Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children's Gender and Sexual Relations in the Primary School

Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children's Gender and Sexual Relations in the Primary School

Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children's Gender and Sexual Relations in the Primary School

Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children's Gender and Sexual Relations in the Primary School

Synopsis

Girls, Boys and Junior Sexualities takes an insightful and in-depth look at the hidden worlds of young children's sexualities. Based upon extensive group interviews and observation, the author illustrates how sexuality is embedded in children's school-based cultures and gender identities. From examining children's own views and experiences, the book explores a range of topical and sensitive issues, including how: the primary school is a key social arena for 'doing' sexuality sexuality shapes children's friendships and peer relations being a 'proper' girl or boy involves investing in a heterosexual identity children use gendered or sexual insults to maintain gender and sexual norms.Grounded in children's real-life experiences, this book traces their struggles, anxieties, desires and pleasures as they make sense of their emerging sexualities. It also includes frank and open discussions of the pressures of compulsory heterosexuality, the boyfriend/girlfriend culture, misogyny and sexual harassment.Girls, Boys and Junior Sexualities is a timely and powerful resource for researchers, educationalists and students in childhood studies, sociology and psychology and will be of great interest to professionals and policy makers working with young children.

Excerpt

I am very honoured to have been asked by Emma to write the foreword to her book. People sometimes ask you (it's a good interview question) to name a book by someone else that you wish you'd written yourself. Emma's book is firmly on my list of these books.

Girls, Boys and Junior Sexualities is a major contribution to the growing field of literature about children's sexualities. But it is more than that. Based on rigorously collected and analysed empirical, ethnographic data, the book helps us to think about childhood, about sexualities and about schools as sites of cultural negotiation and struggle in new and interesting ways. Using detailed, nuanced and multi-layered descriptions of the contexts of schooling and the children's own cultural worlds as revealed by participant observation and interview, a picture is drawn of two schools in a semi-rural setting in the east of England. The descriptions given are evocative and rich - what Clifford Geertz would have called 'thick' - in the best tradition of ethnographic work. By the end of the book, one feels one knows, personally, Alison and Sophie, Tom and Pete, and the other children in this account. These schools, Tipton and Hirstwood, are not only instantly familiar - the subject of numerous other descriptions of primary schools from the UK, Australia and the US, but also peculiarly individual. The book doesn't stop at description, however, but draws us into a highly nuanced theoretical account of children's school-based sexualities.

One of the successes of the book is that it does all this whilst remaining eminently readable - I found myself describing it to a friend as 'gripping' when I was in the middle of it. It introduces and explains difficult and abstruse theories of sexuality (for example those of Judith Butler) in ways that render them clear, understandable and relevant for practitioners working with children (whether as teachers, social workers, carers, etc.) and policy makers. At the same time, the dialogue with such theorists challenges and refines their ideas through engagement with empirical data in ways that will be important for academics concerned with childhood and/or sexuality studies.

Emma, herself, has outlined the main 'findings' (her quote marks) of the book in her final chapter. In this foreword, I don't wish to repeat what she has said there, but would like to draw attention to some of the most striking aspects

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