The Fear of Child SexualityYoung People, Sex, and Agency

The Fear of Child SexualityYoung People, Sex, and Agency

Steven Angelides

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226648460

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Sexuality is arguably the most highly cherished marker delineating the boundaries between childhood and adulthood in anglophone societies. When the boundaries between childhood innocence (or innocent eroticism) and adult sexuality are blurred or overlap, oftentimes grave concerns foment into highly emotive sex panics. This is a book about a series of child sex and sexualization panics around a familiar set of social problems: the sexualization of children in the media and art; premarital teenage sexuality and sex education; child sexual abuse; homosexual pedophilia and intergenerational relationships; and teenage sexting. The Fear of Child Sexuality argues that popular panics over young people and sex are sometimes more about adult concerns with containing and regulating assertive youths and entrenching social norms of sexual development than they are about fears of potential abuse and harm of the vulnerable. It explores how emotional vocabularies of fear, anxiety, shame, and even contempt, not just frequently dominate discussions of youth sexuality, but are actively mobilized to preclude consideration of the competencies and potential capacities of many minors. The book uses historical and contemporary case studies to challenge some of the prevailing social, legal, and academic assumptions about youth sexuality, gender, power, and individual agency.