Hands Off! The Disappearance of Touch in the Care of Children

Hands Off! The Disappearance of Touch in the Care of Children

Hands Off! The Disappearance of Touch in the Care of Children

Hands Off! The Disappearance of Touch in the Care of Children


Richard T. Johnson is a Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.


Nothing is less certain today than sex, behind the liberation of its discourse. and nothing today is less certain than desire, behind the proliferation of its images.

-- Jean Baudrillard, Seduction

Never before have we witnessed so much activity dedicated to boundaryriding desire in relation to children. At a time when the proliferation of discourses about sex is unprecedented, we want to be certain that any desire to engage with children is not motivated by sex or productive of sex. Our collective determination to put an end to child sexual victimization -- to govern desire in the interests of children -- demands the maximum scope for social mechanisms of surveillance, and greater penalties for the abuser. To achieve this, we must leave no aspect of children's lives and relationships unscrutinized, and this includes powerful invitations to produce retrospective readings of our own childhood experiences. Our intentions are noble -- caring for the vulnerable is, after all, a hallmark of the progressive society, and who could be more vulnerable than an innocent child?

Thus, all those who come into contact with children -- nanny or neighbor, priest or pedagogue -- now find themselves with more explicit obligations and responsibilities as nurturers and caregivers. Every child-adult or even child-child relationship has been rendered more scrutinized, more regulated, more governable by a combination of tactics-professional expertise, media reporting, policy proliferation, community organization, legislative reform, and so on.

At the same time that we celebrate the triumph of every new piece of child protection legislation, every nursery observation camera installed, every pedophile convicted and placed behind bars, we are being forced to acknowledge some very troubling implications for any-

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