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Children, Sexuality, and Sexualization, edited by Emma Renold, Jessica Ringrose, and R. Danielle Egan offers a critical response and detailed discussion concerning children's sexuality by providing empirical research from various places across the world. The author's state that children's sexuality is situated within larger socio-historical contexts that needs to be dissected and researched in order for us to understand how children view and engage with the larger society. Contrary to popular beliefs regarding much public discourse on children and sexuality, the book argues that children are not asexual, but that they think about, discuss and engage in sexual cultures.
The book is divided into four different parts, with each part containing research on children's sexuality. Part one is titled "Mapping the History of Research and Theory Within the Landscape of Ideas" and contains research pertaining to various disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, feminism, and psychology, discussing the notion that childhood sexuality has come a long way in understanding how children grasp with sexuality through historical contexts pertaining to these disciplines. For example, chapter three, A Sociological History of Researching Childhood and Sexuality discusses the various waves of feminism and how studying sexuality was extended to understanding the sexuality of children.
Part two "Pre-Teen Sexuality" looks at how younger children engage in sexuality through various forms of interactions, such as discussions about whom they find attractive, through the lens of race and sexuality, and based on images they selected (pictures of people that they believe are attractive or popular). For example, chapter nine "Bieber Fever" discusses young girls' notion about the heteronormative landscape of attraction and whom the girls find "hot". Again, the intersection of culture, sexuality and agency is discussed in great length.
Part three is named "Queering Young Sexualities" and looks at LGBTQ youth and how young people engage with culture in combination with their sexual orientation. These chapters focus on various countries, such as South Africa in chapter 12, where the author discusses the notion that many men and women feel like homosexuality is counter productive to the notion of masculinity and "real men". Chapter 13 engages with the notion of homosexuality in Iceland and how young men worry about fitting in. Therefore, it is important not to be "too feminine" and to know how to interact with other young men.
Lastly is part four "Young Sexualities and the Cultural Imagination" that looks at various forms of media, such as children's television programs, Manga, documentaries and the use of video diaries to discuss bedroom spaces and girls' expression of sexuality and what they deem sexy. For example, chapter 22 discusses the notion of how young men gain ratings based on certain types of behavior, and
Children, Sexuality, and Sexualization provides a nuanced and deep understanding of sexuality from various nations and cultures. The link between culture, norms and sexuality becomes clearer and shows how children and young men and women engage in, modify and negate sexuality based on the country that they live in. Children also often resist popular notions of gender appropriate behavior even though this can be a difficult task. The book is a valuable resource in the study of gender, sexuality, psychology, sociology, childhood studies and anthropology. Some chapter provide an easier read than others, especially depending on what discipline someone might be more familiar with, but anyone interested in the sexuality of children will find the book helpful and engaging.
© 2016 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.