereas the cuddly child may have many encounters that are of a directly physical, fondling, and potentially erotically-stimulating type, the non-cuddler by choice does not have these experiences. It may be hypothesized that the cuddly child by his actions actively seeks sensual and erotic stimulation and response. There is no clear dividing line, however, between relations which are erotic in the restricted meaning of that word and those which are not.
Since the encounters with mother in the normal course of infant-mother relations are numberless and infinitely varied, each requires a different adaptive response. Self stimulation in the form of thumb sucking has been observed prenatally. The first somato-sensory encounter of the newborn infant and mother is the birth experience itself. Male babies are sometimes born with erections; whether this is due to internal stimulation or the birth experience itself has not been determined. It is reasonable to assume that it is in part due to the tactile stimulation of the birth experience. It is now understood that the birth experience may result in some pain for both mother and infant, nevertheless mothers have reported erotic experience during the delivery, including sexual climax. (Ziegler and Rodgers, 1968, p. 186) Hence the birth experience has the potential of being an erotic experience for both infant and mother.
The major tactile and potentially erotic encounter involving infant and mother is, of course, the sucking relationship. The mechanisms of sucking are simple. The infant is born with a sucking reflex which is stimulated by the touch of an object on the cheek or lips. The infant turns its head toward the object (in this case the nipple), opens its lips, and starts to suck when the nipple is placed in the mouth. Though sucking is a reflex action, practice helps. The mother is likely to notice the infant's increased skill in sucking that comes with practice. As the control of neck muscles improves, the infant becomes more and more efficient at getting into place and finding the nipple for himself. (Sears et al, 1957, p. 64, 66).
The sucking encounter is a co-operative venture of infant and mother. Success depends on the behavior of the infant as well as the behavior of the mother. From the infant's side, behavior problems can occur because of inefficient sucking, apparent dislike of the nursing situation, and lack of responsiveness. The infant can be fickle and demanding. The situation has to be "right" or he may refuse to participate. Robinson observed that many infants whose mothers fed them strictly by the clock refused "point blank" to take the breast after the age of three months and had to be bottle fed. (Robinson, 1968, p. 123). The breast was not refused if the mother was "easy-going" and fed her infant by "instinct" rather than by the clock. On the other hand, scheduling of infrequent feedings causes the breast to be overfull, so that when nursing begins the milk may spurt out and choke the infant. This interference with the infant's breathing, although only temporary, may instill fear or ambivalence toward the nursing process. Ejection-reflex failures are also related to the infant's dislike of breast feeding, since the infant responds favorably to a consistent supply of milk. Breast feeding is significantly more successful when the amount of milk obtained from one feeding to another does not fluctuate. (Newton and Newton, 1967, p. 1182). Active, satisfied infants establish the sucking reflex and rhythm quickly and seek the nipple when it is withdrawn. The satisfaction received is likely to increase the infant's desire to suckle his mother frequently and fully, thus stimulating the secretion of milk. The reaction of older infants is even more pronounced than that of newborn infants. The total body may show alertness and motion--rhythmic motions of hands, fingers, feet, and toes occurring along with the rhythm of sucking. After feeding, there is a relaxation that has been likened to the relaxation characteristic of the conclusion of satisfactory sexual response. (Newton and Newton, 1967).
Though the sucking experience may give the infant pleasure, especially orally, and though penile erections are common in conditions related to the sucking experience, we must be cautious in attributing penile erections to stimulation resulting from the sucking experience. In other words, we may agree with those who state categorically that there is organic pleasure in infant-other experiences without necessarily agreeing that the pleasure is sexual in any erotic sense. (Stern, p. 612). In some cases it may be, but in some cases it is not. It has been reported that vigorous sucking by active infants is accompanied by penile erection which may last throughout the sucking period and continue for several minutes after the breast is removed. (Baliassnikova and Model, as reported in Halverson, 1940 and Newton and Newton, 1967). On the other hand, Halverson (1940) as a result of his experiments on infant sucking reports that, though infants like to suck at the breast, preferring it to the bottle, penile erection never occurred during sucking at the breast. It is possible that the experimental situation itself served to deter the full pleasurable response, since during the experimental period the breast-fed infants reclined on the mother's lap while the mother leaned forward so that her breast was above the baby's face. To remove the nipple from the infant's mouth the mother merely assumed an upright position. In other words, the stimulation was severely restricted, being limited to the presence of the nipple within the infant's mouth. No caressing, no fondling by the mother, no eye to eye contact, no opportunity for the infant to touch the mother's face, to place his fingers in his mouth apparently existed during the experimental period. The question left unanswered is how many of these infant boys would have responded with penile erections under their normal nursing conditions. Some older infants in the Halverson experiment thumped the nipple vigorously with the tongue and rolled it about in the mouth in what Halverson regarded as purely playful activity, but these things occurred only with bottle feeding; none of the breast fed babies exhibited this reaction. Halverson concluded that so-called pleasure sucking activities have little or no connection with penile erection. Penile erection did occur during the observation period but never during sucking at the breast. Instead, erection occurred when infants encountered a difficult or irritating situation. Halverson was inclined to interpret the erections as related to abdominal pressure, for when thwarting was introduced (such as removing the nipple or giving the infant a difficult nipple) the resulting movements were conspicuously characterized by severe contractions of the abdominal walls. While other motor patterns varied during the onset of penile erection, marked abdominal pressure was always present. The fact that marked abdominal pressure is probably the most effective stimulus for penile erection, as observed in the Halverson experiment, does not rule out other possible stimulants, such as the stimulation received in a normal satisfying nursing experience.
Turning now to the mother's responses, the mother's physiological responses to sucking and coitus are very similar. Uterine contractions occur during the sucking as they do during sexual stimulation. Nipple erection occurs during both, with an increase of 1 to 1.5 centimeters in nipple length occurring due to sexual stimulation. (Masters and Johnson, 1966). Milk ejection has been observed to occur in both, and the degree of milk ejection appears to be related to the degree of erotic response. The nipple-erection reflex may lead to more efficient nursing, increasing the satisfaction for the sucking infant as well as for the mother. Marked breast stimulation occurring during sucking or through fondling and caressing induces orgasm in some women.
Mothers who choose to suckle their babies have a higher general level of sexual interest than do non-suckling post-partum women. Two studies in which mothers who suckled their babies were compared with those who did not bear this out. (Sears, Maccoby, and Levin, 1957, p.74; Masters and Johnson, 1966, p. 161-163). Mothers who had positive attitudes toward suckling gave more milk and were more successful in breast feeding than those with negative feelings toward suckling. Uteruses of suckling mothers returned to normal size sooner. Many mothers (25% in one study) felt erotic arousal during suckling--to the point of orgasm for a few of them. Suckling mothers not only reported erotic stimulation from the suckling experience; they were interested in as rapid a return to coitus with their husbands as possible. Suckling mothers engaged in coitus sooner post-partum than did non-suckling mothers. They were more interested in sex, and placed more importance on the exchange of affection with others than did mothers who chose to bottle-feed their babies. "Anyone who has ever observed the sensuous manner in which many mothers fondle their babies will appreciate that a mother too may have contact need..." (Masters and Johnson, 1966). Suckling mothers were also more tolerant toward erotic behavior of their offspring, such as masturbation and sex play with others. (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 549).
Some of the mothers experienced fear of a perverted sexual interest from the amount of eroticism stimulated by the nursing process, and several non-nursing mothers who had nursed previous babies refused to nurse again because of concern and guilt over their erotic feelings. If the husband felt that nursing was disgusting or harmful, it discouraged many women from nursing and they had little erotic interest for months. Ironically, these men were denied sex relations longer than if their wives had suckled their babies. The closeness, the pleasurable feelings from the relationship in the long run may benefit infant, mother, and husband, too.
The discovery of a relationship between suckling and eroticism is not new. The Peruvian, Mochica Indians of 900 A.D., left all sorts of pottery decorated with sexual themes, a mother having intercourse while nursing her baby, for example. Nipple stimulation resulting in uterine contractions was known in early history. Leonardo Da Vinci in his drawings depicted a nerve leading from the nipples to the uterus. (Lowry, 1970). As early as 1931, Dickinson and Beam in their study of a thousand marriages reported on orgasms resulting from suckling an infant.
Not only the amount but also the nature of stimulation between the infant and mother is of consequence. When the infant is suckling he reciprocates by putting fingers into his mother's mouth; she responds by moving her lips on his fingers. He moves his fingers; she responds with a smile. All the while he studies her face with rapt attention. (Spitz, 1949, p. 291). Infants pat the mother's breast while sucking, pat her face, turn a cheek to be kissed, clasp her around the neck, lay their cheek on hers, hug, and bite. "Such little scenes can be observed in endless variations in any mother-child couple." (Spitz, 1949, p. 291). Some of the expressions of affection through patting and hugging may be spontaneous, while others are learned in the infant's encounters with mother and other adults. (Shirley, 1933).
If a responsive woman is the mother of a non-cuddling infant considerable challenge is held out to her adaptability, as with a cuddly baby and a non-responsive mother. Some mothers make it clear that breast feeding is at best a duty and is not physically nor emotionally pleasurable. If the suckling experience seems unworthy or shameful to her, the mother may not be able to acknowledge it or may feel the need to find acceptable excuses. In the United States illness or physical inadequacy are commonly accepted as "good" reasons for not suckling infants.
In contemporary United States' culture, the breasts play a more prominent part in the erotic encounters of adults than they do in suckling experiences with infants. In societies where suckling is generally accepted, infant-mother separation is not easily tolerated by either participant. In speaking to Ganda women, Ainsworth (1963) relates that a number of mothers said they enjoyed breast feeding, and one confessed with embarrassment that it was so satisfactory to her that though her child was over twelve months of age she was reluctant to wean him. Mathews, in describing the infant-mother sensory contact among the Yorubas of Nigeria (as reported in Newton and Newton, 1967), reports that a strict breast feeding routine would be difficult to attain because the mothers, determined and obstinate, were not easily separated from their babies for long. The baby remains from birth until about the second year of life almost constantly in close physical contact with the mother who feeds it at irregular intervals, usually determined by the infant's crying.
Among the Dahomey, mothers regularly carry the infant about with them and the infant seldom has other nurses. Close bodily contact and suckling is continued for two to three years. There is no cohabiting between husband and wife during this period if the man has other wives. (Herskovits, 1952, p. 259ff). To what extent the infant becomes a "lover" surrogate in such long absences from marital coitus is a moot question. Infant and mother frequently stay in continuously close sensory contact in many societies characterized by late weaning.
Besides the suckling encounters, in a few primitive societies, adults participate actively in the erotic stimulation of infants and young children. This is less common in contemporary American society, but does occur as will be indicated later. Among the Kazak, adults who are playing with small children, especially boys, excite the young one's genitals by rubbing and playing with them. Autogenital stimulation by the young child is accepted also as a normal practise. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 188).
Among the Balinese, play and teasing with the genitals is common. A mother will pat her baby girl on the vulva and exclaim, "Pretty! Pretty!" (Bateson and Mead, 1942, p. 26, 32, 131). A boy's penis will be stroked and rubbed. After he has urinated, he will be dried by a flick of his penis. As he grows older, his penis will be pulled and stretched and ruffled, and he will often attempt to keep his balance when learning to walk by holding on to it. Babies are comforted and quieted by manipulating their genital organs. In fact, in Bali, a baby, especially a baby's genital, is a toy with which to play. There is much delight taken in stimulating and playing with the baby to watch him respond.
There has been a strong taboo in the United States on suckling an infant in public or even reproducing photographs in magazines of infants suckling; whereas bottle feeding in public and pictures of bottle feeding infants are acceptable. Thus, in America, a young mother often starts suckling her infant without having once observed another woman suckling an infant. She is ignorant even if she is interested.
There are marked national differences in breast feeding even in Western countries as was found in a cross-national study involving London, Paris, Stockholm, Brussels, and Zürich mothers. (As reported in Newton and Newton, 1967). Not only were the overall incidences different, but significant differences in the type of weaning curves were observed. Higher breast-feeding rates were associated with high social status in Zürich and Stockholm, but not in Brussels and Paris where no hint of class differences in breast-feeding was noted. British and American studies show high social status to be associated with favorable attitudes toward breast feeding. Sears found that only about two-fifths of the infants in their American study were breast-fed, the large majority for less than three months. (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 71-74). The commonest reason given for not suckling the infant was that the mother was physically unable to do so. Twenty-six percent of the whole group gave this reason.
Lactation failure or the inability to suckle infants fluctuates greatly over short periods of time, suggesting that it is triggered by psychological rather than physiological factors. For instance, national surveys indicate that the rate of breast-feeding of infants in the United States fell by almost half during a ten year period. Likewise, in the course of twenty years in Bristol, England, the number of three-month-old breast-fed infants dropped from 77 to 36 percent. In an obstetric clinic in France the proportion of babies not suckled increased from 31 to 51 percent in five years. This change is so rapid that it cannot be attributed to hereditary factors and major physiological changes in function would be unlikely in the absence of radical stresses such as starvation or epidemic disease. (Newton and Newton).
Western societies raise many barriers against sensory contact between infant and mother. Western styles of female dress calling for brassieres and one or more additional coverings of clothing over the breasts have made breast-infant contact difficult. Frequently mother and infant do not sleep together in the same bed, or even in the same room.
According to the middle class standard, the infant is expected to sleep alone, preferably in his own room. Housing the infant away from the mother started in American hospitals only about sixty or seventy years ago. Many hospitals still practice separation of infant and mother at birth, except for brief feeding encounters. When infant and mother return home, the "ideal" pattern has been for the infant to spend much of his time alone in his room.
It is reasonable to assume that there is in the United States a preoccupation with words and the articulated part of the culture rather than with touch. There is an attitude of prudery and anxiety about physical contact and erotic matters. With this assumption in mind, Clay (1968) observed the behavior of 45 children and their mothers at three public beaches patronized by persons of different social classes. One of the patterns he observed was the lack of contact between infant and mother on the beach. The majority of encounters between infant and mother were of two kinds: first, taking care of the infants, and, second, controlling their behavior. Far less frequent were intimate contacts expressing love and attachment. Parents reward "desexualized" motor performance that keeps the infant away from the mother. This generally applied, though girl children received more physical touches than did boys, and they were in physical contact with their mothers longer than were the boys. For mothers of young children, having a good time at the beach did not appear to include mothers enjoying their offspring in a direct, personal, affective, tactile, sensual encounter. The upper- and working-class mothers were more inclined to comfort their children with tactile contacts, while middle-class mothers offered distractions, mostly food. Middle-class mothers seemed more interested in meeting friends at the beach than in relating to their children. Small children are expected to play alone away from the parents. These observations and conclusions must be regarded as suggestive rather than definitive, however.
Another area of infant-adult encounter that has great potential for educating the child in sexual matters is toilet training. There are important adult values, attitudes and behavior patterns which the infant learns in connection with toilet training. In the United States, one of these is the value placed on cleanliness. The infant is expected to keep himself and his clothes from being soiled when he urinates or defecates. His waste matter must go into the proper container and he must "wipe" himself so that no spots or odors cling to him. The mother may instruct him to wash his hands after urinating or defecating to get rid of the "germs." Children's attitudes of disgust toward the texture, color, and odor of feces develop only after socialization by a mother who expresses such attitudes. (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 106-107).
Looking for relationships between toilet-training patterns and the mother's sexual anxiety or strictness of attitude toward control of sexual behavior, Sears (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 111) found that toilet training and control of sexual behavior were frequently linked by the mothers. If eliminating had sexual implications for mothers, one can hypothesize that her degree of sexual anxiety might influence her toilet training patterns. The assumption is all the more reasonable since high sexual anxiety has been found to be associated with the decision not to suckle. If the mother had sexual anxiety over toilet training, she might consciously or unconsciously try to get it over with as early and as quickly as possible.
Mothers who chose to start toilet training before the infant was five months old had the lowest average rating on a sexual permissiveness scale. That is, they expressed strong rejection of sex and strict attitudes about prohibiting sexual play in their children. This tendency was more pronounced among the mothers of girl infants than among boy infants.
Early starts on training tended to require longer periods for completion than late starts, yet the mothers who started early and had high sexual anxiety completed the task more rapidly than did those with low sexual anxiety who started later. The difference was statistically significant. (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 112). The evidence seems clear that the mother's level of sexual anxiety--her strictness of attitude about sex--played some role in her decision to start toilet training at an early age and to complete it with dispatch. Mothers who had an accepting, tolerant attitude toward the infant's dependent behavior were also: affectionally warmer toward the child, gentler about toilet training, lower in their use of physical punishment for aggression toward parents, and higher in esteem for both self and husband. (Sears, et al, 1957, p. 166). It is reasonable to assume that the sexually anxious mother communicates some of her sexual anxiety to her infant in toilet training encounters.
Has there been any change in permissiveness of mothers and has there been any increase or decrease in infant-mother intimacy over the years? The evidence is indirect and superficial at best. Several students of child behavior have examined the child-guidance literature and report a change in attitudes. (Stendler, 1950; Sears, et al, 1957, p. 9-10; Gordon, 1968). The 1890s and 1900s were characterized by a highly sentimental approach to child rearing as demonstrated in popular periodicals; 1910 through the 1930s saw a rigid, disciplinary approach; while the 1940s emphasized self-regulation and understanding of the child. Over the 60 years there was a swing from emphasis on character development to emphasis on personality development. In the 1914 edition of Infant Care, masturbation by infants was treated very severely. It was thought that masturbation would "wreck" a person for life, and it was to be stopped by tying the infant's legs to opposite sides of the crib. In subsequent editions there was a fairly continuous decline in the degree of severity recommended. The 1951 edition of Infant Care treated masturbation as a rather petty nuisance that might be ignored. Along with permissiveness went a distinct devaluing of the satisfactions a child gets from such stimulation. In respect to thumb-sucking, the curve of severity showed a distinctly declining direction as well. In fact, during the 1940s instructions regarding the handling of the infant in all areas became very gentle. This tendency continued and was carried further in the 1951 and 1963 editions. The 1963 edition counsels that masturbation is to be treated casually. Habitual masturbation is never mentioned nor is any attempt made to dispel the myths about this practice. The Children's Bureau estimates that one baby in three born in the United States in the years since the first publication of Infant Care in 1914 is an "Infant Care baby" based on distribution of the publication.
The extent to which greater permissiveness in the literature is matched by greater permissiveness of parents is not known. It is my impression that traditional repression of infant and child sexuality is being relaxed, but the evidence is anecdotal at best. Many mothers show an awareness of the literature and try to be relaxed about the infant's sex play, more relaxed than they might otherwise be. (Newson and Newson, 1963; Lindahl, 1973). Members of the Guyon Society, which has some chapters in the United States, encourage early expression of sexual feelings not only with peers but with adults as well. Members of the Guyon chapters claim to allow their offspring whatever sexual expression they want. (Personal correspondence with Herb Seal).
Permissiveness in some, but certainly not all, contemporary communes and group marriages is extended to include infants and children as observers of and participants in erotic activities of family members. (Personal correspondence with Larry Constantine). The following four cases involve infants and adults and are illustrative. In all four cases the infants observed adult sexual encounters. In only the fourth case does the infant ask to participate directly in a sexual encounter of the type practiced by the parents.
John and his co-spouse Mary (group married) were enjoying sexual intercourse when his 19 month old daughter wandered into the room. She hadn't seen this before, and her father, realizing she might be upset, first started to panic and cover Mary with a pillow (all that was convenient). Then he realized how silly that was and just relaxed, smiling and talking calmly with his daughter. She wasn't a bit bothered and, in fact, wandered out of the room as casually as she had entered. (Constantine).
Janie (2) walked in on her parents making love. She wanted to be a part of the intimacy and so climbed on top of her father and thought it was a fun game to ride on the "horsie." This was repeated at other times. (Constantine).
Before she was three, Jeannie had shown considerable interest in sex. She had often been present when her parents had intercourse. She enjoyed being a part of their lovemaking, even if only in a psychological sense of inclusion. Her parents reported she only had difficulty with being left out. Gradually she stressed the desire for complete participation, talking more of how when she grew up, she would make love with Daddy too. It was clear that while happy with the interaction, she wanted at least to be able to look forward to full participation. Her sexual-erotic interest waxes and wanes. She accepts her parents' desire for privacy at times; at other times she wants an active role. (Constantine).
Dianna (age 21/2): "Daddy, would you kiss my clitoris?" Casually, Daddy says, "Sure." Bends over and gives her a light smack. Dianna: "No, do it long like you do to Mommy." The father reports he thought briefly about it and decided there was no harm in it. Dianna enjoyed it and later asked for a repeat performance. (Constantine).
Ullerstam in his book, The Erotic Minorities, (1966, p. 46-47) states that sexual games between parents and infants in Sweden are becoming increasingly common in younger families. Infant and child sexuality is becoming a topic of discussion in the Swedish press of late, as well. (Personal observation by the author, Stockholm, Sweden, January 1973).
Infant-infant sexual encounters are fairly uncommon, partly because of the infant's lack of mobility, of course. However, the older infant who is one or two years of age and old enough to crawl or walk is capable of initiating encounters of various kinds. It was reported of Louis XIII's carefully observed permissive infancy, for instance, that "'he throws down little Marguerite, kisses her, throws himself on her...'" (As reported in Hunt, 1970, p. 167). The Israeli kibbutz is one setting which allows for intimate encounters. (Kaffman, 1972). The kevutza is a bi-sexual children's peer group that inhabits common living and sleeping quarters--boys and girls who are one through five years of age sleep in the same room, shower together, go to the toilet together, and often run around nude together before getting dressed in the morning or after being undressed in the evening. Intimate encounters occur and include a number of different kinds of activity. In a group of children with a mean age of two years, it was found that the most frequent expression consisted in a simple embrace of one child by another, followed in frequency by stroking or caressing, kissing, and touching the genitals. (Spiro, 1958, p. 221). In some previously unpublished data, Kinsey records instances of cuddling and kissing encounters between infants two years of age or less.
Infant encounters with children (3-7 years of age) do occur, but generally speaking, they have not been systematically observed or if observed they have not been recorded. Kinsey observed, in some of his unpublished interviews, that embracing and kissing among young siblings is much in evidence. It is reasonable to speculate that cases such as the following, and other types of contact, are not uncommon in unsupervised intimate play of infants and children within the family.
Survey data on the infant's sexual encounters with preadolescents and adolescents is also extremely sparse, though isolated cases are frequently reported in the psychoanalytic literature. This should not be taken to imply that such encounters do not occur among infants and children not referred for treatment. For example, in a recent survey of a large, self-selected United States sample of adults, approximately three hundred (one percent of the females and two percent of the males) reported that they had had their first sexual intercourse with a relative. (Athanasiou, Shaver, and Tavis, 1970). If this is true of coitus, intimacy among young siblings, short of incest, can be assumed to be much more prevalent. No researcher has systematically studied such encounters, however, and in a sexually repressive society, adolescents and preadolescents are careful not to be caught in such play, as in the following case of a twelve year old girl and her baby brother. The second case is similar in that the approach to an infant girl of about one and one-half years old by the boy that is baby-sitting her is cautious and apprehensive.
Not until I was in sixth grade (age 12) did I have my first experience with the opposite sex. It was at that time that my first and only brother was born and I saw a male penis for the first time. I was amazed by it and wanted to touch it. I was afraid though, and thought it was something dirty so I tried not to touch his penis even when changing his diapers.
When the baby was almost asleep I went into her room and walked up to the crib. I pulled a large erection out of my pants and showed it to the small girl. I asked her what it was and she said, "pee-pee." I then proceeded to take her hand and made her grab it and this excited me more. Then I remembered what had happened once before when I was caught and decided that was enough. I thought, what if she somehow tells her mother about a "pee-pee?" This thought ended my experience with this girl.
Since relationships are learned, an infant is not likely to form intimate relationships with anyone throughout his life time if no one has ever formed intimate relationships with him. (Landreth, 1967). In the first eighteen months of life, autoerotic activity, in the form of genital play, has been shown to be an indicator of whether or not the infant is having adequate affectional encounters with others. Where the infant-mother encounters are positive and at a maximum, infants engage in autoerotic activities occasionally when by themselves. Among children reared in private families, Spitz (1949) found that sixteen out of seventeen infants manifested genital play within the first year at ages which were on the average two months earlier than those of infants cared for in nurseries. In situations where intimate encounters are inadequate, rocking--rhythmic movements back and forth or from side to side, commonly in a sitting position and commonly involving head banging--results; when personal encounters are normal, genital play results. Where the encounters between mother and infant were "optimal" in the first year of life, genital play was present in all cases and general development surpassed that of the average infant in all respects. Where the encounters between mother and infant were problematic, genital play was much rarer and other activities tended to replace it. Finally, when infant-mother encounters were absent, genital play was completely missing. These findings support the assumption that during the first year of life autoerotic activities vary with the nature of the relationship between the infant and those with whom he has intimate, affectional encounters.
Sears (1957) reports another behavioral pattern associated with inadequate infant-mother encounters. A relatively cold and undemonstrative attitude toward the infant, combined with high sexual anxiety on the part of the mother and severe toilet training, were "most efficient in producing prolonged bed-wetting." Severe toilet training increased the amount of upset in children whose mothers were relatively cold and undemonstrative. However, the mother's "coldness" per se did not appear to upset the child; "coldness" had to be manifested overtly, through severe training practices, before it produced the noted disturbances in behavior. On the other hand, Sewell (1953) found in a study of 5-6 year old children that the personality adjustment and traits of those who had varying infant-adult encounters did not differ significantly from each other. Personality adjustment and traits of children did not differ significantly whether or not as infants they were suckled or bottle fed, fed on a self-demand schedule or on a regular schedule, weaned gradually or weaned abruptly, introduced to bowel training early or late, introduced to bladder training early or late, were not punished for toilet training accidents or were punished, slept with their mothers during infancy or did not sleep with their mothers. Personality adjustment and traits of children whose infantile security appeared to be favorable did not differ significantly from those of children where it appeared to be insecure. Personality adjustment and traits of children whose toilet training experience appeared to be favorable did not differ significantly from those of children whose scores were unfavorable, and personality adjustment and traits of children whose feeding training appeared to be favorable did not differ significantly from those of children whose scores were unfavorable. The findings of Spitz and Sewell are not directly comparable, but they do point out the need for additional research.
It is evident from studies of mammals that intimacy, attachment, caressing, fondling, and genital play are outcomes of involvement of parent and infant. Among humans, infants with adequate affectional relations play with their genitals. A minority of infants not only play with their genitals but also masturbate, that is, they on occasion stimulate themselves to orgasm. Kinsey reported that 32 percent of boys two to twelve months of age were able to reach a sexual climax. (Kinsey, 1948).
Prescott (1969, 1972) hypothesizes that it is reasonable to assume that affectional deprivation can have neurobiological consequences that are produced by the absence of physical touching. Neurostructural, neurochemical, and neuroelectrical measurements document abnormal development and functions of the sensory system resulting from sensory deprivation during the formative periods. (Prescott, 1972).
It is instructive to consider the effects of sensory enrichment as well as sensory deprivation upon neural and behavioral development. (Prescott, 1969). As one example, studies of rats have shown significant increase in cell numbers in the cerebellum of handled over against non-handled rats.
Infants deprived of touch--holding, caressing, fondling--exhibit more than their share of violent-aggressive behavior and social-emotional disorders in later years. (Prescott, September 8, 1970). The reasonableness of this hypothesis has been supported in a number of animal studies of deprivation, notably studies of isolation-reared rhesus monkeys. When isolation-reared monkeys are brought together the first act of touching becomes a stimulus for violent-aggressive behavior. Dominant social characteristics of deprived animals include, besides violent-aggressive behavior, self-destructive biting and attacks on infant offspring. "Touching which is normally pleasurable and comforting becomes aversive, stressful, distasteful, and apparently painful." (Prescott and McKay, April 1972, p. 2).
If this is true of animals, Prescott and McKay (February 1973) suggest that something similar might also be true of children. They reason that human societies which are characterized by enrichment or impoverishment of the stimulation that comes from touch during the formative years of development would result in predominantly peaceful or violent adult behavior. In an ingenious, though at best partial, test of the hypothesis, Prescott and McKay examined published data on forty-nine societies. It was assumed that high physical intimate affection would be predictive of permissive and tolerant sexual behavior in adulthood and that low physical intimate affection would be predictive of punitive and repressive sexual behavior in adulthood. The data, however, did not indicate a significant relationship between early infant affection and later permissive sexuality.
Prescott and McKay returned to the data and asked if it could be possible that deprivation of affection imposed during the later formative period (denial of the right to premarital intercourse, for example) contributes to high adult violence despite the presence of high infant affection. An examination of seven societies that did not provide a high level of infant affection and yet had a record of low adult violence all were characterized by freely permitted premarital sexual behavior. Prescott and McKay suggest that the effects of early affectional deprivation might be compensated for by adolescent affectional permissiveness. According to Prescott and McKay, premarital sexual relations may constitute an effective prophylactic against later destructive and violent interpersonal behavior. When both early (infant) and later (adolescent) affectional permissiveness or the lack of it were considered together, it was possible to accurately predict adult interpersonal behavior in forty-seven of the forty-nine societies studied. Prescott and McKay conclude that this data offers some compelling validation for the effects of affectional enrichment or deprivation on human behavior and indicates that a two-stage developmental theory of affectional stimulation, the first in infancy and the second in adolescence, is necessary to accurately account for the development and expression of peaceful or destructive-violent interpersonal behavior in adulthood.
Affectional-sexual development, in comparison with other aspects of development--motor and language, for example--has been more often repressed than encouraged in the majority of families in the United States and throughout most of the western world. A traditional taboo surrounds the subject of infant sexuality despite the fact that healthy human offspring are endowed from birth with sensory and affectional impulses. In the United States sex is seldom treated as a strong and healthy force in the positive development of personality. (Ribble, 1955). Infant sexual behavior, in the eyes of many, is negative, perverse, and destructive. Some see infant sexual-affectional potential as related to excesses--addictions that control the individual and weaken his reason. That infants have erotic capacity has been pointedly ignored or overlooked. After an asexual infancy and childhood, sex is supposed to burst out full bloom at puberty or, hopefully, later. Sexual innocence has been assumed to be the normal and appropriate infant posture. Still earlier, infants were considered as depraved if they masturbated, asked sex-related questions, or showed any sexual interest or curiosity. Ignorance was and is deemed best to keep dormant any precocious sexual feelings. It has been taken for granted that other aspects of physical and mental growth would proceed in a gradual way from birth to full maturity, but knowledge about sexual capacity and interest has been either consciously or unconsciously suppressed even in the community of social and behavioral scientists. This is an enigma, for as early as the turn of the century Bell (1902), Freud (1905), and Moll (1909) were reporting that in infants of suckling age various parts of the body could give pleasurable sensation and romances did develop in childhood, and it was known that "unscrupulous nurses" had found that they could calm crying babies by stroking their genitals. Freud observed that sexual behavior of the infant and child not only was ignored but "the educators consider all sexual manifestations of the child as an 'evil' in the face of which little can be accomplished." (Freud, 1962, p. 41). To find sexuality suppressed in the schools is perhaps understandable; to find it largely overlooked in behavioral and social science is more difficult to understand and to accept.
What would be the outcome of a concerted effort to give infants the opportunity to fully develop their capacity for sensory and affectional response? We do not know because we have not apparently wanted to know. Those who argue that the individual, to be fully human, must have the opportunities to develop all his capacities argue that this principle should apply to his sexual capacity as well as to the capacity of his intellect and motor skills. Those who argue for discipline, self control, and the curbing of harmful or socially disruptive human tendencies, argue that only the minimum of stimulation and no erotic experience should characterize the personal encounters of infants. Those who opt for restriction of erotic expression in infancy and childhood are in the majority in the United States at the present time. In a recent survey of sex attitudes, for instance, 90 percent of the general public judged sexual activities between an adult and a child to be "always wrong." (Levitt and Klassen, 1973).
Of one thing we are certain, empirical behavioral and social science, given the present state of theory, research and accumulated findings on infant sexuality, is in no position to give definitive counsel to parents, to the school, or to society in general.
Is it even correct to speak of infant sexuality? That depends in part upon our definition of sexuality. If by the term sexuality we mean the possession of the biological and psychic response system that can and does respond to stimulation by self and others and that induces infants to seek and even to initiate intimate, affectional encounters with others, the answer has to be yes. If, on the other hand, one uses the term sexuality to refer to sexual expression that is "a deep and pervasive aspect of one's total personality, the sum total of one's feelings and behavior not only as a sexual being, but as a male or female," (Kirkendal and Rubin, 1969) the answer has to be no. The infant has an emerging but an only slightly developed self identity, is not well-coordinated or organized, has only the most rudimentary understanding of gender roles, and does not possess the erotic imagery of an adult. Socially-appropriate gender roles--male and female--come later as gender roles are learned. This learning begins in infancy and continues through childhood and beyond. The richness of erotic imagery available to the adult comes only after numerous and varied direct and vicarious experiences.
The three major theories of human sexual development are the hormone theory, the psychoanalytic theory and the social or social learning theory. Each theory focuses on different aspects of human development, and, therefore, each contributes to the understanding of human sexuality. This book brings together what is known concerning the sociology of infant sexuality to date, adds new data, and provides a catalyst for needed socio-sexual research.
The infant is a creature with potential. Development of that potential occurs through experience. The human offspring possesses somato-sensory response capacity from early in the fetal stage and on. Although the mouth is the chief pleasure zone of the infant during the first year, responsiveness to external stimulation of other parts of the body, including the genitalia, is apparent.
The infant demonstrates a capacity to interact with others from the first year of life. Early encounters of infant and mother contribute to sensory and affectional awakening of the infant. The infant is not only responsive but able to initiate sensory and affectional relations on his own.
Self-stimulation by the infant occurs during the first year of life. Preference for genital stimulation denotes the early existence of so-called erogenous zones. Of the interaction possibilities available to the infant, none excels the sucking experience--the major tactile and potentially erotic situation of infancy.
Despite attempts to inhibit sensory-affectional interaction, no conclusive evidence in behavioral or social science indicates that such sensory-affectional interaction is harmful for the infant or for his future. On the contrary, there is evidence, also not conclusive, that such interaction is necessary and good. At this point in time, behavioral and social scientists are not in a position to give definitive counsel as to how infants should be reared, sexually speaking. More research is needed.
The early childhood years (here defined as ages three to seven) witness a marked intensification of the sexual interest (Group, 1965, p. 137), and capacity for erotic response. Kinsey reports (Kinsey, 1948, p. 176) an increase in the percentage of individuals able to reach a sexual climax from 32 percent of boys two to twelve months of age, and 57 percent of those two to five years of age, to nearly 80 percent of preadolescent boys ten to thirteen years of age. The genitals supersede other organs as a main source of bodily pleasure. The Child Study Association of America in its publication "When Children Ask About Sex" (1969) treats sex play so integral to childhood as to say that "Masturbation is a necessary phase of sex maturing. It will help parents to think of masturbation as part of the growing up process instead of as a dangerous habit."
In interviewing three and four year olds and their parents, Kinsey found that at three they were showing awareness of genital differences between male and female. Handling of their own genitals, cuddling, kissing mother and father, and touching and kissing others were common. Three year olds enjoyed a great deal of kissing. Among four year olds there was kissing, some homosexual and heterosexual play, mild masturbation, cuddling with family members, touching, and tickling. According to Bell (1902) relationships between the sexes or the "emotion of sex-love" may appear in the life of the child as early as the middle of the third year. The presence of the emotion in children between three and eight years of age is characterized by "hugging, kissing, lifting each other, scuffling, sitting close to each other; confessions to each other and to others, talking about each other when apart; seeking each other and excluding others, grief at being separated; giving of gifts, extending courtesies to each other that are withheld from others, making sacrifices such as giving up desired things or foregoing pleasures; jealousies, etc." Bell characterized the love demonstration of children at this age as spontaneous, profuse, and unrestrained and to include ideas of marriage.
From three and on children retain some memories of sexual experiences, including autoerotic experiences, and are able to recall them later.
The first time I can recall having a sexually pleasing sensation was when I was around three or four. I remember feeling very proud of what I had learned (how to masturbate) and the strange sensation it aroused.
I can remember there was physical pleasure to be derived from fondling my genitals. Such fondling had no heterosexual overtones; the mere physical satisfaction was enough to develop this practice into a habit.
The mother of a five year old told Kinsey that her son had become quite discriminating in his kissing. He was aroused frequently in heterosexual play, and she had seen him in fondling and caressing activity with a girl friend. (Kinsey, unpublished).
Besides displays of affectional and sexual behavior, children ask questions and verbalize or act out aspects of sexual generalizations that they have acquired. The child of age three expresses interest in the different postures for urinating. Girls attempt to urinate standing up.
The child proposes marriage to his parent. Domestic play (both boys and girls) with dolls, teddy bears, and household equipment that began in infancy continues in childhood. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 319).
At four years of age, the child shows interest in sex questions pertaining to where babies come from and how babies get out of their mothers. The attitudes he finds associated with elimination and the genital area as a portion of the excretory rather than reproductive system are greatly influential in the period following toilet training. The game of "show" is common and often contains verbal play about elimination. Interest in other people's bathrooms is high, and while he may demand privacy for himself, the four year old child is extremely interested in the bathroom activities of others. Under social stress he often reacts by grasping the genitals and experiencing a need to urinate.
The four year old is interested in growing older. Play group activities show a tendency for division along sex lines. And although the four year old prefers to play with other children, he often participates in play alone with only imaginary companions for playmates. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 319, 323).
Five year olds behave in a way quite contrary to that which they demonstrated only one year earlier. They appear to be more self-contained, serious about themselves, and impressed with their ability to imitate grown-up behavior. Their interest lies in immediate experiences and they are more realistic than younger children, undertaking those things they know they can do. An interest in babies in general, as well as an interest in having a baby of one's own, is present and this may be dramatized. Both boys and girls relate back to when they were in mother's stomach or to the future when they will have a baby of their own. But despite this interest in pregnancy, they have yet to make the connection between the appearance of a pregnant woman and the presence of a baby. Sex play and games of "show" decrease in frequency at this age as children become more modest and less apt to expose themselves.
Less bathroom play and interest in strange bathrooms than earlier is characteristic of five year olds. They are familiar with, but not as much interested in, the physical differences between the sexes although they may wonder as to why the father doesn't have breasts or a sister doesn't have a penis. In play boy-girl pairs occur frequently. Domestic play continues with imitative attempts at playing house, store, and hospital. Boys may reject girls' roles but still take part in house play, imitating adult male activities. Dolls are given roles as babies and cared for appropriately, especially by girls. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 320, 323, 367).
At six years a marked awareness of and interest in the differences between sexes in body structure arises that was not evident at five. Questioning and mutual investigation by both sexes reveal practical answers to questions about sex differences. Interest in the origin of babies, pregnancy, and birth continues. Interest in knowing how the baby started is present and if the child is told of intercourse by older playmates he may question his mother about it. The six year old commonly accepts the idea that the baby grows in the mother's stomach and starts from a seed. He has some sort of vague notion that in sequence babies follow marriage. How the baby comes out of the mother's stomach and whether it hurts are favorite topics for questions. The six year old wants a new baby in the family and desires to hold the baby after it is born. Mild sex play or exhibitionism in play or in school toilets occurs. Simultaneously, one finds frequent name calling and giggling involved with words dealing with the elimination function. Games of "show" and hospital (in which rectal temperatures are taken) are common. Some children are subjected to sex play by older children and some six year old girls are bothered by older men. Strong interest of older boys for younger girls begins to appear among the children themselves. Some confusion in the differentiation of the male and female exists. The child may dress up in the attire of the opposite sex, but when thinking of marriage, he thinks in terms of a person of the opposite sex, often a relative. Domestic play continues with games of house, school, and library. Girls enjoy elaborated doll play with dolls' accessories as well as dressing up in adult clothes. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 320, 323, 324, 368; Ilg and Ames, 1955, p. 204).
At seven years some mutual exploration, experimentation, and sex play continue, but less than earlier. The child seems to have long since satisfied interest in differences in physique between the sexes. Any interest in male-female differences is more apt to relate to the sex roles of boys and girls rather than physical differences. The topic of birth is still quite popular; however. Seven year olds seem satisfied to know that babies come from two seeds, one from the father and one from the mother. They associate the appearance of pregnant women with the presence of a baby and ask details of birth. Where the mother will be at time of delivery and how the baby gets out are frequent questions. Intense longing for a new baby in the family is usually for one of the same sex and a mother's pregnancy is met with excitement. Baby's growth, how it's fed, its size, and how much it costs are all questions that are raised. Meanwhile, the seven year old's world is broadening and includes his place in the social and physical world. Seven year olds are ashamed of their fears, mistakes, and tears. Self-consciousness about their own body is strong and they are sensitive about body exposure. They may not like to be touched and have become quite modest about toileting. Strong and persistent boy-girl love affairs with the idea of marriage occur. Play activities center on playing house with the use of elaborate adult costumes for girls while boys enjoy building and playing in tree houses, forts, huts, and tents. The seven year old's activities, in general, are characterized by intense interest in some activities and less participation in new ventures. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 320, 324, 368; Ilg and Ames, 1955, p. 204).
Masturbation is common during childhood, but by no means all children between the ages of three and seven masturbate. We have no accurate count as to the number who do, nor the frequency of occurrence for those who do. Several studies have dealt with the subject, some of them in a rather cursory manner. Based on data from interviews conducted prior to 1955 with boys (upper white collar class) with an average age of 7.2 years (age range was 4 to 14 years), Elias and Gebhard (1969) report that 38 percent reported having masturbated with more beginning in the 3-7 year age range than at any subsequent time. Miller and Swanson (1958) asked parents if, at or before age five, their children had "touched" their sex organs. About 58 percent of the mothers said that they had not, while some 34 percent said that they had. In the Sears study (Sears, Maccoby and Levin, 1957, p. 200), only two-fifths of the mothers said they had never noticed their children doing anything that could be referred to as masturbation. In a study involving two hundred and eighty four boys, Ramsey reports that five percent in the age group six or less had had masturbatory experience, and ten per cent of those seven years old. (Ramsey, 1943, p. 224). Many begin to masturbate later, and much early genital play is not recalled, observed, or reported.
At about the age seven, or so, I first began to masturbate. I am not sure how I came upon this discovery. I believe it may have been when, feeling a need to urinate, I began fingering the genital area and found it to produce a very pleasurable sensation.
Touching or holding the genitals is not necessarily associated with erotic pleasure; it appears to be a source of security for some infants when learning to walk or under other conditions during childhood, as in the following case.
Near the age of six or seven holding the genitalia would give me a vague feeling of security. I would do this frequently in bed and it seemed almost an unconscious action that was associated with security.
The child's initial attempts at masturbation are inspired in many instances by the observation of other children engaging in such activity or through deliberate instruction given by some older child or adult. In the following case, a boy found a way to stimulate himself by accident and then passed it on to his peers. According to Kinsey, these are the first sources of information for most males. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 107). The great majority of females who masturbate, on the other hand, learn to masturbate by discovering the possibility of such activity by themselves.
I called the experience the "weiner tickle" when I spoke to others about it. It consisted of a form of self stimulation that occurred when I climbed up a pole in a swing set. The pole was set at an angle such that the penis was stimulated by rubbing against the smooth metal surface during the climbing process. I discovered this by accident and told certain of my friends about it. They also proceeded to try the "weiner tickle." It was thought to be great fun.
As with the "weiner tickle," there can be physical pleasure and even erotic feelings without manual manipulation of the genitals.
As a child I (a boy) used to run around the house nude and remember feeling released and set free by doing this. This came closest to true sexual feelings as I recognize it today. Running around outside with few clothes on also gave me a great feeling of release, I cannot remember ever associating these feelings in anyway to the genitalia.
Many times siblings, close to each other in age, become involved in sex play with each other. This is most likely to be true when they share a bedroom, and the rate is higher when they share the same bed. (Finch, 1969, p. 65). Cuddling, fondling, and handling the genitals of others of the same or opposite sex occurs frequently under conditions of unsupervised play. Additional forms of sexual activity occasionally include oral-genital contacts and attempted copulation with another child.
Whereas the infant has very limited mobility, the child is able to walk about and to play with others and is under less supervision. Hence, he extends the range and increases the variety of sexual experiences. Playing with siblings and neighborhood children, attending kindergarten, and beginning grade school open up new possibilities for encounters.
Kindergarten was curiously arousing in that I (a boy) enjoyed sleeping next to girls on their mats during rest periods.
In the second grade I seemed to have been popular among the girls. During recess, I would tell all the girls that wanted to kiss me to line up, and would then proceed to kiss each one in turn, giving those two or three that I preferred most a kiss on the lips.
If begun early, masturbation continues at varying intervals throughout childhood. The child eventually learns that in our society masturbation is not to take place in public.
I (a boy) first masturbated at the age of seven, as far as I can remember. I had no idea of what I was doing or what it meant, but the feeling was terrific. In view of the fact that masturbation was so enjoyable, it served to make time pass rapidly. Therefore, before the crushing boredom of a second grade classroom would grip me, I would swing my legs under my desk in a fashion which would end in an orgasm. I knew not what I was doing, but I may have embarrassed a few teachers.
Erotic awakening is of two kinds, autoerotic and socio-sexual or interpersonal erotic. Since Freud and Kinsey, if not before, we have been aware that autoeroticism--erotic gratification obtained from the self without the participation of another person--can be present from the first year of life. Interpersonal awakening comes at different ages for different persons depending on biological-response capacity and maturation, temperamental tendencies (cuddler or non-cuddler, for instance), and experience.
Erotic awakening is a vague and mystical concept. What we mean by it is that someone who previously lacked the capacity for erotic experience now possesses that capacity. One has "new life," so to speak--something is there that was not there before. Puberty is sometimes looked upon as establishing the biological-response base for the first erotic event. But we know that the capacity for at least the rudiments of erotic awakening is present from birth at least in some children. Erotic awakening comes about when that which is "dormant" or "asleep" is aroused to action. The experience may be feeding at the breast of the mother, being handled and caressed at a tender age, a first kiss, or later "falling in love," first coitus, or first coitus with orgasm. Many parents consciously or unconsciously treat their offspring as though the erotic capacity were present from birth, as indeed it is. Such parents act as though what they do to and with the infant or child will affect the time at which he experiences his erotic awakening and that after his awakening he will in fact be a different person than he was before. This belief no doubt explains much of the style of infant and child care that mothers give their offspring from the first decision--the decision to suckle or not to suckle the infant--and on. And they are right; erotic awakening as well as socio-sexual awakening--the beginning of satisfying sexual encounters with others--can come at an age from infancy on depending on the biological-response capacity or motivation of the offspring, his temperamental tendencies, and his erotic experiences with others.
The erotic experience need not be tactile. On occasion, a boy of five or six will report having an erection when he sees or thinks about a pretty girl. In the following case a five year old girl experiences sexual satisfaction from looking at the picture of a nude boy. If pictures of nudes are labeled pornography, then this is the youngest case I know of where a child is erotically aroused through viewing pornographic literature. In the first two of the next three cases, two boys age six report on some aspects of their erotic awakening.
The experience of sexual arousal as a child is one of my sexual experiences. Whenever my girl friends and I would look at books while playing, I would always choose the book Little Black Sambo. The picture I am referring to is that of the tiger chasing Sambo around the tree as he is melting into butter. The tiger has previously taken all of Sambo's clothes. The sight of the nude little boy's rear end is what excited me.... I would stare at the picture for quite some time getting a funny feeling the whole time.... My body would tingle all over and my stomach would seem to have butterflies inside of it. I loved this new feeling and wanted to experience it over and over again.
When I was six years old, I consciously experienced my first erection with a neighborhood girl of the same age. My curiosity increased when I saw only a small glimpse of her genital area when we played "doctor" and my desire to know more about the female sex increased tremendously. One day after school, the girl came over to my house. We proceeded up to my bedroom where I told her, "You can see me if I can see you." After she agreed, we both pulled down our pants. She asked me what my penis was. I told her that it was my "weiner," and that she didn't have one--only boys had "weiners." I then proceeded to touch my "weiner" to her "doop" (rear). This contact lasted for only a short time, yet I noticed for the first time that my penis was stiff. I had previously seen my friend's penis become erect as we played "doctor," but my penis becoming stiff was something I had never consciously experienced before.
The girl and I were age six. I suggested playing doctor. We took off our clothes and then she lay down on her stomach so I could give her a "shot." The closest thing to a shot was a pinch so I did that a few times lightly.... It was my turn to be the patient so I lay on my stomach while she examined me. Then I turned onto my back and I let her gaze at me awhile. She messed around a little bit until I began to get what was for me my first memorable erection. It didn't make much sense to me at the time but there wasn't much I could do about it. She started giggling; I couldn't help giggling either so we laughed heartily for a few minutes until she said, almost screaming, "What is that!? What is it!?" I blurted out, "I don't know!" and out of amazement sat up to take a look at this marvelous phenomenon. She started to touch it, pulled back quickly (still giggling), then touched it and finally put her hand on it. At that time I wasn't exactly prepared for the sensations I received so I suggested that maybe she shouldn't do that any more. I seem to remember a strange feeling when looking at her genitals. I couldn't figure out what they were for but while looking, I felt a pleasurable sensation in my own genitals, and I'm sure that the thought of placing mine near hers passed through my mind but I dismissed it for lack of time (her mother would be coming soon).
The six year old son of a colleague of mine told his father recently "When I see a pretty girl my penis gets so hard!" Is this an example of a biological-response to an external stimulus; is it the outgrowth of childhood sex play? Is it based on the chance remark of some adolescent? It is difficult to research the motivations for such a remark. Another parent, a mother, reported to Kinsey that her son masturbated frequently when he was small but only incidentally and never to climax now that he was seven years of age. She noticed that he now had erections when playing with girls. He would deliberately undress with a playmate, would occasionally cuddle, and would encourage the girl to stay overnight. He also cuddled a preadolescent girl. Kinsey reported that the boy ran around the house in the nude while the sex history was being taken. (Kinsey, unpublished).
Besides direct erotic encounters with peers, the concrete events and situations which stimulate the growth of sexual curiosity and aid in sexual awakening of the infant or child are numerous. Among events which serve to stimulate the child to explore himself and his environment directly or indirectly by means of questions, imitation, or otherwise are such incidences as: the presence of a puppy in the home; the seeing of a litter of kittens for the first time; seeing members of the family in the nude; noticing the differences in bodily characteristics in men and women; seeing the changes that occur in a pregnant woman; the presence of a new baby; a chance bit of information concerning the coming of babies or other sexual events which are overheard in the family or mentioned in discussions with other children.
The bodies of the opposite sex challenged imagination. The breasts of mature women always seemed to puzzle me. I realized early that fleshy breasts were characteristic of females, but yet I noticed that both boys and girls had nipples.
Despite such apparent sexual precocity in children, little children (three to four) have some difficulty learning that there are genital differences between the sexes. They do not appear to form clear general concepts of genital differences until ages five to seven. Utilizing a sample of children who were largely from the lower socio-economic level and whose parents indicated that many of the children had not been told about basic anatomical differences, Conn (1940), and Conn and Kanner (1947), were able to elicit knowledge of genital differences from only fifty percent of children age four to six years, and from seventy-two percent of children age seven to eight. Among children of parents with more formal education, Butler (1952) found a similar degree of ignorance among children of four to five years of age. Although fifteen of seventeen children had been informed by their parents of anatomical differences, Butler was able to elicit awareness of genital differences from but five of the fifteen children. Ketcher (1955) found in a study of 266 three to nine year olds that children most easily make sex differentiations based on the clothing worn by each sex, followed by differentiation based on hair styles, and lastly by observing differences in genitalia and breasts. Age seemed to be the most important factor in ability to differentiate between the sexes, with younger girls excelling younger boys in this regard. Children report that before first witnessing they have taken for granted that the genitals of all people are alike. The discovery of the differences can be a disappointment as reported in the following two cases.
I was six. She was five. I knew what the genitals of males looked like, but what about females? I was determined to find out. (They disrobed while playing the roles of mommy and daddy in a game of "house.")
I was shocked to see she didn't have anything between her legs, except what appeared to be a fold of skin. I was disappointed. She then asked, "What is that?" referring to my penis. I became embarrassed and replied it was where I "tinkled," and redressed.
A feeling of blighted hope came over me. Failure of my expectations. I thought that I had been swindled. There was not much to see, and what there was was partially concealed. The game ended shortly after this.
It was an undermining experience to see her genitals, that is, what there was to see of them. I had expected something much more interesting to play with, for even though I knew she was built differently I didn't know it would be that different.
The young child who has been told of what male and female attributes are involved in producing a baby still remains perplexed as to the manner in which the elements come together. (Conn, 1948). Even children who have observed parental coitus do not find this sufficient to create an articulated sexual image of the mother or father, whatever else it might do. (Gagnon, 1965).
This is not because of indifference toward adults and their concerns. Up to the age of two the infant seems unaware of his parents as persons with interests and feelings of their own which are unrelated to their love and care of him. He has an egocentric and exaggerated view of his own importance. But this egocentricity changes and at about age three he begins to realize that his parents are not only the providers of his creature comforts but also have concerns, pleasures, and dreams of their own. (Peller, 1965). The concerns of adults are close to the child and meaningful to him in his own terms.
By age five children are easily aware of most of the non-coital content of the marital relationship--cooking, cleaning house, caring for children, going to work. They practice many of the marriage and family roles through "playing house."
One of my (boy) closest friends was a young girl named Jean. She was one year younger than I. We often played together, frequently at "house." We acted the roles of man and wife as we perceived them from our parents. I was most often the father, involved in a job at an office that kept me away from my family. The wife cared for the home. Occasionally, when other neighborhood children joined us, an older boy would take the role of the father, and I would then become a son, playing the roles more familiar to me; the loving son, the diffident, pouty child, and hellion. It is safe to conclude that I experienced an imaginary marriage in my early childhood. I tried to play the various roles involved as realistically as possible.
They also have a good idea of the field of eligibles from which they will eventually select their mates--cross-sex peers of the same generation but not of the same family. (Broderick, 1966). Broderick found that the majority of five year olds he studied were already committed to their own eventual marriages. This majority increases through each age group throughout childhood.
We now turn to a systematic account of the young child's sexual and erotic encounters, first of all with peers, and later with preadolescents, adolescents, and adults. Many children "experiment" with one another sexually. Approximately half of the mothers in the Sears study (1957) reported some activity which could be identified as sex play. Some play was between brothers and sisters, some with neighbor children, some was with children of the same sex and some with the opposite sex. This exploration is often carried to what could be dangerous extremes, such as the insertion of unclean or rusty objects into body orifices. "Doctor games" are popular. They serve to give the child an excuse for examining the sex organs of his playmates. (Hurlock, 1950, p. 493).
Before entering first grade there were those afternoons at my friend's house. Her mother worked so my friend was always free to do as she pleased during the day. We used to play "doctor" in her bedroom which involved inserting a pencil into the vagina and examining each other.
It would be quite wrong to assume that all of the activity in "playing doctor" such as taking temperatures rectally is erotic play. It would also be quite in error to assume that all children who play doctor are erotically awakened children. On the other hand, that the "playing doctor" encounter can have erotic overtones that go beyond the mere desire to play with other children and the desire to satisfy their curiosity about the nature of the genitals of others is quite clear. The following two cases illustrate this point.
It was at the age of five that I (a girl) first viewed the genitalia of the opposite sex. We lived in a duplex and the family next door had three children, all of which were girls about my own age. They had a male cousin who came to visit and we all ended up in the basement behind the furnace playing doctor. No matter what he would say his symptoms were, we were so fascinated with his penis, as none of us had seen one before, that it was always the center of our examinations. I remember giggling as I punched it and as I dunked it in some red food colored water that we were using for medicine. This seemed to give him great enjoyment. One girl put hand lotion and a bandage on his penis and in the process he had an erection. We asked him to do it again but there was no such luck. He suddenly felt embarrassed and offended and said he didn't want to play any more. One of the other girls and I felt that his erection was quite a trick, but I was glad that he had that "long thing" and not us. However, the third girl talked about it for days and began asking other boys in the neighborhood to come over and play doctor, probably in anticipation of seeing another erection trick. It was unique and fun to bounce around and to swing it in the doctor exams that one day, but I never had any further interest after that.
My neighborhood environment has always been quite permissive which enabled me (a boy) the time and freedom to become the finest five year old doctor in my neighborhood. I clearly remember associating my penile erections with examination of the next door girl's anatomy.
Very commonly sex play among children takes the form of "show it" games.
During childhood I had a very sheltered life. One thing I remember is the time the neighbor girl and I (a boy) stripped and examined each other to see for ourselves the differences between our sexes.
Sex play can involve mixed emotions for the child as he tries to understand and sort out his feelings of curiosity, fear of the unknown, erotic desire, and even guilt. The child's guilt is reinforced by the mother in the first of the following two cases. In the second case, the girl though scolded more than once for playing doctor did not develop strong guilt feelings.
In the garage three, four, and five year olds were starting to explore each other's genitalia, but I (a girl) felt so embarrassed that I sought an escape in being the door guard in case anyone came in. Guilt surrounded the whole escapade both during and after. But somehow I never ventured far enough away so that I could not observe the "action." Afterwards I tried to face my mother but I felt so terrible that I started crying and told her about our experience, whereupon she consoled me and assured me that I did right in not participating and saying how bad my cousin and friend were. My first ordeal was over for me, but the other two received lectures from their parents after being informed by my mother.
Still, a curiosity lingered and during the next seven years or so I remember masturbating and fantasizing, but only quietly (secretly) and in bed. Also, occasionally my sister, neighbor girl, and I would explore her little sister's genitalia.
I remember the neighbor boy sticking his hand down my pants in the field by our house one day, and I can remember being scolded numerous times when caught playing doctor, but I also remember that I never had any extended guilt feelings concerning these activities.
"Playing house" or "playing mother and father" are sometimes more subtle ways of accomplishing the same goal, namely exposure. Playing "fun house" is another variation. Adults would classify the behavior in the following case as erotic play; the erotic implications of the acts might not be recognized by the children, however. Sometimes older children play what is clearly adult erotic roles.
Sexual awakening took place early in my childhood years. My earliest remembered experience took place when I was about five or six years old. While I was playing with my younger sister, we decided that as a new diversion we would play "fun house." This was accomplished by turning out the lights in my room, pulling the shades, and then pulling down the pants of the person making the tour. As something "spooky" we rubbed cold, wet tissue across the genitalia and buttocks of the person, with the crowning triumph of placing the soaked tissue between the buttocks, pulling up the pants over the tissue, and ushering the person out of the room.
During one of the visits of my next door girl friend she walked into my bathroom while I (a boy) was urinating. She said, "What a funny way to go to the bathroom," and left. Apparently this was the first time she became aware of the male penis.
A day or two later she expressed a desire to "take our pants off." This seemed a mere violation of the nudity taboo rather than anything related to sex as I had no knowledge of such things. In search of greater privacy we went to my bedroom. From then on, she was the instructor and I was the pupil. She told me to remove my trousers and underpants and as I did she took off her panties, laid on her back in the bed with her legs spread, and lifted her skirt. I distinctly remember getting an erection and noticed her pleasure at this occurrence. She told me to lie on the bed with her. I did. Then she told me to roll over on top of her. This seemed like a strange thing to do, but I decided to comply.
Where my friend acquired all the knowledge she displayed I don't know, but I would guess she started out asking about my penis and ended up learning how to perform coitus.
An interesting conjecture can be raised from this incidence. What if her next instruction had been to insert my penis into her vagina? Definitely there are two things I simply don't know: whether or not the relative sizes of genitalia would have made insertion possible and whether either of us would have experienced orgasm. But of one fact I am confident: I could have performed sexual intercourse that day with a total lack of knowledge, desire, or instinct for reproduction.
It is well known that romances sometimes develop between boys and girls during childhood. The romance may contain the traditional elements of respect and affection on the part of the boy, accompanied by the desire to serve his beloved. He carries her books to and from school and may protect her from the teasing and torments of other boys. Traditionally reared girls are more accepting in their attitude toward romances of other children than are boys. Girls may snicker at and make jokes about the girl who is having a romance, but they do not exclude her from their group, as a boy might be excluded from the boys' gang. There is evidence that girls are envious of the girl who has a boy to accompany her to school and who receives thoughtful attention instead of the annoyances that they have been accustomed to receive from boys. (Hurlock, 1950, p. 489).
At the tender age of five, I thought the idea of a boy friend was appealing. I must already have formed a general concept that heterosexual relationships were much approved and accepted by society. I remember us experimenting with kissing on several occasions, and also remember feeling that I was in love. When I moved to another town at the age of six, our parting was quite traumatic. He continued to visit me there, with his grandparents, and when I was seven or eight he asked me to marry him. I was overjoyed and really believed that we would marry when we "grew up."
Sometimes the focus of a childhood romance is on parental as well as lover roles as imitatively acted out by the children.
At this age it was common for the boys to try to kiss the girls. It was nice and fun to be kissed by boys because it was what grown-ups did and because it felt good. By this age the difference in the sexes was firmly established in my mind as well as the fact that there was something exciting about sex, i.e., the difference between boys and girls. Thoughts of playing the role of a wife were ingrained in my mind and boys were beginning to be regarded as prospective husbands or "daddys."
Fantasy of a romantic nature can have erotic--albeit unconscious--overtones as early as in childhood, as reported in the following case.
I do remember having erections when I was seven or eight years old. All I really noticed about them was that they occurred when I thought about a young girl I felt romantically inclined toward. Also, they made it very difficult to roll over in bed. I never knew the purpose of the arousal, but I was aroused.
Children learn early the need for privacy and secrecy in their sexual encounters. The scepter of the appearance of mother (or some other representative of the generalized other) already implanted in the child's consciousness can alter the patterns of behavior. The two cases that follow show the early regard for adult standards.
I (a girl) was playing with a boy cousin who was the same age as I was, about five years old. We had been told that boys go to the bathroom alone and girls go to the bathroom alone, but you know how sometimes an emergency arises and you both have to go. They had an old fashioned two-holer outdoor toilet, so we made a pact not to look at each other if we went together.
Some girls, one other boy, and myself (a boy) were playing in our grass huts. We were playing house and since I was the oldest, I was elected to fulfill the role of "father," thereby receiving the privilege of occupying a single hut with the girl elected to take the role of my "wife." After my wife and I had fondled each other's genitalia for awhile, I decided that I should have a private consultation with each of the "children." Consequently, by the end of the day, I had exchanged caresses with one boy and four girls. The fifth girl was very frightened by such intimate contact. She said that her parents would definitely not like it, and that she was afraid of their judgement. Her response frightened me as I suddenly realized that my parents would not appreciate my behavior either.
The boy's behavior in the case above could be labeled as bisexual since he "exchanged caresses with one boy and four girls." Actually, during late childhood and early adolescence, sexual play with members of the same sex is probably more common than with members of the opposite sex. (Comfort, 1963, p. 42). Homosexual sex play in childhood involves handling the genitals of a person of the same sex, primarily, as in the case above. In a smaller number of cases it also involves oral or anal contact and occasionally urethral or vaginal insertions. (Broderick, 1966). Sometimes homosexual activity takes the form of "show it" such as a group of boys urinating together outdoors. For example, a mother reports that she saw two boys giggling excitedly while having a contest to see which one could "wee-wee" the farthest. (Sears, Maccoby, and Levin, 1957, p. 205). The activity is mildly competitive and perhaps low in erotic intent or satisfaction. The following case of homosexual play of females, on the other hand, is explicitly genital and erotic.
I (a girl) encountered a sexual experience that was confusing at kindergarten age.... Some afternoons we would meet and lock ourselves in a bedroom and take our pants off. We took turns lying on the bed and put pennies, marbles, etc. between our labia. The other two liked to pretend they were boys and used a pencil for a penis. As the ritual became old hat, it passed out of existence. I enjoyed the sexual manipulation, for it was stimulating. Yet, I never wanted to pretend that I had a penis.
The following case is homosexual in that it involves two girls rather than one child of each sex, but the activity is only mildly sexual. The emphasis is on imitation of the friendship-companionship aspect of adult heterosexual relationships.
For some reason we found that we enjoyed our friendship better than those we had with members of the opposite sex. From the time we met, up until about the time of fifth grade, she and I played a game which we enjoyed very much. We could see older couples holding hands, lying on the beach, swimming, picnicking, etc., and then we would proceed to imitate their actions with each other. She would always play the boy's role and I the girl's. There was nothing physical about our actions other than a caress here or there. This game played a significant part in our friendship, and seemed to provide us with security.
Children sometimes utilize homosexual fantasy as a part of the fantasized milieu for an autoerotic act, such as masturbating. In such a case masturbation in a very real sense becomes a homosexual rather than an autoerotic act. The following case involves homosexual activity between a boy and an imaginary partner of the same sex who is brought into the "encounter" mentally both through pictures and through imagery.
Visual stimulation, from magazine pictures or television, began to occur frequently at age six. This period, lasting from age six to twelve, was one of predominant homosexual stimulation. A marked period of homosexual responses, to both visual and mental imagery, is a major part of my early childhood. Beyond the age of twelve, when I entered the seventh grade, homosexual response declined while heterosexual stimulation increased.
In the second case, the homosexual other is visually present (in the locker room), but there is no tactile contact. Any homosexual response on the part of the informant is a fantasized response.
There always seemed to be a satisfaction gained from the boys undressing in each other's presence. There was for myself a stimulating sexual awareness in seeing the naked bodies. This awareness was a kind of "choked up" feeling. It was more inquisitive than sexual.
Both heterosexual and homosexual encounters are interspersed in early childhood. Unlike the case above where the experience was "more inquisitive than sexual," in the case to follow the homosexual experience was "more like scientific research." It is clear that the demarcation between what is erotic behavior and what is not is not segregated in the mind of the child as it is in the mind of an adult observer. For this reason children often feel that adults over-react to childhood sex play.
As a child I (a boy) experienced several incidents of homosexual exhibitions, many heterosexual exhibitions, and several instances of heterosexual play. This exploratory stage was experienced chiefly between the ages of four to seven. A secluded spot would be secured for purposes of observing and touching the opposite sex's genitals. This happened repeatedly with two girls, one older and one younger. Initiation for each experience seemed to be about fifty percent my effort.... At the age of six or seven my friend (a boy) and I had a great curiosity for exploring the anus. It almost seemed more like scientific research.
The following homosexual encounter involves oral-genital contact, but even with such intimate contact the encounter cannot be described as erotic, at least not for the informant who is a year younger than the aggressor.
My friend, a boy age five, was giving me (boy four years of age) a lesson in human anatomy (that is, sexual anatomy) and my curiosity and respect for him put a strong sense of importancy on what we were engaged in. I didn't remember then (and don't now) ever having consciously paid much thought to my genitals before, so this was quite new to me. Our discussion involved visual and tactile encounter as we had unzipped our pants and upon his direction compared penises in size, shape, and color.
I remember the tactile experimentation quite well. He wanted to touch his mouth to my genitals (just before this I had climbed down from the trailer and urinated). I allowed him oral-genital contact, and he came up spitting and exclaiming that it tasted awful.
In homosexual encounters, a young child, usually a boy, is not infrequently propositioned by an older boy as in the case above. A boy aged seven may suggest sexual activity which his partner (a boy aged four) is unwilling to cooperate in, as in the following case. This results in exhibition on the part of the older boy with obvious satisfaction for himself and at least interest on the part of the younger boy.
Several times when I was young it seemed as if exhibition of my body in the presence of another boy would be exciting. I remember one situation in particular, with a boy three years younger than I; I was about seven years old at the time. We were both wearing swimming suits, but were walking together at some distance from the beach. I openly fondled myself to the point of erection, and then displayed my penis to the younger boy. Then I urged him to pull down his suit also, but for some reason he refused. Yet he was not at all subtle at looking at my erect penis.
In sex, as in most other aspects of life, the older teach the younger. In the vast majority of cases such encounters are with someone close to the child--a family member, another relative, a neighbor, a "baby-sitter." If the "teaching" situation is sexual in nature it most often involves fondling or oral relations; attempted intercourse is relatively uncommon. (Mohr, et al, 1964). If intercourse is attempted, it is often of an exploratory nature and becomes part of the initiator's learning experience rather than being highly purposeful, aggressive or violent.
One day I remained at home to watch my sister's kids. I "messed" with my little niece since she was about two years old. I would put the boys to bed and let the girl stay up. I would insert my finger in my niece's vagina and move it around. She enjoyed it. I would masturbate at the same time. Sometimes I would imagine that I was going to attack her and devour her at any second. Then I would climax. Then I would withdraw my finger and lick it. (Berest, 1970, p. 217-218).
My (a girl) earliest experience with sex occurred when I was approximately five years old. One day a buddy of my brother's came over, who was eleven years old. My brother was not home at the time so he asked if I would play with him. I said I would. Somehow we ended up in the haymow sliding around in the hay. Later, resting on top of the hay, he asked me if I wanted to play doctor. Thinking all was in fun, I said yes. He informed me, that he was the doctor, and I the patient. I was about to have a baby and he was going to operate. He unzipped my pants, took them off, and proceeded to do the same with his. He tried to have intercourse but did not succeed. Thinking it all was a game, and of course knowing nothing of sex at that time, I thought it was perfectly all right.
In both of the following cases, as well, erotic advances are made to a female child by an adolescent male, but the advances are not markedly aggressive or exploitative. In both cases the female child demonstrates her socialization into adult repressive sexual roles.
When I was seven years old my parents asked a thirteen year old boy to come and "sit" with me while they went out.... He got on top of the covers next to me. After trying to sleep I turned around to tell him to quit squirming because I couldn't sleep, when I noticed his pants were unzipped and his penis was out. Being a seven year old, I bluntly told him that that was not nice and that he better get off my bed.
From my kindergarten year, there is one particular incident which stands out in my mind. It involved my uncle, who was about sixteen, and me. My parents were out for the evening and he was baby-sitting. I was ready for bed and he came in and asked me if I wanted a back rub. I said yes, and I lay down on the bed. He rubbed my back for awhile and after he had done this for a few minutes he pulled down my pants. He told me not to say anything and then he proceeded to examine and finger my genital area. He said that he just wanted to see something. I don't exactly remember my reactions, although I know I was too embarrassed to tell my mother about it.
Since the preadolescent or adolescent who initiates a sexual encounter with a child is usually known by the child and by the child's parents, he dare not be too aggressive or feel the need to be devious because he will otherwise be exposed, embarrassed, and perhaps punished. The first case to follow is a case of such deviousness.
I (a twelve year old male) was curious about the little girls' genital system and I proceeded to suggest a game where I could explore this area. We turned off the lights and I played the role of monster. The other children were to run around the room and keep away from me. When I caught them I would supposedly eat them. The game went fine and I achieved what I had set out to do--to find out what the little girl's penis felt like when I squeezed it. As the children ran from me I would catch a boy and throw him down and pretend I was eating him and give him a little hit in the rump or on the leg, but when I caught Tina, the little girl, I immediately grabbed her vaginal area with my whole hand and rubbed and squeezed it a couple three times. While I did this I distracted her attention from my grip by mumbling a few monster groans and yelling "I'm going to eat you." Later, I set up a horror house in the garage and tried again. As I did before, I conned a few of the neighbor girls into coming into my horror house in the garage and proceeded to molest two other girls.
In the second case, a five year old girl is involved with an older sexually aggressive boy. She does not express the same repressive morality but nevertheless reacts negatively to aggression; whereas she does not react negatively to non-aggressive sex play with her kindergarten-aged boy friend, Bill.
A disturbing event came to the front at the age of kindergarten. The instigator was a boy from the neighborhood, four years my senior, whom we will call Tom. At our age, my friends and I were unaware of his sexual problem--extensive sexual aggressiveness. One afternoon in the neighborhood playhouse he "depantsed" me and pulled down his own pants. No negativism existed in my reaction for I had seen a penis many times before. Evidently he had never been exposed to a girl's sexual parts for he forced me to keep my pants down. The second encounter did bother me. The boy across the street, we will call him Bill, and I were close friends and the two of us went over to Tom's house to play, and Tom locked us in the bedroom. We could only go if we exposed ourselves physically to each other. I had seen Bill many times without clothes on, for in the summer we swam without suits in my outside pool until we were about three years old. We undressed and Tom immediately fondled Bill's penis and then tried to touch my labia, and I either cried or screamed and he stopped. A fear existed because sex had never been forced upon me. I think where I became confused was that at home nakedness was common, accepted and associated with good thoughts. This situation was conflicting because of the force involved, and I immediately and have always disliked Tom. However, Bill and I had a typical kindergarten romance. As others, we were in love and wanted to get married some day.
In the third case, a girl is repelled by the proposition of two aggressive adolescent boys partly because of her earlier conditioning and partly because of feeling physically trapped and being expected to touch a boy who is ostensibly physically ill at the time.
A little girl friend and I spent one summer afternoon playing at her house. I think I was about seven years old and I must admit that I had led a very sheltered life. Her mother was gone for the afternoon and her two older brothers were there. They must have been fourteen or fifteen at the time. One of them was sick in bed that afternoon. It was about time for me to go when one of the girl's brothers called me into the bedroom of the sick boy and locked the door behind us. I can still remember to this day the nauseated feeling that filled my stomach. I could sense something horrible was about to happen, but I had no idea at that moment what it would be. The boys told me that they wouldn't let me out of the room to go home until I touched the genitals of the sick boy in bed. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I did realize that I was being forced to do something terribly sick.
The need to ejaculate can be very compelling in an adolescent boy who approaches a child. For example, a boy of sixteen is baby-sitting a young girl of seven at her home while her parents are out of town. While the girl was taking a bath, and with the excuse of making sure that she got clean, the boy stripped and entered the tub. He then proceeded to wash the girl's genitals, and suggested that she do the same to him. After a little protest she obliged. She was surprised when the boy's penis became erect. With urging from her "baby-sitter," she continued washing, and he had an ejaculation.
Sexual encounters of children with older youth can be either of a heterosexual or homosexual nature. The following cases involve homosexual encounters. The first encounter involves two girls, one a young girl and the other an older girl, and centers around "show it" activity instigated by the older girl.
The very first sexually related experience I remember was of a homosexual nature. When I was four or five, an older neighbor girl once enticed me with an offer of money to remove my panties and pull up my skirt in her presence. This experience was purely exhibitory, as there was no bodily contact between us. The inquisitiveness on her part helped to strengthen an already growing feeling in me that the genital area was "special" in some way and should not be shown to others, since she felt it necessary to get my consent. However, at this age, it did not seem inappropriate to me that another girl would be interested in my genitals.
The second case involves a boy child in dangerous manipulative sexual activity--perhaps insertion of some object into his urethra--with an older boy. In this case the value of the friendship kept the child from "telling on" his older friend, though blood in his urine as a result of the activity frightened him.
We (two boys, myself age seven and a friend twelve years old) came from middle-class families having many interests in common, such as baseball and hiking. Sex, however, was not one of these interests for me as it was for him. I cannot exactly remember how it all started, but I think it was in the form of the "doctor" game. He fondled my genitalia and encouraged me to do the same to him. It was a new experience for me, but I cannot recall if it was pleasurable or not. His erected penis was quite a mystery to me, and I had no idea of why it got that way. At one time he was quite rough with my penis and as a consequence there was some blood in my urine. This frightened me, but it seemed to frighten him more when I told him that I was going to tell my mother. He was older than I was and one of the few playmates I had, so I did not tell.
In the third case a girl child finds the encounter with a preadolescent girl to satisfy felt need.
When I was about seven years old, my eleven year old neighbor girl friend and I would get together and play games which involved fondling and exploring each other's body.... A game that we played was referred to as "upper" and "lower" and this would include choosing one of the words and the other person would stimulate that portion of the body for about 10-15 minutes. This we did anywhere since it did not involve taking off clothes, just placing the hand inside the clothing. By sexual contacts I had a release to strange feelings inside me and got much physical satisfaction when arms were holding me.
The following is a case of oral-anal, oral-genital contacts between a five or six year old boy and a boy of sixteen.
My first homosexual experience came at the age of five or six, when I would play with this boy who was at that time about sixteen. He would ask me if I wanted to go into his house for something to eat, like some cookies or something. Of course I would go. Next he would ask me if I would go into the bedroom with him. Upon entering the bedroom, he would undress and ask me to do the same. I would, probably out of fright. I distinctly remember his body being very hairy, so perhaps I underestimated his age. Anyway, after undressing, he would tell me to bend over and then he would insert his erect penis into my anal region and start thrusting back and forth. He would then stimulate my penis and want me to do the same to him. We also masturbated each other, with him reaching orgasm and myself only being stimulated. I also spent some time in oral-genital contact. I did find the whole experience quite pleasing and continued to engage in these activities for a week or two. Then, and I don't recall why, we suddenly stopped doing it completely.
In some homosexual encounters, the sexual activity is entirely verbal and consists of the older one passing on his greater sexual "knowledge" to a child. In both cases that follow the child reacts negatively to the new information, in part because of the way it is presented.
I remember one scene very well. He had an older sister. Now that sex was beginning to interest me, I wanted to know what his sister was like. In short, I had very little knowledge of girls. He described her very unattractively. In fact, it made me somewhat nauseous to think of a girl in respect to her genitals.
My first encounter with sex as a reality was when I was about seven or eight. A helpful older friend casually offered me a rather vague definition of coitus. I wasn't really at all sure of what he meant. It seemed like a strange thing to do with a girl as the thought had never entered my mind before. There was no desire on my part to learn anything more about it at the time.
The differential encounters provided in the social milieu contribute more to a child's sexual knowledge and experience than do his physiological readiness or his sex interest. Interest in coitus and knowledge and acceptance of premarital coitus is well established among boys age seven in some communities, and in some instances as early as four years of age. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 377). Especially in some urban communities, by age seven boys know that coitus is one of the activities which most of their older acquaintances are engaging in; and they have already learned that coitus is one of the things considered highly desirable. Much of this sexual sophistication comes from associating with older companions. Children overhear adolescent boys talking to one another about naked women and couples who have had sex relations. (Rogler and Hollingshead, 1965, p. 135). The size and shape of a woman's vagina are topics of conversation among boys and men, and younger boys learn from older males that women are objects of sexual gratification. As a consequence, they orient their thoughts and behavior in accordance with what other males expect of them as young, on-the-make machos. Kinsey found that the boy from the comparatively sheltered upper socio-economic level home, on the other hand, was not exposed to such experiences and was likely to confine his sex play to exhibition and manual manipulation of the genitalia. He does not attempt coitus because, in many instances, he has not learned that there is such a possibility. In spite of their limited contact with coitus or information about coitus, children raised in homes of educated parents have often seen adult genitalia at an earlier age, however, primarily because of the greater acceptance of nudity in their homes than in lower-class homes. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 112).
An adolescent boy who has already experienced coitus is not likely to make sexual advances toward a child, but if he does, his prior sexual experience will affect his conduct. The trauma of the girl child involved in the following case is apparent.
I was five and the oldest. My sister was four and my brother barely two. We were visiting some relatives on the farm. For lack of anything better to do, my cousin suggested that we play "doctor" and call the tool shed the "doctor's office."
All three of us were delighted with his suggestion. "Doctor" had always been one of our favorite games. In fact, my sister and I were particularly adept at making the Vicks Vapo-Rub solution that was commonly used as medicine in our neighborhood games. We asked about such a mixture, but my cousin told us it wasn't necessary. He had other paraphernalia that would serve his purposes even better.
I was to be his first patient. I was the oldest and proud of that fact. I would serve as a model patient and a shining example for my two younger siblings.
He latched the door securely behind us while my sister and brother waited outside. There were no windows in this small shed and the latch was too high for me to reach. There was a work table along one wall and a small storage bin filled with straw in the back. He said that this was a perfect "doctor's office," complete with "operating table" and "bed."
The medical examination began, and the "doctor" went through all of the necessary motions. He peered into my ears and eyes. He inserted a tongue depressor of some kind into my mouth and checked my throat. I remember that my heart didn't sound very good, and that an operation was necessary.
He had a table knife to perform it with, but first I was to remove all of my clothing and climb onto the operating table. I started to get worried. We'd never played "doctor" quite like this before. I did take off my shirt, determined that that would be all! I just knew that taking my pants off in front of a man was wrong, and that I shouldn't do it under any circumstances.
He was just as determined that my pants should come off. He kept insisting that there was nothing wrong with it; doctors did it all the time. He handled the situation very tactfully and psychologically so as not to frighten me any more than I already was. He offered to help and started to do so, but I would not let go of them. I called for my sister; I knew I was trapped. He told me to be quiet or that they couldn't hear me or something.
He turned his back and said that he wouldn't look at me. That didn't make any difference. Something in the whole situation was very wrong as far as I was concerned. I felt that the only person who could save me was my mother, but I was afraid to tell her. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I feared possible punishment for my part in the situation.
With his back to me, he said, "If you take your pants down, I'll take mine down too." I kept insisting, "No, no!" Then he turned to face me, and he'd done it!
The only penis I'd ever seen in my life was my baby brother's which can't be compared to this sixteen year old boy's. I started to scream. It was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen--big, pink, and hairy.
He begged me to touch it, and grabbed my hands to make me do so. I struggled to free myself and backed as far away from him as was possible. He told me to "put it inside of me." I had no idea where it would go, and had horrible mental pictures of him stuffing it into my mouth. He vaguely explained that it would go into my bottom somehow. He and his girlfriend did it all the time, and she really liked it.
I couldn't believe that. I couldn't imagine anyone enjoying any type of contact with that, much less having it pushed inside of them. I thought that his girlfriend was really strange, and refused to allow him to do it to me.
I must assume that I screamed and cried so much that he just gave up. My sister was outside banging on the door. She was almost as upset as I was by what was going on inside of that shed. My cousin said that he'd let me out only if I promised never to tell anyone about what had happened. I was desperate and I said that I wouldn't. I knew I'd tell my mother though. He'd done something that was so wrong that somehow I had to get even. I needed my own personal guilt removed also. Telling on him would make my actions much more honorable.
We ran back to the house as soon as I escaped. I completely avoided him for the rest of the afternoon. Sometimes I saw him looking at me. I was terrified of him. I knew that I couldn't tell anyone until we'd left his house.
Before leaving the subject of sexual encounters of children with preadolescents and adolescents, we must say a little more about fraternal incest, sexual encounters with siblings. Sharing the same home, in some cases the same room or even the same bed, the possibilities of sexual encounters are ever present. They do occur even in families where the children are closely supervised and where such behavior is not approved of. Cases of fraternal incest commonly stop short of coitus. More often they involve disclosure, fondling, or perhaps oral-genital relations. The following case of a six year old girl child and her preadolescent (ten year old) brother is illustrative.
I remember one Saturday evening when my parents had gone out and my brother and I were at home with a babysitter. I was about six years old and my brother was ten. We had taken our "Saturday evening bath" together, which my parents often let us do. I thought it was great fun. My brother wasn't always as eager to take a bath with me as I was with him, but he was usually willing. On this particular occasion, I imagine because my parents weren't there to supervise, we had been playing with my brother's penis while in the bathtub. When we got out of the tub, my brother said that his penis hurt, that it was sore. He wanted me to put a bandage on it. I did. He said that this made his penis feel so much better. I really couldn't imagine how a bandage could help as his penis wasn't bleeding. He said we'd have to do this again, but we never did. Actually, I received no sexual enjoyment out of fondling his penis, but I did think it was fun.
All of the above cases involving a young child in a sexual encounter with a preadolescent or adolescent could be lumped under an emotionally-laden label--child molestation. But when we take a close look at the encounters we find that the content of the interaction is infinitely varied from case to case. To say that a preadolescent or adolescent is molesting a younger child is far too simple and categorical a way to deal with many of the experiences involved.
Before dealing with encounters involving child-parent interaction around the subject of sex, it is well to consider what the child has learned from observing his parents.
There are societies, and the United States is not one of them, in which no effort or only limited effort is made to conceal parental sexual encounters from children. Among the Melanesian Islanders where a certain amount of parental privacy is considered desirable, if a child becomes too curious and bold it is told to mind its own business and is instructed not to look. (Brecher and Brecher, 1966, p. 188). But among the Alorese, by the age of five children are informed on details of the reproductive act. Members of the Pukapukan household sleep in the same room and although parents may wait until the children are asleep, there are opportunities for youngsters to observe adult sexual activity and sexual matters are talked about. Lesu children are free to observe adult coitus with the exception that they are not to watch their own mothers having coitus. On Ponape children are given instruction in coitus from the fourth or fifth year. Trukese children receive no formal education but they learn by watching adults at night and by asking their elders about sexual matters. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 188-189).
A high proportion of adults in the United States (the Kinsey sample) rather precisely recalled the age at which they had first seen the genitalia of the opposite sex. This, according to Kinsey, emphasizes the importance which such experience has for the child in a culture that has gone to such lengths to conceal the anatomic differences between the sexes. In searching for some characteristic trait that would distinguish the non-marital sexual behavior in primitive societies from other societies, Maxwell (1967) looked to differences in the structure of dwellings. He based his work on the thesis that restrictions placed upon contact--the maintenance of social distance--provide a way in which awe can be generated and sustained. He assumed that sex was most likely to be private in societies where houses had substantial walls that could not be seen through. On the other hand, attitudes toward sex would likely be more casual if people lived in houses made of lattice work or grass or if the houses had no walls. Maxwell made a cross-culture check of his theory having adequate information on wall material and norms of premarital sex behavior for ninety-three societies. The data supported the hypothesis. The more opaque the walls, the stricter the sex norms. Homes in the United States overwhelmingly have opaque walls.
Awe and trauma can occur for the child if he has been sheltered and is suddenly exposed to an unusual adult genital-related experience without receiving an adequate explanation of the behavior, as the following case.
I was intrigued with my mother's physical differences. The most puzzling childhood experience I had involved her menstruation. I awoke one night to see my father carrying my mother, who had hemorrhaged to such an extent that her nightgown was soaked with blood. This terrified and mystified me, not only that night but for some time afterwards. I was so shocked by her appearance that I thought something terrible had happened to her. There again, no attempt was made on my parents' part to explain this normal biological occurrence. The experience happened to me when I was no more than four years old, yet I vividly recall the emotional reactions which took place in my mind.
It is quite rare that parents in the United States show sexual and erotic attachment for each other in the presence of their children and in ways which a child can comprehend. As a result children show little awareness of the sexual relationship between their parents. Parents who have good relations with each other are likely to he seen as associates rather than as lovers by their children. (Mead and Wolfenstein, 1955).
My parents never seemed to show any signs or say anything that might make me consider the possibility of them having another side of their marriage besides the family.
As long as I can remember I have never seen my parents show intimate affection in any way toward each other.
I remember in high school when we used to talk about how affectionate couples are that either were going steady, engaged, or just married, and it was hard to imagine my parents the same way.
I don't believe my folks thought of themselves as functioning separately from us. If they did, they did a good job of concealing it.
There was not much sign of mutual attraction between them, but they just seemed to be existing together. When I was alone with my father, at times when he was perturbed, he would sometimes speak nasty things against my mother. So I figured they were only together and were trying to make a living together. So as I grew up, I grew into this pattern.
I think even my parents' sex expression was subordinated and relegated to a certain time when it wouldn't interfere with the family activities. Even during high school, I can never recall an instance when I was conscious of the fact that my parents were having sex relations.
They seemed a little embarrassed when they kissed in front of us and showed little outward expressions of love. I cannot even remember seeing them hug. This bothered me while I was growing up.
The general taboo on child-parent sexual encounters in the United States makes any specifically sensory-affectional socialization of the child by parents awkward and out of character. This greatly minimizes the amount of intimacy learning that the child receives directly in the home. The prohibitions are not always as inclusive as in the following case, however.
I have no recollection of the word love ever being used by any member of my family. The outward display of emotion was never encouraged but was, in fact, so discouraged that I came to feel that it was a sign of weakness and was wrong. A kiss was never used as a sign of greeting or farewell. This control of any outward display of emotions was so strongly entrenched that I was reluctant all through high school to become involved in any situation which might put a demand on the emotions associated with a relationship between two people of opposite sex.
Though children in the United States have little opportunity to learn of the intimate sexual aspects of sensory-affectional relations from watching their parents, they do pattern their sexual behavior after their parents based on general observation of parental behavior and their own experience of affection or the lack of it in interaction with their parents. Bandura and Walters (1963) report that sexually anxious parents have sons who are both guilty about sex and exhibit anxieties about relating dependently to people. Parents of inhibited boys showed a constellation of general emotional inhibition, sex anxiety, and relatively infrequent dependency responses directed toward other adults. The children learn to model their behavior after their inhibited parents. Bandura and Walters conclude that social training of sex is accomplished mainly through the transmission to children of parental anxiety reactions to the exploratory, manipulative, and curiosity behavior that inevitably occurs during childhood. Because of prolonged negative conditioning at home, many young people respond to their initial sexual experiences with anxiety and guilt and especially fear that their parents might learn of their activities. This is likely as their parents would have it.
Some change is taking place, however, and one must not overlook the cases in which extreme reserve and an anxiety does not prevail, though these cases are in the minority. Some parents in the United States do not attempt to completely mask their own sexual activity and a few even engage in sexual encounters with their own children. In the following case, a kindergarten child describes the bathing experience in her family.
It was in sixth grade when I really started to think and wonder about sex. My girlfriend and I walked to school everyday with a little girl in kindergarten, making sure she got across the busy streets, etc. Out of the clear blue sky one day she started to tell us how her mommie and daddie and she always took baths together and how they played with each other. In terms of what I know now, it was mutual masturbation among the three of them, and when one was missing, it occurred between the other two. However, the thing that struck me the most at the time was the nonchalant way she talked about what they were doing.
Also, some of the new life styles do not take advantage of the privacy that opague walls and locked doors can give, as in the next three cases. It is too early to know the effects of such sexual upbringings on children in contemporary society since we have no longitudinal research data.
Tina was about three. One morning she came in on her parents having intercourse. This was her first exposure to intercourse and her parents could see she was confused and disturbed. As they described their handling of the situation, they sent out "good vibrations" making their enjoyment obvious. They included her in the lovemaking by holding her and talking with her. Tina responded positively and showed no further negative reactions then or later to her parents' lovemaking. (Constantine).
Alice was disturbed by her mother's agitation and breathing during intercourse. She otherwise seemed happy with being with her parents as they made love. Her mother explained the whole thing very carefully one day. Her daughter then said, "I want to make love with you, Mommy." At first her mother didn't know what to do and then decided to go along as long as her daughter seemed okay. She put her hand on her daughter's genitals and suggested Alice put hers on top, showing her mother how it felt best. Her daughter started moving rhythmically and breathing heavily, exactly as she had seen her mother do. Her motion and breathing gradually built up to a climax and she relaxed. Whether she actually reached orgasm or mimicked it is uncertain. She was happy and thanked her mother. (Constantine).
Barb, at five, appeared to be completely comfortable being present when her parents made love. Her parents were casual about sensual interactions with their children. One day Barb asked, "Dad, can I have a 'love-in' with you?" "Well, maybe when you're older, if you still want to we can talk about it." It was an honest reply, not a put-off, and satisfied her. She continued to have interest in erotic involvement with her father with no apparent anxieties on the part of either daughter or father. (Constantine).
The child's first ideas about marriage are based upon what he observes of his parents' behavior and on the encounters he has with his parents. He is aware that emotion and affection are or are not displayed, that sharing does or does not take place, that thoughtfulness and concern are or are not shown. Later on, he seeks to emulate or reject their patterns of behavior. Most parents have something of a life together of which the child is not a part. The child does not always accept the fact that he is an outsider to some parental activity and may have difficulty adjusting to it. In the following case, the secrecy that the child felt cloaked his parents' separation from him added to his feeling of alienation.
I believe I was aware of it when I was about five or six years old. That is when I became aware of the fact my mother and father were going out sometimes at night after I was supposed to be asleep. My room was near the garage, and the opening garage door made quite a racket. It would awaken me, and I often would lie awake until they returned late at night. I figured that they were trying to keep this secret from me by sneaking out while I was asleep. This made me think they felt a little guilty about it, and so I never brought it up, although I often cried for hours while they were gone because the situation disturbed me so.
Many parents who "go out" do not hide this fact from their children but provide a surrogate parent in the person of a baby-sitter. On the other hand, most children do not learn much about sexual behavior even from parents who accept their own sexual activity and enjoy it because of the parents' desire for privacy, their ingenuity, and their felt 'need' to keep sexuality secret from the child. (Gagnon, August 1965, p. 225). Children often contribute to the parents' felt need of secrecy by showing disgust or rejection of the sex displays of their parents. Young people often report that any sight of their parents showing affection toward each other embarrassed them as children.
This is not always true. In the following case the child shows real appreciation of the father's show of affection for the mother.
My father tries to do whatever he can to make it easier and better for all of us. He shows many outward signs of love and affection toward my mother in the presence of us children. This is especially detectable by the way my father kisses my mother and the little things he says to her, which have no great meaning to us, but do to mother.
But on balance, from survey data and from case histories we must conclude that whenever a young child in the United States engages verbally or physically in a sexual encounter with a parent the situation is usually one of conflict rather than accommodation, cooperation, and affection. I suspect, however, that the case history sample based on recall is somewhat biased in that sexual encounters involving conflict provide more trauma and are indelibly etched on the memory when compared to sexual encounters that do not involve conflict, trauma or guilt.
Most sexual encounters of children with their parents involve the parent not as a participant in the encounter but as an observer of a sexual encounter between the child and a peer. The parent often makes his appearance unexpectedly and puts a stop to the activity. (Litin, et al, 1956).
The child also learns what the prevailing adult attitudes are toward sex even without parental interference in direct encounters. The tone of voice in which gossip is relayed warns him to avoid becoming a subject for similar gossip. The care and circumlocution with which certain matters of sex are avoided in books, in the press, and in other public communications subtly reminds the child of the state of public opinion on these matters. Discussions of such things as divorce, marital discord, the sexual scandals of the community and the gossip about public figures probably have more influence in controlling the child's behavior than any specific action that society may take or any legal penalties that are attached to those things. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 446). Children notice at an early age that certain topics may not be mentioned. They experience and become sensitized to the embarrassed and critical attitudes displayed by adults whenever anything pertaining to sex comes up for discussion. They are frequently instructed not to repeat to outsiders any information given them about genital differences or child birth. (Conn, 1940).
My problem was the modesty of my parents, especially my father, regarding sexuality and the existence of male and female bodies and their functions. If there were any possible chance that I might be in the area when my father was dressing, he made sure that the door was shut tightly. It seemed to me that there was something to be ashamed of in nudity of the human male body. This was the only subject about which my parents were unwilling to talk. We planned and did everything together as a family. Their hesitancy on this subject was very plain, however.
Given a framework of repression and avoidance by parents and other adults and by adult-sponsored agencies, the child gets the bulk of his sexual information, though not his attitudes, through peer relationships. The parents do not provide cognitive information about sexuality for the child, but they create attitudes and orientations through which information from other children is filtered. (Gagnon, August 1965, p. 223).
There is not a great deal of variety in the sexual encounters involving the child three to seven years old and his parents (usually his mother), at least insofar as data on middle-class children is concerned. The encounters are mostly symbolic (verbal) rather than direct tactile encounters. Parent, usually mother, has the upper hand and her response to sexual activity of her child is characterized by negative injunctions, ambiguous responses, postponed responses, and definitions of the situation in non-sexual terms whenever possible. These patterns of parental response will be illustrated in the cases that follow.
We turn first to some cases in which the role of the adult other (usually the mother) is characterized by negative injunction and unambiguous instruction coupled at times with other negative behavior. It is important to bear in mind that these are encounters recalled from childhood by the child, not by the parent. The parent might well have a different recall of the encounter; but it does not matter--we want to see how the event influenced the child, not the parent.
In the first case, the mother responds to a four year old's masturbation with harsh words which inspire some feeling of guilt but not enough to interrupt the pattern of behavior.
I was about four years old at the time, and had recently discovered masturbation. I was found one day by my mother as she looked in at me during my usual afternoon nap. I was lying naked on the bed in the process of stimulation. I was not physically punished but did receive a few harsh words that inspired some degree of guilt in me. I have continued masturbation. Masturbation was a substantial part of my early life.
In the next case the mother's reaction to a similar situation is marked by negative affect ("she was shocked"), negative injunction ("told me not to do it anymore") and unambiguous behavior ("spanked me").
When I (a three or four year old boy who had discovered the pleasant sensation of masturbation) excitedly showed my mother, she was shocked, told me not to do it anymore and spanked me. Then she never mentioned it again.
The child quickly learned that this pleasant sexual experience was not something to be shared with his mother. The fact that she "never mentioned it again" is significant. Children remember being admonished "not to do it anymore." In many non-sexual things that the child does the mother stops the activity but promises the child that he can do it later, or can do it when he is old enough. Not so with sexual activity; children do not recall that the negative injunction is ever removed by the mother saying, "Now it is alright to do it." Because of this negative reaction of the parents, children masturbate with feelings of guilt. Masturbation then becomes a "group" rather than an individual activity since mother or father, with negative response, is present as a significant other in the child's fantasy, disapproving of his activity as he masturbates.
"Show it" activity is also apt to be met by negative injunction or unambiguous instruction ("never do such a thing again") resulting in confusion for the child.
We saw no harm in this (boy and neighbor girl stripping to examine each other) but our parents scolded us, and told us never to do such a thing again. This troubled me, my body was not to be seen by anyone except myself.
In the following case, mother lost her composure ("she became quite upset") and gave unambiguous instructions ("never to touch this object again") with no explanation as to the reason for the unambiguous instructions and without indicating that the injunction would ever be removed. It is doubtful that the mother really meant that her daughter should never touch a contraceptive again!
When rummaging through my mother's chest-of-drawers I discovered a circular, rubbery object (a diaphragm). Too wide and flat to be a balloon, I was fascinated by the fact that I could stretch this piece of rubber, and so I did. I was caught by my mother who became quite upset and told me never to touch this object again without any explanation as to what it was.
The words "never again" come easily to the lips of a repressive mother.
My friend and I were in the basement of our home, hiding behind the furnace, about to do something "nasty." My friend dropped his trousers, bent over, and manly spread his "cheeks" in order for me to get the best view possible. I exclaimed. Then I did the same thing for him and he exclaimed. Later my mother asked what we were doing in the basement. I finally told her that we were showing butts. She told me never to do anything like that again. I felt almost certain that I had done something which would prove to be irreparably damaging to my future life.
The effects of a good tongue-lashing stayed with me for approximately one year, after which time I had grown out of my fixation and eventually realized myself that it was probably not that horrible a thing to do.
Sexual encounters between peers often end abruptly when mother enters the scene. Mother spanks, reprimands, separates the participants, and threatens, as in the following case. Mother viewed the situation in an extremely negative manner and reacted accordingly. But it was "effective"--"we discontinued our sex play."
One of my girl cousins was only a few months older than I (a boy) so we played together quite often when we were in grade school. Our games included sex play with her genitals. We were quite aware that what we were doing was "wrong," but we continued this type of activity until her mother caught us. She gave us both a spanking, said what we were doing was very bad, and put us in different rooms in the house for the rest of the day. She threatened to tell my mother, but I don't think she ever did. We discontinued our sex play after that time.
Even something so innocent and spontaneous as an erection may meet with scolding and slapping from a repressive adult thus "frightening the sexual dickens" out of a little boy.
When an erection would occur our mother would scold us and this tended to frighten us. I remember one time I was visiting my grandmother. I had just taken a bath and she wanted to see if I was clean or not. As she cleaned my navel I had an erection. She said, "Oh, Gary!" and gave it a little slap. It just frightened the sexual dickens out of me.
Showing one's age mate of the same sex results of one's recent circumcision can meet with "screaming and hollering" and spanking from mother. It is bad to be "caught in the act" as the following two cases attest.
I was playing with my friend. He had just been to the doctor and was telling me what they had done to him. He showed me his penis, and just as he did so, his mother entered the room hollering and screaming. I remember I was so scared I hid my face in my hands and ran out the door and down the stairs the first chance I had. As I ran home, I knew he was getting a licking...
The earliest situation which I can recall involving a sexual component, occurred at the age of five. Jane, my cousin, and myself were put into the same bed at her home where we were visiting. We talked and played for some time as all children who are told to get "right to sleep" do. We began playing "doctor." While playing, we both began toying with each other's genitals. I did not receive much stimulation and was primarily interested in touching and examining her. I knew nothing about sex at the time although I was aware that girls were different. While we were playing, my mother entered the bedroom and ordered us to get out of bed "that instant," at the same time turning on the lights. I was able to recover my pants but Jane lost hers in the blankets. When she refused to get out my mother forced her to. Mother made us go out into the living room and stand in front of the adults, not allowing Jane to get dressed. While I cannot remember the adults' exact words, they were shocked and angry. I felt extremely guilty.
Lest the reader get the impression that only parents in Western societies with their Victorian morality repress sexual activity of children, we point out that punishment also characterizes the reactions of parents to children's sexual encounters in some so-called nonliterate societies. Susii parents, for instance, do not tolerate sex play of their children. They beat both boys and girls for indulging in it. Nevertheless, children find opportunities to escape parental supervision and engage in heterosexuality. Adults are aware that children "in general" do such things, but they become upset on learning that a child of their own has done so.
In sexual situations involving child and parent in the United States, the parental responses are commonly unambiguous if the parental response is a negative one. If the parent seems undecided as to what his own response should be, his response is commonly ambiguous or he postpones any response to some not clearly defined later time. The responses are labeled in parentheses in the cases that follow. An ambiguous parental response, coupled with apparent affect, is accompanied by a negative injunction in the following case.
My mother found out what was going on (homosexual activity involving ego--seven years old--and a twelve year old boy) since I had confided my experiences to my younger brother. She was angry (negative affect), but also a bit confused it seemed (ambiguous response). She looked at me as if I were a creature from the outer galaxies. Then she told me how wrong it was to be doing things like that (negative evaluation). How I could have used a good lecture on sex at that moment! Although dad never said anything about the incident, he and mom would come into my room at night and would ask me questions. At one time I overheard dad talking, telling mom that I should be taken to a doctor (ambiguous response). Of course this scared me. His parents were also informed, and we were forbidden to see or talk to one another (unambiguous negative response).
It hardly needs saying that many parents in the United States do not agree with Burch (1952) that "every child deserves some interest and pleasure from sex. He also needs some privacy."
The next morning I told my mother what had happened (13 year old baby-sitter on 7 year old girl's bed with his penis exposed) in a very calm manner. I couldn't fully understand why she was so upset (negative affect). She questioned many times as to what had happened (ambiguous response). The experience had a lasting affect on the relationship between myself and my parents.
The following case is recalled by the informant as containing what could be labeled a negative response, negative evaluation of behavior, unambiguous negative instruction and ambiguous positive information.
When I was about five years old, I distinctly remember drawing pictures of both boys and girls with penises in the act of urinating. I laughed and thought the pictures were funny. When my mother saw the pictures she reprimanded me (unambiguous negative) and told me that what I was doing was not nice (negative evaluation) and that I could not draw those "naughty" pictures anymore (unambiguous negative). She told me that girls did not have 'thingies' (ambiguous positive) but she did not give any further explanation.
It isn't only attention to the genitalia and their functions that disturb the sexually repressive parents. Such a parent does not approve of using oranges as simulated breasts either!
Once at about the age six I put oranges in the front pockets of my shirt, but I was immediately reprimanded (unambiguous response) and told that doing such a thing was "not very nice" (negative injunction) but was not told "why" (ambiguous).
The postponed response ("she said she would explain it sometime") is a tactic employed by parents. The postponed response is commonly a response that is never forthcoming--"that sometime never came." In the following case, the child is also aware of another type of affect--in this case ambiguous affect--they "chuckled to themselves."
I questioned my mother about those metal boxes in the ladies' restroom that say Kotex. She and another woman chuckled to themselves and she said she would explain it sometime. Well, that sometime never came until I found out for myself.
Rural children see animals copulating and it has been said that because of such experiences rural children do not need sex education--they learn from the animals. But rural children do not receive sex education from their parents in connection with such events, and transference from seeing animals copulate to an understanding of human sex and love is not likely. Even in regard to animal sex the parents may decide that the child is "not old enough to know about such things yet" (postponed response). Even in regard to animal sexual behavior "that day never did come."
When I helped my father in the barn, I often saw the afterbirth from the cows in the gutter when we were cleaning the barn. I quite naturally was curious as to what the afterbirth was and asked dad what it was. He told me that I was not old enough to know about such things yet, but that he would tell me when I was older. However, that day never did come.
Not one parent in the Sears (Sears, et al, 1957) study was found to be completely free and open in the discussion of sex with young children. One reason why parents are not open in sex discussion is the fear that any attention called to the subject may awaken the child to erotic activity--"he's one of those guys who would go out and try it." (Sears, Maccoby, and Levin, 1957, p. 192).
The average child of five or six who has not been openly and positively socialized about sexual matters and who has had an opportunity to observe genital differences can say that "girls have shorter ones and boys have longer ones" or that "a boy's sticks out and a girl's doesn't." But he is very reluctant to divulge the name or label by which he knows the organ. The name he knows for the organ may be as innocuous as the term "dewdrop," "teddy bear," "dicky bird," "train," or "pieces of string." Nevertheless, the child becomes restless, bites his lip, or hangs his head and refuses to speak when he is requested to utter the word which refers to that part of the body. Conn and Kanner (1947) reported no less than sixty-one different names for the sex organs in the vocabularies of two hundred children. But they were most reluctant to use them. Many had two or three terms for the sex organs which they could use interchangeably. Most of these terms served both for the male and the female genitals. The great majority of children had something to say about how bad, naughty, "not nice" it was to talk about genitality, genitals, to see others undressed, and to be seen in the nude. Sex talk was generally regarded as a great offense. This attitude was especially strong when it came to naming the genitals. A girl six years old said, "that's a bad word." When she was asked why, she said "because it's really bad." A five year old boy said "a girl has a different thing. I don't want to say it because it might be a bad word."
This phenomenon of non-labeling or mislabeling the sex organs and their functions, encouraged by many parents, leaves the child without a vocabulary with which to think properly or to describe human physical attributes and his own physical or psychic experiences. Because he lacks a definitive sexual vocabulary, it is possible that fantasy will overrun his sex life. The mysterious penis that supposedly exists behind the female pubic hair, the feeling that females have been castrated, and other childhood fantasies are possible because there is no system of naming of parts and functions which guides the child's nascent interest in his own or other's bodies. (Gagnon, 1965).
When child and parent do not share an adequate vocabulary for under standing the sexual structure and function, true communication cannot take place. The child senses that the parent has strong attitudes about sex. But he does not know what it is that the parent feels strongly about or why he feels that way.
One might ask, if a parent feels unable to give correct information, are there types of misinformation that are less damaging to the child than others?! I submit that there are. Innocuous misinformation given rationally is apt to have less negative effect on the child than if the parent handles the situation by going "into a rage."
I was over at a friend's house and she and I were examining the contents of her dad's dresser drawer. I remember her pulling out condoms, however, we thought they were balloons. We took them outside and proceeded to blow them up. Her mother came home and went into a rage. She told us they were naughty and that we should never play with such things again. As we were really scared, we told her that some kids had given them to us. Out of curiosity, we looked in all the drawers at my house. Again, eventually finding our so-called balloons in my dad's drawer. This time we were caught filling them up with water. My mother simply explained that as I had some special possessions that I didn't want people to touch, so did everyone else and that this was one of my dad's. When asked what it was used for, we were told that it was used by dads in their work.
Generally speaking the schools have been no better than the parents when it comes to sex education. Ambiguity, misinformation, mislabeling and excessive idealism often characterize sex instruction in the schools as well as at home. For example, a school principle told me that his school felt that it was being very progressive and was doing the right thing when they told children that every child born is the result of an act of love on the part of the parents. In this case, some progressive parents called in as consultants on the school's sex education curriculum objected to such instruction, pointing out that such instruction was too idealistic. Not every child is the fruition of an act of love. In this case, the parents wanted the school to tell the truth!
If the home atmosphere is sexually repressive, the children do not ask many sex-related questions. Conn (1948) reports that twenty-nine percent of 128 boys and thirty percent of 72 girls in one of his studies had inquired about sexual topics. As a group, the more intelligent children offered more questions per child. But even in the superior group (I.Q. 111-140) the average number of sex inquiries did not rise above two questions for each child. The children (four to six years of age) used such information as they had received at home, and combining this information with their limited experiences, were able to produce naive explanations as to where babies come from, for instance. The child of this age thinks of "being born" in such terms as: "the baby is little"; "they grow out of the ground"; "they grow and then they buy them"; "the baby comes from the hospital"; "God put 'em in. God makes 'em." (Conn, 1948). Of twenty-five children of pre-school age (four to six years of age), God was frequently referred to as the source of babies. Children also spoke of babies as being bought from stores. In about one-third of the cases they mentioned the hospital as a place where babies are obtained. The idea of the doctor as the person who brings the baby to the mother was introduced by only two children. There was no reference to the mother's role in the coming of the baby, and the concept of the birth process was foreign to these children of 1948 who are the parents of the 1970s. As we will see shortly, children twenty years later were not giving better answers than were the children in 1948.
When children under five do ask questions, they are asked in the following order in terms of interest according to Hattendorf (1932); origin of babies, physical sex differences, organs and functions, coming of another baby, process of birth, relations of father to reproduction, intra-uterine growth, and marriage. It would appear from this list that the parent generation that is doing an inadequate job of providing sex information today was asking fairly sophisticated questions in its own childhood. No doubt they weren't receiving answers either. Even in a family where parents are permissive and relaxed, as in the following encounter involving nudity, the child may meet with an ambiguous response when he asks questions.
In one area of sex my parents were very open. They didn't feel it was necessary to shield our eyes from their bodies nor from the bodies of anyone in our family. Thus, the physical differences between the sexes was made very apparent to me at that early age (four years old). One of the resultant experiences I can distinctly remember, involved my father when he was in the process of relieving himself. Having seen myself and having completed not too long before my own toilet training, I (a girl) was curious to know why he was standing up, and what it was he had between his legs. When I questioned him about this though, I don't remember exactly what he said, except that he avoided the question, which left it to my imagination to figure out.
There is a collection of art work done mostly by first and second graders on the subject "Where was I before I was born?" or "What did I look like before I was born?" with comments by many of the children on their drawings that give insight into children's sex knowledge today. (Miles, 1967). Teachers were asked to have the pupils answer these questions with a painting. The response was enthusiastic. The pictures and comments are revealing, for one can glimpse pictorially, the gaps in a young child's sexual knowledge. There are gross misconceptions. One child noted on his picture, "This is me when I was up in heaven and God brought me down in my mommy's stomach." Many drew pictures of themselves sitting up in the clouds and sky. Imagine these children interpreting the poetic euphemism, "God sent you," as meaning that children sit patiently in heaven waiting for God to magically insert them into their mothers' "stomachs" to be born.
Children drew pictures showing that they were born in a baby carriage, glass case, under a stone, in a cabbage patch, or on a far off planet. One child who drew an outdoor scene said of it, "Before I was born I think I was a seed. And after I was born my father was at a ball game. And in the middle of the game my father came to the hospital and I was there." Many children today show hospitals and nurses and doctors in their pictures. Often the mother's trip to the hospital was described as going to have an operation and get shots. The significant point is that, despite all the limitations of knowledge, each child had given thought to the subject and was willing to express himself. The pictures show that the inadequate answers given to questions about origins of babies and sexual anatomy and physiology today, as earlier, often result in misconceptions. The following two cases show why this is likely to be true.
As about age six I was quite inquisitive as to why my parents had not had any babies before me. Questioning them on this point, I was informed that my father had been away from my mother in the service, and of course they couldn't have any babies then. Puzzled, I asked why not, but my only answer was an indulgent smile and a knowing glance between them.
The first question I remember asking about birth concerned my grandmother, a widow. I wondered at about age five, why grandma did not have any more babies. It was my mother who answered me. She explained that a woman could not have a baby without a husband. But still I wondered how a woman got a baby. Her answer, which seemed quite adequate for me at that time, was that the husband and wife asked God for a baby. There was no mention of sexual intercourse, so I remained totally unaware of the man's role in bringing babies into the world.
An occasional, but only an occasional, young person today remembers having received a good grounding in sex from his parents during the childhood period.
I was never told any of the popular myths such as the stork brings babies or that you buy them in a hospital. I thought it was strange that other mothers made up stories, and I think I felt more grown up because my mother told me the truth. I had one playmate that thought you bought babies at the hospital and I really thought he was dumb.
The first time I remember my mother explaining anything to me I was no more than four or five years old, possibly right before or after my first brother was born. The details are very vague now, but I do remember her talking about the "egg" from the mother and the "sperm" from the father and that there was a "place in mommy's body where daddy's penis fitted into place" and that was how the sperm and egg came together. Throughout my childhood all the body parts including the sexual organs and all the body functions were never referred to by substitute "baby talk" names.
To get some perspective on the degree of permissiveness or repressiveness of parents, Sears (Sears, et al, 1957) tabulated mothers' reported evaluations of their reactions to sex play among children and the severity of the pressure brought to bear on children. Only two percent rated themselves as "entirely permissive" and an additional fourteen percent of the mothers reported that they had made no attempt to stop sex play when they encountered it. Miller and Swanson (1958) found in Detroit that about the same number of mothers said they had done something about the child touching his genitals as said they had not done anything. Of the seventeen percent of the population who said their children had touched their genitals and they had done something about it, five percent diverted the child's attention, seven percent used gentle physical prevention or talked to the child, two percent punished the child physically and two percent used shame or ridicule. In a recent interview study (Lindahl, 1973), a small random sample of mothers in Minnesota were asked what they had done when they noticed their child "handling his genitals--playing with himself." The answers ranged from complete permissiveness to complete restrictiveness. Except for five percent of the responses that could not be categorized, twenty-nine percent were completely restrictive while sixty-six percent gave answers that could be categorized as slightly to entirely permissive, with twenty-four percent falling in the entirely permissive category.
There is much variation from society to society as well as within societies as to permissiveness of children and adults. A permissive attitude is taken toward autogenital stimulation of children and adolescents in most societies, while adult masturbation is generally frowned upon. In some societies masturbation is condemned regardless of the individual's age, but in many societies it is believed that for the young boy or girl masturbation is a natural and normal activity. Among the Hopi and Sirion, masturbation passes practically unnoticed during early childhood, adults taking a tolerant and permissive attitude toward all sexual behavior at least until the age of puberty. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 188).
Among the Pukapukans of Polynesia, where parents simply ignore the sexual activity of young children, boys and girls masturbate freely and openly in public. Among the Nama Hottentot no secret is made of autogenital stimulation in early childhood. Young Trobriand children also engage in a variety of sexual activities. In the absence of adult control, typical forms of amusement for Trobriand girls and boys include manual and oral stimulation of the genitals and simulated coitus. Young Seniang children publicly simulate adult copulation without being reproved; older boys masturbate freely and play sexual games with little girls, but the boys are warned not to copulate on the grounds that this behavior would weaken them. Lesu children playing on the beach give imitations of adult sexual intercourse, and adults regard this as a natural and normal game. On Tikopia small boys induce erections in themselves through manual manipulation, and this is ignored or, at most, mildly reproved by adults. Little girls also masturbate without being punished. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 189).
The parent in the United States often states that he does not feel free to be permissive because of what the grandparents or the neighbors might think or say. If their child consistently behaves in a manner which others disapprove of, the other children are told not to play with the misbehaving child. (Sears, et al, 1957). Knowing that their child will be ostracized if he does not conform to neighborhood standards even if his own family disagrees with these standards puts pressure on the parent to have their children conform.
There is an unwritten rule among middle class parents in the United States that one parent must not punish another parent's child. This rule may apply even if that child is caught in what the parent regards as a reprehensible sex act. So it usually happens that if a mother detects a neighbor child in some improper act, she sends the child home or tells the other mother rather than to punish the child. Within limits, however, some adult, especially a relative, may take the disciplinarian role and apply the negative sanction as in the following two cases. The sanction is only a mild verbal one in both cases, however, and one unlikely to infringe on the perogative of the parent.
My aunt discovered us (boy and girl going to the toilet together) and after a little talk, I think we both remember that girls go to the bathroom alone and boys go to the bathroom alone.
I thought masturbation was okay so I showed a couple of my friends. That's how I finally got caught in the act. We three were all sitting on the sofa of their playroom masturbating when their mother walked in. She didn't get angry but sat down and told us to pull up our pants. She explained how those were our private parts and not to be shared in front of other people. It embarrassed me enough to stop masturbating with other kids. We never got together to masturbate again.
Encounters involving sexual intimacy between child and adult can range from overheard adult sex talk, to totally innocent and accidental encounters, to sensationally aggressive and violent child molestation.
I do recall that I did have pleasurable experiences connected with the rectal portion of a physical examination given me by the doctor during one illness when I was about three.
In first grade, I can remember my first actual erection. I was sitting on my teacher's lap, but was neither ashamed nor embarrassed at the small bulge in my pants.
It is common in the United States to debase non-marital sexual activity, and especially that which involves adults and children--incest, pedophilia, exhibitionism, and child-molestation have become pejorative terms. We use the general term pedophilia to define sexual behavior wherein adults derive erotic pleasure from encounters with children. Pedophilic practices include exposure of the genitals to a child, manipulation of a child, and possible penetration of a child, though the latter is not common.
Adults who expose themselves to children are almost always of the male gender. Such exhibitionists usually do not pursue the child or aggressively seek involvement beyond exposing themselves.
The darkness of the theater made us a little reticent to search for a seat (seven years old), until our eyes were adjusted to the indistinctness. To my right sat two of my friends and next to one friend sat a man... He was no concern of ours because many times parents accompanied their children to the movies. What happened then took place so quietly and swiftly I doubt that anyone else in the theater was aware of the horrible sensation that we felt. All of a sudden I was aware that my friends were not watching the movie, but their attention and eyes were focused on the man. His raincoat was open and he had fully exposed himself and was manipulating his genitals. He seemed to be almost laughing softly, and sat there staring at us. We did not fully understand what was happening. We sat there and stared in awe with feelings of curiosity and inquisitiveness while greatly mixed with emotions of distaste and repulsiveness. Yet, we did not scream or break into hysterics, but sat as though we were hypnotized. We must have all felt as though the sight was wrong, because in unison the three of us quietly left our seats and headed towards the back of the theater.
Contrary to common assumptions, old men are relatively uncommon child molesters, and their approaches to children might be judged as quite harmless, as the following cases attest.
When I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old, I got to know an old couple who lived next door fairly well. I never really liked the man, though, because he was hunched over and always seemed a little too friendly, especially when his wife was gone. One day my friend and I were supposed to take something over to the neighbor lady, but the lady wasn't home and only the old man was there. He was friendly to us as usual and gave us candy. Then he told us that he had something special to show us, but we had to promise not to tell anyone what we saw. Of course we were curious, so he took us in the bathroom, unzipped his pants and showed us his pubic hairs, saying that they were about the longest ones anyone could have. We were really shocked and left immediately. I don't think that I was so scared by what happened as by what could happen if anyone found out.
"Grandpa" (my aunt's father) who was about 85 years old, piled the three of us on his lap to read us a story from a children's book. At age seven, I still enjoyed having older people read to me. After he finished reading, he placed the book on the coffee table and just talked with us about what we had been doing. As he was talking, I felt his aged hand reach into my underpants and touch me. I was pretty young so I really didn't know what to do or say. I felt like telling what he was doing, but I was too afraid so I remained completely silent.
The middle to late thirties, and the late fifties, are major age groups from whose ranks so-called molesters come. (Mohr, 1964). In the following case, the man "probably in his late thirties" is bold and persistent in soliciting the child's cooperation. The child's fear of further aggression had she cooperated and left the store with the man seems reasonable in this case.
It was a Saturday morning and my parents had left me in the store to look at toys. I was around six at the time. The toys that I was interested in were on the back shelf so I could not reach them. As I was still attempting to reach for them a man, probably in his late thirties, came up to help me. At first I thought he was a clerk. He gave the toys to me and started to ask me questions. He seemed to be a rather nice gentleman. After about ten minutes of conversation he left. Just a few minutes later the man came up to me again and said that he had been thinking it over and he wanted to buy me the toy that I was looking at. He took my hand and walked me over to the appropriate counter. He told me to reach into his pocket for money. I was shocked when there was no pocket and I touched bare skin. Quickly I took my hand away. The man said I had put my hand in the wrong pocket, and that I should try the other one. I was not going to be fooled again and I refused. Then he offered to buy me the toy plus give me fifty cents. I really wanted the toy and with the added incentive, it was too tempting an offer to resist. I found out that the other side did not have any pockets either. He told me to reach in further because the money was deep. I felt something fleshy and hard and I did not know what "it" was. I got scared and took my hand away.
He then offered me a dollar if I would go out of the store with him. This was a lot of money for a little kid. However, I remembered what my parents had said about leaving the store with strangers. So I did not leave.
His next approach was to tell me about his little girl who was just my age. He said it was her birthday today and he was going to buy her a birthday present. He wanted me to help him pick it out and that was the reason he wanted me to leave the store with him. He said he only wanted to go to the next store down. Luckily my parents had instilled in me that we were never to leave the store no matter what the reason or no matter what was offered to us. So again I declined.
He then asked if I would just walk around the store with him. If I would do that he would still give me a dollar. Again this was enough of an incentive to go along with him. And besides, I was still in the store. After I walked with him for awhile I realized that we were getting close to the exit door. I asked him if he would give me the dollar now because I had to start looking for my parents. As I started to leave, he grabbed me and asked me for one more favor.
He asked me to go downstairs with him and help him pick out some underpants for his little girl. Still remembering the promise of a dollar and also being rather stupid, I went downstairs with him. There were not many people downstairs and there were only two clerks. We went directly to the girls' underclothes section. He told me to pick out the underpants that I would like. As I was looking at the clothes I did not see him move behind me. The next thing I realized, he had my dress up and was taking my underpants down. I jerked away from him and asked him what he was doing. While I was backing away from him he said he just wanted to see what color my underpants were. I turned and ran upstairs...
Children need to be protected from sexual molestation by adults, and adults need to be wary of being compromised by the conscious or unconscious sexual seduction of children. The child is sometimes the initiator or provoker in child-adult sexual encounters. The child's behavior is determined by complex conscious and unconscious drives. The child may seek a form of satisfaction which is given through an affectional-sexual encounter. (Bender and Blau, 1937). The child as well as the adult may be seeking the satisfaction that intimacy can give, but society does not view such encounters charitably. The American observer in the following case was "sickened" by observing what may have been an innocent encounter between two persons with intimacy needs.
I left the home (a Church operated girls' home in Italy) alone and, passing a heavy clump of foliage on the side of the path, noticed an older priest explaining something about the leaves to a girl of about seven. He hovered over her in fervent explanation and his free hand rambled over her small body. This presented a problem I had not thought of and I sickened...
The best account that I know of in the literature on the ambivalent attitudes of a child toward molestation by an adult is in an account by Maya Angelou (1970, p. 94-98). She provides a graphic and moving account of a child's response to the tenderness, as well as to the violence, that can accompany intimate, sexual encounters with an adult. In good faith she cooperates and receives certain satisfactions only later to be deeply hurt by rape, extreme feelings of guilt, and the threat of violence by the molester should she tell of the experience to anyone. The events that follow an occasion of child molestation can be as traumatic or more traumatic for both parties than the precipitating event itself. Intimacy is a normal part of the maturational process of children, and even child molestation, if no violent aggression or physical harm accompanies the activity, need not create sexual trauma for the child. Distress, anger, and anxiety of parents, a police investigation, and a court trial may have more traumatic effect on the child than the sexual experience itself. The aggressor in such a child-adult encounter is generally assumed to be the adult. The reader is again referred to Angelou's perceptive account of a raped child as seen through the eyes of an offended child.
A major difference between the child and the adult in a child-adult intimate encounter is that the adult is likely aware that there are statues which severely threaten his freedom if he is caught. The written codes and the prescriptions of the common law are not influential in controlling the child's sexual behavior. His childhood experiences are behind him before he has any comprehension of the nature of the legal proscriptions of adult sex codes. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 447).
More and more authorities on child development are accepting intimate and even sexual encounters as a normal part of the maturational process. (Katzman, 1972). Child sexuality is being seen in a broad context. No longer do we feel that early discovery of genital differences, child-child sex play, or even a single occurrence of sexual molestation will have lasting ill effects on a child involved in a stable pattern of ongoing family and community experiences. Healthy children are not as easily upset by sexual experiences as some theorists would have us believe. Feeling the genitals of another child, getting a glimpse of the parent undressed, or a look at a "girly" magazine does not seriously disturb the average child. (Finch, 1969). The child that is traumatized by the sight of a nude body, or by learning that intercourse occurs, or by learning that babies grow inside of the mother has previously developed a background of experience such that sooner or later, in one context or another, he would have been unable to cope with sexual stimuli. (Gagnon, 1965).
There is no one universal reaction to the discovery of genital differences of the sexes, for instance. There exists varying degrees of acceptance, and the emotional tone accompanying the discovery is frequently one of serenity. (Conn, 1940). Children generally accept the differences between the sexes with composure though some have a feeling of strangeness, surprise, curiosity, disappointment, or humor.
My father when undressed was a source of awe; hair all over his legs, on his chest and genitals, a penis much larger than mine, and absence of foreskin on the penis. The fact of circumcision troubled me somewhat, for my father and most of my friends were circumcised, while I was not. Though I was curious, I never asked anyone about it.
There are children who are somewhat disturbed, of course. They feel that something is "wrong" with what they have seen, something that should not be. Acceptance is mingled with the feeling that reality has somehow not come up to expectations. Some boys, thinking in terms of the presence of external genitalia in the male and absence in the female, assume that girls have lost an existing penis. Some girls also think that "something is wrong" with what they see. (Conn, 1940).
Young people today generally recall their childhood sexual encounters including their sex education, as having been almost totally inadequate in preparing them for experiences with the opposite sex during adolescence and adulthood. If the child received any formal sex education at all from parents or from the school, it usually has consisted of a certain amount of information concerning anatomy and the mechanisms of reproduction. Kinsey could say of such instruction in the mid-forties that it "has a minimum if any effect upon the patterns of sexual behavior, and, indeed, it may have no effect at all." (Kinsey, 1948, p. 443). But a young person reflecting on the sexual experiences and education of his childhood is not necessarily a reliable source of information. Positive encounters of childhood may have no conscious impact upon his life at the time, and hence he does not remember them. But socio-sexual attitudes are acquired whether the child is aware of them or not and long before the child knows of their significance for his own socio-sexual maturation and experiences. This is in no sense intended as a defense of the sexual upbringing of the child in the United States today. It is patently inadequate made up as it is of large elements of secrecy, repression, anxiety, and isolated negative encounters with adults.
From the time I was old enough to know anything of what was going on I was told to keep my hands away from my genitals, even if I had an itch. I really didn't understand why, but I took it for granted that my parents knew what they were doing.
The first real scolding I received for touching or playing with my penis was when I was four or five years old. I was in the bathtub and my father walked out of the room for a few seconds. When he came back I had worked up a soapy lather all over my crotch. He scolded me and told me not to do that again. Misunderstanding the chastisement to be not merely for playing with my genitals, but for washing them too, I was afraid to wash myself there for a long time.
It is too early to say if the programs of sex education for children being introduced in the schools today are effective. Given the data we have, it is reasonable to conclude regarding the intimate encounters of children that if parents do not become emotionally upset there is little evidence that the child's experience (short of forced rape, of course) does serious damage to his later adjustment. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 115). Children recall with appreciation instances in which their parents remain calm and rational in the face of a childhood sexual encounter. This is quite evident in the three cases that follow. In the first case a girl and a boy seven or eight years of age were discovered by the mother of the girl in an act of exposure and genital stimulation.
We stood rooted to the spot as she took in the scene, her surprise showing in her red face. Then she calmly told Johnny to put his pants back on and for both of us to come down for dessert. She seemed pleasant enough, but I felt very guilty and couldn't look at either her or my cousin the rest of the evening. Later that evening, after the guests had left, my mother came into the room and shut the door. I was afraid to face her, but she turned out to be very understanding, telling me that boys and girls were different, which of course I knew, and that adults and children alike tend to explore new things. Looking back, her approach to the subject seems especially good, in that she left me with the feeling that my cousin was not a naughty boy to be avoided, but simply someone who was curious about other people, which is a basic human trait. She also said that where we live it isn't proper to run around "bare naked," but that in... other places, that was a normal way of life.
In the next two cases, a five year old girl and a six year old girl have been "rescued" from situations in which they were molested and propositioned--in the first case by the girl's sixteen year old cousin and in the second by an adult male who was a stranger to the girl.
On the way home in the car that night, I stood in the back on the floor and leaned forward between my parents. I don't remember my exact words, but I briefly related my adventure well enough for them both to understand immediately. Again my father said very little or nothing at all. It was dark so I couldn't see my mother's face very clearly. I missed her initial reaction, but I do remember she handled the situation very well. She didn't get upset. I'm sure that if she had I would have been more afraid of what had almost happened than I already was. She simply told me that what my cousin had tried to do was something that older people enjoyed and understood. He had been very wrong to try to do it to a little girl. She told me that the next time we went to his house I should stay inside unless she or father went out with me.
In other words, I was to avoid him, and that suited me just fine. I remember that I sat down and felt much better for having "told" on him. I'd known all along that what he had done was wrong. My mother said that older people enjoyed it, however, and he had said that his girlfriend did too. I still couldn't believe that. The thought of it made me sick, and I was relieved that it hadn't happened to me.
Now, as I look back on that incident, I'm glad my mother didn't tell me everything right then. I was quite upset, and a long sex explanation would have only made me more so. The fact that I knew older people did do "that" and "liked it" was all I needed to know right then.
I was never so happy to see my parents. After we got to the car I told them what had happened. I could not understand why they did not say much about it, nor did it seem to bother them. I realize now that I was pretty upset and that if they had made a big thing about it, it may have upset me even more.
Patterns of sexual life developed in early childhood are strongly regulative and difficult to change in later life. Whatever patterns of sexual life one later comes to consider desirable or whatever changes one seeks to make in his socio-sexual attitudes, it is certain that it will be difficult because of roots of sexual behavior established in childhood. (Gagnon, 1965). Broderick sees a positive attitude towards socio-sexual encounters, including commitment to one's own eventual marriage, as almost a prerequisite to further heterosexual progress during the preadolescent and adolescent stages of development. (Broderick, 1966).
Parents who go to great effort to protect their child from the normal intimate, sexual experiences of childhood may unconsciously do the very things that are designed to defeat their purposes. Frustration or the withholding of positive reinforcement of intimacy needs may result in an increase rather than a decrease in the motivation to satisfy such needs. (Bandura and Walters, 1963). It is a moot question, is it the repressive rather than the permissive parents who contribute most to the high level of personal interest in sex and the high sexual-erotic content of our culture? Those who support the repressive sexual socialization of children do so largely out of fear that they will misbehave sexually if sensory, affectional, and sexual appetites are not repressed from infancy and on. It is true that the clinical literature provides ample evidence of unwise or disturbed parents who willingly or unwillingly encourage and reinforce deviant and antisocial sexual behavior in their offspring. It is true also that because of varying types of upbringing, individuals differ in the extent to which they are able through self-restraint to tolerate delay of reward. But there is also extensive research evidence demonstrating that responsible behavior can be readily elicited if appropriate models are provided. (Bandura and Walters, 1963). And if a child is exposed to a variety of of models, he may select one as a primary source for his behavior patterns, but he rarely confines his imitation to only one model. The point is that in the area of sensory, affectional, and sexual behavior the parents, through secrecy, reticence, and misguided notions as to what it means to be a proper model for children in these areas, cease to be a model at all, forcing their offspring to look elsewhere for their primary model. The child learns whether he is taught or not. If he is not presented with models, he finds models. Attempts to postpone his sexual socialization will only be partially successful and the models he chooses or happens upon will be less than adequate. Given the nature of human personality, the socialization process continues in some manner or other from birth to maturity. One can conclude from Broderick's research on intimacy patterns of children that intimate associations and attachments at all ages in infancy and childhood are necessary to sensory, affectional, and sexual maturity. (Broderick, 1961, 1964, 1966, 1968.)
Children, as well as adults, can learn to discriminate the circumstances under which various kinds of affectional and sexual behavior are responsible and appropriate.
Early childhood years witness a marked intensification of sexual interest and capacity for erotic response. Erotic awakening is of two kinds, autoerotic and socio-sexual or interpersonal-erotic. Autoerotic stimulation in the form of masturbation is frequently observed in childhood and can be initiated by self-discovery or learned from peers or older children. Childhood is a time of acquiring facts about sexuality and children are interested in their own sexuality, the sexuality of their parents, and subjects relating to birth, the arrival of new babies, and other family matters.
Sexual and erotic encounters in early childhood involve encounters with peers, siblings, other relatives or neighbors. "Doctor" and "show it" games are types of sex play, and romances and romantic relationships also occur.
Often both heterosexual and homosexual encounters are interspersed in early childhood. Homosexual encounters usually involve handling of the genitals of a person of the same sex, although such things as oral-genital contact may also occur.
Children are also involved in sexual encounters with preadolescents and adolescents. Here the older often teach the younger. These relationships can take either heterosexual or homosexual forms. And although the encounters can and do involve overt sexual activity, they also involve informal verbal sex education without physical contact.
Child-parental sexual encounters begin with the child's observation of his parents' sexuality. While in some societies children are confronted with frequent displays of parental sexuality, in the United States children are generally sheltered from such observations. Sexual and erotic attachment between parents and even parental nudity are sometimes kept hidden from the child.
The general taboo on sensory-affectional relations between child and parent greatly minimizes the amount of intimacy learning that the child receives in the home. And although there is limited evidence that some change is taking place in the direction of more sensory-affectional contact in the home, it is too early to speculate on the effects of such change.
Another aspect of child-parental sexual encounters manifests itself when the parent observes the sexual encounters between a child and a peer. Prevailing adult attitudes filter through to the child in the way the parent handles the situation, as well as through other parental reactions to sexual activity. In sexual situations parental reactions in the United States are commonly unambiguous if the parents' responses are negative. And unfortunately, unlike other negative injunctions, the ones referring to sexual behavior are seldom retracted, even at much later dates or as applying to very different sensory-affectional situations.
The phenomenon of non-labeling or mislabeling the sex organs and their functions, practiced by many parents, also inhibits true communication between child and parent in the area of sexuality. Thus, the child's sex questions are few and usually poorly answered.
Adults other than parents can also be involved in sexual encounters with children. Their roles vary from mild verbal references to sex or sex matters to violent and aggressive child molestation. The unwritten rule that discipline of a child is the responsibility of the child's own parents often keeps other adults from extreme interference in the sexual socialization of another parent's child--even when the adult views that child in what he may believe to be an improper sex act. Sexual-erotic activity that involves adults and children is generally condemned in the United States. Exhibitionism, incest, and pedophilia are especially proscribed.
The results of and responses to sensory-affectional encounters in early childhood vary with the individual. However, such encounters are becoming more and more accepted as part of the normal maturational process, something with which children can adequately deal and from which they suffer no lasting ill effects. Yet young people today generally recall their childhood sensory-affectional encounters, including their sex education, as having been almost totally inadequate in preparing them for experiences with the opposite sex during adolescence and adulthood. The elements of secrecy, repression, anxiety, and isolated negative encounters with adults create socio-sexual attitudes as do the more positive experiences. And whatever pattern of sexual life is developed early in childhood, it is regulative and difficult to change in later life. The roots of sexual behavior are established early in life and intimate associations and attachments at all ages in infancy and childhood are necessary to sensory, affectional, and sexual maturity.
Preadolescence, here defined as the ages from eight through twelve, is a period of anticipation--a transition period--since the pubic changes that begin during these ages and mature later are essential to full adult sexual functioning. Parents as well as the major institutions in society are aware and apprehensive about these changes.
Some aspects of sexual change appear earlier than others, and some come on at different ages for different individuals. The time and rate of development is not the same for boys and girls either. Biological puberty, announced by the menarche in girls and by the capacity for ejaculation in boys and with the development of secondary sex characteristics in both, begins between the ages of eight and fifteen. (For detailed information on biological changes during these years, see Caplan and Lebovici, 1969, p. 27-49; McCandless, 1967, p. 382-414; Douvan and Gold, 1966; Maccoby, 1966).
The eight year old, conscious of self as a person, recognizes his differences from other people and voices them. While one this age is very involved in thinking about self, chief interest lies in relationships with others, whether they be people younger, older, or of the same age. The eight year old is more outgoing than when younger, now being the initiator of attempts to meet people and to go places. Personal relationships and what others do to one are important. The eight year old cares about what other people do to others as well. Social standards are understood and followed. One's own successes are viewed with pleasure, but guilt feelings accompany failure. The eight year old has developed an increasing identification with certain social groups and has begun the practice of exclusion of those who are different.
The eight year old's interest in sex is rather high, although sex exploration and sex play are both less common than they were at age six. Questions about sex continue with girls especially being interested in menstruation and pregnancy. The process of a baby's growth within its mother is understood and the appearance of a pregnant woman is connected with the existence of a baby. More exact information is sought as to where the baby is in a mother's abdomen. Realization that the father has a role in procreation develops, and curiosity about that role is present.
Girls and boys begin to separate in play. Girls participate in doll play, paper doll play, and playing house as before. However, stressing of more complex adult relationships distinguishes their play from earlier years. Unorganized group play, such as wild running, chasing, and wrestling occur. The beginning of secret clubs with varieties of purposes is characteristic of this age group. The clubs are usually short-lived. Boys recognize pretty girls and girls realize that some boys are better looking than others. A boy may have several girl friends, but he is aware that he will marry only one. The idea of having a home of one's own separate from parents when one marries is held by the eight year old. An interest in a life of one's own with a member of the opposite sex and curiosity about that opposite sex is evident in the preadolescent's interest in peeping, smutty jokes, provocative giggling, and the whispering, writing, or spelling of sex words. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 321, 324, 325, 369; Ilg and Ames, 1955, p. 204-205).
Nine year olds continue to develop but also continue to have some of the same interests as eight year olds. However, a greater self-consciousness is apparent, and the preadolescent is conscious of his own attitudes, his home, and his parents' and siblings' behavior as well as of his body. Bodily self-consciousness may have progressed to where the preadolescent doesn't desire to be seen in the nude by the parent of the opposite sex. Awareness of attitudes of others toward self is heightened as is sensitivity and embarrassment over being corrected or criticized. Self-projection is apparent in crushes and hero worship. The preadolescent is oriented more toward his contemporaries than toward parents. First experiences of conflict between adult codes and the codes of contemporaries occur, providing still more opportunities for development of personal identity.
The nine year old is interested in sexuality. The fact that boys and girls of nine sometimes profess to hate each other is only one step in the development of mature sexual attitudes and interests through a complex series of uncertain stages. For despite this profession, evidence of interest in sex and displays of sexual conceptions that have already been adopted are abundant. Talk about sex with friends of the same sex, interest in details of one's own sex organs and their functions, sex swearing, and sex poems are all manifestations of this interest. The nine year old relates to the process of reproduction, sometimes with questions about fecundity--"Have I a seed in me?" The division of sexes in play is obvious. Mixed play, if it does occur, illustrates sexual interest, as kissing games and teasing about boy or girl friends is a frequent outcome. (Gesell and Ilg, 1946, p. 322, 325, 370; Ames and Ilg, 1955, p. 204-205, 207-208).
The channels of expression which the ten to twelve year old chooses to demonstrate interest in sex are often considered inappropriate by adults. Considerable interest in "smutty" jokes is evidenced during this period. According to Ilg and Ames, eleven and twelve years appear to be a high point for smutty jokes among children in the United States. It is part of a general growth gradient through which children pass. (Ilg and Ames, 1956, p. 207). And it is at least partly because of rapid and simultaneous development in many areas at once that this late preadolescent period is commonly characterized by displays of behavior that appear contradictory. A mixture of good and bad behavior tends to characterize the situation during late preadolescence; one where the emergence of independence and self-reliance, a dependence on individuality, antagonism between the sexes, the need for the security of gangs, and a growing knowledge of reality and objectivity all are found. All in all, these components result in what many term "uncooperative, hard to live with" preadolescents. (Blair and Burton, 1951, p. 2-4).
The biological changes ushered in at puberty are awesome to the preadolescent. The appearance of pubic hair is a social as well as a personal event as peers take note of this phenomenon and the individual is made to feel the approval or disapproval of the group.
I was a little wary of this (the appearance of pubic hair) myself. Those who grew pubic hair early were teased, but at the same time there was a feeling of jealousy on the part of the others. I was about average and accepted it as a symbol of masculinity.
A friend and I or even a group of us would sit around and compare penises. During most of these comparisons, we would experience erections, which we thought was funny. We watched to see if our hairs had started to grow. For several weeks we watched closely (once in a while checking with a magnifying glass). Finally the big day came for me. I was so proud and excited that I showed many of my friends and even my sister who was just a year younger than I was. It wasn't too long after my pubic hair growing incident and after many attempts to reach climax, that I finally succeeded to climax. Again this was a proud and very important thing in my life at that time.
Why does the group sometimes react with teasing? It is partly because the appearance of pubic hair is a new phenomenon that must be recognized. Yet, knowing what we do about the quality of sex information of youth in the United States, the group members are not sure what the proper reaction should be. Teasing may well be a good compromise. It recognizes the phenomenon without clearly designating its meaning or importance.
The preadolescent boy begins to exchange his sexual information with others by age eight or nine if he has not done so earlier. There is "hunger for knowledge" at this age. Many boys of this age are not so lucky as to find helpful literature readily available.
Just before puberty I (a boy) had a hunger for knowledge. I read all the sex literature I could get my hands on. This literature was sexually arousing in the true sense of the word, and I would become quite stimulated. I began having frequent erections and found new pleasure associated with the genitals.
Erection comes on much more quickly in preadolescent boys than in adults though the speed in which climax is reached in preadolescent males varies considerably in different boys as it does in adult males. In preadolescents, the capacity to achieve repeated orgasms in limited periods of time exceeds the capacity of teenage boys, who in turn are more capable than are men. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 178-179).
Ramsey (1943), in studying the erotic responsiveness of nearly 300 boys from an urban junior high school in a middle-sized Midwestern city (the respondents were mostly white, middle-class, and Protestant), asked each boy to rate his response to each item on a list of erotic stimuli. Ramsey found a wide variation in the erotic responsiveness of each individual. The following thirteen items are arranged in a declining order based on the item's rating as a stimulant by the group as a whole: sex conversation, female nudity, obscene pictures, motion pictures, day dreaming, burlesque or stage shows, nude art, motion when riding, literature, own body, male nudity, dancing, and music.
About fifty percent of the boys reported erections resulting from some type of non-erotic stimulus, as well. The situation in which nonerotic responses occurred usually involved elements of fear, excitement or other emotional situations. The items reported as non-erotic stimuli included carnival rides, war motion pictures, being late to school, reciting before class, fast rides, playing a musical solo, band music, fear or punishment. These responses were most frequently reported for boys aged 10, 11 and 12 years.
Boys also reported on dream content in which they found themselves with an erection on awakening. Dream content often contained non-erotic stimuli--fighting, accidents, wild animals, falling from high places, giants, or being chased or frightened.
The incidence of masturbation among preadolescent boys of various ages is not known with precision. Ramsey (1943) summarized five personal-interview studies that, when taken along with his own study, indicate that masturbation occurs at some time in the sexual histories of nearly all males. Three-fourths reported their first experience to have been between that ages of ten and sixteen. Masturbation apparently begins for the majority of males during the years immediately preceding or very soon after puberty, for some it begins during infancy or early childhood. In Ramsey's sample, fourteen percent of those eight year olds reported having had masturbatory experience, twenty-three percent of those nine years old, twenty-nine percent of those ten years old, fifty-four percent of those eleven years old, seventy-three percent of those twelve years old, eighty-five percent of those thirteen years old, ninety-five percent of those fourteen years old, and ninety-eight percent of those fifteen years old. The highest percentage increment came at ages 11, 12, 13, and 14 and in that order. The increment at each age from age six to age fifteen was 5.3, 4.2, 4.6, 8.8, 5.9, 24.7 (age eleven), 19.1, 12.2, 10.2, and 3.1. Note the marked increment between age ten and age eleven. Boys can recall these preadolescent experiences with masturbation.
I was first told about masturbation in a movie theater by one of my friends who said, "Man, I don't know how, but I was just rubbing and all of a sudden this great thing happened to me." It was considered the "Great, new fad."
I have masturbated since grade school. I experience very few wet dreams which I account for by the fact that I did masturbate often.
Boys often learn of masturbation from each other. For girls, this is not common. Here is a case where a girl did learn from her sister, however.
Coming home from play one day I (about nine years old) happened upon my sister (about eight) in the basement of our home on the sofa, manipulating herself through her clothes. She showed me how to add pressure to the sides of my labia to gain a 'funny feeling.' At first I felt no satisfaction in it, but after a month of practice and experimenting, I obtained by first orgasm.... I am very grateful to my sister for introducing masturbation to me.
The content of one's fantasy while masturbating is in large part dependent upon the nature of one's experience up until that time. The following cases illustrate this. In the first case to follow a boy traces the development of his masturbatory fantasy from fantasy not involving girls through fantasy involving non-coital involvement with girls, through coitus, fellatio, cunnilingus, and oral intercourse. All of this is interwoven with some torture fantasy--masochism, sadism--which is not uncommon for the child who has had inaccurate knowledge or limited experience on which to build positive masturbatory fantasy. The second case (a girl) also shows progression in fantasy as well as some fantasized sadism.
When I first started to masturbate I didn't have much interest in girls. Therefore, my fantasies during masturbation did not involve girls. Usually, I tended to have masochistic fantasies. I would imagine that I was being tortured and twist or stretch my penis, so there was a degree of pain as well as pleasure. Sometimes I would also push things up my rectum, such as the end of a toothbrush, that would also add to my "torture" fantasy. Possibly I felt that because I should not be getting pleasure out of it. Therefore, the only way I could justify it was to be torturing myself.
As I got older, girls began to be a greater and greater part of my fantasy. At first I would just think of girls I liked at school and masturbate at the same time. I never really thought of sexual intercourse with girls because I did not understand exactly what interaction you could have with girls. This was during the seventh and eighth grade period.
As I picked up information from peers and the occasional "dirty" book, I began to imagine having sex play and intercourse with the girls in my fantasies. Quite often I would imagine a "bondage" situation. The girl was often helpless and I would be forcing myself on her. Sometimes I would imagine that I was the captive and the girl or girls were taking advantage of me. I attribute this to my not knowing how to interact with girls or get their attention. So I felt that only by forcing myself on them could I ever have sex.
It was not until high school that I ever ran across much pornography, either in the form of pictures or books. When I got a hold of these they tended to be the things I masturbated over. Often I imagined a girl I knew to be the person in the picture or the story. It was the book that introduced me to such things as fellatio, cunnilingus, and anal intercourse, as well as other "unacceptable" forms of sex. Often I would imagine these things were being performed during masturbation.
Throughout junior high and senior high school my self stimulation continued and my sexual fantasy developed. At first this involved images of life with the man I would some day meet or dreams of being held captive by a gang of boys, having to perform rituals including intercourse with them all, and showing my body to the group. Always the imaginary lead man was handsome and domineering. Upon dating, my fantasy included the boy I was seeing at the time or images of marriage.
Why do preadolescents fell guilty about masturbating? Is it because of parental attitudes transmitted in infancy and childhood? Is it parental admonition? Is it from reading some of the "scare" literature about the effects of masturbating? Many preadolescents are not consciously aware of any such reasons as to why they feel guilty. They appear to intuit guilt. If they remember the kind of sexual socialization they received in infancy and childhood they would likely know why they feel guilty when masturbating. In the following case, the boy's puzzlement over the reasons for his guilt feelings is illustrative.
It has always puzzled me as to exactly where I got the feelings of guilt. As far as I can remember, my parents never said much of anything about sex. Certainly nothing that would lead me to believe sex was wrong or bad. Possibly it was because they said nothing that I felt there was something secret about sex. Likewise, I can't remember picking up much in church that would have led me to believe that I should not masturbate. Maybe I merely picked up the guilt feelings about sex from off-hand comments I might have heard. At any rate, regardless of where I acquired my feelings. I definitely felt it was wrong to masturbate and had deep guilt feelings about the activity.
Masturbation is much more common in preadolescent boys than is heterosexual experience. Even for those who are willing, partners are not easy to come by and masturbating requires no partner. First experiments with copulation are not unusual between the ages of ten and fourteen, however. By twelve years of age, approximately one boy in every four or five has tried at least to copulate with a female and more than ten percent of preadolescent boys experience their first ejaculation in connection with heterosexual intercourse, according to Kinsey. Ramsey reported that about one-third of his sample of middle-class boys had attempted sexual intercourse. The incidence of heterosexual behavior varies with socio-educational level, being least frequent with preadolescents who eventually go to college and nearly universal among preadolescents who receive no more than a high school education. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 312).
In the female sexual development comes on more gradually than in the male, is generally continued over a longer period of time, and does not reach a peak until after the boy is sexually mature. As far as physical development per se is concerned, however, the girl begins to mature at an earlier age, and reaches complete maturity before the boy. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 122). The age of first menstruation ranged from 9 to 25 years of age in the Kinsey sample. There was a lapse of 8.4 months between the appearance of pubic hair and breast development, which came first, and first menstruation which came later. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 123-124).
One morning in the fifth grade I noticed humps appearing on my chest. I was amazed, scared, and pleased all at the same time. To show how pleased I was, I called all of my girl friends' attention to this phenomenon and let them 'feel' my breasts.
Not all girls are as willing to make their physical development a matter of group celebration, however, as the following case demonstrates.
The girls in our school were ridiculed to a certain degree by the others if they had a bust or wore a brassiere. I very much did not want to be singled out and made fun of, so I tried very hard to hide my changing figure. When my mother bought me a brassiere while I was in the sixth grade, I refused to wear it. Instead I wore two undershirts and a tight slip to hide my bust.
Kinsey reports from his female sample that, all told, some twenty-seven percent recalled that they had been aroused erotically at some time during the age of puberty. However, Kinsey is of the opinion that the number of preadolescent girls who are ever aroused sexually must be much higher than the record indicates. Out of the 659 females in the sample who had experienced orgasm before they were adolescent, eighty-six percent had had their first experience through masturbating, some seven percent had discovered it in sexual contact with other girls, two percent in petting, and one percent in coitus with boys or older males. Two percent had had their first orgasm in physical contact with dogs or cats, and some two percent had first reached orgasm through other circumstances, including climbing a rope. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 106).
At the age of twelve I (a girl) discovered masturbation while washing myself in the bath; I'm sure that my discovery was in great part derived from the intimacy with my girl friend (breast fondling between the ages of eleven and thirteen). Masturbation led to orgasm.
In the following case a preadolescent girl attributes part of her sexual "awakening" to sex dream experience.
Wild and confused dreams made me feel funny--just as if I had to urinate. The dreams included boys and girls kissing, and the funny feeling I got was both distressing and exciting. I had no idea as to what the dreams meant, but I definitely realized that they pertained to sex.
The incidence of preadolescent sex play at particular ages, that is, the active incidence, appears to be highest for girls in the younger years of preadolescence rather than in the older years of preadolescence. Some eight percent of the females in the Kinsey sample recalled heterosexual sex play at ages five and seven, but fewer recalled it at later years of preadolescence. Only three percent recalled that they were having sex play just before pubescence. For most, preadolescent play had been restricted to a single experience or to a few stray experiences. Exceedingly few of the girls seemed to have developed any pattern of frequent or regular sex activity. One girl for every seven boys was having heterosexual play near the approach of adolescence; the girls who do accept contacts at that age apparently have more than one male partner. (Kinsey, 1953, p. 110-111).
At each age, pre-pubertal boys report more sexual activity of every kind than do girls. (Broderick, April 1966). The marked differences in incidence for boys and girls just prior to puberty may in part depend on the increased restraints that are placed on girls by their parents as they approach puberty--restraints which girls often resent after a carefree childhood. (Martinson, 1966).
The preadolescent boy's capacity for specific sexual responses develops rapidly as he nears preadolescence. It is not matched by a similar capacity in the female. The male subculture also actively advocates sexual activity for the male. This no doubt affects the incidence of sexual experiences among preadolescent boys. The importance of biological over social factors in the incidence differential between preadolescent boys and girls is difficult to measure. Broderick and Udry (1966) among the sociologists of sex emphasize social factors; Kinsey placed more emphasis on physical capacity.
The community, peers, parents, the school, the church, and others (referred to as the generalized other) play a larger part in sexual encounters of preadolescents than they do for infants and young children.
One method of controlling the sexual activity of preadolescents is to separate the sexes and keep them under surveillance. Among the Abipone, for instance, boys and girls are strictly segregated at all times and premarital chastity is said to have been universal. A similar situation exists among the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Papago, and Wapisiana, all of whom keep the sexes strictly apart from childhood. Boys and girls never associate in the absence of chaperones. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 183).
Among preadolescents in other societies, on the other hand, the Maori, the Trobrianders of Melanesia, the Chewa of Africa, and the Lepcha of India among them, it is common for girls and boys to be active participants in full sex relations several years before puberty and in some cases much earlier. In permissive societies there may be active instruction in sex matters by older members of the group. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 174-177, 189-192).
In the United States, parents, the church, the school, courts, and other agencies are influential in defining and controlling sexual behavior. For example, the school--grade school, junior high school, high school--is permissive in its attitudes toward heterosexual activity, in that it plans dances and parties for boys and girls, but it is also restrictive in that chaperonage is commonly provided and erotic behavior is proscribed.
I remember one of the chaperones.... Whenever she found a couple dancing a little closer than she thought was proper, she would shove the ruler between the couple and say, "Six inches apart, children."
In the United States, the school takes a proprietary interest in the total life of the student and is sometimes more restrictive than are the parents.
The elementary school administrators were very upset and concerned when they learned of our boy-girl parties arranged by our parents.
Mixed parties are something of a new phenomenon added to the sexual scene in preadolescence. They are a fairly common middle-class phenomenon. Heterosexual parties are referred to in the literature as "group dating." (Martinson, 1960, p. 73-77). Such parties often precede or signal the beginning of paired dating. These parties may be a part of school activity, they may be planned by organizations of girls, or they may be private parties planned by the young people themselves or by their parents.
Many of our parents would arrange for boy-girl parties in their homes, spending their evening upstairs while we (age 10) were left quite unchaperoned in the basement.
As far as I can recall, the initial party of consequence was a mixed birthday party given in honor of one of the girls. This, more or less, started the run of parties that began to take place nearly every Friday evening during the school year. The kids attending these home parties weren't ever paired off in couples but were invited on an individual basis. Often times the ratio of boys to girls was unequal--falling either way. The parties throughout the year usually began between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. and lasted till around 10:00 p.m. when the parents at whose house the party was being held or another "volunteer" present would drive the kids home.
For the sake of honors and awards the Chic-a-dee Campfire girls planned parties and hayrides. The boys were not quite as enthusiastic as we hoped they would be, but they came and soon couples developed.
My (a boy) first date was in the sixth grade. It was a group affair, where a group of Girl Scouts decided to have a roller skating party with boys invited. I didn't know how to roller skate very well, and to make matters worse, I didn't like the girls. I was finally teased into going along. The mothers of the girls picked the boys up, took us to the roller rink, and took us home again.
I remember making out invitation lists for parties trying to invite the fellows in whom each of us was interested. Even with all the planning, we never paired off except by more frequent attention given by a favorite during games like 'Wink 'um' and 'Clap-in-clap-out.'
Preadolescent boys, in particular, have difficulty defining or accepting the nature of the behavior called for at a mixed party. Roughhouse play may be more satisfying to them than passive and intimate games.
The girls finally fought back which made us very happy. I think that the main reason we acted that way was because we didn't know how to act with girls. All the boys agreed that it had been lots of fun.
The entry into junior high school introduces the preadolescent into a new and more adult world socially. A school population can be influenced even by just one peer leader who is interested in dating.
When I entered junior high school, I (a boy) met many older fellows who had already begun to take an interest in girls. They talked about their dates and told me how much fun I was missing.... As I remember there weren't many fellows who were on the dance floor. They were all in a group in a corner, and that is where I ended up too. We told jokes, tested our strength on the bars that stood along the walls, and teased any fellow who dared to ask a girl to dance.
There was a small amount of dancing and a large amount of games. This consisted of embarrassing things for me (a boy). They were Wink 'um, passing lifesavers with tooth-picks, etc.
There was one girl in particular who was mature physically in the fifth grade and who had ideas of dating before the rest of us did. She was a very strong leader and encouraged the rest of us in dating. She seemed to know all the facts of life and she took advantage of our curiosity at this age and told us all she knew.
First paired dating during preadolescence involves walking girls home from the show, going to shows together under chaperonage, sitting together on the school bus, and engaging together in sports activities and peer group parties. The boy is not always the aggressor in initiating first dates. Sometimes it is the girl; sometimes it is the mother. It is quite evident when we look at dating among preadolescents that dating in the United States serves other functions than that of courtship and mate selection. The following cases, all dealing with first dates, are arranged according to the age of the person at the time of the first date, beginning with fourth graders.
Relations with girls consisted of walking with them from school to their house.... The bravest thing a fellow could do was to find out if the girl you were interested in was going to the show and then appear at the same show and sit next to her. After the show you could walk her home if it was not too far out of your way.
I (a girl) began dating in the fourth grade. Every Friday night Bill and I would go to the show and home. His mother chauffeured, and we would hold hands and kiss good-night.
I began dating in the fifth grade. We met at the theater quite often.... The situation that made our relationship unique was the fact that before we knew each other I was the one that approached him.... I asked him to go steady with me and the next day he came to school with his mother's diamond ring. A friend of mine told the teacher and the teacher came over to me during class and asked for it back.
My date was a short, plump, and far-from-good-looking little boy in the sixth grade. I can remember bragging to my friends that I was so lucky to be going out with a sixth grader. My parents didn't allow me to go anywhere except to house parties. By dating at this early age, I believe that I had a premature start at learning to meet people graciously and with poise.
My mother... was quite perturbed when, in the sixth grade, I turned down my first date offer.
I don't think our sixth grade boys followed the normal pattern of not liking girls because all of us spent a great deal of time together after school and on weekends. The big romance of the sixth grade was between one of the boys and me.... We naturally spent lots of time together at the boy-girl parties and at other times. He also took me on my first official date--doubling with another couple to the Saturday matinee. He and I developed a great deal of affection for one another, maybe "puppy love" is a better term, and it was quite sad when he moved at the end of sixth grade.
My first date was when I was in the sixth grade. There were four couples who went to the Ice Follies by bus all alone. The whole time I was there I can remember being miserable because I wished I was with the girls instead of a boy. After the show we all went over to one of the girl's houses for dinner and dancing. Again I repeated my performance of running away when my date asked me to dance and was actually cruel to him the whole evening. I guess I was not ready for a boy friend just yet, although since other girls were beginning to have them I wanted one, too.
During these years (sixth through eighth grade) we used to sit with a special guy on the bus after basketball games. Going to the games all of the fellows had to sit in front of the bus, but going home things would change.
Dating with me began in the seventh grade. It was a companionship relationship and usually consisted of riding our bikes, playing tennis, or going swimming with a bunch of other kids, or the gang would come to my house at night and play group games such as hide-and-seek, starlight--moonlight, etc.
My first paired dating was in the seventh grade. My friend called for me at home like a perfect gentleman, and gallantly escorted me to the car where his father sat patiently waiting. When the program was over, we waited in front of the school for his father to pick us up and take me home.
Going steady can develop as early as the beginning of the preadolescent dating experience, at least it is "going steady" in the eyes of the participants. Symbols of the going-steady status (such as bracelets and rings) are offered and accepted even while the "steadies" are not in reality dating each other except in their own dream world!
After I (a boy) had been to junior high for a few months I fell in with the going-steady pattern.... Before long she asked me to give her a ring or a bracelet of mine which she could wear.... After hearing "All the other girls are wearing their boyfriend's rings" many times, I bought a cheap dime-store ring which I gave her. This going steady period lasted for about five weeks. I never had a date with her or even phoned her during this time. It seems it was all done just to keep up with what other kids were doing.
I began going steady when I was twelve years old and I thought a lot of the boy I was infatuated with. I was sure I had found the secret to happiness and that this was love. My girl friends also had steady boy friends and we used to double date.... Our dates were not really dates at all but the time we spent together was fun. The boys hardly ever picked us up at our homes. The girls would regularly go to the show Friday nights and Sundays. We would always sit in the same place and the boys would always come and sit with us or behind us. Then after the movie the boys would walk us home. Quite often we would all get together downtown and then walk home together. Hardly ever, in fact, never did we take the boys into our homes to talk; we would always stand outside. I do not believe that I ever kissed my boy friend but we did hold hands in private.... I believe that going steady made me feel important and gave me some self-confidence.
The going steady relationships just described could be classified as non-erotic encounters because of a lack of intimacy and physical stimulation. But, on the other hand, many simple, naive and more or less erotic experiences of childhood also carry over into preadolescence and are elaborated upon. Exposing oneself to a person of the opposite sex is a case in point. The following cases under the heading, "Exposure," are arranged according to the age of the persons involved. Exposure is common in the younger years of preadolescence.
Alice (third grade) often let me watch her urinate, but I always refused to permit her to watch me. I repeatedly told her that I was "different." Later that year I became bolder. Alice and I ran back into the woods and undressed in front of each other. I suggested that we touch each other's genitals, but Alice refused.
I remember looking at her genital area, and having heard the conversation of older people, wondered what it was all about. When we played with each other in the nude my penis would become erect. I remember marvelling at this. She would ask what it was for and I told her I didn't know.
When we were in the fort, they asked us to "take down our pants" so they could see what we looked like and they in turn would do the same. She and I didn't go for the idea but after lots of friendly persuasion we agreed to do it on the condition that everyone was sworn to secrecy. We all really gawked after the pants were down and I remember being rather embarrassed but also fascinated at looking at the different penises. This was not my first time seeing a penis because I had watched my dad get dressed... I recall that some of the boys would sometimes have erections and one boy told another that he really had a "boner," having an erection with the largest penis of all the boys.
He told me to pull down my pants and he did the same. He had an erection and he put his penis between my legs. He said that this was how to "fuck." Being totally unfamiliar with the term and his not knowing the exact technique, I thought it was a silly thing to do and never attached any importance to the incidence. I often wonder what would have happened if he actually knew what to do. I guess I must have been a permissive, ignorant child.
Preadolescent touching and fondling is sometimes an expression of curiosity or even conflict rather than cooperation, affection, or a budding romantic relationship. "Romances" at this age often involve rough play, teasing, hitting, hurting, and at least feigned pain, disgust, and anger.
Something we boys did in junior high quite frequently was that the guys would go around and 'bag' girls, e.g. grab a girl's breast and squeeze and then run. Gads!!
The mixed roller skating party we Girl Scouts arranged turned out to be a free-for-all with boys chasing the girls around trying to pull their hair.
To play the game it was necessary that we both take down our pants and expose our genitalia.
Jack had a nickel, which he was ready to toss. If I (age twelve) called the correct side of the coin as he tossed it, he would then touch his erect penis to my genitals. It was like a gentle love pat, not a forceful shove.... After the first few times, no matter which side of the coin landed up we touched our genitals every time.... I remember experiencing great pleasure when Jack's penis touched my genitals. It was a tingly feeling that surged through me. I liked the feeling and thus we engaged in the game about fifteen times that afternoon.... My only concern at the time was about those outside the closed door.... I knew that this was not something I wanted anyone to interrupt.
He came and sat down next to me, put his arm around me and kissed me, at the same time putting his hand on my breast. Since it had been arranged that I was to be with him, and since I assumed that this was as accepted as was kissing, I did not resist. It was important to me that he was interested since he was a year older than me, and therefore would be quite a status builder. We spent this evening together, he quite fascinated with my breasts (he told me I had quite a handful), but this was the extent of the sex play.... We were never together again, nor did we even ever acknowledge that we knew each other upon meeting.... I found these seemingly innocent encounters were blown completely apart when it came to what the boys had to say about it. By the time I got to high school, I heard that locker room talk related that this boy had "laid" me.
Kissing is one activity that many American children are familiar with from infancy and childhood. They have kissed and been kissed by their parents, their siblings, and sometimes their playmates. Kissing in preadolescence may be equally as "innocent," but it is frequently marked by confusion, embarrassment, guilt, and some erotic overtones.
At about age nine, one boy... finally caught me in a parked car in which I had hidden, and kissed me fifty times.
I (an 11 or 12 year old boy) found the idea of holding and kissing a girl (at dancing and making-out parties) enjoyable, but yet uncomfortable because a self-consciousness always presided within me.
Everyone at a mixed-couple party sat on the couch with the lights out and kissed. I (a seventh grade girl) was so embarrassed and confused at such activity that I left the party early, went home and cried. I hated that boy from then on and refused to go any place with him.
Parties involving dancing, and sometimes intimate dancing, are common in preadolescence in middle-class homes and in the school. Like kissing, dancing can bring its moments of unpleasantness as well as those of ecstasy.
The ability to dance caused a new type of party to evolve. The girls planned these parties which always centered around the slow dance. These parties usually started slow and inhibited, the boys grouping on one side of the room and the girls on the other. As the party progressed, however, the boys, due to group support, gathered up enough courage to ask a girl to dance. The dancing was of the "cheek-to-cheek" kind and if the girl had no reservations about whom she was dancing with, the couple usually stuck together throughout the entire evening.
Parties were held in the basement of her home occasionally (fifth and sixth grades), and we all danced in the appealing darkness whether there was music or not.
I (a sixth grade boy) would have preferred other games to dancing. For me this came too early and pushed me faster than I wanted to grow up; however, I was caught in the false social whirl of this group and began to think as they did.
Activities of a group or paired nature during preadolescence sometimes change from games or dancing into more intimate fondling experiences, often referred to by the ambiguous term "making out."
The lights were shut off or the parents would leave and the "necking" aspect of the party would begin.... The silence of the party would be broken intermittently by someone 'cracking a joke,' changing a record, or getting up to dance.
During fifth and sixth grade home parties, she and I always managed to get together. More often than not we crept away to a quiet corner of the cellar and began doing "our things." Kissing and tight embraces proved to be the extent of our actions, but the opportunity for such behavior occurred quite frequently. She had a plump friend who behaved like an older sister in that she would make sure that we were left alone and then sounded a warning if parents were approaching.
I was in the seventh grade. There were only couples there. We ate and danced for a while and then everyone sat on the couch with the lights out and kissed.
The slow songs and dim lights seemed like heaven, with a stiff penis being the first pleasurable sign. Sometimes the girl and myself would hold each other tighter as the songs progressed and many times, about half way through a song, we would start to touch bottoms and really hold each other tight--oh, I hoped the songs would never end. This sometimes led to making-out after a few songs or just holding hands, but whatever it was, it was really "neat."
Boy-girl mutual genital fondling is not a common experience of preadolescence in the United States, but it is not completely unknown to this age.
We both had reached the ripe old age of twelve.... Sexual experimentation was not new to me, nor to him.... We both left our houses that evening after dark and met secretly at the "swamp road." We kissed for awhile and both of us became increasingly excited. This led, in turn, to the unfastening of our clothes and the placement of his hand on my breast. Gradually his little hand crept downwards, beneath my pants until he was gently stroking my mons veneris and clitoris. He wanted to "finger" me but I resisted firmly, as a girl had to draw the line somewhere! Now he posed a rather surprising question. He wanted "me" to touch "him." He exposed his erect little penis and pulled my hand toward it. At the thought of touching it I trembled, but managed to do so. I think I was the first girl in seventh grade to actually "feel out" a boy as this was previously unheard of. We continued to mutually masturbate for a while and then I decided that it was time for me to go home. The significance of this encounter lies in the fact that for the first time, one of my common childhood sexual experiences had suddenly become really sexual and the action was tinged with my first feelings of guilt. I suffered a great deal following this incident for fear of losing my reputation.
Coitus or attempted coitus does take place among preadolescents in American society, although such behavior is generally taboo. There are societies that are considerably more permissive. Sexual life begins in earnest among the Trobrianders at six to eight years for girls and ten to twelve for boys. Sex play includes masturbation, oral stimulation of the genitals of the same and opposite sex, and heterosexual copulation. At any time a couple may retire to the bush, the bachelors' hut, an isolated yam house, or any convenient place and there engage in prolonged sexual play. Among the Ila-speaking peoples of Africa this age is regarded as a time of preparation for adult life and mature sexual functions. It is reported that there are no virgins among these people after the age of ten. The Lepcha of India believe that girls will not mature without the benefit of sexual intercourse. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 191). Early sex play among boys and girls characteristically involves many forms of mutual masturbation and usually ends in attempted copulation. By the time they are eleven and twelve years old, most girls regularly engage in sexual intercourse.
Ramsey (1943) reports that the preadolescent sexual encounters of boys with girls in his United States' sample (when they did occur) most frequently involved manual manipulation associated with direct observation of each other's body. Exhibitionistic sex play was the next most frequent type of behavior. Other forms of play included attempts at intercourse and oral contacts. Approximately 33 percent of the boys reportedly had attempted intercourse before adolescence. The frequency of preadolescent heterosexual encounters of various kinds as reported by 286 of the boys was as follows:
|1 to 5 times||27%|
|6 to 15 times||15%|
|16 to 25 times||8%|
|26 to 50 times||7%|
The number of different females involved with each boy in the preadolescent heterosexual encounters were reported as follows:
|1 to 5 females||47%|
|6 to 15 females||9%|
|16 to 25 females||5%|
|26 to 50 females||3%|
|more than 50 females||3%|
|(Ramsey, 1943, p. 227)|
The ages of the female partners of the preadolescent boys who participated in such encounters were in 80 percent of the cases within one year of the same age as that of the boy; in 11 percent of the cases the girls were two or more years older; and for the remaining 9 percent the partners were two or more years younger. The girls involved were usually neighborhood friends, female relatives, girls met during family visits, females of the same family, and occasionally an older girl or woman.
Probably one of the most significant factors in forming my sexual attitudes and actions was an instance with my cousin when he was twelve and I was nine. One day he, whom I admired more than anyone in the whole world, and I were playing on the bed when everyone else was out. In the course of our play we began to explore each other's bodies and to manipulate each other's genitals. This made us both a little uneasy, so we quit after a while and went into the living room. Then one day we found ourselves playing in the basement on the bed. He asked me if I had ever been "fucked" before. I said no. Then he said that it was really important that every boy be able to say that he had "fucked" a girl and would it be all right if he "fucked" me.
Reevy (1967) reports that mouth-genital contacts have occurred in 2 percent of the cases of girls and 8.9 percent of the cases of boys who have had heterosexual play experience.
After stripping girls, beginning in the second and third grade, my curiosity led me to touch, smell, and eventually taste that hole.
A number of students of preadolescent behavior have reported on the kinds and incidence of homosexual behavior. Among eight year old boys, Alpert (1941) reports sex behavior consisting of mutual exploration of a homosexual and heterosexual sort, such as matching masculine prowess in the toilet, peeping, smutty jokes, provocative giggling, some masturbation, obscene language, and "secrets" about "boy-girl" favorites. Much the same behavior is observed in older preadolescents.
In some societies, along with our own, tendencies toward homosexual behavior are strongly proscribed during childhood. Cuna children are prohibited from indulging in homosexual play. If Trukese boys masturbate in the presence of other members of their sex they are whipped. Chiricahua children who are observed to engage in any heterosexual or homosexual play are severely punished, and the Sanpoil thrash soundly any child who exhibits behavior that is at all suggestive of homosexual tendencies. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 129).
On the other hand, among the Koniag some male children are reared from infancy to occupy the female role. They learn women's crafts, wear women's ornaments, and become skilled in wifely duties. When such a male is mature he becomes a "wife" of one of the more prominent males in the community. He is usually credited with magical powers and accorded a great deal of respect. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 131). Among the Trobriand Islanders, children's sexual encounters include masturbation and oral stimulation of the genitals of the same sex, as well as of the opposite sex.
In the Ramsey study (1943), approximately half of the boys who had been involved in preadolescent homosexual play had confined their relationship to one other boy. The remaining boys with homosexual experience reported from two to ten partners in their encounters. The partners were, except in rare instances, boys of approximately the same age. The frequency of homosexual play ranged from a single experience to a maximum of over 400 times. Manual techniques were most frequently reported, but oral and femoral contacts also were engaged in. The following case involves two boys masturbating in each other's presence and attempts at fellatio. Other cases involve mutual masturbation and anal sex.
I (approximately nine years old) masturbated with the neighbor boy. Not performing the act on each other but being in the same room together. This went on until one day he told me what a "blow job" was and wanted me to give him one. I made a feeble attempt at it but I thought it tasted awful.
At age eight we (two boys) exposed ourselves to each other and took turns putting our noses between the two portions of each other's buttocks close to the rectum. We enjoyed the smell experience and probably the physical contact. In another particular episode I inserted my finger into my friend's rectum.
When I was ten years old, a number of new houses were going up where my friend lived, and we quite often played inside them when no one was working. One day I was directly below my friend, and we could see each other through a hole, about four inches in diameter, in the ceiling. The idea came to me that he should try and stick his penis through the hole although I believe I used the word "cock." He did this without difficulty, and I pulled a stepladder over below him. I climbed the ladder and after touching his penis a couple of times I told him that we should switch. I remember that he decided to grab my organ and pull to which I immediately objected. This exchanging of position must have been going on for about five minutes when he urinated on my hand. This is what ended the encounter.
Some homosexual encounters involve limited touching or fondling and some are fleeting; some involve group participation.
Another form of physical homosexuality in my youth came with the desire to touch another boy's genital area. We did this in an effort to hurt each other. In the toilet or outside somewhere, we would try to hit each other in the genital area.
When I was about twelve, I had a completely different experience concerning homosexuality. About six of the boys got together one night and we had a 'circle jerk.' A 'circle jerk' is when the boys stand around in a circle holding on to the boy's penis in back of him.
I (age 12) was invited to an all boy slumber party at one of my friend's homes.... I laid down next to Jim, and we talked for a long time and I remember scratching his back and then I remember him asking if I would itch his "cock." I guess it was more curiosity at his big organ than anything that led me to comply and I did. I had heard the word masturbate before, but I had no idea what it meant. (I honestly looked it up in the dictionary once under Master Bait). Anyway, I was stimulating him and he all of a sudden insisted that I stop. I didn't know why at the time, but I did what he said. He then suggested that he return the favor. Well, he began to manually stimulate me, and the sensation was so great at orgasm I honestly remember that I made him stop for a second. Then I asked him to start again and the sensation came back and I made him stop again. I was too young to ejaculate anything, but it sure felt good. We repeated the cycle at least ten times before we quit.
If Baden Powell knew what perverted acts and latent homosexual tendencies came about on Boy Scout camping trips, he would probably roll over in his grave.
According to Reevy (1967), among females there is a steady increase from about 6 percent at the age of five to 33 percent at adolescence who have had homosexual encounters, while approximately 60 percent of males have had homosexual play in preadolescent years. If genital exhibition is regarded as sexual encounter then approximately 99 percent of the females and 99.8 percent of the males report homosexual behavior. (Reevy, 1967). For both sexes, after genital exhibition, manual manipulation was the sort of homosexual encounter next in order of incidence, as reported by Kinsey. Mouth-genital contacts were reported by 3 percent of the females and 16 percent of the males with homosexual play experience. Vaginal insertions were reported by 18 percent of the girls, and 17 percent of the boys admitted to anal intercourse. For the girls homosexual play was in the great majority of cases confined to one year and often to one or two such experiences. Some of the females in the Kinsey sample reportedly had begun masturbating as a result of homosexual encounters in preadolescence.(Kinsey, 1953, p. 140).
An experience with the same sex (two girls) was with my best friend. We were both at the age of twelve. I stayed with her at night a lot because her mother worked nights and her father was not living. One evening, in bed together, we (age twelve) started to talk of sex.... We ended up playing the whole sex act, until we decided that what we were doing was foolish. We remained best friends all through school, and never discussed the subject again.
Sue dared me to touch her breasts. I was very afraid and repulsed by the idea, but I did do it because I didn't want her to see I was afraid. When she touched my breasts, I really enjoyed it. I felt a tingling all over my body that I had never felt before.
Besides having actual physical encounters together, preadolescent peers of the same sex often serve directly as sex educators for each other. Conn (1948) found this peer sex education can be direct education through word or deed or it can be carried on indirectly through the medium of the "dirty joke."
When I was in third grade, a girl who was a year older than I told me point-blank that babies were conceived when the penis was inserted in the vagina.
Biz informed our playground jump rope group that a girl can get pregnant "when a boy sticks his thing inside of you."
Just before puberty the subculture of boys my age began to move into the stage of dirty jokes and suggestive ideas. This demonstrated a hunger for knowledge which I also wished for.
While still very young I was introduced to masturbation by another boy.... I didn't enjoy it, nor did I get any sensation out of it at first, but on his instructions to keep at it, I did achieve an orgasm without ejaculation.
Our school bus was an educational unit in itself. It seems as if every crude story and joke hit it once if not twice.
One day a friend who was about a year older than myself and I were sitting at a soda fountain having a coke. My friend quietly mentioned, "Look at those boxes of sanitary napkins." I had heard of Kotex but I had never heard of the term sanitary napkin. After leaving I asked this boy about the sanitary napkins. This fellow not only answered my questions but in doing so he gave me a very complete explanation of the facts of life for a boy of only twelve. Where he received this information I did not ask but I'm sure it must have been from very responsible parents. I say this because he gave it in a very understanding and wholesome attitude.
The learning situation in sex is commonly initiated by someone older in age and more experienced than the learner. Most commonly these encounters are single encounters rather than continuing relations between a preadolescent and an older person. Kinsey (1948, p. 173) found that the boy from the lower socio-economic classes has considerable information and "help" on sex matters from older boys, or from adult males, and in many cases his first heterosexual contacts are with older girls who already have had experience.
Rainwater (1970), writing about preadolescents in the Pruitt-Igo area of St. Louis--black families in a federal slum--indicates that interest in the grown-up world is greatly heightened in the preadolescent period. These preadolescents perhaps observe more adolescent sexual activity than adult sexual activity because adolescent sexual activity often takes place outside, "in hallways, stairwells, galleries, laundry rooms, and on the project grounds." Adults in Pruitt-Igo think of preadolescence as a period of intense imitation of adults, unlike middle-class adults who are more likely to think of their children as innocent of such knowledge and activity.
Children are often present during conversations about sexual behavior, a favorite topic of conversation among both adolescents and adults. They learn the words, concepts, implications, and meaning of sexual terms and can appear to be remarkably sophisticated even though they have not had exposure to sexual behavior directly. One of the ways their sexual knowledge develops is through learning to "joan," that is, to master traditional stories or "toasts" of black folklore. Actual observation of sexual activity makes it possible for many preadolescents to tell stories about such events.
By preadolescence children of Pruitt-Igo not only know "how to do it" but they also know that sexual activity is regarded as desirable. According to Rainwater, they move early and easily from listening to sex conversation and from passive observation to active participation. Not that they move directly to sexual intercourse; their relationships are primarily social and are modeled after the "going steady" pattern of youth. Play activity often eventuates in playing at sexual intercourse which may or may not involve actual penetration.
The girls are ambivalent about playing sex with a boy; however, "they are committed anticipatorily to the roles as sexual partners as part of their developing conception of themselves as women." (Rainwater, 1970, p. 280).
Involvement of preadolescents with persons of other age categories can take a variety of forms. The following cases involve homosexual encounters, looking at sex pictures and exposing, masturbating, dating, fondling, fellating, and engaging in intercourse and sodomy. Perhaps the most common contact of preadolescents, especially among the middle-class, with those of other ages involves "sex education," that is, verbal sex instruction.
My first acquaintance with sex was in second and third grade, when I began to talk with older boys and girls because of my early maturation. The older children told me that girls had a hole between their legs, called a 'cunt.' They told me to look at a cunt as soon as possible. Well, curiosity had been invoked in me, so I stripped the girl next door and looked at her.
I think I found out about intercourse and conception from an older neighbor boy (probably about three years older) who would give me pornographic books and magazines to read, and when he had a chance, would fondle my body some. This was happening when I was about in sixth grade.
There was an older boy who lived on our block who initiated sexual contact with me. He was about fifteen years old and I (a girl) about ten, I believe. He used to tease us and play school with us. Whenever he'd punish me held take me into his little room behind the furnace and pretend to whip me. One time though he put his hand down my pants. I got scared but he convinced me it was alright to do. From then on he would put his hand in my pants whenever an opportunity presented itself. He even started putting my hand in his pants to play with his penis. Once he baby-sat with me and brought a friend. I enjoyed their attention and obliged them in sex play. They took me into my room separately and showed me their penises and had me fondle them. I remember thinking they were huge. This type of activity continued with these two for about four months.
When I (a boy) was eight years old a boy at the age of puberty fascinated me with off-color stories which I really didn't understand. Following a few nights of dirty jokes, he proceeded to demonstrate masturbation to me. When he had succeeded in reaching orgasm, he suggested that I try like stimulation. There was no result to my efforts whatsoever.
I think I (a boy) had begun to develop physically by the time my brother exposed me to what I later learned was masturbation. He persuaded me to let him do something to me which he termed 'jackin' off.' I enjoyed the physical reaction...
I decided to see if I could masturbate on a girl. I was now thirteen. I picked to lure a younger girl that lived a few houses away in hopes that she wouldn't say anything to anyone else.... I asked her if she wanted to wrestle. She said she didn't know how and I immediately showed her how by taking her arms and pushing her over onto my bed. I wrestled around with her and finally climbed onto her and pulled her dress up exposing her underwear. I proceeded to move up and down on her thus rubbing my erection between her legs. I came to climax and ejaculated...
My second homosexual experience was one with my older cousin. I think I was in about fifth grade when this happened, and he must have been in about eighth grade of junior high school. The contact involved lying down on the couch and unzipping each other's pants and fondling, caressing, and masturbating each other's genitals. I remember he felt a special sensation when I would reach way around his scrotum and fondle his testes. We would take turns stimulating each other and then we would fondle each other simultaneously. I also received great pleasure from this homosexual contact. These homosexual contacts, at the time did not seem abnormal at that age, but as I look back upon it I can hardly believe I ever did such a thing. Today I would never consider doing such things.
When I was eight years old a boy at the age of puberty enlisted my aid in forming a 'club'.... Each meeting had to be brought to order by rubbing the blunt edge of a knife along each other's penis. Following this we engaged in fellatio, for him to orgasm, for me, there was no apparent purpose.
I (eleven years old) had become friendly with a boy five years younger than myself, and soon started thinking of sex. We began by fondling each other's genitals and soon proceeded to playing games involving our sex organs. This relationship went on for a month; we attempted to engage in penal-anal intercourse.
In the following case the girl was eight years old and "not very mature" while her cousin was sixteen and "sort of left with the responsibility of baby-sitting." The uncommon composure of the parents in the face of an assault on their young daughter is a striking element to this case.
He had me undress in his room and he began to fondle me and investigate the various unfamiliar parts of my body. Then he laid me on the bed and he also took off his clothes before lying down on the bed with me. He continued to caress me and soon became quite excited and then he attempted to have intercourse with me, but the pain was too great for me and I began to cry and there was also some bleeding in the vaginal area. I ran to the bathroom and stayed there crying until my parents returned a short time later.
When my parents returned my cousin was hysterical and running around gathering clothes and food in preparation for running away from home. My mother came into the bathroom and talked to me. She spoke quietly and comfortingly, at the same time asking questions about what had happened. In the meantime my father was with my cousin talking in the same manner. Then my mother left me and she and my father both talked to my cousin and somehow calmed him down and convinced him that the best thing everyone could do would be to treat the whole occurrence as something very normal.
Older girls are a common source of information about menstruation, pregnancy, et cetera for younger girls. The first three cases indicate that they are not always the best sources of sexual information. The last case concerns a boy who does quite an adequate job of informing his younger brother about sexual matters.
By the time I reached fourth grade, still not having been told about menstruation by my mother, I was approached by some of the older and more knowledgeable girls who were eager to impress the younger girls with their newly acquired information. They filled me in, with all the lurid details, on the bleeding that women had to go through.
It (fourth grade girl being told about menstruation by older girls) sounded perfectly awful and terribly messy.
I (seventh grade girl having been taught 'the facts of life' by older girls) was stunned, bewildered, and awestricken by the repulsiveness, yet the attractiveness with which they spoke of intercourse.
I remember once our family was out for a ride and my young brother who was about eight years old at the time, came up with the question, "If babies are in mothers' stomachs, how do they get out?" It seemed like an amusing question at first. Neither of my parents gave him a direct answer. This made me angry that they didn't do so. I tried to explain to him the best I could how it happened so that he'd understand.
Most sexual encounters of preadolescents with their parents are not directly or intimately erotic in nature. The preadolescent observes that his mother is pregnant, or he observes his parents kissing and embracing, for example. The parent answers the preadolescent's sex questions or fails to answer them, moralizes, and admonishes. The parent sometimes observes a sexual encounter involving the preadolescent and one or more of his peers--not as frequently as in childhood, however, since the preadolescent learns to be more discreet, discriminating, and secretive in his sexual behavior.
Among the Chewa of Africa parents believe that unless children begin to exercise themselves sexually early in life they will never beget offspring. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 190). Preadolescents build little huts some distance from the village, and there, with the complete approval of their parents, they play at being husband and wife. Such trial matings may extend well into adolescence, with periodic exchanges of partners until marriage occurs. The Ifugao headhunters of the Philippines maintain a similar attitude toward the sex play of preadolescents and adolescents. In this society unmarried children live in separate dormitories from early childhood. It is customary for each boy to sleep with a girl each night. Boys are urged by their fathers to begin sexual activity early, and a man may shame his son if the latter is backward in this respect.
Turning to the more characteristic preadolescent-parent sexual encounters prevalent in our society (verbal exchanges), Conn ("Sexual Curiosity," 1940) reports that American preadolescents ask remarkably few sexual questions. Of 200 children, the average child from the age of four to the age of twelve asked his parents less than two questions. More than one-half of the entire number of questions were offered by the child by the time he was eight years of age.
Of the questions that preadolescents ask in the area of sex, Hattendorf (1932) found the following categories to be in descending rank of interest: coming of another baby, origin of babies, organs and functions, relations of father to reproduction, process of birth, physical sex differences, marriage, and intra-uterine growth.
The following cases dealing with parent-adolescent encounters and interchanges are arranged according to the age of the preadolescent. The first case involves transvestism; the preadolescent enjoys wearing the mother's clothing. The case does not involve direct sexual encounter of mother and child.
Starting later than masturbating which started as early as at least age nine but running concurrently with it was a period of excitement I found when putting on my mother's underclothing. This pattern continued on to junior high school.
The following three cases deal with the preadolescent coming to the realization that the parents have a life of their own as a married couple apart from their roles with the child in the family. This would seem to be an important cognitive sexual experience for the preadolescent.
I think this occurred when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I realized that they probably didn't take naps together on Saturday and Sunday afternoons just because they were tired, and besides they always locked the door and were displeased if disturbed. At night, when we all went to bed about the same time, I remember hearing their voices (not words) and they sounded different than they usually did when they talked.
As I remember, I first became aware of this exclusive membership when I was eight or nine and walked into the kitchen finding my parents in each other's arms. I remember wondering about this because I had never associated my parents with one another as being in love.
The birth of a baby sister in my family made me aware that there was a relationship between my father and mother that I was not a part of. The fact that they maintained a separate bedroom was another indication that a different relationship existed. The accidental discovery of a contraceptive, at about the age of twelve, also contributed to my awareness.
The following cases deal with sex education--both informal and formal--in which preadolescents and their parents are involved. First are some cases in which the encounter was viewed by the preadolescent as unsatisfactory.
We went grocery shopping and passed boxes of sanitary napkins. I (a girl) used to wonder what they were for. She told me that I wasn't old enough to know. I was in third or fourth grade at the time.
When I began menstruating, I cried hysterically, not so much at the sight of the blood, but at the prospect of having to tell my mother.
At age nine my own sexuality became an increased concern. I came upon my mother changing her tampax. The blood in the little pad worried me, and I asked her about it. She responded by saying I would learn soon enough what it was and not to worry about it.
Once in fifth or sixth grade I asked my father what it meant when a girl got in trouble. He said, "Ask your mother," but he was so embarrassed by the question that I didn't ask Mom.
My girl friend and I walked home from school and she told me about the funny sensation she had experienced while lying in bed the night before. I told her I, too, had experienced the same situation; we decided to ask my mother about it. She gave us a vague explanation, but it was nothing more than a warning not to do it again. This experience planted in my mind that to talk about the body was bad and it only had dirty connotations. I slowly became quite self-conscious about my body.
Indirectly my parents told me plenty. They made me feel that sex was dirty and was something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Yet they joked about it and my father always had some "girly" magazines lying around the house. At first I got a big kick out of looking at them, but later they just disgusted me and made me hate being a girl if all the men did was look at our bodies and make jokes about us.
Throughout my childhood, I was taught that a young lady was to be properly modest and that sex and the body was not to be spoken of, not even to my parents or my brothers.
I can remember once asking my mother what p.g. meant and she replying 'pretty girl.' I knew what it meant but you might say I was testing her.
Terminology such as 'the curse' or 'sick days' when referring to menstruation certainly produced fear to say the least.
When I asked them (my parents) how a person got pregnant, they replied, "you become pregnant only when you are married and in love." I was morbidly afraid of falling in love for fear I would get pregnant.
When Mom came home with a paper-back book for teenagers, I was very uninhibited, ready to learn and accept all that life had to offer. I just wanted to know! Mom said we'd read it together which I thought was just about perfect. That night nothing more was said so I decided to delve in and that night was reading it in bed when Mom walked in. She said that as long as I had started it, I could read it on my own, and if I came to something I couldn't understand to come and ask her about it. I was disappointed. But the reading went fine--until I read the chapter on venereal diseases. Suddenly I was on very unfamiliar ground. (The book was a joint effort on the part of a minister and doctor, and was always clouded with ethereal, vague definitions.) The more I read, the more I was confused, so I did as told. I went to Mom and asked her, and for the first time I saw her completely flustered. She finally told me to read what I could understand, and then went on with her work. Suddenly all the excitement was gone and I could feel a wall go up between us. I went to my room and tried my best to read, but I was angry and hurt, and the more I read, the more confused I got. I will never forget that night, because while I sat in the dark crying, I swore a solemn oath that I would never let a daughter of mine feel the confusion and frustration that I felt.
My mother once in one of our close mother-daughter talks with me told me about the boy she had gone with and was very serious about and then one night he tried to caress her breasts, and from then on she would never see him again. I was embarrassed by this revelation coming from her and she made it sound so horrible that I swore that it would never happen to me.
I (a girl who asked her mother "Where did I come from?") was never sure if she meant by seed--the kind that came from apples in our orchard or from the oranges that we bought. Anyway, I had a mental picture of Dad putting a seed inside mother (by hand), as she squatted on the floor and my dad sat on a chair in the kitchen.
While on a family trip my mother refused to let me sleep in the same bed with my sister in a motel room. I was puzzled, for I saw my father and mother sleep together, and I wondered why a brother and sister could not do the same. My mother quickly explained that boys and girls do not do that sort of thing when they get to be my age. That is all she said; I was silent, but I was not satisfied.
She just tried to drill it into my head that one's body is a personal thing and got across the point that anything having to do with sex is evil, a point which was often stressed. I don't think she even got around to telling me it was all right when I got married.
She warned me never to let boys do that (touch my genitals) because guys talk among themselves and soon many boys would like me because they considered me easy. She did not say anything about intercourse and I did not ask any questions. Both of us were uneasy. This was the only time she ever told me anything about sex. I wonder if she is waiting to tell me right before I get married.
I think the reason for this (never confiding in his father about sex matters) is that fact that I know my father would be hurt if he knew something was bothering me.
When I (a boy) was in seventh grade, I managed to obtain a deck of playing cards with pictures of nude women on the backs. I smuggled them into our house and into the bathroom. There I was enjoying myself when my father knocked on the door. I slid the cards under the rug and tried to shield my erect penis while opening the door. My father peered in, excused himself, and backed out of the room. I thought that my secret was safe until later that day when he called me in for a heart to heart talk. He told me what he had seen and what he suspected, and that he was very ashamed of me and if I was ever caught doing anything like that again, held never be able to trust me. This made a serious impression on me and I can truthfully say that he never again caught me. However, my bodily functions could not be suppressed and the build-up of semen in my body pressured me into further masturbation despite the family pressure not to continue.
The first time I menstruated, I was in seventh grade.... My mother told me a little--like "when you don't get it you are pregnant." To top it all off, my period was very irregular, so every time it was a little late, I swore I was pregnant--when I had done no more than kissed.
The information that mothers give, if any is given, is usually related to menstruation and pregnancy. Learning about contraceptives and coitus is restricted to what is learned from peers. The mother may be an inadequate source of sexual information, but the father is even worse. (Gagnon, August 1965).
I asked my parents how it was possible for an unmarried girl to become pregnant. My father looked at my mother, then hid behind the sports page. Mom smiled knowingly and said, "Well, it can happen, but you're too young to understand why."
As far back as I can remember my parents have almost hidden sex from me. They told me that touching parts of my body was really wrong and would harm my health. They never discussed masturbation with me and I can never remember them using that word. They would use 'playing with yourself' and make it sound really shameful.
When some of my good friends would meet me, they would sometimes say, "How are ya, ya old fucker!" One night when my dad came home from work, I ran and greeted him by saying, "How are you, Dad, you old fucker!" This occasion marked the beginning of my sex education!
When I asked my mother where the kittens came from in the first place and why they couldn't go back there again, she scolded me and said that nice little girls don't ask things like this. Hearing the older kids use the word 'fuck' in a dirty story, I asked my mom what the word meant. I didn't receive an explanation but rather a warning that the next time that I used the word I could expect to get my mouth washed out with soap!
My father has never been my confident. I have never approached him with a problem, unless it has been some minor disagreement with my mother. I have never spoken to him about marriage or dating, probably because sex has never been mentioned in our house. Not so much as the word 'pregnant' has been mentioned, or any word that would carry a connotation of sex with it.
It is possible that my mother talked to my sisters but nobody ever talked to me. It might be assumed that by having grown up on a farm which had livestock, part of it breeding stock, that the facts of life would be very obvious... Even though I had observed pigs breeding I did not associate it with any human act.
The only sex education I ever received in the family was one morning when Mother informed me that if I should ever notice a white fluid instead of the normal yellow urine, it was nothing to worry about, it happened sooner or later to all growing boys. Though I have since learned that semen is passed in this manner I was told nothing at that time about the nature of the "white fluid."
There are some reasons why mothers should prepare their daughters for the menarche and not depend on the school. In a sample of college students studied by Shipman (1968) he found that the onset of menarche ranged in age from seven to seventeen years of age. Because of this variation in age, it is difficult for the school to give instructions at the "right time." Shipman found that the girls wished their mothers had played a part in such teaching. It was not so much the information as the affective support that they desired from their mothers.
The following cases represent sex education provided in encounters with the parent--sex education which the preadolescent regards as having been positive and satisfactory. It is generally agreed by sex educators that the number of cases in which the parents give adequate sex instruction is far outstripped in number by those in which the instruction is not adequate in terms of attitude, values, or information. The following cases illustrate that it can be done.
I would say that 95 percent of my sex education has come from my mother. She has told me in such a beautiful way that sex has not become ugly in my eyes.
As a result of this broad sex education (her mother told her 'everything'), I never believed any of the perverted and misleading ideas about sex.
After that talk, I (a seventh grade girl who went to her mother for sex instruction) have been very close to my mother. She has been like a sister to me in that I have been able to talk over anything and everything with her.
My formal sex education from my father came when I (a boy) was in the fifth grade. We had very little difficulty with terms and his explanation of various reproductive organs and their correct scientific names was very easy to understand. I became aware of the fact that the male produced sperm which was carried by semen and that I could expect to have nocturnal emissions as I grew older. He explained this was normal and a part of maturing, that my mother would understand completely the soiling of pajamas and bedsheets. These nocturnal emissions, he explained, would be caused by a buildup of the sperm supply and would serve to relieve the pressure. Even though he didn't go into the mechanics of masturbation, he left me with the feeling that the pressure build-up was normal and that it was nothing shameful if it was relieved. Even most of this information was given in an unemotional technical language. I was aware that the joys of this act were a part of love and marriage. This was especially evidenced by the fact that the term love was used interchangeably with the word intercourse. My father also explained the menstrual patterns of girls and told me that sometimes their emotional make-up is changed during these times. He also explained that young girls go through a special emotional change with the onset of menstruation and that one of the cruelest things to do would be to tease them about it. Thus my formal sex education from my father during fifth grade stressed the feeling of love and respect for others as well as the physical and technical aspects of a sexual relationship. I think that this is a very important attitude to instill in a young child. It was an afterthought of our talk that my father mentioned that the sexual act did not always represent a chance of conception and that there were means available to prevent conception. This fact stressed to me that sexual intercourse had not only a reproductive function but also something that two people in love naturally enjoyed. The conclusion of this talk was there would probably be other factors concerning sex that would interest me later that he had forgotten to mention, and I was assured that I was always welcome and encouraged to ask either him or Mom and need never feel embarrassed about doing so.
On the way home from shopping my mother said she had forgotten to buy something. I wasn't paying too much attention, but I asked her what she had forgotten. She answered by saying 'Kotex.' Naturally I asked what it was and both my father and mother looked at each other and said, 'Well, I think it's about time we tell her.' When we got home Dad showed me a book, diagrams of the female and male reproductive systems. He explained to me what happens during menstruation, how the mother and father cell are joined together, where a baby grows during pregnancy, and how a baby is born. At first I was shocked to think my parents would do such awful things. The more questions I asked the more I realized it must be a pretty natural process with all the people in the world. I think that this matter-of-fact, down to earth explaining has always made it easier to confide in either of my parents.
This warm companionship I share with my father probably developed early in life when he would come home from work and take time to play with me, look at the things I had made in school, sit down and just talk. He won my confidence. Because I trusted his opinion I felt free to consult him about various problems or questions which came to mind, especially concerning dating, sex, and boys. I first began dating while in the seventh grade. This is when our 'little talks' began.
There has always been much affection in my family and I learned to show affection freely, but I believe my parents were trying to convey the idea that sex within marriage was sacred and not something to be experimented with outside of a true love relationship.
My mother stressed that intercourse is sacred and that it should be 'saved' until the marriage vows have been spoken. I have always remembered this and always will.
When I was about nine, ten, or eleven my mother talked to me. She said to me, "Tell me everything that you learned in the street, and whatever you learned in the street that wasn't true, I'll correct." And I told her. Well, I guess 90 percent of the information that I learned in the street was true and 10 percent wasn't.
When I reached the age of twelve I experienced my first erection. I was worried about this because I thought is was abnormal and unclean. Being concerned about the erection I asked my mother about it and to my relief she told me it was normal for these things to happen.
The onset of adolescence posed no new problems. I knew about menstruation before its arrival and Mother and I had purchased the necessities and put them in the cupboard. This along with my first bra and girdle were family matters of importance.
Before either my twin or myself experienced menses we saw a fairly good movie in school which explained some of the things. Then after dinner that night Mom and Dad talked to us about what we had seen making sure we understood it and would not be afraid or worried when it happened to us. That evening I felt so good because I knew my parents were concerned about me.
I think a gentle attitude toward sex was instilled in me by my parents, probably because both of them were very physical in showing their affection for each other, me, and other family members. There was always a substantial amount of literature concerning the subjects around the home and most of it was in language elementary enough for a child of seven or eight years.
My family is a person-centered family. My mother would always say to me, 'You are not the only one in the family. There are four others.' My parents taught me very early the attitudes of acceptance, respect, and desire for other people.
Prohibition against incest characterizes every human society. Both partners in a marriage are forbidden to form sexual liaisons with their own offspring. An exception is represented by the very rare cases in which a society expects a few individuals of special rank to cohabit with their immediate descendants. The Azande of Africa, for example, insist that the highest chiefs enter into sexual partnerships with their own daughters. In no society, however, are such matings permitted to the general population.
Though incest is prohibited it does occur. Incest between father and daughter occurs in the United States. In years past we have not recognized the extent of daughter-father occurrences because of our belief that many of such accounts were fantasy. (Litin, 1965). In the following incestuous encounter of a daughter and her father, daughter-father roles became confused because of an unusual sleeping arrangement, father's drunken condition, and daughter's favorable response to the sensual experience.
There was only one bed in our hotel room, a double one which I shared with my father that night. As it turned out, my father came back very late that night, after drinking quite heavily. I had never seen him drunk before. He got ready for bed and warned me before he got in that he was used to sleeping with mother and that he hoped he would not bother me. He started to make love to me, not knowing what he was doing. I did, however, but liked the sensation and I let it continue for awhile--it seemed like hours, but it was only a matter of minutes. One way that it affected me was to cause me to wish again to have the same sensations I had that night which led me to masturbation.
In the following cases the incestuous relationship is being described by the social worker in the first and by a participant in the second. In only one case coitus attempted. As is apparent in these cases, incestuous relationships run the gamut from relatively innocent sex play to rape.
Mary was a sixth grader when she was raped by her sixteen year old brother. The father was drunk when we came to the home. The father began to tussle Mary's (now thirteen) hair and cuddle her as fathers often playfully do. However, Mary did not respond positively, and she seemed to wish to pull away--her face showed anguish and she appeared extremely distraught with every movement of his hands on her face and chest. Her eyes were closed as if she were in pain. To me it was clear that the father, as well as the brother, was a source of sexual torment for Mary. In a short while, the father led Mary from the entry area (where we were talking) into the living room and sat in a chair with Mary lying on his lap. It was possible to see them; the father was stroking her body, particularly her genitals. I was able to see now that Mary had been conditioned to endure being touched by her father for she had no other place to turn for help.
My brother is a year older than I am. We were very fond of each other. When I was in seventh grade we got very sexually involved. He told me all about sexual intercourse. Every day after school we would go to his room and talk and fondle one another. He had some rubbers and asked if he could have sexual intercourse with me. I almost let him do it, but it was too painful. He was very gentle and he said he wouldn't do it. Sometimes we would play rape and I would be in his room and held run in. We would fight and finally held rip my clothes off. This was one of our favorite games.
One day my brother (age thirteen) quite by accident, found a stack of old "Playboy" magazines in my dad's closet and showed them to me. We never had too much time to look at them because we weren't left alone often.... After we'd looked at them several times, my brother started asking me if I looked like the girls in the pictures. I replied that I didn't but he kept pestering me. Finally he suggested that we pretend that I was the model and that he was the photographer. He coaxed me, saying it would be fun and besides, 'nobody would know except us'.... At first I just took off my clothes, but then I decided it wasn't quite fair, so he took off his, too, when I threatened to quit playing. Pretty soon the novelty of just looking at each other wore off, so he decided we should touch each other. By this time I was a little curious, too, so we agreed to 'feel each other' for thirty seconds at a time. I suppose this was my earliest encounter with mutual masturbation. He told me that he enjoyed it when I ran my fingers over his penis; however, I (a preadolescent) didn't get any pleasure out of doing it and enjoyed his exploration even less.
Sexual situations involving the preadolescent and adults other than parents vary from society to society. Among the Siwams of Africa all men and boys engage in anal intercourse. Males are singled out as peculiar if they do not indulge in these homosexual activities. Prominent Siwam men lend their sons to each other, and they talk about their masculine love affairs as openly as they discuss their love of women. Both married and unmarried males are expected to have both homosexual and heterosexual affairs. Among aborigines of Australia this type of coitus is also a recognized custom between unmarried and uninitiated boys. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 132).
Among the Aranda pederasty is a recognized custom. (Strehlow 1915 as reported by Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 132). Commonly a man, who is fully initiated but not yet married, takes a boy ten or twelve years old, who lives with him as a wife for several years, until the older man marries. The boy must belong to the proper marriage class from whom the man might take a wife.
A sexual encounter between preadolescent girls and adults among the Ponape occasions the "treatment" designed to lengthen the labia minora and to enlarge the clitoris. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 176). Black ants are put in the vulva; their stinging causes the labia and the clitoris to swell. The procedures are repeated.
Among the Lepcha older men occasionally copulate with girls as young as eight years of age. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 191). Instead of being regarded as a criminal offense, such behavior is considered amusing.
Girls of Basutoland, South Africa, are expected to attire themselves with rings of braided grass and cowhide, and white clay rubbed on their bodies and legs. These young girls are first instructed for a period of some weeks in the details of sexual intercourse, after which they are circumcised--that is, the clitoris is amputated. This is done to prevent them from engaging in promiscuous sexual activity when they are married. As part of this rite, they act out coital positions with each other. ("Curiosities," Sexology, XXX, February 1964, p. 466).
In Western societies sexual encounters between preadolescents and adults often involve the adult male exhibiting his genitals, commonly in the presence of girls. In many cases the exhibitionist also masturbates in the presence of the younger person. It is by no means common for girls who grow up in an urban environment to encounter such exhibitionists. (Moll, 1913; Halleck, April 1962).
Many preadolescents have had direct physical encounters with older persons as well. Halleck, in a United States study found that 35 percent of a sample of girls had been involved in sexual encounters with adult males that had resulted in their being handled or in other ways molested. Reevy (1967) reports that of 4,441 female subjects studied, 24 percent had had experiences during the period of preadolescence in which adult males had established sexual contacts with them or appeared to be making approaches. In 31 percent of the cases reporting sexual approaches the adult patted the child but did not manipulate the sex organs, but in 22 percent of the cases there was physical manipulating.
Often I visited an in-laws' house and stayed overnight. When I was twelve, I awoke from a happy dream to discover that I was being fondled by her seventy year old father. I told him to stop immediately. He kept asking if he could do it one more time. I told him if he touched me I'd scream.
Presently the man came over and sat next to me. It didn't really bother me, however, it seemed he could have sat across from me and he was sitting awfully close... He leaned over and asked me what I was reading and at the same time put his hand on my genital area and began rubbing. At first I was rather stunned. I couldn't comprehend that this old man whom I had been friends with for so long would be doing something so "awful." I was going through the stage where even washing my genitalia seemed bad because I was touching them. Therefore, this seemed truly terrible. The thing that strikes me now is the way he kept talking in a normal tone of voice looking directly at me. When I had pictured this type of thing in my mind, I had visualized rather maniacal behavior. He continued to rub and I continued to sit there dumbfounded. I don't remember feeling any type of sensation in my genitals (or anywhere else, for that matter). After what seemed like an eternity, he moved his hand and started to pull my zipper down. That was all it took to get me moving. I started crying on the way, but I really don't remember why. I hadn't been injured in any way, and he hadn't been mean.
Four-fifths of the girls who had had sexual contacts with adults had but one experience in childhood, 15 percent had less than six experiences, and 5 percent had nine or more experiences before preadolescence. Kinsey reports that where repetitions occur the child is aggressive in seeking the experience.
Our next door neighbors had their grandfather living with them, whom I admired very much for the stories he told. One day while sitting on his lap, he started rubbing my genitals. I tried to make an excuse to leave, but he would not let me. I was scared. Finally, I broke away from the old man. This happened every time I would visit there until I refused to go in the house anymore.
Thirty-five of the boys in the Ramsey (1943) sample had been approached by adult males desiring homosexual relationships, and eight of these boys had accepted the proposals and had participated in relationships with older men. All the boys involved were 11 years old or more. In 75 percent of the cases the adults making the approach were strangers to the boys. In none of these approaches or relationships was any sort of physical force used, but in about one-third of the cases the boys were offered some reward, such as money, an automobile ride, or an invitation to a motion picture show or some athletic event. The approaches were made in school, on the street, in theaters, at athletic events, in boys' camps, from automobiles, at carnivals, on journeys, and at other places and occasions.
In most societies, adults are active in trying to prevent children and preadolescents from having sexual encounters rather than in initiating them into such encounters. In some societies adults attempt to deny young people any form of sexual experience or sex education. This has been a prevailing attitude in middle- and upper-class societies in the United States. Many adults avoid mentioning matters of sexual significance in the presence of children and make every effort to keep them in ignorance of the reproductive process. Among the natives of the Western Carolines, also, sex is never discussed before children, especially girls. Cuna children remain ignorant of sexual matters, as far as adult instruction is concerned, until the last stages of the marriage ceremony. Chagga children are told that babies come out of the forest. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 180).
In a number of these societies particular pains are taken to prevent offspring from accidentally observing sexual behavior. In some instances, as among the Murgin of Australia, boys are removed from the family dwelling to the boys' house or bachelors, house when they are four or five years old; this is done for the specific purpose of preventing them from witnessing sexual behavior at home. Cuna children are not even allowed to watch animals give birth. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 180).
Deliberate excitation of one's genitals is considered a perversion by adults in many societies. In the past at least, the adults in the United States have attempted to prevent preadolescents from engaging in masturbatory activity. However, in a recent study (Abelson, Cohen, Heaton, and Suder, 1970) 911 American men and 1370 American women were asked how a parent should react to masturbation on the part of a twelve or thirteen year old boy or girl. The results indicate that the adult respondents were generally tolerant of preadolescent or early adolescent masturbation. They would "discuss" or "discourage" rather than "punish" or "forbid" it. Approximately one-fourth to one-half of all male and female respondents indicated that they would "discuss" the matter with the twelve or thirteen year old.
Children, preadolescents, and adolescents encounter adults and their sexual proscriptions through encounters with adult-molded public opinion, laws, institutions, and various adult functionaries such as the police. Public opinion in the United States has largely accepted the Judeo-Christian restrictions on most sexual encounters outside of marriage. No state makes it a criminal offense for an individual to engage in self-masturbation, but two states (Indiana and Wyoming) consider it to be a crime to encourage another person to masturbate.
Offenses that involve incest (the most common forms being father-daughter or stepfather-stepdaughter and brother-sister) and offenses that involve the use of force in obtaining sexual gratification are intensely condemned by the public (as well as by their representatives the police) in the United States. Though there is evidence that children might in some cases be willing accomplices to the offense, or might indeed be seductive, the onus is always on the adult offender and pursuit by the police is vigorous. (Gagnon and Simon, March 1968).
If parents or other adults are to be the source of the child's first information on sex, they must give that information early or the child will acquire his knowledge, such as it is, from experience and from his companions. At the junior high school level (and occasionally beginning as early as kindergarten), many communities are now sponsoring sex education in the public school--on human sexuality, understanding of self and one's feelings, personality development, and getting along with others of one's own sex. If sex education programs are intended to counter the influence of peers and others they must begin in the nursery school or kindergarten and continue through senior high school. If a teacher of sex education is open and receptive, preadolescents are quite open in asking questions. Questions range from "What is a 'hoar'?", "Why do I feel excited when a boy puts his arm around me?", "Is it all right to run around the house without any clothing?", to "How could Mary give birth to Jesus if she didn't have intercourse with Joseph?" (Avery, 1964, p. 35-36).
Many preadolescents remember encounters in the school that leave an impression on their sexual attitudes and behavior.
We were having health classes in our fifth grade physical education course and learning more about ourselves. There were talks given and movies shown explaining menstruation to us in detail. There were movies on dating, teaching us manners on a date and the correct way to refuse a date, and so forth. They were all rather general but helpful, although outdated, and therefore did not seem as realistic to us as they might have.
My second encounter with sex education came in the fifth grade. At this time the girls in the class were shown a film on menstruation. The boys were given a recess and most of us thought it was strange that we got recess and the girls didn't. Later that day I asked an older girl who lived next door what the movie was about. She told me that it dealt with girls bleeding in their panties. This was her only answer. Her explanation confused me and I wondered what was wrong with girls.
The teacher's frankness is not all that is necessary to good sex education.
I feel that my conservative attitude toward sex was instilled by my sixth grade physical education teacher. She was a very young but a very coarse woman. She told us about her sordid sex life, her illegitimate child, and how sexual intercourse was the most wonderful thing in the world--whether one was married or not. After her talks on sex, anything relating to it, even kissing, made me sick.
The church has not been known for its openness in discussing human sexuality nor for the quality of sex education it provides for its young people. Yet many church-oriented youth remember some experiences from encounters with the church and with church professionals in the area of sex. The church has been the source of a good deal of the general sexual prohibitions in American society. On occasion, the church has specifically condemned departures from its sex codes, but more often it has depended upon the force of less tangible concepts such as purity, cleanliness, sin, uncleanness, depravity, and degradation to create a climate of repression. The very generality and indefiniteness of these concepts makes them inclusive. Each person who places himself under the authority of the church is likely to categorize himself in accordance with such standards. He is often more severe on himself than his fellows would be if they were judging his behavior.
My first source of misinformation about sex came from my church. From ages six to thirteen I attended a Missouri Synod parochial day school. Between the ages of eight and twelve, church and school were totally integrated for me. What the school authorities stated was what the church dictated. Therefore, sex was taboo. As pupils, we were forbidden to mention the word or any activities relating to sex. I remember saying 'sex' to one of my friends when I was about ten. I was reprimanded by the teacher and told to write "I will never say sex" three hundred times. This seems to me to have been a self-defeating punishment because it only served to reinforce the term.
My liberal upbringing was eventually interrupted by the church. For a four or five year period, beginning when I was ten years old, I became extremely aware of sex taboos via the church. There were marriage and family classes that taught me not to "turn boys on" and that physical contact was a sin that marriage rectified. I started being very observant of my mother's activities (she was a widow). When she went out with men, I constantly wondered whether she was having intercourse with them or not. I would lay awake at night and cry thinking surely she would go to hell because that was what was said in the Bible and in church. I'd hear stories about God's love and all the rest; including God's loving decree that anyone who had and enjoyed sex was a sinner... including my mother! Then, for some reason, after I was confirmed, we stopped going to church. The discussion with sex was still in my mind, though it lessened very slightly with time.
My first instructor was my pastor when I was around twelve and ready for catechism. He took our co-ed class into a small room to explain conception. His generalizations left me with the impression that only during one's menses would one become pregnant. I still didn't know how intercourse took place and the thought of having a bloody intercourse repulsed me.
Each member of my confirmation class had to have a private meeting with the minister. He had not told us at all what it was for, but gave us a book to read about teenagers and growing-up problems. My minister was about 32 years old and had a very nice wife and four children. The private session, I (a girl, age twelve) thought, would be a preexamination of my faith and what I had learned through confirmation instructions. Well, it turned out to be nothing of the sort. He began questioning me about how much I knew about sex and dating, showed me diagrams of the female organs, and proceeded to explain the facts of life to me. It was a terrifying experience for me because I had never heard a male talking about this subject before. He continued to pry into my personal life and embarrass me. At this age I just wasn't ready to discuss sex with an older man. I lost all respect for him as a minister and as a person. To me, it seemed that it was unnecessary for him to call me in for a private conference on sex. If he would have lectured to the whole class, I would not have been so ashamed, especially since I was quiet and shy at this age. His most shocking comment was something like if I ever needed a sex outlet, I should come to him. This really scared me and I would pray to God many times after that asking Him why he did this to me. His approach to sex education was very poor in taste, and it took me a long time to feel that sex was good and that I would ever engage in a relationship with a male. How a man in his position could talk to me as he did was beyond my comprehension.
Some preadolescents have favorable attitudes toward sex education received through the church and are grateful for it.
Thanks to the book Love and Life for Teenagers given to us during confirmation I learned the details plus facts from my more knowledgeable peers.
Sex education is sometimes a part of the program of other adult-sponsored organizations such as the Scouts, Campfire Girls, and others.
I received no sex education at all at home. I was quite amazed and fascinated when a nurse came to a Girl Scout meeting in the fifth or sixth grade and told us about the menstrual cycle.
One indirect method utilized by adults in teaching about sex is through literature. Adults unable to speak openly about sex have found this to be one method of fulfilling what they regard as their obligation to provide sex instruction. Sometimes such literature is adequate and is appreciated. In other cases it is not. Frequently, of course, sex literature not approved by adults falls into the hands of the young.
Misery likes company, so I (age twelve), teamed with an equally as ignorant friend, consulted some paperbacks that she had found in her dad's drawer. One of the stories was about a married woman who wanted to become pregnant. When her husband objected, she went to her neighbor who was her previous boyfriend, and asked him to be the father. This man said he was ready anytime, all she had to do was let him know by biting the tip of his tongue when he thrust it into her mouth. Aha, I thought, now I know how a boy lets you know he wants intercourse--he'll just thrust his tongue into your mouth.
(Five years later) I was infatuated with my date, very tired and quite intrigued at the idea of making out. So when he landed his first kiss and thrust his tongue into my mouth--oh, God, no, I thought, he wants intercourse!!! I pushed him away and escaped into the night. It was embarrassing later when my girlfriends told me that you exchanged tongues to French kiss!!
I don't know why but I always had funny feelings inside whenever we looked at them (preadolescent girl looking at her father's sex literature on the sly with her adolescent brother). The very fact that they hid the magazines that contained pictures of nude or semi-nude girls meant it wasn't 'good' or 'nice.'
While his parents were gone we (eleven years old) proceeded to go into his parents' bedroom and opened the bedside cabinet to pull out the most recent publications of Playboy. This was the first time I had ever seen the magazine in the open sense. We proudly gazed at the naked beauties and gasped at the size of their breasts. Both of us began to raise huge erections.... Later on, when we decided to go to bed, we thought we better look at them once more and maybe we could dream about them.... We again achieved an erection.... My friend was greatly amazed at the size of my erection and asked me if he could touch it. I told him yes and afterwards I felt very bad and remembered that I had heard that when another boy plays with your penis he is queer.
Preadolescent-animal sexual encounters are largely, but not entirely, confined to farm boys. Between ten and twelve years of age there is a rapid increase in the number of boys involved in such activity and activity reaches a peak just before adolescence. Ultimately, upon reaching high school age, 20 percent of rural males will have had some animal experience to the point of orgasm. However, the incidence of city boys who have had sexual experience with animals is only one-thirtieth to one-seventieth that of rural boys. Large differences in frequency of animal contacts between rural and urban girls do not exist. Only a few (1.5 percent) of both rural and urban females have some sort of sexual relation with an animal in preadolescence. Most often it is the result of some accidental physical contact with a pet, a result of curiosity concerning animal anatomy, or some deliberate approach on the part of the animal that precipitates the event. (Kinsey, 1948, p. 671-673; Kinsey, 1953, p. 505).
I remember having been worried earlier in the summer that I was pregnant when my dog licked my genitalia.
In looking back over the encounters discussed in this chapter, it would appear that preadolescence as a period of latency has been overstressed. In societies where children are permitted to do so, they increase rather than decrease their sexual activities during preadolescence. Sexual encounters first include auto-genital stimulation and mutual masturbation with the same and opposite sex, but with increasing age they are characterized more and more by attempts at heterosexual intercourse. By the time they reach puberty, (in permissive societies) expressions of sexuality by preadolescents consist predominately of the accepted adult form of heterosexual intercourse, the pattern which they will continue to follow throughout their sexually active years of life. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 189-190).
Even in a sexually restrictive society such as ours, children go through stages of heterosexual involvement. In some communities these stages begin in preadolescence or earlier; in other communities the stages may begin later. The stages may also take longer or shorter time to complete, depending upon the community and the individual. In preadolescence, if not before, youngsters form attachments or "crushes" on persons outside the family. The love feeling is expressed to the other person in a form which depends on the youngster's age, his sexual and social maturity, and the permissiveness of his superiors. It may appear in the form of roughhouse love play (hitting a boy, pulling a girl's hair), writing notes, inviting to a party, or simply walking someone home. If the other person responds to this attention, the two may enter into the first of what often turns out to be a long series of close relationships with peers of the opposite sex. Some are formal and intensive; others are informal and relaxed. Some involve sexual experimentation; others do not. Often the encounter is a part of a specific school setting or occasion such as a band or play rehearsal, or visits to relatives (where female cousins are a favorite object of attention for boys). There is little doubt that these encounters with their varying degrees of emotional involvement influence later attitudes toward love, sex, and the opposite sex. They also provide a set of learning experiences, including such obvious things as learning how to kiss, how to dance, or how to talk to a person of the opposite sex, how to fondle and caress. The process of learning these skills is often exciting and dramatic but also painful and embarrassing.
Broderick and Rowe (1968) report a pyramidally structured set of stages of social heterosexual maturation. This more or less orderly pattern of progression is discernible during the preadolescent years and success or failure in each step appears to have consequences for more advanced stages of heterosexual development. The steps or stages in the process of heterosexual development as delineated by Broderick and Rowe are: (1) desire to marry someone, (2) having a certain girl friend (boy friend), (3) having been in love, (4) preferring a companion of the opposite sex over a member of the same sex or no companion at all when going to a movie, and (5) having begun to date. The foundation or beginning point of subsequent progress in heterosexual relations seems to be the child's attitude toward his own marriage. Next comes an emotional attachment to a member of the opposite sex, as evidenced in the reporting of having a special friend of the opposite sex. The next step is to confess having been in love. After that comes an expression of preference for a cross-sex companion rather than a same-sex companion when going to a movie. And, finally, the most advanced for preadolescents is actually going out on a date. Each step is not an absolute prerequisite to the other, but the nature of the relationship can be indicated by the following set of comparisons: 74 percent of the ten to twelve year olds who wanted to get married some day reported a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but only 34 percent of the others did; 66 percent of those who reported having a girlfriend or boyfriend also reported having been in love, but only 19 percent of the others did so; 43 percent of those who had been in love said they would prefer a cross-sex companion at the movies but only 21 percent of the others expressed this preference; and finally 32 percent of those who would prefer a companion of the opposite sex had actually gone out on a date, while only 11 percent of the others had done so. Each of these differences was significant beyond the 0.05 level when tested by Chisquare, and the entire series met the criteria of a Guttman scale. (Broderick, 1966).
Broderick found some racial differences in the pattern of heterosexual development. (Broderick, May 1965). Questionnaire data were collected from 341 black and 929 white ten through seventeen year olds living in the same urban industrial community. The most striking difference between the races occurred during the preadolescence ages of ten and thirteen. At these ages, the white children showed the traditional pattern, with girls far more romantically orientated than boys, although at about the same level in terms of heterosexual interaction. Black boys, however, did not have the heterosexual reserve of the white boys. They were not markedly different from black girls on any item except attitude toward marriage and, in fact, showed a higher level of heterosexual interaction at twelve and thirteen than the girls did. This high level of preadolescent heterosexual interest involvement among black boys, together with an apparent progressive disenchantment with marriage, suggests that the pattern of socio-sexual development in the black subculture may differ from the dominant white culture. There were differences in fathers' occupations and in family structure as well, however.
In sum, sociological and anthropological data cast serious doubt on the universal applicability of the concept of preadolescent sexual latency. There has been a change over the years both in the attitude of boys and girls in the United States toward heterosexual involvement and in their experiencing of it. There has been a marked change toward greater heterosexual experience of preadolescents with their peers. Studies done in the twenties and thirties report unequivocally that the percentage of friendship choices extended across the sex "barrier" dropped to near zero in about the third or fourth grade and remained there through the eighth grade, after which a slight rise was discernible. In 1930 Furfey summarized his careful and systematic observations of boy-girl relations at this age concluding that girls were rigorously excluded from participation in masculine activities. "The girl, however, does not feel the affront very keenly since she has the same negative attitude toward boys that they have toward her." (Furfey, 1930, p. 101). Furfey noted that from the time boys were age eight to eleven years old until they reached puberty there was a strong distaste for playing with girls, and only 20 percent of the boys did so. Lehman and Witty (1927) found that from six to twelve years there was a definite tendency for one-sex play, and games at this age were sex-linked.
This is not to say that there were no exceptions. Romance has always been an experience of some preadolescents. For example, Furfey described Max, a twelve year old boy, who openly and ardently declared his affection for his sweetheart. In commenting on the situation, Furfey wrote, "Although love affairs are common enough among twelve year olds in fiction, a case like Max's is very rare in real life." Furfey believed this devotion to a girl before adolescence to be uncommon and a distinctly precocious trait. (Furfey, 1930, p. 28).
Campbell, in 1939, in describing the typical twelve to thirteen year old girl wrote, "She would not admit that a certain boy is attractive to her, though she begins to take a covert interest." (Campbell, 1939). This picture of generally disinterested boys and covertly interested girls contrasts with the situation of recent decades. Empirical evidence reveals, as in the study by Broderick and Fowler (1961), that the majority of children in each grade claimed to have a sweetheart, and most of these expected reciprocation. Moreover, the majority of them did not keep their feelings to themselves. That these children, in fact, did discuss their romances with others is borne out by the ability of their classmates to list the sweetheart pairs in their schoolroom with considerable accuracy, especially in those cases where the relationship was reciprocal or believed by one member to be reciprocal.
Hollingshead, reporting in 1949, stated that the most adventurous youngsters began to date at the age of twelve and among the thirteen year olds in Elmtown about 15 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls had begun to date. (Hollingshead, 1949, p. 224-225). Later studies by Smith (1952), Lowrie (1956), and Cameron and Kenkel (1960) indicate a higher incidence of dating at early ages. The 1958 Office of Education Survey indicated that in most schools some dating may begin as early as fourth grade. This national survey, involving data gathered from fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teachers, supports the observation that in some schools boys and girls do not appear to feel a need to separate from each other during preadolescence. (Lewis, 1958, p. 30-31). In fact, as low as the fourth grade and continuing through the sixth, they frequently asked for activities such as folk dancing and table games together. Boys groomed themselves (some beginning in the fourth grade), carried a comb and used it, washed their hands voluntarily, and occasionally wore a tie. Girls wore lipstick and nail polish and groomed their hair. A few children wore "steady rings." In sixth grade they showed that they like each other in a friendly way.
Cross-sex friendship is clearly demonstrated in the study by Broderick and Fowler (1961). In the fifth grade (ten and eleven year olds) 45 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls claimed to have had dating experience. By the seventh grade (twelve and thirteen year olds) nearly 70 percent of the boys and 53 percent of the girls claimed to have had at least one date. Some experience with kissing is common at these ages. There is no comparable data from earlier decades.
When preadolescents were asked whom they liked best of all the children they knew (four choices were permitted), the choices across sex lines ranged from 19.7 percent in the fifth grade to 14.6 percent in the seventh grade. Percentages of those who chose at least one of four friends across sex lines give more dramatic evidence of a new look in boy-girl relations during preadolescence. 51.9 percent of the children in the fifth grade and 37.7 percent of the children in the seventh grade chose one or more friends of the opposite sex. It would seem from this that although most boys and girls still prefer the companionship of their own sex, many have bridged this friendship gap between the sexes.
Cross-sex antagonism during preadolescence has been explained as partly due to the efforts of individuals to identify themselves more closely with their own sex and as a result of parents and others instilling into children the difference between boys' and girls' roles. These differences are diminishing. In the last generation the sex roles have become more flexible and now overlap in many areas. The contents of the two sets of expectations are becoming more similar as women have achieved many prerogatives previously regarded as exclusively masculine and men have begun to share many traditionally feminine responsibilities. As these roles converge and the experiences and values of the two sexes become more similar, cross-sex hostility becomes less appropriate. Rejection of the values of the opposite sex loses much of its purpose when values are similar. Similarly, as the social status of the two sexes approaches equality, many boys appear to feel less need to defend a shaky claim to superiority.
Some of the most convincing evidence that times have changed comes from the Broderick and Fowler study. (1961). Children were asked to rank the desirability of a companion of the same sex, a companion of the opposite sex, or no companion at all in three different situations--eating, taking a walk, going to a movie. They could rank the cross-sex companion as first, second, or third choice. In the sixth and seventh grades, the majority of boys and girls reported that when taking a walk or going to a movie, the companionship of the opposite sex is to be preferred above either of the alternate arrangements. Both sexes were more conservative when choosing an eating companion, but in the seventh grade the proportion preferring the opposite sex rises to nearly a half.
In the early stages, dating may primarily be done because the group expects it. (Crist, 1953, p. 25). A primary group in the form of a gang or clique of a bisexual nature plays an important function in the preparation of the individual for dating by helping to minimize anxieties, fears, frustrations, and shyness. Individuals who indicate an abrupt change from the one-sex gang to dating, without first having experiences in the heterosexual gang, are prone to find their early dating more awesome and fraught with uncertainty.
There are social factors that may contribute to bridging the involvement gap between boys and girls along with sexual-erotic precocity which cannot be ruled out as a factor contributing to early involvement. Winick suggests that even the popular mannequin dolls that little girls play with help to prepare the female child for early dating, beginning with Betsy McCall in 1954 and culminating in the popular Barbie in 1959. Barbie is a sexy teenager, and playing with her involves changing costumes and preparing for boy-girl dating relationships, according to Winick. The rehearsal for dating provided by Barbie and her imitators may accelerate the social development of their owners.
The effect of sex dreams that I had paralleled the feeling I received when a girl friend and I played with the sexually mature Barbie doll. Curiosity of the doll's body led to fondling of the doll's breasts and produced an excited feeling.
By and large dolls sold in the United States are devoid of genitalia, however, contributing to the asexual socialization of children.
A college student, on reading one of Broderick's articles on the stages of heterosexual development, wrote the following which corroborates the data that we have presented in this chapter, namely that not only is preadolescence not a period of latency as has been surmised, but also that boy-girl relationships are often quite sexual and erotic.
As I recall, this was a period of great experimentation, exposure, and discussion of sex. Elaborate games which we thought disguised our motives quite well, were created in order that we might expose ourselves in what seemed to us a permissible manner. The fourth grade was characterized by serious boy-girl relationships in which "making out" was a vital component. In the fifth and sixth grade the boys my age were getting their thrills, much to the horror of us girls, by taking pictures of each other experiencing an erection. The longer I spend, recalling attitudes, conversations, and actions of the six through twelve age group, which is supposedly the latency period, the more convinced I am that Freud was at least somewhat astray on this aspect of his theory.
Data on overt heterosexual play, including coital play with or without penetration, does not support the notion of a latency period either. Ramsey and Kinsey show no evidence of striking increase in the incidence of such activity as puberty is reached. Kinsey's data on the active incidence for each year did show that for boys who later go to college, heterosexual play of all kinds dropped off after about age ten, presumably in response to a redefinition of the meaning of this type of behavior. But, among boys who did not finish high school there was reportedly little withdrawal and a high level of continuity of heterosexual activity through preadolescence and into adolescence. There are sexual differences, however. Among males a very much larger percentage carried their preadolescent play directly into their adolescent and adult activities than was true of females. The discontinuities between the adolescent and preadolescent activities of the female appear to be the products of social custom and not of anything in the female's biological or psychological makeup.
Perhaps it was because I was approaching the age of puberty, but all of a sudden my parents would not allow me to engage in any of the boy-girl activities.
For many, "sexual awakening," that is the dawning consciousness of members of the opposite sex as appealing sexual and erotic partners, comes about in adolescence. But for some it is very real and poignant during preadolescence (and earlier as documented in earlier chapters). The heterosexual "awakening" that comes to many during preadolescence is well expressed by a rural midwestern boy.
As our sixth grade progressed we were thrown together many times for long bus rides as part of the school band and that summer proved our undoing. It was truly the summer of our discontent. The band began its rounds of parades, each of which carried with it a magical third world of fantasy called a carnival. On these hot afternoons, our group would make the circuit of the fair grounds trying our skill at the various games of chance, only to be followed by an innocent group of girls. Our desire to prove athletic supremacy within the group spread to a desire to please our shadowy female following. We had all known our prospective positions within our clique before, but now a new frontier was upsetting the balance of power and the fight for status was on. Little did we know our future was already laid out for us. When the girls noticed our exposed intentions, they were quick to tie the noose and there was no escape. That summer two worlds fused into one which was entirely different than anything that I had experienced before. We did everything as a group.
This was a world I did not understand. A strange feeling accompanied all these adventures done as a group. My thoughts were centered on my girl in the group and how always to do the right thing in her eyes. I think we felt more like friends than anything else, but I knew what those older than I expected of us, and group pressure finally won out. Coming home from a bus trip at night, I kissed her on the cheek. She didn't dare look at me. I shuddered and looked the other way. Not a word was spoken the rest of our trip.
The next morning was like a hangover. Never had I had such a touch of conscience. I remember distinctly the argument that went on within me. I knew that someday I could look back on this incident and laugh but the hurt was strong and I knew it wouldn't be today or tomorrow.
The following case is a good example of how an "innocent" physical encounter for a preadolescent boy became the occasion for his sexual awakening, ushering in a whole new attitude toward girls.
My awakening came one day when my girl cousin, who was four years older than I, and I were wrestling on the couch. She was in control and I soon found myself underneath her and was ready to privately acknowledge defeat. Suddenly she started showering kisses on my face. I protested with shouting and vows that I wasn't going to stand for this situation any longer. She calmly said to be quiet or that our parents would hear. This continued for about five or ten minutes and I found my aversions to being kissed gradually declining. We kissed with mutual consent for perhaps five or six times with each kiss lasting about ten seconds. During the remainder of her visit, I avoided her. I would have liked to go back to the couch and her, but I was afraid to do it. I guess I wasn't sure if I had done something wrong or not. I realized from that time on that I could never interact with a girl by treating her as a boy again. Mysteriously, I began to feel differently when I was around females than when I was near males. It was the first sexual encounter in which I was consciously aware of being a participant and having sexual feelings. This first encounter seems "purer" in some sense because the sexual feelings sprang up in me without my having had any knowledge of human sexuality before it took place. Our later meetings were friendly, but the times when we would engage in rough play together were gone forever.
What is the effect of engaging in various kinds of sexual encounters in preadolescence? No simple, categorical answer can be given to this question, for the encounters are varied in quality, and authentic empirically-based evidence is inadequate for answering the question. According to Ford and Beach, societies that severely restrict adolescent and preadolescent sex play, those that enjoin girls to be modest, retiring, and submissive appear to produce adult women who are incapable or at least unwilling to be sexually aggressive. The feminine products of such cultural training are likely to remain relatively inactive even during marital coitus. And, quite commonly, they do not experience complete and satisfying orgasm. In contrast, the societies which permit or encourage early sex play usually allow females a greater degree of freedom in seeking sexual contacts. Under such circumstances the sexual performance of the mature women appears to be characterized by a certain degree of aggression, to include definite and vigorous activity, and to result regularly in complete and satisfying orgasm. This is a large claim, it would appear to be logical given what we now know about socialization in general, but it would require more rigorous empirical evidence before such cause-effect relationship could be accepted as fact. It is a sweeping generalization that should be treated as hypothesis rather than as established fact. Adequate evidence to support the generalization is not at hand nor is evidence to disprove it. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 266).
Case histories of preadolescents are not wanting in support for the idea that good instruction in sexuality is desired and desirable.
Adequate sex information when I was in grade school could have prevented many, many agonizing experiences and granted me many more years of dating fun. Only a person as naive as I was might become horrified at a delay in their menses and think they have become pregnant by being too close to a sweating boy. I did!
Although it was not until my later years that my interests became heterosexual, interest in the basic facts of sex developed very early in the formative years. Basic attitudes were instilled at this age, e.g., interest in the genitals and breasts, curiosity about the origin of babies, and the indecency of the naked body. Since many of my ideas about sex were ill-founded and because much of the instruction I received was not satisfactory or complete, I can agree with some sociologists who point to preadolescence as a vital stage of life for learning about sex and who call for more complete and knowledgeable instruction at a younger age than it is now offered.
In analyzing my sex education in the home, I must admit it has been somewhat on the lean side; however, being fairly well read, having access to both church and school libraries, as well as the usual "street corner" sources, I have been able to satisfy myself on most doubtful points.
In sum, recognizing the inadequacy of the empirical evidence, what can we say about the outcomes of preadolescent sexual encounters? Except for severe cases of violence, force or rape it would appear that preadolescents take their sexual encounters in stride. Most do not prove to be debilitating. On the other hand, it would be wrong to conclude that the sexual and erotic encounters of children and preadolescents when coupled with repressive and incredibly poor sex education contribute to the best experience and best preparation for adolescence and adulthood. Some of the effects of a repressive milieu in infancy, childhood, and preadolescence are apparent in the sexual encounters of adolescents. But that is not a part of this study.
In searching for evidence of the effects of preadolescent sexual encounters, it is instructive to pull out from the cases quoted in this study the reactions of preadolescents to the sexual encounters they have experienced. From the case histories from which excerpts have been reported in this chapter we have extracted evaluative words and phrases. They are listed here in three sections, under the headings positive reactions, negative reactions, and reactions that could not in context be classified as either positive or negative.
|it seemed scientific and logical|
fine and dandy
liked the results
distinctly warm and comfortable
lots of fun
made aware of pleasure
felt more like friends
knew what to expect
gradually began to enjoy
began to think
learned socially accepted modes of behavior
knowledge was of great value
each time I felt a little more comfortable
really liked one girl
got a big kick
made me want to know
uninhibited, ready to learn and accept
able to talk
meant a great deal
made it easier to confide
satisfied my curiosity
caused me to wish again to have the same sensation
having a good time
sensation was so great
sure felt good
generally good time
tingling all over
knew what to expect
liked the sensation
amazed and fascinated
|feeling like it was naughty|
felt I was too young
didn't know how to act
not a word was spoken
like a hangover
touch of conscience
the hurt was strong
felt awkward and out of place
would have preferred other games
came too early
pushed me faster than I wanted to grow
fear of parental disapproval
uncomfortable because a self-consciousness always persisted
shy and uncomfortable
embarrassed and confused
went home and cried
hated that boy
refused to go
gulf of distrust
feel that sex was something dirty and was something to be ashamed or embarrassed about
wanted to reject
all excitement was gone
could feel a wall go up
angry and hurt
swore than it would never happen to me
was never sure
too young to understand or care
unclean or unhealthy
parent would be hurt
didn't get any pleasure
gave me guilt feelings
refused to take part
led me to masturbate--could not forgive
did not understand
sounded perfectly awful and terribly messy
did not know
wasn't "good" or "nice"
afraid of being teased
suffered a great deal
felt very guilty
didn't enjoy it
didn't get any sensation from it
would not accept this
upset about my relations
very alarming traumatic experience
cried and stared at the floor
dared not ask
frustrated and hurt
made me sick
felt very bad
didn't act as an impetus for a greater longing for sex
didn't really startle me
no recollection of being sexually aroused
no pressing need
merely a game to play
wild and confused dreams made me feel funny
the funny feeling was both distressing and exciting
remember none of it
has not become ugly in my eyes
stunned, bewildered and awe-stricken by the repulsiveness, yet the attractiveness
thinking and wondering
can't say the results were severely traumatic
funny feeling inside
hunger for knowledge
never attached any importance to the incident
no apparent purpose
didn't bother me
The negative reactions tell of guilt, embarrassment, a feeling of being too young for the experience, revulsion, fear, self-consciousness, confusion, distrust, disgust, disappointment, isolation, frustration, uncertainty, shock, and unpleasantness. The positive (less numerous) reactions tell of appreciation, excitement, pride, enjoyment, awareness, pleasure, fun, desire, closeness, love, romance, anticipation, and satisfaction.
What would the reactions of preadolescents to their sexual encounters be if society recognized preadolescent sexual potential, provided responsible information about sex, and allowed for developing sexual maturity and expression? Would the reactions of preadolescents be more or less negative than they are now? Opinions of both students of human sexuality and parents of preadolescents are divided on this issue and empirical evidence is inadequate to predict what the major ramifications of a program of greater sex education and increased sexual permissiveness would be. One thing is certain, the majority of parents in the United States appear to be ready to accept more and better sex education for their offspring. It seems reasonable to assume that positive and constructive sexual upbringing would result in more discriminating interpersonal relations during the preadolescent years and hence in an increase in positive attitudes toward interpersonal intimacy.
Sexual awakening comes to many during preadolescence. The presence of sexual-erotic encounters in preadolescence casts doubt on the universal application of the concept of sexual latency. Other sociological and anthropological research also calls the latency concept into question as well.
Preadolescence is a period of transition as the changes that begin during these ages are essential to full adult sexual functioning. The biological-sexual changes--appearance of pubic hair, development of breasts, etc.--can be awesome to the preadolescent who is not sure what his reactions to such phenomenon should be.
Preadolescent boys experience erections in response to varied stimuli. And masturbation is a common experience for both preadolescent boys and girls. The masturbation fantasy accompanying these experiences is in large part dependent upon the nature of one's prior sexual experiences. Guilt feelings often accompany masturbation as the preadolescent intuits guilt from the kind of sexual socialization received in infancy and childhood.
Mixed parties are a part of the preadolescent scene and while providing a chance for boy-girl encounters, often precede or signal the beginning of paired dating. First paired dating frequently occurs and even going-steady relationships develop at this early age.
The sexual-erotic encounters of preadolescents are often those carried over from childhood with elaborations. Exposure, touching and fondling, kissing, dancing, making out at parties, mutual masturbation, coitus, and oral sex occur.
Homosexual activity is also present during preadolescence. About six percent at the age of five and thirty-three percent at adolescence have had at least one homosexual encounter. While it is generally proscribed in the United States, many societies encourage homosexual behavior.
Preadolescent peers often serve as informal sex educators for each other, although an older youth can similarly assume this role. Sexual-erotic encounters with older youth can also take the form of exposure, fondling, mutual masturbation, homosexual activity, fellatio, sodomy, or coitus.
Preadolescent-parent sexual encounters are rarely directly or intimately erotic in nature. They are better typified by verbal exchanges, whether in the form of sex information or reprimands regarding sexual behavior. The realization that a sexual-erotic attachment exists between parents is often reached during preadolescence also.
Incestuous relationships, although prohibited by law, can and do occur during preadolescence. Daughter-father, stepdaughter-stepfather, and brother-sister encounters are most frequent.
Preadolescents also interact with other adults. In some societies overt sexual behavior is actively encouraged between preadolescents and adults. In the United States such encounters are generally condemned by society, although exhibitionism and masturbation by adult males in the presence of female preadolescents do occur. Physical manipulation of the preadolescent's genitalia by an adult also occurs.
Public opinion and sex laws limit sexual-erotic encounters of preadolescent and adult. Likewise, such institutions as the school and church attempt to control such encounters. These institutions also provide the preadolescent with sex information--sometimes with positive and sometimes with negative results.
The reaction of preadolescents to their sexual-erotic encounters range from very positive to very negative. Data from case histories of preadolescents supports the arguments for improved instruction in human sexuality during childhood.
It is good to let all children (not only those brought to the clinician with behavior problems) speak for themselves about their own sexuality. In the preceding pages I have let children--infants through preadolescents--speak for themselves as much as possible with only the minimum of required interpretation. I have been constantly aware and motivated by the desire to provide an alternative, a balance so to speak, to the preponderance of works that have stressed the pathology in infant and child sexuality. These works often contain direct testimony from children with serious sexual problems who have been referred to child guidance clinics or private practitioners. This limited testimony from a small sample of atypical children supports a heavy superstructure of professional analysis, interpretation, and generalization. My role has been that of organizer and facilitator--giving the young a chance to speak, and arranging their comments under appropriate topics and headings. Of course, not all children in the United States have spoken here, not even a representative sample, but a significant segment nevertheless. The statements of the young in the three preceding chapters represent the ebb and flow of human sexual experience among no less than 300 children brought up in a moderately repressive society.
I will not summarize what they have said. Their remarks do not lend themselves easily to generalization and may be rendered trite in the process. I remind the reader that we were interested in insights, hopefully in depth, rather than in quantifying incidences.
While working as a teacher and researcher among students for thirty years, I have formed some impressions about youth and human sexuality. These impressions are supported by my own empirical research and by what other students of human sexuality have observed. It is against this background that I base my few words of conclusion.
Some parents in the United States continue to accept sexual repression in childhood, believing that it is right. While, at the other extreme, perhaps two percent (or is it five percent or ten percent?) of parents are permissive, seeing nothing wrong with sex play among children and not attempting to stop it. Would it be too bold to estimate that less than one percent of parents in the United States provide a wholesome atmosphere and positive education for the affectional-sexual-erotic development of their children? The idea that man's sexual nature is one of the aspects of human personality that needs to grow and develop from infancy onward is slow in emerging.
Our culture has gone to great extremes to emphasize the contrast in sexual nature between the child and the adult. The child is seen as sexless; the adult cherishes and esteems his sexual virility. Rather than continuous conditioning from infancy on, we practice discontinuous conditioning as far as sexual development is concerned. The "sexless" child is expected to revise his attitudes toward his body and its erotic-genital potential almost totally as he passes from child to adult roles. This is especially true of the male, for we expect aggressive behavior from adult males. Hence, adult activity demands traits that are interdicted in children. All too often, the child's natural curiosity in the area of sex is discouraged, inhibited, and denied by well-meaning but ill-advised parents. The infant is not permitted to explore sex matters as he is permitted to explore other areas in which he has potential and curiosity. The child's interest in the naked body is labeled indecent, questions are put off, false or silly answers are given to serious inquiries. All this serves to drive normal and natural sexual curiosity into secrecy, duplicity, and despair.
Nevertheless, some children discover, one way and another, that they can produce pleasant and soothing sensations by stroking or touching their bodies. The taboo on self-discovery and self-stimulation may be the chief channel through which sexual repression is passed from parent to child. There is no evidence that self-stimulation does physical damage to the child. Masturbation is an important phase of sex maturing--a part of the growing up process and not a dangerous habit.
Every child should have some privacy from adult interference for self-discovery. Sexual nature develops continuously from infancy, through childhood, preadolescence, and adolescence, provided it is given a chance. The repression of sexuality in girls during childhood and adolescence could well be the major factor in adult frigidity. It is important to establish a milieu in which young children in their own private world can develop self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-acceptance as sexual beings.
Besides being permissive towards self-discovery and development, parents and others could do much better than they are doing in helping the child to conceptualize his body, its parts, and its functions. There is no reason to encourage children to form infantile, over-simplified, and incorrect sexual concepts through offering them false, deceptive, inadequate, and foolish information about sexuality. Children have the capacity to deal with accurate sexual concepts. The parent who is doing his best to give his child an opportunity to understand himself, to express himself, and to share in the normal experiences of intimate human life, is making a significant contribution to the humanness, the health, and the happiness of his child.
Hopefully, self-discovery, the touching and caressing by parents, siblings, and peers, and the release from feelings of sexual guilt and shame over the expression of innocent and honest affection will lead to richer interpersonal relationships.
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1. All cases used throughout the book are actual case histories from the author's files unless otherwise identified. Editing has been done only to the extent that it was necessary to safeguard the identity of the individuals involved.
2. The Broderick and Rowe sample consisted of ten to twelve year olds in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades of ten central Pennsylvania schools and 312 boys and 298 girls among grades five, six, and seven in four localities including Kansas City and surrounding area.