Are children asexual

Old new taboos : The Limits of Enlightenment

“Concerned parents” are mobilizing against sex education classes. The loose cross front made up of conservative parenthood, right-wing conspiracy theorists and homophobic zealots portrays itself as the guardian of a childish innocence threatened by the state. The tenor of the angry bourgeoisie: The actually asexual child is forcibly sexualized through the sex education classes, and worse still, brought up to homosexual behavior through the gender theory, which levels out all natural differences. With supposedly harmless slogans like “Let the children be children” and “Children need love, not sex” one demonstrated for the construct of an immaculate and innocent childhood and against sexual diversity in general.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared “sexual rights”, and thus also the right to sexual education for children, to be part of general human rights in 2002.

But what is the truth about the child's sexuality? Isn't their presence or absence always subject to the zeitgeist? Isn't it an adult attribution to describe child acts as sexual or asexual? After all, children have their own tongue and do not negotiate what they do and don't do in “adult” terms.

The sociologist Christin Sager recently published an illuminating study in which she describes the changeability of the concepts of “sexuality”, “childhood” and “family” based on the German sex education from 1950 to 2010. Using Foucault's discourse analysis as a theoretical basis, Sager shows that the image of the child has no supra-historical truth. The way in which a society deals with “childhood” and “sexuality” is tied into the knowledge structure of the time, which in turn is shaped by the prevailing balance of power.

The educational pamphlets have a normative function

Christin Sager has prepared a number of educational publications, many of which are aimed at families and some directly to children. In doing so, she not only digs for the concepts of child sexuality preserved in the sources, but also brings out sketches of the history of mentality at the same time.

Even if the discourses have changed many times from the repressive 1950s to the sexual revolution from 1968 to today, the heterosexual nuclear family is still the "crystal of the sexual dispositif".

According to Sager, the Enlightenment pamphlets therefore have a clear normative function. They are not just an expression of the prevailing discourses. For their part, they continue to write these, sometimes explicitly, sometimes subtly affecting people and are an instrument of what Foucault once described as “biopower”. Namely, a form of power that applies directly to the body and shapes the subject's habitus of the usual self-concepts and required behaviors - so that from now on it may control these itself in the sense of power and, if necessary, sanction it.

In post-fascist post-war Germany, this standardization can still be clearly read from the Enlightenment pamphlets, writes Sager. On the one hand, it is suggested to the parents that the children have no sexuality at all. This is in a deep sleep and does not show up until puberty. On the other hand, recourse to the anti-masturbation discourse of the 19th century would urge the parents to stop any masturbatory act. This crooked look at the child is thus characterized by distrust and a deep ambivalence.

Children are unfinished beings who are supposed to obey

The family image, which was launched into the 1960s, is still based on an unconditional division of roles. Raising children is a matter of motherhood, children themselves are thought of as unfinished beings who have to obey. Sex, on the other hand, is only permitted as a hetero-genital act of procreation in the marital bedroom.

Christin Sager describes the period between 1963 and 1967 as a transitional phase in which the buried knowledge of psychoanalysis returned through thinkers such as Theodor W. Adorno and Margarete Mitscherlich. Following Sigmund Freud's psychosexual development model and his portrayal of the basic sexual instinct, the concept of sexuality emancipated itself from the reproductive function.

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