Child sex acts 'not uncommon,' experts say
December 02, 2004
How does a 5-year-old perform a sex act on a kindergarten classmate in a school restroom?
The mere mention of last week's incident at Saginaw's Morley Elementary School leaves some adults red-faced, others aghast.
Such sexual experimentation, however, probably happens more often than people want to believe, two experts say.
It's not the first time such an incident has happened in mid-Michigan, says a Child and Family Services of Saginaw County official.
Last week, a gym teacher at Morley walked in on two 5-year-olds, with one performing a sex act on the other.
It's troublesome but not new to Bach. She has worked with families of elementary students caught in the act in coatrooms, locker rooms and restrooms.
In most cases, Bach and staff assume that the child performing the sex act is a prior victim of sexual abuse.
But Michigan State University psychology professor Gary Stollak has a different view. As a clinical psychologist, he assumes that curiosity played a role.
Regardless of what happened behind the restroom door, both Bach and Stollak recommend that parents have frank talks with their children about genitalia and sexuality.
Bach says Child and Family Services has conducted the Happy Bear Prevention Program for much of the past two decades. Last school year, close to 1,400 pupils at 63 county schools participated in the program. Morley Elementary was not among them.
Such visits can help clear up questions that children may have about what they've seen or heard, Stollak says.
Bach also advises parents not to teach their children to use euphemisms such as cha-cha, who-who, thing or ding-a-ling to describe their "privates."
Lack of research on childhood sexuality leaves academic types with no hard data on sexual experimentation.
Refusal to discuss sex and find out more about its role in childhood will only spur interest, he adds.