The Fear of Child Sexuality

The Fear of Child Sexuality: Young People, Sex and Agency is not the sort of title you are accustomed to seeing on this blog, gentle reader. It's been a long time since I read an academic work (which this is) and to be honest, I wouldn't have come across it if Steven Angelides didn't happen to be an old friend.

Reading academic books exercises different muscles in the brain. I'll admit that I found this a difficult  text to grapple with; sometimes I could barely understand it, though most of the time I think I had a foggy idea. Here goes.

The issue of child (more accurately here, adolescent) sexuality is a vexed one in anglophone societies at the moment. Angelides examines a number of case studies of 'sex panics' centred on young people's sexual knowledge and expression -- sex education; the scandal around Bill Henson's photographs of pubescent youths; laws around sexting which can see young people themselves branded as sex offenders even when the activity has been fully consensual; relationships between teachers and students. Broadly speaking, he argues that in the rush to protect young people from the consequences of 'premature' exposure to sexual knowledge or activity, we erase their own desires, awareness and ability to act. Adolescents don't magically become sexual beings overnight when they reach the age of consent -- and that age can vary depending upon the activity and the parties involved. Yes, of course it is important to shield young people from abuse. But it's not alway so easy to decide what is abusive behaviour, and what harm might result. Young people need more information about sex, not less.

Steven has been the target of some unfounded attacks as the result of writing this book. It's a controversial topic but his approach is thoughtful and nuanced. I found it extremely interesting, and it gave me lots to think about.

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