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Boys and Girls Speak Out

A Qualitative Study of Children’s Gender and Sexual Cultures (age 10-12)

Silence, denial and anxiety dominate media debates on young children and sexuality. This is particularly evident in recent concerns over what is commonly referred to as the ‘sexualisation of children’. However, the majority of these debates tell us more about adult concerns and fears, than children’s own views and experiences.

Children’s views have either been absent, sidelined, ignored or simplified in the ‘sexualisation’ debates. Moreover, issues of equalities, rights and social justice rarely surface in ways that attend to the complexity of being and becoming sexual. This research adopts a broadly sociological approach to sexuality and prioritizes children’s own views and experiences so that our understandings of children’s sexual cultures are located in (and challenged by) the rich and diverse views of children themselves.

The research sought to address a significant knowledge gap in our understanding of how pre-teen (age 10-12) children are negotiating their own and other’s gender and sexual identities, relationships and cultures. It foregrounds the diversity of children’s views and experiences, and emphasises equality, well-being, ‘voice’ and agency.