Child sexuality

A comment on the English translation.

A translation of Barns seksualitet. It was written five years before Pedophobia. In writing it, I learned a lot about the nature of human sexuality, in particular the thoughts of Michel Foucault. What I learned would eventually become the idea of pedophobia as I have defined it: the unease and fear faced with child sexuality and the implications it has on the attitude to pedophilia.

This part will be about child sexuality.

First we discuss the sexuality of young people from birth to puberty. The importance of sexuality in the development of a self will be mentioned.

Then the history of child sexuality is treated. The existence of a child's sexuality is in fact dependent on how adults, throughout the ages, have perceived this sexuality.

There is an important section on how we learn about sexuality. Sexual deviations will be discussed, especially pedophilia. The child's sexual rights will be treated. Is the idea of childhood passing away? Are we moving towards a more open attitude? Finally, a brief review of literature in this field will be given for those who want to read more about the subject.

The sexuality of the young

We are all born with special areas of the body that are more sensitive to touch than others. We call them erogenous zones. They may include the mouth, ears, nipples, abdomen, buttocks, anus, the inside of the thighs and the genitals. The zones are most often associated with the orifices of the body. Tight nerve endings and great sensitivity in such areas have undoubtedly a basis in the need to perceive the outside world. That this perception is associated with desire and good feeling just shows how social we humans basically are.

”In 1905, Norway and Sweden were split into two erogenous zones because the Norwegians did not like to fool around with the Swedes”. Tinius, 8 years.

[In 1905 Norway became an independent nation after a union with Sweden.]

Basically, all sensory stimulation that involve the erogenous zones is sexuality, although many will narrow the term and say that sexuality must involve touching the genitals. Our ability to become sexually excited is innate. The ability exists even before birth. The researcher Mary S. Calderone concluded in 1983 that even fetuses can have an erection in the penis/clitoris (Fetal Erection and Its Message to Us. SIECUS Report, Vol. 11 1983, pp. 9-10, see here and here). The Kinsey report of 1948 was the first major study to document that children could get an orgasm from they were born. Read about Alfred Kinsey here. Read what the report said about children's sexuality here [the wiki page has changed, it is interesting to compare it with the page as it was in 2006 when this part was written] and here.

There is a connection between the body's erogenous zones and its physical needs. Body contact is as important as eating and breathing. When a newborn meets the world, sexuality will consist of a link between its erogenous zones and its physical needs. Good feeling is related to the intake of food and the discharge of bodily waste. The mouth and anus become the first centers of good feeling. The sexual stimulation can have a pain-relieving effect, it can make you fall asleep more easily, it can generally make you feel less irritable and more safe.

In its early days the child will feel it is being caressed. The child will learn to know the world by being touched and by touching others. Body contact helps to form a conception of the world. It tells what is and is not comfortable and forms the very basis for an experience of an I. By being able to express one's will and by having one's will respected by others, we develop a good feeling of an I.

Consciousness is a matter of having an I. It is the ability to have an identity. In human beings, the identity develops through an interaction with the outside world. This takes place long before one can put words on one's experiences. It happens through the senses, the emotions and skin contact. The environment in which we grow up in and the impulses we receive has a major impact on brain development. Purely physiologically, the brain grows most the first year in life. The production of new brain cells is great in weeks 10-25 but continues throughout the first year. The mirror test suggests that children become aware of themselves at about 18 months, see here and here.

The basis of human sexuality is the physical sensitivity of the erogenous zones, but the mental is no less important. Our sexual dreams and fantasies define our sexuality. The mental determines in what way and with whom we experience sexual tension. The need for body contact is universal, but the mental determines when the body contact becomes sexual and helps create expectations and defines the nature of our sexuality.

A crucial point in the development of an identity comes when we get a conscious knowledge of gender. Small children are basically sensual beings throughout their being, where gender is implicit. When we are between 18 and 24 months we become conciously aware of the genitals, see here. It is at this time that the genitals get a prominent place among the erogenous zones. We develop a mental gender, a gender identity, which define us as sexual beings. This identity can be masculine, feminine or something in between, and can vary and evolve. From the outside world, the child can perceive that there are gender roles, where one is expected to behave in certain ways. Gender roles often depend on a sharp distinction between biological gender. This is the first time the child may feel that there is a conflict between the I and the other. How big this conflict needs to be depends on how the adult society regards gender, sexuality and status. If one has an identity that does not fit with the body, or where one's gender identity is in too great a conflict with common roles, one may come to desire a change in biological gender.

To understand human sexuality is to understand how infinitely shapeable it is. The only thing that is innate is our erogenous zones and a development towards consciousness. It is very doubtful whether we have a mating instinct at all, that is, an innate ability to guarantee reproduction. In its early history, the human genus developed a universal and polymorphic sexuality, which in its essence always existed and always had to be satisfied, and which in itself was more than enough to guarantee the further existence of the species. When someone today uses nature to tell us what so-called natural sexuality is, they forget that sexuality is not a special case, is not 'lower' or less developed than any other social and mental faculty in man. It was when social learning took over from instinct that the human species evolved and gained consciousness. One can say that the very rise of intelligence and consciousness is related to the fact that trained behavior supersedes innate behavior.

Sexuality is not just a biological urge. It primarily gets its meaning in relation to others. Our sexual identity is developed in a social context. When others express wishes and desires, we get a picture of our self as a sexual being and a perception of the sexuality of others. And vice versa: when others respond to our sexual needs and desires, we also understand who we are and what our sexuality is. Therefore, we may say that sexuality is not something we have but something we learn. The basic knowledge we get from our parents and siblings at home, but eventually we develop it in a social context outside the family.

”The four-year-old sucked his thumb both early and late.
    This his mother did not like and said: - If you don't stop sucking your thumb you will become as thick as your aunt.
    One day they sat on the bus to the city and a lady boarded who was clearly pregnant, and then the boy said:
    - I know what you've done! Wasn't it good???”

There are two aspects of human sexuality which may seem like contradictions but are actually related:

One can not let go of control if one has no confidence in others. Mutual trust is a prerequisite for intimacy. Mutual trust comes when one knows one is respected and taken into account. In this way, losing control and having an agreement is not a contradiction.

There will always exist a tension between losing control and having rules for sexual conduct. This can basically explain why sexuality is such a difficult topic in a large and well-regulated society, not least when it comes to pedophilia. There are no lack of rules regarding sexual behavior, both legally written and socially unwritten. It is much more difficult to let go of control. Many problems concerning the sexual life stems from the mental control mechanisms that establish themselves in childhood, such as sin, shame and innocence. But sexuality requires trust, honesty and a willingness to let go of control if it is to work.


Human sexuality can be linked to animals (this is called zoophilia ) or to objects (fetishism). Instead of discussing how 'sick' this is, it is more fruitful to point out that such a link is something we all tend to do to a greater or lesser extent. Such links are made when we are young and can develop to become dominant or completely disappear.

Human sexuality can also be linked to what is usually held to be disgusting, the opposite of what most think sexuality should express and be. An example of this is sexuality involving urine. Children are more likely to make such a link because they have not yet embraced the social conventions that apply. Perhaps such a link occurs (or appears) when the rules for cleanliness and hygiene in a society become too rigid. In this way, we can understand sexuality as an opposition to culture, as a counterbalance to the norms of society, norms that might otherwise be necessary but which cannot include the essentially anarchic nature of sexuality: the lack of control. Sexuality has a political side. Repression of sexuality is often linked to reactionary or authoritarian ideologies. When the state controls sexuality, it also controls the human.

In sadomasochism [I prefer the Norwegian wiki-page (Google can translate) because the English page contains too may pictures and have no section about security and care], domination and subordination are associated with sexuality, but sadomasochists will be the first to state that their sexuality, perhaps more than any other, is a matter of agreement and rules. Man as a social being can never free itself from the considerations it must take to its fellow human beings. Sexuality exists in a connection with others. Sexuality is created in a social context.

”Being good friends means you don't hit each other too often”. Katharina, 6 years.

Puberty is, unlike what many think, not the time when our sexuality begins, nor the time we develop an I and a personality, but a period of accelerated growth that leads to the ability to produce children. In purely medical terms, puberty occurs when the adrenal glands (in the phase known as adrenarche, see here) and the pituitary gland (see here) begin to produce hormones. This commences the production of testosterone in the testes and estrogen in the ovaries.

Puberty usually starts between 6 and 8 (D.Aarskog et al. Pediatric Endocrinology 2003 vol.17-1 p.6, p.7, p.8, p.9, p.10, p.11, p.12, p.13 og p.14 [a good scientific article about puberty but unfortunately in Norwegian, a good start in English on the subject is the wiki Puberty page]). Abnormal puberty, caused by an imbalance in hormones, appears if there are clear signs of secondary sex characteristics before nine years in boys or before eight years in girls, see here [it is important to note that the variation in age of puberty has a multitude of causes and is not necessarily abnormal]. The Tanner stages of physical development (see her) indicate that puberty ends between 10 and 15 for girls and between 11 and 16 for boys. There is greater variation in when puberty starts than in how long it lasts. Puberty ends when one is able to regularly produce eggs/sperm, but in boys physical growth will continue for a while.

Studies show that the age of puberty is influenced by the environment, and that it is generally on the decline in modern society. Obesity can cause puberty to start earlier, see here. Some claim that television and video games can change children's hormone production, see here. Others say that pollution can lead to early puberty, see here. In any case, early puberty is often perceived as a problem, e.g. see here [all pages in Norwegian, a simple search on puberty should give corresponding pages in English].

In comparison to all other species, the time from birth to being able to produce children is long with the human species. This can only be explained by the fact that training is so important for us. It is our environment and our culture that govern our sexuality, not our ability to produce offspring. Our development to adulthood takes time because we need to learn more. One may speak about a mental puberty, which is as important as the biological puberty in our transition to adulthood.

Professors Mark Hanson and Peter Gluckman discovered that early man had a puberty age that was not so different from our own, i.e. that girls got their first menstruation between 7 and 13, see here. They warn that for the first time in our evolutionary history, biological maturation occurs before psychosocial maturation. Our biological puberty comes before our mental puberty. The reason for this lies in how society views young people, what we may call the view of children [analogous to the view of women, the view of minorities, etc].

Here [in Norwegian, caption reads 'Every sixth eight-year-old girl had breasts'] you can read that one in six eight-year-old girls had breasts in a survey done in 2000. This creates concern among adults. Why do adults get worried about this? To find the answer to this question, we need to look at the history of child sexuality.

The history of young sexuality

Children have always had a sexuality. We are all born with a common human sexuality, which never really changes.

What changes is how adults perceive this sexuality. To what extent is the child's sexuality perceived as different from the adult's? To what extent is it wanted or not wanted? There are two "problems" with the sexuality of the child. First, it is not isolated to the genitals but is a complete expression of the whole body, with all its organs and emotions. Secondly, the sexuality has nothing to do with reproduction. Both of these facts are quite basic in understanding how the sexuality of the child is perceived.

The concept of 'sexuality' has not always been understood in the same way. The word 'sex' did not exist in the Middle Ages. At that time they talked about carnality. Carnality was a collective term for everything that had to do with the body. The concept was related to all aspects of the body's physical and sensual manifestation, and was therefore better suited to characterize human sexuality. Later we got the word 'sex' - with its focus on the genitals.

In the Middle Ages a distinction developed between the physical and the spiritual existance of man. This distinction became apparent in Christianity. It was the Christians who demanded control over the flesh. The body and the bodily became sources of sin. The presence of the bodily hindered the Christian message. This mindset is preserved till today, as this quotation from Living Words show.

[the original text is in Norwegian and is translated below - the original link has long since been dead - it has not been possible to find an archived link - Living Words (Levende Ord) was a Nonconformist church founded in 1992 - after a conflict between its leader and its members the church changed name to Credokirken in 2009 - I still prefer to quote what was said on the web page of Living Words as it is typical of this kind of reasoning]

Living Words - Welcome to the Holiness

I believe there are two enemies fighting against this true, natural Christian life. One is carnality. Carnality occurs when one gives oneself the right to respond to everything and everyone without letting God take hold of the reactions so that one matures. Carnality makes communication impossible because one has already decided that one is right. Envy and division are formed by carnality. One gives ones reactions right and finds fault with others. This type of carnality will limit the life and growth in the body of Christ.

Protestantism introduced original sin. This was the doctrine that all children are born immoral and with evil intentions. Therefore the child had to be raised to have good morals and the right spiritual development. The fight against carnality had to take place all the time. Only in this way would the child receive the grace of God.

In the Catholic camp one was less categorical, and believed that children were essentially the carriers of the innocence from paradise but were weak. Because the child was weak and easily tempted, the child had to be protected. Through its upbringing the child was supposed to learn to overcome its weakness.

This mindset gave rise to the first known thesis on masturbation, written by the French theologian Jean Gerson in the 15th century. The theologian had observed French children (boys) in boarding schools, and had seen how widespread masturbation was. Despite the prevalence Gerson considered masturbation to be a serious problem. It "dirtied" the child's purity and "bordered on sodomy". But Gerson maintained that the boys were not aware of their guilt.

Theologian of the Middle Ages
The theologian in his celibacy.

Gerson's thesis showed what came to be so typical of the attitude to child sexuality: a commotion, if not outright contempt, for the bodily functions and how they displayed themselves, coupled with a belief that the child really was innocent. It was only a matter of making the child conscious of its own innocence. This strange contradiction came to be central in the perception of child sexuality from the 18th century onward.

It is worth noting that only by distancing himself strongly from anything "bordering on sodomy" could Jean Gerson himself escape his obvious interest in boys and their masturbation. Gerson was just as innocent as the boys. The moralist always perceives himself as innocent. This notion forms the very basis for his right to judge others. Often, the moralist is not conscious of why he judges others, precisely because of the strong need to be innocent and clean.

That a general distinction between a boys and a girls' sexuality was made was not new and was not directly related to Christianity. The patriarchal society had roots far back in time. It was a society where the men dominated.

Many theories have attempted to explain the emergence of the patriarchal society. Some claim it involved our transition from a nomadic existence to agriculture and permanent settlements around 5000 years ago. Then property and power could be accumulated and inherited. When property could be collected in this way, it became important for some men to control who their offspring was. This required control of the women. Their being and doing had to be controlled. Their sexuality had to be hemmed in. A man's honor became a question of controlling women. A natural consequence of this was that the sexuality of girls should also be controlled. A daughter became part of her father's property, and could be married off to increase his power and influence. As an adult, she had correspondingly less influence in society. Sexuality went from being a personal matter to becoming a public affair - it became part of the society's economic and social structure. The sexual part of life no longer took place between equal partners. Sexuality had no benefit in itself but became a question of producing offspring. A patriarchal society is precisely characterized by the fact that it is the male's lineage that determine what family, tribe or clan the child belongs to.

Another theory says it was when society got a separate warrior class, with men who had no other duties than to establish power with weapons, that we got a glorification of the masculine ​​at the expense of the feminine. Strength, discipline and self-control were looked up to and cultivated, for later to become divine. A man's sexual abstinence, combined with a general contempt for weakness and for the man's sexual partner, was seen as necessary and valuable in the new society.

Ancient goddess.

We need not go further back than approximately a thousand years to discover that the masculine and feminine in religion and culture were more evenly distributed. In Norse mythology there was a good selection of female gods, such as the goddess Freyja - the goddess of love and fertility. Female gods were often (but not necessarily) attached to a cult of fertility, which emanated from the earth all humans lived by. Such goddesses reflected a society that lived in greater harmony with nature - a society which perceived the richness of nature as a gift received, rather than as an object to be owned and controlled. The feminine was associated with the earth's wealth and fertility in the widest sense.

Now, it is a fact that women are no less greedy for property or hungry for power than men are. Those who believe otherwise live under a great misconception. One reason why the patriarchal society was allowed to live for so long was that so many women benefited from it. Wanting to control the lives and sexuality of young girls is not something that is exclusive to men. Essential to the patriarchal society is the idea of what the foundation of power is. It is the idea that physical strength is the ultimate and only real way of resolving conflicts. This is a very dangerous idea, but it has appeal because it offers simple solutions to inter-human problems. In our time, this idea has taken shape in everything from physical punishment of children to fascism.

The patriarchal society's big mistake was its attitude to weakness. We are all to a greater or lesser extent weak, and we must learn to live with our weakness. Only in this way do we create a society that is balanced and human. Some are weaker than others. Women and children have always been perceived as 'weak', and their 'weakness' was the basis of an ideology of strength, an idea that there was a ranking in society. This prepared the way for a separate reality. Men could romanticize and idealize women and children, but at the same time all true authority and respect always lay in the raw use of power.

In the 18th century there were two well-established ideas about children. It was the idea of ​​the child as debauched and evil, and it was the idea of ​​the child as innocent and pure. Today, we are not particularly willing to regard children as debauched or evil, and the reason for that is the peculiar alienation and idealization of the child's world that has taken place. The basis for this idealization was laid by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in 1762 published the book Emile, or On Education. The introduction is as follows:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or On Education, Part 1, 1762:

Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man.

Europe of the 1700s was a time of transition. A new class, the bourgeoisie, was emerging. This class consisted of property owners who were not noble. The class based its position and utility in society on its education and entrepreneurship. The bourgeoisie could not in the same way accept religion as a source of truth. It was precisely reason, rationality and science that came to be The Enlightenment of the 18th century.

In 1762, nature had already become something alien and exotic among the nobility and established urban bourgeoisie, and this can explain the attention Rousseau's ideas got. He wrote, "Almighty God, deliver us from knowledge and our fathers' fateful ploys, and give us back uncertainty, innocence and poverty." This fit well in a time of upperclass gluttony and decadence before the French Revolution, but is more peculiar in the Age of Enlightenment, which perceived knowledge as the key to a better and more just life.


Rousseau wanted to bring man back to nature, in the sense that culture and society should be in more harmony with man's so-called true nature. A child's true nature was fragile. It could only be cultivated by a proper upbringing. It was all about not destroying the child. In particular, this applied to sexuality, which Rousseau believed to be an illness in the adult world and to which the child had to be protected against. Children should be raised to be free, but the upbringing itself was marked by unfreedom. Children should be gathered in groups, denied luxury and spend much time outdoors. Through austerity and various physical activities, the body should be cleansed, unfortunate influences removed and the child learn to know itself and its "true nature," while at the same (in one way or another) adapt its own needs, become governed by reason and learn to meet the needs of others. The child's innocence and ignorance were the very basis of human freedom, Rousseau believed. All established knowledge, for example about sexuality, prevented this freedom.

It is not difficult to understand that thoughts like these has had an enormous influence on the perception of children. The isolation of children, the belief in their innocence, but also, paradoxically, the belief in a purposeful upbringing and a monitoring of the child to ensure its innocence, are key elements in today's understanding of children and sexuality. Åsa Bergenheim puts it this way:

Åsa Bergenheim: The Child, Libido and Society, 1994, pages 37-38:

What thus begins in the late 18th century, gets its nourishment during Romanticism and culminates in the 19th century is an idealization of childhood. But this by no means meant that one changed one's attitude to children in real life. On the contrary, it seems that the idealization of the "child" rather increased the pressure on the living children who actually existed. Real children could appear frightening, partly because they deviated from the ideal picture, partly because they reminded one of those impulses that people had repressed in themselves.

The perception of childish innocence led to two kinds of moral attitudes towards children. First, it was about protecting children from the impurity that, after all, seemed to exist in life. This did of course particularly concern sexuality, which could be tolerated in adults but not in children. Both Michel Foucault and Philippe Ariès point to the large number of educational pamphlets that were published, warning of what could happen if the child could not withstand impure temptations. Second, it was about strengthening the child's resilience by developing reason and character with good education. Both of these educational approaches are expressed in Émile, where Rousseau sharply warns of the dangers of masturbation, while at the same time advocating - at least for boys - a model of education aimed at promoting reason, character and will. According to Ariès, this dual strategy, however, contains a contradiction, since both are about preserving childhood and at the same time making the child more controlled by reason. But since one obviously did not perceive any contradiction between childhood in itself and logical thinking, nor did see the child as primitive and irrational, this contradiction did not exist in the universe of thought at the time.

So, it is about preserving childishness, while at the same time making children more governed by reason.

Is nature a model for man? Is the child's "true nature" innocent? Do we find freedom in nature, in childhood and in a world without knowledge?

Man can never become part of nature, for man is always outside nature and observes it. There is nothing noble about nature, for there only the right of the strongest exist. But nature is not evil, because it is not conscious. Man, on the other hand, can be evil, and many therefore believe that if we just get closer to nature we will get better, but that is not possible. It is not in nature humans find their true nature but in a community with other humans. Only in this way do we learn to live together and solve common problems. Children are born with social abilities but are basically selfish. As such, there is no innocence in children. Only by interacting with others, with good role models and good fellowship, does the child manage to overcome its egoism and become a social being. Then real freedom is achieved: the freedom from greed, selfishness and fear.

Rousseau criticized reason as if it was an inherent evil that led to abuse, inhumanity and infertility, which leveled everything and everyone in its path and was life-threatening and artificial. Reason and knowledge are only tools we humans can use for whatever we decide. Knowledge is neither good nor evil, it is only available. When philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries criticized reason and wished for a more "natural" society, it was the forerunner for the authoritarian ideologies of the 20th century.

The bourgeoisie could not accept religion as an absolute source of truth. Religion broke with rationality, the very foundation for the bourgeoisie's enterprising spirit. Nevertheless, the bourgeoisie, perhaps more than any other class, needed the control mechanisms that religion had established over sexuality. Masturbation had long been a "problem" in ecclesiastical circles. Masturbation belonged to the flesh and not to the spiritual. Masturbation was associated with sexual excesses and sin. In the onanist, the impulses had prevailed over reason. A child who masturbated was a child out of control. Masturbation could divert attention away from reproduction, the meaning the patriarchal society had given to sexuality [obviously in a self-serving manner, it never restricted men's use of prostitutes] and which the bourgeoisie now pursued.

It was in the 18th century that masturbation went from being a sin to becoming a medical problem. In 1758, the Swiss physician and educator Simon André Tissot published a thesis that provided a purely medical angle on masturbation. It fit well in with the times. The doctors of today would perhaps have little to spare for this thesis, for the methods it used and the soundness of its conclusions, but that does not mean that the need to moralize over children and sexuality has diminished.

Masturbation could lead to anything from acne and nearsightedness to severe damage of the nervous system, epilepsy and insanity. Children during puberty were particularly vulnerable because their nervous system was "not yet fully developed". Children should sleep with their hands on the quilt, be distracted with school work, be kept in general physical activity (gymnastics) and not eat too nutritious a diet. This would lessen the sex drive and keep the attention away from the body. These medical advices had a great effect because they had a more legitimate feel than purely moral preachings. Books which in a scientific way warned against the dangers of masturbation and what could be done to prevent it, were printed and read in large numbers by a growing population who could read. It is ironic that one of the first things the Age of Enlightenment did was to spread lies. In Norway, the director of Gaustad Asyl [a mental hospital] wrote about masturbation.

Thore Langfeldt, Erotik og fundamentalisme, 2005, page 38:

In Norway little was written about the dangers of masturbation before director Sandberg at Gaustad Asyl writes about it in his first annual report of 1856. There he shows that masturbation is the most important cause of insanity. (...)

He writes in his fifteenth annual report:

Why loss of sperm? This is an interesting example of that time's reasoning, and combine the bourgeoisie's economic laws with the new-era physics (the law of conservation of energy). The fear of sperm loss was related to the idea that sperm was a life force and that the individual only had a certain amount of force available. If the force was squandered by masturbation, one would have less left for more profitable and high-minded purposes. Girls also had sperm, but this sperm was "less perfect".

Franskt redskap
French utensils
for boys and girls.

Apparatus was constructed that in a very concrete manner locked the access to the genitals. When this did not help one used surgery. In the 1860s, Dr. Isaac Baker Brown surgically removed the clitoris of 48 girls, girls who undoubtedly had been brought to him by worried middle-class parents, a class who already was made up of generations of sexually repressed [recently a wiki-page describes the practices of Dr. Brown]. Brown's operations were criticized by other doctors but Brown did not allow himself to be corrected. Surgery for masturbation was common in the second half of the 19th century, especially in England. In Germany and France, diet and water-therapies were to a greater extent used. In the United States, surgery for masturbation was recommended for children until the 1930s. Thus sexual morality became a medical matter, rooted in medical science and therefore apparently rational.

Thore Langfeldt, Eroticism and Fundamentalism, 2005, page 40:

Doctors, priests, educators, health experts and inventors engaged themselves in the crusade against masturbation. In the United States, Sylvester Graham (1794-1851) was one of the pioneers against masturbation. He was a free-thinker and believed that diet more than morality was the main cause of masturbation. He wrote Lecture to Young Men in 1834 and emphasized his opposition to white bread, feather beds, pork, tobacco and tight clothes, and made coarse grain products important. He introduced among other things Graham crackers against masturbation.

Sylvester Graham's thoughts were of great importance to doctor John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943) and his brother, who engaged themselves in the fight against masturbation. They launched a breakfast in the 1890s that would reduce sexual desire and thereby prevent masturbation in the growing generation. The product eventually became Kellogg's Cornflakes. Dr. Kellogg also wrote books on the dangers of masturbation. In Norway and many other countries Graham bread appeared. The products were intended to stop the evil of masturbation (Reiss 1990).

In one of his books, Dr. Kellogg writes:


This undeniably gives a new and not very pleasant perspective on cornflakes for the kids. Read more about the doctor here. One may now say that this is peculiar for the Anglo-American culture. Nevertheless, these are the thoughts of ​​a generally successful businessman who built his empire with diligence and discipline so as to promote, with a special diet, diligence and discipline. These are the thoughts that express a society's ideas about advantage and profit, sexuality and violence.

The medical science's dealings with masturbation reminds us how society creates the truths it needs at any time. It is about power, about gaining power over sexuality for thereby to gain power over people. The mutilation of the genitals was fortunately rare, but there were other, more subtle methods for achieving the same.

Åsa Bergenheim. The child, libido and society, 1994, page 20:

But the relationship between power and sexuality has not always been the same. A comparison between educational books published in the 1890s and the 1930s shows that a change has taken place with regard to the actual exercise of power. In older literature, sexuality in children is perceived as a sign of abnormality and educators are encouraged in various ways to prevent the child from for-instance masturbating. The boundaries between the forbidden and the permissible are clear, and sexual acts belong to the sphere of the forbidden in childhood. In the newer counseling literature, one accepts that normal children have a sexual dimension but not that it appears in sexual behavior. At the same time as one strives to eliminate all hidden and open expressions of the child's sexuality, one seems to want it to nevertheless exist in the border area between visible and invisible. (...) One goes from an external disciplining, which is clear and direct, to a more subtle inner disciplining, where the boundaries between the prohibited and the permissible are unclear and where the result therefore is more pervasive and lasting.

A taboo is a topic that cannot be mentioned, cannot be touched, cannot be treated. A taboo is passed between generations by the child perceiving (not learning) what is unnameable and without importance. A taboo is a law and a way of enforcing the law. Taboos express both what is prohibited and what legitimize the prohibition. Taboos are not rational but are rooted in subconscious fear and notions of the unknown.

Sexuality in children did not exist but still had to be suppressed. When the Church no longer had the influence on morality it once had, medical science entered and said that masturbation was a medically dangerous act. The truth of such a claim was not founded on scientific evidence but on the status of the medical profession. In natural science scientific hypotheses can only be proved to not be true (see here).

Today masturbation has gone from being a problem to becoming a solution to a problem. It is ironic that doctors and sex therapist today recommend masturbation for adults (see here). This is not because sexual morality has become very much different from Kellogg's time. The reason lies in the changed attitude to pleasure. The advertising and consumer society have taught us that needs can be created and needs be met. There is a contradiction in how a multinational company uses discipline to increase enjoyment. Who really needs cornflakes? As long as the pleasure is profitable, we have learned to accept it. Thore Langfeldt says it like this:

Thore Langfeldt, Children's sexuality, 2000, page 19:

If we want to understand the current view of masturbation, we must also look at our own attitude towards experiencing desire. For many of us, the pleasure experience is associated with guilt. This is even reflected in language: "Too much and too little spoils everything", "After the sweet itch comes the sour burning", and "Every moment of joy you got on earth must be paid with grief". Such sayings emphasize the negative and cautious attitude we have towards the pleasure experience. Sexual therapists claim that the problems most often encountered in the 1970s were precisely the fear of pleasure and desire (Kaplan 1979).

All this contributes to our evasive attitude towards children's masturbation. Therapists know from the treatment of sexual problems how childhood affects the adult's sexuality. Just as bad sexual experiences, for example through unpleasant sexual assaults in childhood, can affect the person through life, an early good relationship with sexuality can enhance sexuality in adulthood. Feelings of shame and guilt about sexuality that incurred early in childhood can be difficult to get rid of even in adulthood.

Although the view of masturbation has changed in recent years, it is still important to see the child's sexual development in context. Most of us as parents or people working with children know how uncertain we become when talking to children about sexuality. We can probably talk about maturation and fertilization, but talking about their own body and how to learn to know it is much more difficult.

George Elgar Hicks
George Elgar Hicks, 1863
"Woman's Mission: Guide to Childhood"

In the 19th century we got the nuclear family and the Victorian ideal of women. Before that the family had lived and worked together. In the old agricultural communities men, women and children took part in a common reality. Now we got a pervasive segregation, where the men were out in the public sphere and occupied all positions, the women were at home and did "women's things" and the children went to school. Divisions were created according to age and gender, and roles distributed and taught from childhood. In the bourgeois nuclear family, children lived in a special children's world, where they were to learn the rules of adult life and the culture and way of life of their own gender and class. Children were kept in isolation until they were considered mature as adults, and this came to be the modern concept of childhood: innocence, defenselessness and the need for moral guidance, where sexual acts came to be regarded as threating to character and health.

The family was the building block of society, a kind of society in miniature, where the man's power over the woman and child reflected the emperor's power over the people and the nation. The bourgeois family was asexual because the woman and the child had no sexuality. The bourgeois family was isolated because the woman and the child did not take part in working life. The man's sex-life did not take place in the family but in the brothel. When young men were inaugurated to sexuality it took place in the brothel. Girls were never inaugurated to sexuality but were to dedicate themselves to their role as wife and mother.

Women were not given any sexuality because this sexuality had according to the reasoning of the time no purpose. It had no economic or social use; on the contrary, it could threaten the children and family values.

Åsa Bergenheim: The Child, Libido and Society, 1994, page 21:

The culture that creates the modern concept of sexuality not only denies children any sexual drive, but also that of women. The bourgeois woman of the 18th and 19th centuries was considered to the same degree as the child in absence of sexual desires. But unlike the child, she had to submit herself to her husband's desires for society's, her husband's and her own sake in marriage. Only through this could she reach her natural destination — motherhood.

page 42:

The one who primarily was to give the children the ethical and moral education they needed to build their character and willpower was their mother. Of utmost importance was that she was suited to the task, primarily by being as innocent as the children she was to raise.


Like the child, the woman thus had to be protected from herself and her nature. By postulating that the woman - and the child - lacks sexual drive, one could hold back this drive by condemning its expression and pathologizing its concrete manifestations.

The bourgeoisie of Europe always looked upon itself as guarantors of civilization and culture. At the same time, the bourgeoisie used nature and the natural to legitimize gender roles. It was the carnal (not spiritual) of women who determined their place in society. Nature was also used to determine what normal sexuality was. We got laws about "Transgressions of Nature" [sodomy laws, i.e. laws against homosexuality and sex with animals].

It was at this time that sexuality gained a new meaning in society. In the old patriarchal society, sexuality went from being a personal matter to becoming a matter of kin and family. Now sexuality became a national matter. In 1798, the British priest and social scientist Thomas Robert Malthus introduced a principle of population that said that man had a reproductive power that exceeded the natural base (see here). The interesting thing about this theory is not whether it is true or not, but the methods by which Malthus proposed to regulate the population. It could happen either by sexual abstinence [moral restraint], with sin [vice] or with misery. Sexual abstinence and late marriage were the best, but one could not expect that among the lower classes. With sin, the priest Malthus meant contraceptives and abortion but also homosexuality, all unacceptable. The solution that remained was misery. Misery, poverty, hunger and crises was an inevitable way of regulating the population. This should not be hindered by idealists who wanted a world free of war and squalor, Malthus thought.

A growing state power held that it was of primary importance to increase the population. Increasing the number of workers and soldiers was a national economic investment. A public health service and improved hygiene meant that infant mortality was halved in the period 1850-1900. The national stock had to be more sustainable. Illness was to be combated. The concept of social hygiene came into being, a political strategy in which one considered the population as the physician considers the individual. To social hygiene belonged racial hygiene, sexual hygiene and mental hygiene. The concept of hygiene was given a double meaning: It was both a medical knowledge of how to, for example, avoid infectious diseases, but also a teaching of social science about the factors that influenced the general health in society, a science that slipped into politics when introducing measures to make the national stock more viable. Health was also not univocal. It was both the absence of disease, as the medical science defined it, but also a social ideal of moral dimensions, as a growing health movement saw it. The connection between public health and economy was highlighted. Many felt that there was a lot to gain if one used the doctor's knowledge of man and society. Major health campaigns were launched. The doctor was given a new role as public educator, where child education, child health and sexual hygiene were parts of a whole.

Public education on hygiene can be seen as an example of how the bourgeois culture was spread to all layers of society. The healthy, good and right life was rooted in bourgeois morality. By including morality in the concept of health and hygiene, morality could be moved beyond critical debate. Morality was turned into scientific fact. In such a light, we can understand not only the medical profession's statements about children and masturbation, but also their involvement in sterilization and racial biology. It was about drawing up the boundaries between the sick and the healthy, between the normal and abnormal. Normality, a relative term defined by the majority, was linked to health, an absolute term managed by science. Soon, all sexuality that did not have propagation as a goal was not only abnormal, it was also sick.

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud.

The pathologizing of human sexuality could only have one reasonable consequence: that more people became ill. The new citizen of the 19th century became good raw material for psychiatry. And it was precisely the sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie who came to the office of Dr. Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Freud who in 1886 had started a private practice for people with nervous disorders.

Freud has been honored with discovering the child's sexuality, but it was much more a question of discovering the deep taboos and delusions that had established themselves since the Middle Ages. Freud assumed that we are all born with a libido, a basic and all-encompassing sexual drive. Man is always filled with this drive, and seeks to live it out all the time. It is the so-called pleasure principle that underlies the sexual drive, but the child soon had to learn to rein his own satisfaction and adapt it to society. A lifelong conflict developed between the principle of pleasure and the principle of reality. Freud maintained that there was a deep contradiction between society and culture on the one hand and sexuality on the other. To deal with this conflict, mechanisms were developed in the human psyche, e.g. displacement and sublimation, where the libido became aimed at non-sexual objects, or where energy was used for culturally or socially beneficial work.

Freud wanted to analyze sexuality, and claimed that the libido consisted of partial drives connected to different parts of the body. From this came the well-known theory of sexual development in man, the so-called psycho-sexual development theory, see here. Freud believed that sexuality in humans is a process that goes through different phases:

Child sexuality, Wikipedia:

[The Norwegian page on child sexuality. The quote below is translated from Norwegian.]

— The oral phase, when children are still at the infant stage, is reflected in the fact that the mouth is the center of all desire.
— The anal phase, in the first years of life the anal opening will have significance for the experience of pleasure.
— The phallic phase, in ages between three and five children will be very occupied with their own genitals.
— The latency phase, in later childhood sexual emotions will be little active.
— The genital phase, from puberty and on, where sexuality will reach an adult stage.

The interesting fact about this theory is not how correct it is, but what it says about developing theories of sexuality. The psycho-sexual development theory served a purpose. It was a way of making sexuality scientific, and thus also find the "truth" about sexuality. It was a way of describing what was normal, what development should take place towards the normal, and what then also could go wrong, the abnormal. Psychiatry (just like medicine at large) was concerned with cataloging the sick and finding the limits of the normal, boundaries that were not set by science itself but by the morality in society. The theory discriminated on gender in that it was the penis that was ideal for both boys and girls (in the phallic phase, girls got "penis envy"), it discriminated on age by claiming that the child's sexuality was not developed (or just latent) until puberty, and it discriminated on orientation by postulating that it was the genital and heterosexual sexuality that was the goal of the development. Finally, the theory explained abnormality. If one as an adult desired anal intercourse it was a sign of a poorly developed sexuality, a development that had stopped (or had become fixated) in the first year of life. As such, the psycho-sexual development theory shows that it is not possible to have any objective viewpoint on sexuality, and that theories about sexuality are at best indicative, if they are not just misleading.

Freud believed that the child's sexuality was not developed. Children were born with a libido, but this libido was not aimed at others. Children were "auto-erotic", i.e. they only got satisfaction from their own body. This idea was the basis of Freud's so-called seduction theory. Freud believed that neuroses later in life was founded on the child having been sexually awakened too early. They had been seduced (abused) by adults. This produced the anxiety and neurosis he observed in his patients.

Later, Freud surrendered the seduction theory. In his psychotherapy, he learned that patients had not improved by being told that they could have been abused. And when it came to those who forwarded stories of abuse, such stories could often be the result of, not a cause for, trauma and anxiety. It was the Oedipus complex (love for parents of opposite sex, hatred for parents of same sex) that came to be the basis of Freud's later sexual theory. Incestuous fantasies were tied to the suppression of the child's libido. It was the denial of the incestuous impulse that led to neuroses later in life, a neurosis that the child developed at the age of five when forced to renounce the father/mother as a sexual partner. Normal children established a barrier against incest in the latency period. During this period one also developed a general shame and contempt for sexual acts, which laid the foundation for a sexual morale that society could live with, but also for neurosis in adulthood.

The whole modern view of children and sexuality revolves around the question of whether or not the seduction theory is correct. Unlike the established society and its power apparatus, Sigmund Freud was a man of too much integrity and intelligence to come up with simple and easy explanations for complicated questions. Therefore, he was brave enough to rethink his theories and renounce the seduction theory. He must have realized that sexual theories cannot exist independent of what society wants to be right. The real question is not "how are children?" but "how do adults want children to be?". He wrote in a footnote to Three essays on The Theory of Sexuality:

Sigmund Freud, footnote [added 1910] to Part 1 in Three essays on The Theory of Sexuality, 1905:

The most striking distinction between the erotic life of antiquity and our own no doubt lies in the fact that the ancients laid stress upon the instinct itself, whereas we emphasize its object. The ancients glorified the instinct and were prepared on its account to honour even an inferior object; while we despise the instinctual activity in itself, and find excuses for it only in the merits of the object.

This is a very sharp observation, and says something fundamental about the modern view of sexuality. Sexuality is turned into an object, separate from the self. You can only be "sexual" in relation to an object. Because children have not yet separated their sexuality in this way, the child's sexuality cannot exist or has no right to exist. It is only after a latency period, where the sexual drive with the help of shame and contempt has been displaced in favor of the qualities of an object, that we get a "sexuality". Adult sexuality, in contrast to the child's, is purposeful and objective. Sexual abuse can thus be explained as an integral part of the term "sexuality": the contempt for the instinct and the objectification of the human.

In the twentieth century, the idea of ​​the child as reproachable and evil has gradually disappeared. However, the need to control the child's sexuality is just as great. Today it is expressed in the idea that ​​the child is innocent and vulnerable. This idea has evolved in step with the marginalization of children in society. They are referred to an exclusive non-adult world. It is "the abused child" that has become the big problem, not "the masturbating child". Abuse has become that ghost that masturbation once was, but with the important difference that the blame has moved away from the child itself. Kjersti Ericsson says it like this:

Kjersti Ericsson: Drive and virtue - The control of girls in the fifties, 1997, pages 99-100:

After the first years of the 60s, the girls' sexual slipping disappears entirely as a theme from the Norges Barneverns [Norwegian Child Welfare's] columns. Early in the 80's, however, there is an indication that child and youth prostitution is defined as a public problem. Child and youth prostitution became a hot topic in Oslo in the late 70s. It was the newspapers who set the agenda. Newspaper reports led to a comprehensive discussion of what should be done with the problem of child and youth prostitution. (...)

For a period, prostitution became «in», a social problem that could open public money bags. Despite this, it is as if sexuality as a theme in the child welfare services changes gender from the beginning of the 80s. From 1981, articles on incest began to appear in Norges Barnevern. Sexual abuse becomes the big issue, not "sexual slipping". It is the man and his victim, not the indecent girl, that is the problem. The prostitute also becomes more and more perceived as a victim. It is no longer the girl's own "sexual incontinence" that is the cause of prostitution. Now she must be protected from the street, the customers and the pimps, summarizes Kersten (1989) for Germany in the 80s. Something similar can be said about Norway. Eventually, prostitution is also seen as late harm after incest.

Sexuality 'changed gender', i.e. it was the masculine (and adults) who were sexual while the feminine (and the child) were not. The reason for this lay in society's new view of women and children during the 1900s. They got legal rights and better protection. Contraception and abortion eventually meant that girls did not represent such a threat to society, and consequently there was less need to attribute them with evil intentions. A new women's movement regarded itself as being hemmed in by "man-power", and consequently it was the men who constituted the problem, who were sexual, not women and children.

Kjersti Ericsson: Drive and virtue - The control of girls in the fifties, 1997, page 104:

From a Norwegian child welfare institution in the early 90s, Hennum (1993) also describes the responsibility and guilt distribution as «gender-dependent», but now with opposite sign: «It is about girls who do not know their own good, who are the victims of their parents' lack of care or victims of boys' sexuality, (...) and it is about boys who know what they are doing, who act out and are responsible». (...)

Several previously referenced journal-excerpts from Bjerketun also tell of girls who experienced what we would perceive as sexual abuse by adult men. I have just mentioned some examples. There might have been far more with a hidden abuse story. One did not begin to look [for abuse] before after the change of perspective in the early 1980s.

It is ironic that the women's movement continued with the disqualification of their own gender. The women's movement is good at seeing the "man and his power", but they do not see the mirror image of this view, namely the "girl and her innocence". A girl is a victim until she becomes a mother. Then suddenly her children may suffer because of her past iniquities. The bad mother is still a term used to eradicate a girl's individuality and the right to decide over her own body. It is as if there is only one right way to be a mother and just one proper way to behave sexually.

It is said that with Freud sexuality came out of the shadows. By giving the child a libido, sexuality gained its proper place as one of the most important factors in the human psyche. Sexuality is a crucial element in the perception of others and in the development of an identity. Nevertheless, this has had little or no significance on how society in general views children and sexuality. The French philosopher and historian of ideas Michel Foucault can give us an explanation of why.

In his book The History of Sexuality, Foucault says that sexuality in our time expresses itself in what he calls the deployment of sexuality, a collection of statements, practices and institutions that allow sexuality to appear in society. This deployment has partially replaced the alliance deployment of the old patriarchal society, in which the maintenance of name, property and status allowed sexuality to appear in its own way. In the new deployment of sexuality, sexuality comes to the fore through health and hygiene, body and health, anti-disease campaigns, the definition of various perversions, the fight against degeneration and incest, birth control and state life management. As such, "sexuality" is a cultural phenomenon. In the afterword to The History of Sexuality, Espen Schaanning [he translated The History of Sexuality to Norwegian] says:

Espen Schaanning: Afterword to Michel Foucault - History of Sexuality - Volume 1, Norwegian Translation 1995, page 195:

A description of these two deployments can make us see that "sexuality" as it appears to us is a very specific, historical quantity that does not have any precursor. It has evolved along the alliance deployment and cannot be read as a further development of it. You can at most say that they overlap each other in our time. (...)

One can show that the object that various sciences are about, has constituted itself by virtue of a number of power relations. Disciplining methods, surveillance techniques, interrogation procedures, registration practices, filing systems are undoubtedly created by people with specific motives and intentions. But that is not the essential point about them. The most important point is that they give rise to the formation of "sex" and "sexuality". Knowledge of sex and sexuality is thus not a purely "scientific" product about eternal and constant quantities, a knowledge that somehow could be cultivated at the university by scientists who stand outside and are independent of society.

What this knowledge of sex and sexuality had as an aim can be understood by reading this:

Michel Foucault: The History of Sexuality - Volume 1, Norwegian Translation 1995, pages 115-117:

In a first approach, it seems that from the 18th century onwards one can distinguish between four major overall strategies that develop specific science and power relationships towards the sex. They did not all occur at this time, but it was then they got a coherence, they achieved an efficiency in the field of power and a productivity in the field of knowledge, and this allows them to be described in their relative autonomy.

Hysterization of the woman's body: a triple process in which the woman's body was analyzed - defined and declared as unfit - as a body completely saturated with sexuality, where this body was integrated into the field of medical practices because it was supposed to be influenced by an inherent pathology, and finally where it was put in an organic exchange with the social body (it should ensure the social body's regulated fertility), with the family (it should be one of the family's strengthening and functional constituents) and with the children (it must produce them and it must protect them by a biological-moral responsibility that lasts throughout the upbringing): The mother, with her negative counterpart «the nervous woman», constitute the most visible form of this hysterization.

Pedagogization of the child's sex: a double assertion that almost all children indulge in, or are inclined to indulge in, a sexual activity, and that this sexual activity, which is inappropriate by being both «natural» and «unnatural», carries within it physical and moral dangers for the society and the individual. Children are defined as sexual "limit values" situated on a dangerous dividing line prior to the sex and already in it. Parents, families, teachers, doctors and later psychologists must constantly look after this precious and perilous sexual sprout which is dangerous and in danger. This pedagogization is particularly evident in the fight against masturbation, which in the West lasted for almost two centuries.

Socialization of the reproductive behavior: economic socialization by means of all the incentives or restrictions that are directed at the couples' fertility in the form of «social» or fiscal measures, political socialization by making the couples responsible to the whole social body (a responsibility one must restrict or on the contrary reinforce), medical socialization by the pathological significance for the individual and the species attributed to the common people's own birth control practices.

Finally, psychiatrization of the perverted pleasure: The sex drive was isolated as an autonomous, biological and mental instinct. One performed clinical studies of all the forms of irregularity it could be affected by, one attributed it a normalizing and pathological role to the whole behavior, finally one sought an improvement technology for these irregularities.

Four figures depict itself in the preoccupation with the sex that increase throughout the 19th century, figures that make up selected objects for knowledge and which form goals and points of reference for its endeavors: the hysterical woman, the masturbating child, the malthusian couple and the perverted adult each corresponded to strategies that, each in its own way, penetrated and exploited the sex of children, women and men.

What are these strategies about? A fight against sexuality? Or an effort to gain control over it? An attempt to better manage it and mask what is indiscreet, sensational and disobedient in it? A way to formulate that part of its knowledge which could be barely acceptable and useful? In reality, what is involved is rather the actual production of sexuality. One must not perceive sexuality as something naturally given that power tries to tame, or as an unclear area that knowledge gradually tries to uncover. Sexuality is the name we can give to a historical arrangement: not an obscure reality one performs difficult measures against, but a large surface network where the stimulation of the body, the intensification of the pleasures, the incentive to discourse, the formation of knowledge and the reinforcement of control and resistance mechanisms are forged into a few major strategies of knowledge and power.

The deployment of sexuality is thus a way of exercising power over the body. It defines the way in which sexuality can appear in society. When Foucault says that the sex has not been suppressed in the past 300 years, he means that the sex is spoken of, analyzed and 'discovered' as never before. This alienates sexuality. The deployment of sexuality turns sexuality into an assessment of usefulness, where 'more pleasure' does not have to stand in contrast to 'more control'. The gathering of knowledge about the sex are not truths about the sex, because such truths do not exist, but is a way of exercising power because it forces us to formulate a benefit and purpose for sexuality. We believe that sexuality comes from within ourselves, that it is ourselves, but in reality it is just a social construction that makes us easier to control. The deployment of sexuality is a way of penetrating the human to gain control.


The deployment of sexuality can explain an apparent paradox, the fact that we today meet sexuality everywhere: in advertising, movies, magazines and fashion, while we explain away or censor or pretend that the child's libido does not exist. Society is said to be sexualized, but that does not mean in any way that human sexuality is free from control, alienation and loneliness, on the contrary.

Today there are a large number of professions who claim to have knowledge of the sex: sexologists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, etc, but they are invisible in the public debate. The reason for that may well be that they understand very well that the hysterical woman, the abused child, the harmful propagation [birth control] and the perverted man are constructed figures: irrational and prejudiced. It is not the sciences that today allow the child's sexuality to appear in the public sphere, but police, courts, child protection agencies, politicians and the media, all those who incessantly talk about "the abused child". The energetic work of the international police to collect, catalog, analyze and identify child pornography is part of a 300-year old tradition of finding "the truth" about sexuality, a truth that is already given and just needs to be confirmed.

We see a history of obscuration, [a poor translation of 'usynliggjøre', the meaning more like 'make invisible'] sidetracking, [also a somewhat poor translation of 'bortforklaring' or 'speak away something'] suppression and control. The objectification of sexuality in our culture explains so much. It explains the deep discomfort adults feel when talking to children about sexuality. For what actually are we to speak about? What knowledge do we have to convey? Shall we show them charts of the genitals? Draw diagrams and explain the period? Tell them all we know about the birds and the bees?


It is as if a dark veil falls over the conversation, as if we can not reach the essential point, as if we can not relate to the same reality. The theme is so obscure and impenetrable and difficult that we may imagine that the child has no sexuality at all and that we therefore "sexualize" them, or we may think that we first must have more knowledge of child sexuality; more research must be done; or if the sexuality of the child is so unimportant that it hardly exists, and that it therefore can remain in the dark.

The history of child sexuality over the past 300 years is a history of alienation.

How do we learn about sexuality?

What does it really mean to "learn about sexuality"? What is to be learned?

It is not like many people think, that the teaching of sexuality is about learning various sexual techniques. It is rather about a basic socialization. It is the teaching of the relationship between skin contact and empathy. It is to be able to open oneself and communicate. It is a mental adaptation and recognition process between humans, which is established in the very first years of life.

In Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia under the section CHILDREN AND SEX, PART II: CHILDHOOD SEXUALITY one reads this:

Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia

There is no quarrel with the prescription that the proper socialization of infants calls for intimate, tender, loving care. Child care experts and the society in general approve of it. Developmental studies suggest that infants' emotional maturation depends on such stimulation. On the other hand, clinical studies credit deficient physical contact between infant and parent as the cause of later inability to form attachments. It happens that it is this same intimate socialization that leads to development of the sexual potential of infants, for infants who are given optimum intimate attention are much more likely to masturbate than are children who are raised in an indifferent or inattentive way.

Sigmund Freud was fully aware of the connection between children, adults and sexuality:

Sigmund Freud, Part 3 in Three essays on The Theory of Sexuality, 1905:

[the text below is the text as found in The Pelican Freud Library Volume 7 paperback edition pages 145 and 146; the same text can be found on the net here on pages 222-224]

All through the period of latency children learn to feel for other people who help them in their helplessness and satisfy their needs a love which is on the model of, and a continuation of, their relation as sucklings to their nursing mother. There may perhaps be an inclination to dispute the possibility of identifying a child's affection and esteem for those who look after him with sexual love. I think, however, that a closer psychological examination may make it possible to establish this identity beyond any doubt. A child's intercourse with anyone responsible for his care affords him an unending source of sexual excitation and satisfaction from his erotogenic zones. (...)

A mother would probably be horrified if she were made aware that all her marks of affection were rousing her child's sexual instinct and preparing for its later intensity. She regards what she does as asexual, ‘pure’ love, since, after all, she carefully avoids applying more excitations to the child's genitals than are unavoidable in nursery care. As we know, however, the sexual instinct is not aroused only by direct excitation of the genital zone. What we call affection will unfailingly show its effects one day on the genital zones as well. (...)

Children themselves behave from an early age as though their dependence on the people looking after them were in the nature of sexual love. Anxiety in children is originally nothing other than an expression of the fact that they are feeling the loss of the person they love.

Our parents are central in our first years of life when we learn about sexuality. What we learn from them is a consequence of the emotional interactions we experience with them, given that we are most often isolated from physical contact with other adults.

It goes without saying that in a society where sexual contact between generations is a taboo, where incest appears as an even greater taboo, teaching children about sexuality will be difficult and sometimes impossible. Thore Langfeldt says it like this:

Thore Langfeldt, Children's Sexuality, 2000, pages 55-56:

Many researchers have demonstrated the importance of the first years of life for a child's further development. The child gives signals that the mother responds to. The child's ability to give signals and the parents' ability to understand and respond to them are therefore important processes. There is no reason to believe that sexuality should not follow the same paths as other psychological developments. So when we do not assume responsibility for the child's sexual development, but only let it drift, it is probably due to our sexual prejudice and our negative attitude. Most people choose the laid-back attitude: "Can you figure it out with sexuality on your own it is good for you, but if not, you can't expect any help from me."

The child's sexual expression will usually be judged on the basis of the adults' own terms for what is right and wrong. Because we live in a culture where children and adults are separated physically and mentally, the child's sexuality can be perceived as alien, or even arouse fear.

Thore Langfeldt, Children's Sexuality, 2000, page 9:

When we express our feelings as children, the adults will mirror us with their interpretation of our emerging emotions. They can stop them, reject them, stimulate or accept them, but often the child's feelings simply do not fit into the adult's existence. Because the child is afraid of losing its parents, it conforms to their "will" and thus suppresses its own feelings. In many, this creates an anger that they may first express in adulthood.

Now, of course, most parents want their children well. At the same time, the problem is that parents can not be sexual role models for their children, whether they want it or not.

Thore Langfeldt, Children's Sexuality, 2000, page 59:

Parents have different motives for punishing the child's sexuality, and these motives do not always have to be sex-negative. Some believe that the child can grow up to become a dangerous sexual deviant if it is not stopped in its sexual manifestations. Others may have major sexual problems themselves that they unconsciously transmit to their children. A mother may have been exposed to frightening sexual experiences as a child, which can cause her to desexualize her own child as much as possible, and at the same time incur her own anxiety on it. Of course, with such problems in those who raise a child, it becomes difficult for a child to develop a safe and positive perception of their own sexuality. The child also often receives indistinct signals from its parents that sexuality is undesirable, and the child can have its own thoughts about why.

It is a paradox that those who are closest to us in our first years, those who are to teach us about sexuality, are also those who, according to the norms of society, are the least suitable to undertake the job. This paradox shows itself not least when parents are supposed to speak to their children about sexuality. A child needs many adult role models in their childhood, not just their traditionally asexual parents. That a child has many role models is especially important if he or she has a different sexual orientation than the regular heterosexual. This, in its way, shows the fundamental error of organizing society in small, isolated families.

Not having learned about sexuality can have serious consequences.

Thore Langfeldt, Children's Sexuality, 2000, page 92:

Those who develop a good relationship with their feelings and their own sexuality also gets a safe and good relationship with other people. If we are insecure, we must either subject ourselves to the sexuality of others or reject it, and thus remain anxious. Such unsafe conditions can cause us to completely lose control of our sexuality. Over the past century, we have seen how women submit themselves to the man's sexuality due to lack of self-esteem and security in this area. He, in turn, has been raised to fear his own sexuality. Therefore, he has had to reject it and instead transferred it to the woman, which is thus reduced to an object.

Girls are more reliant on learning to get orgasm than boys are, because their genitals are not outside the body and visible like the penis, and because they have to learn to connect their will with what happens with their body. Here society's views of girl sexuality play in and what girls learn about their sex in childhood, that it is a small vulnerable flower. Many adults will simply not recognize the place sexuality has in our emotional life, and this is a direct result of the attitudes to sexuality that exist in society. An interesting example is penis envy, or the notion that there is only one sexuality, the masculine, and that girls would prefer that they also had a penis and could enjoy the benefits it offers.

More generally, it is a question of power. If being open and showing emotion is a sign of weakness, then sexuality would rather appear as aggressive, dominant, and possessive. This is how male sexuality has always appeared. We cannot believe that society wants it to appear otherwise, given that so many boys do not learn about sexuality. Similarly, a girls' sexuality is not supposed to exist, given that so many girls don't learn about sexuality. Society wants perpetrators and victims. In this way sexuality as we know it propagates to new generations.

There is a classic treatise from 1975 called "Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence" by James W. Prescott. An introduction is available here. The full text is here. Prescott was a neuropsychologist, and he believed that the greatest threat to world peace came from nations with the worst childhood environment and who were most oppressive to emotions and feminine sexuality. With the help of anthropological studies, he showed a connection between the lack of physical love in childhood and crime in a society. He was convinced that the lack of sensory stimulation and skin contact was the fundamental cause for aggression and violence. The United States peaked the statistics on crime, number of hand weapons and number of acts of violence in the Western world, while the United States had (and has) the most religiously intolerant, the most comprehensive sex laws and the poorest view of children. Rich countries would otherwise not create any foundation for crime in their own country. Prescott showed that the absence of bodily contact (sensory deprivation) in childhood was directly linked to a high rate of violence and crime.

But the biggest problem with the lack of sexual education is not what you can do to others, but what you do to yourself. Children who lack skin contact become more ill than those who get their body stimulated by living, loving contact. Extreme lack of contact in early years inhibit brain growth, see here. Beyond purely physical development, our psychosocial development and our ability to develop emotional bonds can be hampered.

Retrieved from here :

Clinical attention has been focused on extremes of neglect. The obvious clinical syndromes which result from pervasive neglect have facilitated research in this area. More recently, however, many researchers have observed and studied abnormalities in the capacity of children – and adults – to form healthy relationships. An emerging area of study is focusing on “attachment” – a special form of emotional bond. While usually not framed in context of developmental neglect, attachment problems in children often are the result of mistimed, abnormal or absent care-giving interactions and, therefore, may represent a special case of neglect. As with other brain-mediated capabilities, the capacity to form relationships results from he experience-based expression of an underlying genetic potential to create the neural systems mediating socio-emotional behaviors.

The same source as above also discuss the causes, and points to the mistake of growing up in a society of small families with limited adult contact. Children need to choose from many adult role models.

Retrieved from here :

Our brain evolved over hundreds of thousands of generations in hominid and pre-hominid social groups. In these small hunter-gatherer bands a complex interactive dynamic socio-emotional environment provided the experiences for the developing child. At equilibrium in a group of fifty, there were three or more adult caregiving adults for every dependent child under age six. And there was little privacy. A dependent child grew up in the presence of the elderly, siblings, adults – related and not. There was a more continuous exposure and wider variety of socio-emotional interactions. The child in this situation had many opportunities to form relationships and, in a use-dependent way, develop the capacity to have a rich array of relationships. The genetic potential for healthy socio-emotional functioning – to be emphatic, to share, to invest in the welfare of the community – is better expressed in children living in hunter-gatherer bands or extended families or close-knit communities in comparison with our compartmentalized modern world.

Some argue that there is a connection between eating disorders and a poorly developed sexuality, especially in girls and gay boys, see for example here [original archived link in Norwegian or in English for instance here].


The pacifier is given as "comfort or replacement for the mother's breast". Thumb sucking can replace the pacifier, and is an early indication that one is forced to meet one's own needs. One develops an exaggerated view of one's own importance and may prefer the control one has with self-stimulation. Both of these circumstances may later make it difficult to learn to meet the needs of others and function sexually with others. Here [in Norwegian] the advantages and disadvantages of the pacifier are discussed. At the end [on page 4] it says:

Enjoy rather the contact you get with your child when it is quite, than worry about resorting to the pacifier too often!

The pacifier and the dildo have that in common that they can both be regarded as sexual aids. The pacifier teaches us that sexual needs can be covered by objects and things. We objectify sexuality and create a distance between the body's needs and other people. This develops a narcissistic and lonely sexuality.

The deviant sexuality

There is an international classification of diseases called ICD-10. This also includes mental disorders and behavioral disorders with codes from F60 to F69. Here you will find F65.4 Pedophilia under code F65 Paraphilias [the sections have change names and definitions since 2006 - the following is the current text as it appears in 2019] with the definition:

• A disorder characterized by recurrent sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children.
• A sexual disorder occurring in a person 16 years or older and that is recurrent with intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally age 13 or younger). (from apa, dsm-iv, 1994).

[it is outside the scope of this translation to discuss the changes - they will change forever]

Other disorders are fetishism, exhibitionism and sadomasochism. Why are sexual orientations, object choices and actions considered disorders?

In the United States there is an organization of psychiatrists called the American Psychiatric Association. They have created a manual on mental disorders called DSM. In the latest revision of this manual from 2013, DSM-5, [in 2006 the latest revision was DSM-IV-TR] we find this diagnosis of pedophilia:

DSM-5 302.2 Pedophilic Disorder. From the complete DSM-5 text found here on page 697:

A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).

B. The individual has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.

C. The individual is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

Note: Do not include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.

[the following comments concern the original DSM-IV-TR but are still applicable]

Why just 6 months? Why older than 16 years? Are you not a pedophile if you as a fourteen-year-old like a seven-year-old? Fourteen-year-olds usually have an established sexual preference. And why this insistence on not including older youths who have a relationship with 12-13-year-olds? What do sexual orientations do in a manual of mental illnesses at all?

To understand why sexuality could end up on such a list, we need to understand what influence the medical profession once had on social development, and how morality was mixed with health and hygiene. The father of modern sexual science, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, wrote:

Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Pshychopathia Sexualis, 1886:

Love can only exist between people of different sex who are capable of sexual intercourse.

With such a starting point, Krafft-Ebing set out to classify and catalog all types of sexual deviations. This included paradoxia, sexual desire at the wrong time of life (childhood and old age), anesthesia which was insufficient desire, hyperesthesia which was too much desire and paraesthesia, sexual desire for the wrong aim or object (which included homosexuality, fetishism, sadomasochism and pedophilia among others). In its wake the common notion that sexuality could be sick grew. We got the term perversity.

Around the middle of the 20th century, the number of forensic psychiatric examinations increased dramatically. In 1933, 316 such investigations were carried out in Sweden. Ten years later, in 1944, 1750 court-ordered psychiatric examinations were carried out, a five-fold increase and more than three times as many as are currently made in Sweden, see page 173 of "Brottet, offret och förövaren" (The crime, victim and perpetrator) by Åsa Bergenheim. In Norway, there was a similar development in the 1900s, see for example here [in Norwegian, the heading reads 'Illness and accountability – from the history of expertise']. The following is taken from here [in Norwegian]:

KRUS, The blessings and dangers of the welfare state. Crime and Society 1965–2005, page 76:

Several forms of crime are pathologized in the 20th century, and in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the medico-technocratic view of man dominates many milieus – not just in the criminological, but also in general social development. References are also made to hereditary factors or dispositions in the shape of an ability for antisocial or asocial behavior and for mental abnormalities, and groups of "criminals" as well as prisoners are categorized based on particular innate biological dispositions or tendencies that have a more psychopathologic explanation. The development and understanding are also influenced by the technical-medicational development. This in turn reinforces the more professional-technocratic perspective on aspects of crime understanding. In this sense, the treatment of criminals reflect the political ideas of schemes that fall under ’social engineering’ – preventive work, and professional-technological adaptations – in the form of various therapeutic treatment programs in medicine, psychology and psychiatry. It is especially in the 1950s and 1960s that the treatment-ideology and treatment-optimism take shape.

The Norwegian Red Cross Doctor's Companion from 1959 describes so-called sexual psychopathy as "homosexuality, exhibitionism, pederasty (groping minors), sodomy (animals), fetishism/transvestism, masochism and sadism". It is interesting to note that homosexuality was removed as a medical diagnosis in 1977, see here [in Norwegian]. The political purpose of having such a diagnosis became apparent. Today one is less willing to look on sexuality as a medical problem. Maybe we no longer believe that science is the answer to everything. Science itself may be less willing to be used as a rationalization and legitimization of morality in society. The old beliefs are nevertheless still useful. Here [in Norwegian] we read this:

Sosiologisk tidsskrift, Vol 14, 2006, page 69:

That the demedicalization of society is relatively modest is primarily due to the fact that more and more conditions are designated as disease, while very few conditions go from being defined as disease to not be. One of the few exceptions is homosexuality. In 1977, the Norwegian Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality should no longer be regarded as a diagnosis (Kjær and Selle 2001). Something similar has happened in several other countries. However, the development is ambiguous, other signs point to a medicalization, including the renewed debate on the treatment of gays. This is especially true in the United States, but here too [in Norway] there are a few who advocate that the health services should offer a program for those who wish help for a "reorientation" to a heterosexual orientation (Schjøth 2004).

Today (as I know) it is rare that a person is diagnosed with pedophilia in Norway, but I have managed to find this reference [in Norwegian] to two forensic psychiatric statements from 2006, which refer to pedophilia and ICD-10:

Chronicle, Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, No. 5 2006:

Patient A filled the forensic criteria for ICD-10 diagnoses F65.4 Pedophilia, F70 Light mental retardation, F21 Schizotype disorder, F42 Obsessive-compulsive disorder and F60.3 Emotionally unstable personality disorder.


Patient C filled the criteria for the diagnoses F65.4 Pedophilia and F60.2 Dissocial Personality Disorder.


The patients were not informed that the first syringe could increase the testosterone levels for 1-2 weeks. The patients reacted differently. Patient A increased in anger and aggression with poorer impulse control, while patient B and C reported increases in sexual desire, sexual fantasies and masturbation. These reactions subsided after 2-3 weeks.

If you as a young person are unsure of yourself, the notion of the sexually deviant or the sexually perverse is very unfortunate. Thore Langfeldt says it so:

Thore Langfeldt, Child sexuality, 2000, page 63:

When a child or a youth shows abnormal sexual behavior, the parents become afraid. Many are punished and the child hides [its] sexuality which then almost always develops to the worse, even if the child claims that all problems are gone. But many children struggle with sexual conflicts they never talk about. Such children are often negative to sexuality in a way that seems morally admirable.

There is no abnormal sexuality. There is only sexuality that is not common. The belief in the perverted sexuality is the belief that there is a 'sick' sexuality, that there are various orientations, object choices or needs that are illnesses in a medical sense. This is a serious delusion. The delusion has emerged in a time of technocracy, engineering and treatment ideology, with the purpose of legitimizing sexually hostile morality in a society and rationalizing the need to control human sexuality. Human sexuality is, in its essence, polymorphic and infinitely shapable. Therefore, there is nothing sick in what we may desire, for that is how human sexuality is. It is high time that the sexual sciences takes this fundamental fact into consideration. Then they will also be able to really help those who have problems with their sex life.

There is no abnormal sexuality, but there are asocial sexual acts. ICD and DSM have the wrong perspective. The problem is not orientation or object selection, but rather our understanding of sexuality as a social phenomenon. The explanation for asocial sexual acts is not a question of a wrong orientation but a lack of orientation, if one can put it that way. If we accept that sexuality develops and exists with others, that it gets its meaning together with others, then we get a new definition of perverse sexuality: it is sexual acts that do not exist as an agreement, which are not dependent on a social context to exist, which is simply asocial. The explanation does not lie, as ICD and DSM claim, in our orientation and identity, but in our actions and in our development towards social and responsible individuals.

One of the greatest ironies in our society's perception of sexuality is the fact that not having a sexual life is considered acceptable, normal or even applaudable. The best example of this is found in religious circles, where celibacy was (and still is) a prerequisite for a proper life. Among adults in general, not having a sex life, or just having a malfunctioning sex life, may be a source of compassion but it is never a sign of immorality. Such an adult can arouse wonder, but he can never arouse fear. Among children, not having a sex life is not only normal and natural, but a sexually active child arouses fear.

If aberrant sexuality is asocial sexuality, obviously rape belongs to this new definition of perversity. But rapes in society are few. Asocial sexuality is not dominated by them. The perverted sexuality does not appear through rape, but through the vast number of people who have not, and may never have had, a sex life.

The child's sexuality in perspective

Sexuality is something we are all born with. In its basic being it is always the same. Nevertheless, history shows us that we would like to break the relationship between child sexuality and adult sexuality, between boys' sexuality and girls' sexuality and between 'sick' sexuality and the one that serves propagation.

The priest invented original sin and told us that the child had a tendency to evil doings. The doctor followed suit with teachings on heredity, hygiene and the limits of normality. The educator warned against the masturbating child and said that children were situated on a dangerous border between being and non-being, between the capable and the inept. The psychologist invented the concept of perverted sexuality and warned that children could be seduced into something they did not have the ability to understand. The instrument of law and order showed us the abused child and said that children were the victims of the sexuality of others. State life management declared the child's will for non-existent, something the child welfare services followed up and maintained. The bond between the child's and the adult's sexuality was broken.

The principles of child upbringing can be summarized as follows. Children are to be placed in a quarantine until they can manage on their own in an adult world. Children should be monitored at all time. Children should get used to discipline from early on. One should not cuddle too much with the child. The child should not lie in the same bed with others. Girl children must be modest, decent and chaste. Boy children must be insensitive, competitive and dominant. There should be distance between children and adults. Freedom to talk about body and sexuality should not occur.

Many causes for the breach between the child's and the adult's sexuality have been forwarded. Child sexuality became a bothersome phenomenon in human sexuality when sexuality was linked to property transfer and family honor in the early agricultural community. Sexuality became associated with cultural level and social structure. Body control was considered essential in lifting us from nature to culture, from the animal to human. An exercise of power established itself around the child. It went from having a being to becoming a project. Around the child, channels were created for an unlimited intrusion, where the boundaries between the allowed and the forbidden became obscure, and thus fear and uncertainty became the new way to discipline. The control of human life increased as the state was organized and bureaucratized. Prohibitions in state religions, e.g. against sodomy, established an official sexual morale that was considered universal. Sexual crime was understood in a new way. Instead of condemning an action, one began to condemn a person and a particular category of the population. Eventually, the modern working life made the child's world separate from the adult's world.

Today we often talk about 'children's rights'. We say for example that children have the right to have a good home or that they have the right to a good education. When we talk about the rights of children, we never talk about the right to make choices. We never talk about the right to have responsibility. For adults, rights are different. If you for example have the right to vote, it does not mean that the State forces you to vote, but that one has the right to choose whether to vote or not. It implies that one has responsibility for oneself and for the community. When adults have rights, there is no law that tells what adults can and can not do.

Children have no rights in this sense. Children do not have the right to learn about sexuality. Children do not have the right to make choices and take responsibility for their sexuality.

We are all born without rights, in the sense that we cannot take responsibility or make choices. But we grow fast and develop self-awareness and an understanding of the outside world. Getting rights as children should deserve as much attention and be as important as for adults; more important, because it is through being given responsibility and making choices that we develop self-esteem and learn to take responsibility.

The way society perceives child sexuality, what rights children have in the sexual field, is directly related to how society perceives pedophilia.

If children do not have sexual rights, if children cannot make choices, pedophilia will be perceived as a threat to the child's "right to security". Pedophilia challenges the idea that children cannot decide over their own body. It is not without reason that pedophilia is identified with abuse, because abuse is the very expression that a child cannot make choices and can only be forced to sexual acts. This is the way society shows the lack of rights children have.

Pedophile sexual feelings are nothing more than the connection between the sexuality of the child and the sexuality of the adult. It is the bond that links our common human sexuality. Nothing more clearly shows that this bond is broken than the fear of pedophilia. By making pedophilia an illness and pushing abuse to the forefront, they undermine the sexual education process between children and adults, and turn the entire adult population into potential abusers. The fear of pedophilia prevents adults from becoming concrete with children about sexuality and from giving them sexual education. In all [official] recommendations about children's sexual development, this always recurs: adults should leave the child in peace. Children should find out about this sexuality-thing on their own. But what they find is shame, suppression , objectification, pornography and abuse.

Many will now point out that adults really can sexually abuse children. But isn't this in itself the clearest expression that adults as children never got a sexual education?

The fact that children can freely express their sexuality depends on the adult community supporting them and taking responsibility for them. Children are in a developmental phase and need this support. In a society where people only have sex for sexual reasons, where abilities and joy are something we can all share, children will get their education in a context with others and get the attention from adults that is needed to develop a good relationship with their body and sexuality. This in turn will make them able to take responsibility for children's sexuality as adults. Such a responsibility will not seem strange or odd. In a culture of sexual repression, where responsibilities between humans are unclear or lacking, it is easy to exploit a child's sexual curiosity and make it feel alone in its encounter with the double-morality and often contemptuous and selfish attitude to sexuality in adults (and peers).

It is obvious that what the child learns about sexuality is directly related to the attitude adults already have to sexuality.

How is the situation today? Do we have an open and liberal view of sexuality? What place does child's sexuality have in the public sphere? The attention abuse gets means that the child's sexuality first and foremost appears in a negative context.

Thore Langfeldt, Children's sexuality, 2000, pages 53-54:

Recently, the relationship between culture and sexuality has been widely discussed. Social anthropological studies show that our culture is still very sexual-negative (...) Many believe that we have now become over-focused on sexuality and that this is reflected through advertising, magazines and the internet. It seems that this focus is an expression that we have too little sex with each other. Studies from Germany from 1996 show that German students have far less sex with each other than they had 15 years ago, and in marriage we see a halving of sexual intercourse from the 1960s to the present, as the frequency [now] is on average six intercourses a month (...)

Although we now have more knowledge about sexuality than we had in the 1960s, we are far from being more open. In the last 20 years, we have been more concerned with abuse, which in itself has been necessary, than we have been concerned with the positive in sexuality. Our positive relationship with sexuality was so vulnerable that we could not combine the problem of abuse with the positive and affirmative sexuality.

Is the abuse hysteria the last remnant of the old taboos and social norms that suppressed sexuality in old and young? Maybe we see the emergance of a new and better attitude. - Women's Sexuality (Filed) [in Norwegian]:

The questions about suppressing child sexuality showed that as many as 81% distanced themselves from this, but the reason varies. ”Children are wonderfully good at arranging their own sex life. If only adults let them in peace, all goes its natural course”. There are many who believe the repression of child sexuality can be harmful and unfortunate. A woman writes, ”No, sex has never hurt anyone. However, violence, oppression and prejudice has. I think we are often afraid of our sexuality and react aggressively to children who show it so openly”. Another woman: ”No, certainly not, because natural sexuality is also in children a source of joy, sexuality and goodness. Suppression can damage the ability to sexuality in later life, and if one does not have that ability one easily become lightly moralistic, dissatisfied and evil. Suppression can be due to fear or envy, as well as a very misunderstood perception of the role of sexuality in human life”. However, 2% of women respond yes to the question of whether child sexuality should be suppressed.

Childhood has today in many ways played its part. There has been a gradual dissolution of the bourgeois childhood concept. It is no longer necessary to discipline boys to become good soldiers. Girls should no longer adjust their lives to be good housewives and give childbirth in marriage. Sexuality is not about reproduction but about quality of life. It is unpopular to talk about a "national stock" or social hygiene. Religion has lost its dogmatic grip. The patriarchy is replaced by a greater equality between women and men, and sexual relations are not a matter of genealogy but of personal relationships. Weak groups have been granted rights and better protection. We have gained more understanding of the importance of sexuality in the development of a good self. Sexual minorities have more freedom.

All this gives hope that one day children can freely express their will and their sexuality in a safe and loving environment. Åsa Bergenheim can't say it better:

Åsa Bergenheim. The Child, Libido and Society, 1994, page 17:

Perhaps childhood has played out its role in our society, which can explain why the boundaries between the child and the adult have become increasingly unclear. The problems of adult life are being moved to lower ages, and at the same time, childhood's carefreeness and irresponsibility are moved up into adulthood. The fact that psychology and pedagogy today recognize a sexual dimension in the child could be a consequence of this. It is above all in a discourse where the child is primarily perceived as human and secondary as a child, that it can be attributed all the qualities and abilities that are considered human.


Michel Foucault
”The History of Sexuality I - The Will to Knowledge”
Norwegian translation by Espen Schaanning, Exil Forlag, 1995, ISBN 82-7556-007-1

Behind a somewhat unreadable book with long intricate sentences, one finds very deep thoughts on the relationship between power and knowledge, and the nature of power, especially when it comes to sexuality [I of course recommend this text highly but do not expect a fast and easy reading, here is an English translation, be aware that many subtle points can be lost in a translation].


Kjersti Ericsson
”Drift og dyd - Kontrollen av jenter på femtitallet”
Pax Forlag A/S, 1997, ISBN 82-530-1857-6

A thorough review of the fate of the girls at the Bjerketun Institution, where admission and treatment is seen in the context of control with girls' sexuality, at a time when this sexuality was viewed as a threat to the order in society.


Thore Langfeldt
”Barns seksualitet”
Pedagogisk Forum, 2000, ISBN 82-7391-082-2

A very nice book in Norwegian about sexual health and education in man, where all aspects of a child's sexuality and sexual development are illuminated.


Thore Langfeldt
”Erotikk og fundamentalisme - Fra Mesopotamia til Kvinnefronten”
Universiteteforlaget, 2005, ISBN 82-15-00658-2

The history of sexology, in which the relationship between sexual oppression, authoritarian ideologies and violence in a society is addressed.


Åsa Bergenheim
”Barnet, libido och samhället”
Höglunds, 1994, ISBN 91-85970-15-8

A very thorough review of the child's sexual history, both in Sweden and internationally. The book contains a wealth of sources and literature-references for those who want to go deeper into the topic.


Åsa Bergenheim
”Brottet, offret och förövaren”
Carlsson Bokförlag, 2005, ISBN 91-7203-713-x

An overview of how sexual abuse has been perceived legally and by different professions throughout the ages, especially in Sweden. Abuse against women and children are treated in context.


Gertrude Aigner och Erik Centerwall
”Barnens kärleksliv”
Bokförlaget Prisma, 1983, ISBN 91-518-1630-x

In Sweden in the 60s and 70s, there was an openness about sexuality that was unparalleled in modern western history. This book was published in collaboration with RFSU (the Swedish National Association for Sexual Enlightenment), which in itself was the official expression of this openness. Here, the child's sexuality is treated in a positive and open-minded manner.


Sigmund Freud
”The Pelican Freud Library, vol 7, On Sexuality”
Penguin Books, 1987, ISBN 0-14-021741-x

One may disagree with Freud's theories, one may say that he did not understand children, but no one can doubt the intelligence, the will to grasp the subject over and beyond any prejudice, the ability to observe and the depth of his reasoning. Freud was a pioneer, and this is shown not least in what he wrote about sexuality. Go to the original texts, they say the most!