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INFANT AND CHILD SEXUALITY
 
 
 
 
 





Sexual Encounters With Parents In Early Childhood

 



The Child as Audience and Parents as Sex Actors and Sex Models Before dealing with encounters involving child-parent interaction around the subject of sex, it is well to consider what the child has learned from observing his parents.
There are societies, and the United States is not one of them, in which no effort or only limited effort is made to conceal parental sexual encounters from children.
Among the Melanesian Islanders where a certain amount of parental privacy is considered desirable, if a child becomes too curious and bold it is told to mind its own business and is instructed not to look. (Brecher and Brecher, 1966, p. 188).


But among the Alorese, by the age of five children are informed on details of the reproductive act. Members of the Pukapukan household sleep in the same room and although parents may wait until the children are asleep, there are opportunities for youngsters to observe adult sexual activity and sexual matters are talked about.
Lesu children are free to observe adult coitus with the exception that they are not to watch their own mothers having coitus. On Ponape children are given instruction in coitus from the fourth or fifth year.
Trukese children receive no formal education but they learn by watching adults at night and by asking their elders about sexual matters. (Ford and Beach, 1951, p. 188-189).


A high proportion of adults in the United States (the Kinsey sample) rather precisely recalled the age at which they had first seen the genitalia of the opposite sex.
This, according to Kinsey, emphasizes the importance which such experience has for the child in a culture that has gone to such lengths to conceal the anatomic differences between the sexes.
In searching for some characteristic trait that would distinguish the non-marital sexual behavior in primitive societies from other societies, Maxwell (1967) looked to differences in the structure of dwellings.


He based his work on the thesis that restrictions placed upon contact-the maintenance of social distance-provide a way in which awe can be generated and sustained.
He assumed that sex was most likely to be private in societies where houses had substantial walls that could not be seen through.
On the other hand, attitudes toward sex would likely be more casual if people lived in houses made of lattice work or grass or if the houses had no walls.
Maxwell made a cross-culture check of his theory having adequate information on wall material and norms of premarital sex behavior for ninety-three societies. The data supported the hypothesis. The more opaque the walls, the stricter the sex norms. Homes in the United States overwhelmingly have opaque walls.


Awe and trauma can occur for the child if he has been sheltered and is suddenly exposed to an unusual adult genital-related experience without receiving an adequate explanation of the behavior, as the following case.
I was intrigued with my mother's physical differences. The most puzzling childhood experience I had involved her menstruation. I awoke one night to see my father carrying my mother, who had hemorrhaged to such an extent that her nightgown was soaked with blood.
This terrified and mystified me, not only that night but for some time afterwards.


I was so shocked by her appearance that I thought something terrible had happened to her. There again, no attempt was made on my parents' part to explain this normal biological occurrence.
The experience happened to me when I was no more than four years old, yet I vividly recall the emotional reactions which took place in my mind.




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