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Meaning and social reality of sexuality in the lives of children in Aotearoa New Zealand

How sexuality in pre-pubescent childhood is spoken about varies enormously within societies: almost swinging like a pendulum between perspectives of healthy and normal exploration, to panic of children being victims of abuse and ideas of sexualisation by the media (Egan and Hawkes 2008; Jackson 1982, 1990; Postman 1994). Reflecting initially from my practice as a family counsellor, and more recently as a counsellor educator and researcher, this chapter explores multiple discourses in children’s lives on the meaning and social reality of sexuality. The aim is to question and deconstruct concepts that have shaped discourse of childhood and sexuality, and which is currently a binary position of children who are safe (i.e. asexual or un-sexual) or not (sexualised) (see, for example, Postman 1994). The intention behind this questioning of constructions is not to deny this dominant discourse, but to expose the presence of multiple discourses, and multiple meanings for children’s words and actions. Put simply: children’s sexual actions are frequently ascribed adult notions of sexuality, or taken to mean that maltreatment has occurred. My argument here from counselling practice and research is that sexual actions by children do not necessarily mean some harm has occurred, but that adults’ understandings and responses are informed by discourses that guide them to assume the worst. This can have effects for children’s identities, through disruption of their relationships within family, in addition to experiences of isolation and exclusion within school, neighbourhood and friendship contexts.
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Type of thesis
Flanagan, P. (2013). Meaning and social reality of sexuality in the lives of children in Aotearoa New Zealand. In S. Wray & R. Rae (eds.), Personal and Public Lives and Relationships in a Changing Social World, (pp.132-148). Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Copyright © 2013 by Dr Sharon Wray and Dr Rosemary Rae. Used with permission.