>>>  Laatst gewijzigd: 23 juli 2018  
Ik

Woorden en Beelden

Filosofie en de waan van de dag

Start Glossen Weblog Boeken Onderzoek

Waarden en seksualiteit

Voorkant Rousseau 'Children and sexuality from the Greeks to the Great War' George ROUSSEAU
Children and sexuality from the Greeks to the Great War
Houndmills etc.: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007, 371 blzn.
ISBN-13: 978 02 3052 5263

(12) Preface (George Rousseau)

"We take the long view: children and their sexualities (both in the plural) from the Ancient Greeks to the Great War. We do so cognizant of, but largely apart from, the totalizing theories of the great system builders of modern child sexuality: the Freuds (Sigmund and Anna), Melanie Klein, Kinsey, Bowlby, John Money and many others, and also apart from the calls for children’s rights in this domain amidst crusaders encouraging young people to reclaim their rights."(xii)

"No doubt exists about the complexity and delicacy of the topic, a further reason why it continues to be eschewed. Childhood sexuality lies on the border of taboo and the frontier of suspicion despite decades of psychiatric investigation from the time of Freud and Melanie Klein; even the ulterior motives of those researching these topics are suspect. Provided the approach is ‘clinical’ (scientific, medical, prescriptive), there has been little impediment to the discussion of childhood sexuality past or present. But as soon as the discussion turns to ethical, moral, legal and legislative aspects, the discourse becomes fraught, sometimes too explosive to pursue calmly.

As historians basing our arguments on archives and documents we take some refuge. But not even the archival ditch can immunize us from the realities of this topic’s moral pitch. We acknowledge them and hope we have approached our materials candidly and honestly, without dwelling on sexuality’s repugnant, sensational, or illegal facets. If, as we are being told at conferences and in journals, the history of childhood is now a burgeoning field with already well-developed tentacles extending in many directions, especially in the media, it cannot claim to be so in the sexual domain. So far sexuality has eluded its grip apart from its pathological dimensions. Even an historian of sexuality as influential as the late Michel Foucault treaded delicately when discussing intergenerational sexual relations in the Ancient world.

Collectively, we aim to show how children have always been complicit in sexual forms of expression; that it is adults who have recently foisted on them their fierce anxieties – even panic – about the terrors of life in our time."(xiii)

(1) Introduction (George Rousseau)

"We work collectively as cultural historians who have selected a limited number of case histories (some will say too limited to be representative) of intergenerational sexual arrangements and attachments, each located within its historical epoch. Our coverage is also eclectic: we make no claim for its representativeness. And we strive to be especially vigilant to the cultural specificities of childhood itself and the different constructions of childhood over time – a further reason why each ‘case study’ necessarily reconfigures childhood."(1-2)

"No one can doubt the explosiveness of the interface of children and sexuality today, one reason why it continues to be overlooked, conveniently avoided."(2)

"No discourse has been available to discuss the histories of intergenerational sexuality."(3)

"Collectively we also aim to show how children have always been complicit in sexual forms of expression; that adults have recently foisted on them their own anxieties – the above hysteria and panic – about the terrors of life in our time."(3)

"In a more perfect world than ours we would also have found historians of the visual image to bring their expertise to bear on these case studies. The realm of visual images is the domain where incompleteness most manifests itself here. We would have given much indeed to discover ancient vases depicting Alcibiades’ escapades in Periclean Athens or drawings of William Naphy’s victimized children in Calvin’s Geneva. They have not been found and may never have existed."(4)

"In 1972 two English collaborators, painter Graham Ovenden and writer Robert Melville, published an extraordinary book called Victorian Children. Issued by Academy Editions in London and St Martin’s Press in New York, the latter an international publishing house affiliated with Macmillan, this unpaginated book consists of 149 images of little girls. Many are strikingly nude and shown in postures not even Germaine Greer would have included in her recent ‘candid’ study of the other sex: ‘boys’. The language used to describe them is now adjudged to be offensive: not merely unacceptable but legally actionable. Perhaps this is why the book has not been reprinted in our time. If we had reproduced any of the illustrations here, Children and Sexuality could not have been published, and if somehow printed, our readers would be shocked by images we consider inappropriate. Yet in 1972 the authors described these images as ‘the most exquisite’ photographs of nude children ever to have been found. How can such change have occurred in just one generation?"(4-5)

"The fact is we live now in Western societies whose children cannot be photographed at all – by anyone – without their parent’s permission. So far has the public mood altered from pastoral appreciation of just thirty years ago."(7-8)

"According to Western mindsets embedding Judeo-Christian belief systems, many of our children today are being sexually abused. This book expends energy to demonstrate that while there is nothing new in the fact of abuse (if anything it appears to have diminished statistically) our contemporary forms of surveillance have intensified: never before have the bodies of children been so heavily managed and policed. Policed for their size and shape, policed from making copies or images of it, policed from predators wanting to watch, touch or assault it. Anthropologist Heather Montgomery demonstrates that other cultures police their children so differently from ours that the idea of equivalence for concepts of Western ‘sexual abuse’ is problematic. The category itself requires reinterpretation."(16)

"A related purpose has been to draw attention to legislators and statesmen who deal with the practical aspects of the regulation of children; who often legislate draconian laws to punish transgressors without attending to the underlying causes. We are, of course, neither politicians nor judges; as cultural historians we think that our leaders would legislate more effectively if they were better informed about children and sexuality in the past."(17)

"But since the 1980s, when a new Puritanism invaded the Anglo-Saxon world in partial response to the excesses of the Sixties, a sort of incipient paedophobia turned hysterical has infiltrated the discussion, and violated the artistic intention of all these figures."(24)

"The point seems self-evident: children have always sought to express their sexual energies without understanding or reflecting on them; adults have permitted them in varying degrees according to their religions and national systems of belief, and as dictated by adult sexual fantasies about children. But recently several Western governments have erected nanny-states compelling adults to manage children so stridently on the one hand, while policing them to be super-humanly perfect on the other, that there is no space or time for sexual expression. Not even for the possibility of a sexual life for the child. Historically over time the delicate balance of expression, permission and management has been culturally mediated by geography and local custom; yet technology – the variable in the equation gone out of control – technology has usually been omitted from the discussion from the time of the Industrial Revolution forward."(28-29)

"The fact is that technology heavily mediates between children and adults – here the editor speaks – in the sexual realm; and not merely current technology but technology throughout modern history. If we can control our runaway technology, including the uses to which it is being put so far as children are concerned, we may be able to lower the temperature of the current malaise. But technology is controlled by business interests that governments find almost impossible to monitor: profit before national policy. And if technological capability continues to outstrip moral intention and develops apart from ethical consideration, as it appeared to do at the transformative moments when photography and cheap reproduction burst on the scene in the nineteenth century, and later on when films and the Internet began delivering images of naked children to arouse adult erotic imagination, then we will pay a huge price for the consequences. So large, that present anxieties about children and sexuality will further increase. And then the currently lamentable impasse between children and adults will grow even greater than it is now."(29)

(39) Part I - The Ancient and Early Modern World

(41) 2 - Juvenile Crime, Aggression and Abuse in Fifth-century Athens: a Case Study ()Michael Vickers and Daphne Nash Briggs)

Niet samengevat.

(85) 3 - Incest between Adults and Children in the Medieval World (Elizabeth Archibald)

"By the twelfth century medieval incest law included not just immediate family members but the extended family – extended to a point that we would not consider incestuous. The taboo included all those related by blood or marriage to the seventh degree, and those spiritually related to the third degree. In effect, all family members were taboo, however distant, and it was forbidden to marry the in-laws of the in-laws of one’s in-laws; spiritual kin, such as godparents and godchildren, were also included."(85-86)

(108) 4 - ‘Under-Age’ Sexual Activity in Reformation Geneva (William G. Naphy)

"Thus lawyers and theologians advised that children could not be held accountable for their part in a sexual act; they were purely victims of rape and abuse. Adolescents might be innocent, partially guilty, or wholly culpable."(109)

"Sex, by its very nature, especially illicit sex, leaves little documentary evidence apart from trials. Moreover, children (even adolescents) leave even fewer records. Early modern societies were certainly not given to recording and preserving their impressions or experiences. Thus, it is extremely difficult to find much to study which might allow one to say anything at all on the subject."(109)

"However, on one point these societies were clear. The abuse of the prepubescent was a capital crime. Anyone charged with the abuse of a child was almost certainly going to be convicted and executed because of the use of torture. The cases of child abuse also highlight another difference between early modern societies and the present day. Most children seem to have told their parents or elders immediately if they were abused. The children had few problems testifying face-to-face against their abusers. Indeed, one of the most striking features of child abuse cases is how rarely (almost never) the abuser even tried to convince the child that he or she would get in trouble. Usually, bribes or threats of violence were used to maintain the child’s silence. That these societies never thought their children might hesitate to report abuse is confirmed in the trials of adolescents where the failure to speak out is seen as ‘collusion’."(120)

"It is difficult to explain why children in early modern Geneva seem to be relatively free of the shame and guilt that often prevents children in the twenty-first century exposing their abusers. One could speculate that this lack of guilt may relate to the methods of the abusers and their understanding of the kind of acts in which they were engaged. It may also relate to fact that whereas in modern society most abuse happens in the home and involves members of the victim’s family this appears not to have been the case in early modern Geneva. What Naphy demonstrates consistently in this chapter is the extent to which the Genevan magistrates took great pains to discover the relative degrees of culpability in cases of sexual activity involving children, and were often surprisingly lenient to those they considered innocent or naïve. At the same time there is little or no evidence of them attempting to understand or reform those adults found guiltily of abuse."(130)

(142) 5 - Privilege, Power and Sexual Abuse in Georgian Oxford (George Rousseau)

Niet samengevat.

(171) Part II - Victorians and Edwardians

(173) 6 - 'You Have Made me Tear the Veil From Those Most Secret Feelings': John Addington Symonds Amidst the Children (George Rouseau)

"Until the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act outlawed all male homosexual behaviour only sodomy (technically a capital offence until 1861) and some public acts were illegal. Sex between males was subject to increasingly stringent opinions during the nineteenth century, however, and an associated characterisation of homosexuality as deviant and immoral by lawyers and laymen alike provided a background for discourses on the subject of same-sex practices – discourses to which John Addington Symonds became an important contributor. When it came to children, the law recognized that they could not give consent to sexual acts, in effect offering boys a greater degree of protection than it did girls, for whom the age of consent was lower. Cases of adult–child sexual contact tended to be prosecuted as indecent assault, which was easier to prove than rape or sodomy, and the historiography of child sexual abuse suggests that age, class and gender were all influential factors in criminal proceedings."(200)

"Abusers who chose their victims from the same or a similar social background were more likely to be convicted than those who targeted individuals of a lower class but, in cases of sexual assault, conviction rates were almost twice as high when the victim was a child (of either gender) than an adolescent or adult. Crucially, though, the association of same-sex assaults with social deviance meant that boy victims, particularly those aged up to 12 or 13, were generally treated more sympathetically than girls of a similar age (in whom any hint of sexual awareness was a mark of precocity). Little boys could easily be construed as doubly victimized and, since same-sex contact was unnatural, they were not quizzed on their sexual knowledge (unlike girls). Louise Jackson has shown that issues surrounding respectability replaced this element of defence at trial, however, and that at adolescence the tables tended to turn, defence lawyers often arguing successfully that teenage boy accusers were delinquents, thieves and blackmailers. In sample cases involving boys under 12, 100 per cent of accused men were convicted, but the rate fell to 75 per cent when the boys were 12 or 13, and to only 33 per cent when the victim was 15 and well over the age of consent."(202)

(206) 7 - Platonic Dons, Adolescent Bodies: Benjamin Jowett, John Addington Symonds, Walter Pater (Stefano Evangelista)

Niet samengevat.

(237) 8 - The Nineteenth-Century Photographic Likeness and the Body of the Child (Lindsay Smith)

[Over Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, beter bekend als de auteur Lewis Carroll die tussen 1856-1880 enthousiast de nieuwe technische mogelijkheden van fotografie ontwikkelde en uitprobeerde. Net als vele anderen in die tijd gebruikte hij kinderen als onderwerp. Hij had een voorkeur voor meisjes van wie hij ook naaktfoto's maakte, allemaal in overleg met en met toestemming van ouders. Er bestaan zo'n 3000 negatieven. Uiteraard werd er veel over hem gekletst en geroddeld en de vraag is nog steeds of zijn kinderliefde helemaal 'zuiver' was - wat dat dan ook moge zijn. Boeiend.]

(268) 9 - Victorian Girlhood: Eroticizing the Maternal, Maternalizing the Erotic: Same-Sex Relations between Girls, c. 1880–1920 (Alison Hennegan)

"All of us who work on sexuality and childhood are familiar with certain well-rehearsed difficulties: problems of definition; slipperiness of terms; the absence or scarcity of ‘evidence’ of desires and deeds. The period’s silences and ambiguities contrast sharply with the candour of, say, the early eighteenth century or the explicitness of the late twentieth. When we turn to ‘deviant’ sexuality, even more problems arise: either total silence or the instant pathologizing of deeds which come within the remit of the judicial system, available to us only through police court records, trial transcripts, and newspaper reporting."(268)

"Yet, despite the skewed context of public awareness of male homosexuality, its criminal status did at least ensure that the phenomenon was to some extent recognized and available for discussion, however biased and ill informed that discussion might be. Girls and women passionately drawn to their own sex inhabited a far more ambiguous position, an ambiguity exacerbated by uncertainties and inconsistencies about when girlhood ended and womanhood began. At 17, for example, one might be a married woman with a child, or still in the schoolroom, wearing the pigtails and calf-length skirts which denoted the girl who had not yet ‘come out’ to take her place in adult society. Age alone does not dictate one’s status as a girl or woman. Experience, responsibility, authority, paid work (or lack of them) may also be decisive factors. I shall be exploring some of these complexities later in this chapter: for the moment, suffice it to say that as a rule of thumb, and for the purposes of this chapter, girlhood is generally deemed to end with schooldays, which, for middle-class girls, happens at roughly 16–17 years of age. (Issues of class, of course, complicate the question even further.) Homosexual relations between females, whatever their age, were not criminalized in the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act (although there is absolutely no basis for the widespread legend that women were exempted from its terms because no one fancied the task of explaining lesbian possibilities to Queen Victoria). So girls and women were safe and free, in the sense that the development of their emotional relationships with other girls and women was not bounded by the fear and threat of criminality. Yet simultaneously they suffered from both a surfeit and a lack of information about some of the possibilities and meanings of love between women."(268-269)

"a curious shift that occurred during the nineteenth century whereby the comparative frankness with which earlier periods had acknowledged the possibility of desire between women began to give way to an official silencing of female sexuality itself, whatever its direction."(270)

"Two quick examples from the period indicate uncertainty in this area. The first, the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, which criminalized male homosexuality almost as an afterthought, changed the age of female consent from 12, where it had been since Shakespeare’s day, to 13, then, a little later, to 14, then 15, then, by the early years of the twentieth century, 16. If full heterosexual intercourse, and the capacity to say yes or no to it, marks female adulthood, then there seems to be an awful lot of confusion in this period about when that point is reached."(271)

"Many of the orphans in Lowood School would have been illegitimate children, and as such they stand as the literal embodiment of the sexual misdemeanours of their parents. Thus Helen’s sins which are (to our eyes) venial sins of untidiness (‘I am slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things in order; I am careless; I forget the rules; I read when I should learn my lessons; I have no method ’[p. 88]) take on a symbolic meaning as the disorder of illegitimate desire. It is sexual shame that hangs over Lowood. In a society in which Malthusian ideas about population shaped social policies, and in which people were held to be in competition for scarce resources, acts of sexual transgression that led to illegitimate birth were considered to have enormous impact. This helps to explain the particular poignancy of Helen’s response to Jane’s punishment. When Jane asks, ‘Why do you stay with a girl whom everyone believes to be a liar?’, Helen responds by querying Jane’s mathematical computations: ‘Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions’ (p. 100). It is as though the prolific population of the world stands in higher judgement over the false morality of a society restricted by the injunctions of sexual restraint. Lowood, with its strict regime of rules and regulations, including subsistence-level food, sexual segregation, and the banning of any small sign of luxury or pleasure (the cutting of a girl’s red hair, for instance), evokes the ethos of the Victorian workhouse after the New Poor Law, set up on Malthusian principles to limit population and punish sexual incontinence. In the novel, therefore, erotic feelings between girls are just part of a fabric of illicit sexual expression that disrupts the sexual and political economy of Victorian Britain. In this context, proto-lesbian feelings are absorbed into an undifferentiated or heterodox arena of unauthorised sexuality."(295-296)

(299) 10 - At Once A-sexual and Anal: Baden-Powell and the Boy Scouts (Elleke Boehmer)

Niet samengevat.

(317) Part III - The Anthropological View

(319) Child Sexual Abuse - an Anthropological Perspective (Heather Montgomery)

"The previous chapters of this book have clearly demonstrated that contemporary western definitions of child sexual abuse cannot be easily or unproblematically applied to past societies. They have shown the dangers of looking at abuse through the lens of early twenty-first-century understandings of this issue which imply a teleology in which contemporary ideas about appropriate adult–child relationships are imposed as ‘correct’ or ‘more enlightened’ on people in the past and which have a tendency to misinterpret, and even to demonize, their attitudes to children. One needs to go no further than the opening paragraph of Lloyd deMause’s A History of Childhood to argue for the importance of examining historical case studies which call into question such universalist and essentialist attempts to understand what is now commonly known as child sexual abuse. In a parallel way, social anthropology has recently begun to engage with issues of child sexual abuse, looking at how it is defined, and by whom, and how, as anthropologists, it is possible for us to distinguish between indigenous cultural practices, which may appear abusive to outsiders, but are not considered so internally to a community, and those which are acknowledged as aberrant. The most important lesson for an anthropologist looking at the previously discussed historical case studies in this book, is the necessity of analysing and understanding child sexual abuse within its specific local or historical contexts, as well as in the broader sense of the social values and hierarchical structures prevailing in the wider society at particular times."(319)

"Jill Korbin has a useful typology here to distinguish between abusive and non-abusive child-rearing practices. Firstly, she identifies those that may be painful or unpleasant (such as initiation rites or physical punishment) which are carried out in accordance with, and with the full knowledge of, the community; secondly, there are structural forms of abuse against children (such as poverty or armed conflict); finally there is the idiosyncratic form of abuse, carried out in secrecy, and involving fear and disgust for the child. Child sexual abuse would fall into the third category and it is the issue of secrecy and shame which differentiates sexual abuse from accepted sexual practice."(320)

"The discovery of all forms of child abuse has very recent history; it was only in 1962, that Professor Henry Kempe first used the phrase ‘battered child syndrome’, to explain the non-accidental injuries in children seen by doctors and the idea that child sexual abuse was not only rife, but occurred most frequently within the home, was equally problematic and took a long time to gain acceptance. It was only in the early 1970s when feminist writers began to challenge the silence over rape and sexual abuse and adult ‘survivors’ of abuse began to publish their memoirs that child sexual abuse began to be acknowledged as a serious social problem, with profound consequences for the individuals involved. Despite this, however, most people, and the media in particular, remain much more comfortable focusing on ‘stranger danger’ and the relatively rare cases of abuse by strangers than they do on the children abused in their own homes, by those supposed to be caring for them."(321)

"It was not until the 1980s that social anthropologists began to look at why sexual abuse occurred even when there were strong taboos against it, and at the links between incest, sexual abuse and wider socioeconomic and political issues."(323)

"The more anthropologists have examined sexual practices and ideas about sexualities, the more it has become clear that sexual acts and behaviour do not carry the same meanings cross culturally, that the idea of a universal ‘sex drive’ is false and that rather than culture being the ‘added extra’ which might explain the odd variation in sexual practice, in fact it lies at the heart of understanding the different forms and types of sexualities. In Carol Vance’s analysis, ‘a sexual act does not carry with it a universal social meaning, [therefore] it follows that the relationship between sexual acts and sexual meanings is not fixed, and it is projected from the observer’s time and place at great peril’."(323)

"Sexual behaviour in general, therefore, is a particularly difficult and intimate area to explore because of the instability and uncertainties surrounding sexuality itself, the various definitions of the concept and the multiple meanings around the same acts. In terms of children’s sexuality, these problems cause particular unease. As attitudes in the West towards homosexuality, or extra-marital sex, have become more tolerant and such acts carry less stigma, those towards child sex have hardened, a point made by Jean La Fontaine who notes that while the term incest tends to provoke sniggers or stories of remote and isolated parts of the UK where it is said to be rife, child sexual abuse can never be laughed at. Although children in Europe and North America are having sex earlier than before, and their knowledge of sex may be greater than children in previous generations, children’s sexual behaviour, especially if it involves any sort of coercion, power or age imbalance between partners, remains very difficult to discuss, without accusations of prurience or of condoning abuse. The issue of child sexual abuse is particularly fraught in contemporary western society and the idea that the worst, and most inappropriate, form of sex for teenagers and children is with someone significantly older is widespread. This is, by some definitions, inherently abusive, as the power differentials between an adult and child are so great that it can never be sanctioned as an appropriate form of sexuality. Yet this is not universally understood or applicable and there are both ethnographic and historical cases in which children and teenagers are encouraged, and expected, to have sex with those very much older than themselves. Given the acute sensitivities around the subject, it is not surprising that little work done by social scientists concerns children’s enjoyment of sex or their own sexual cultures. (Mijn cursivering) The unease that many feel about talking to children about their sexual behaviour has meant that even anthropologists who specialize in children have largely shied away from discussions of children and sex and what little work that has been done has been interpreted by adults through adult perspectives. The only acceptable way of discussing children and sex has been by discussing child sexual abuse."(324-325)

"She further makes the point that much of what we know about children’s sexuality is based on supposition. There is little evidence about how much young brothers and sisters actually do play sexually with each other (although it is frequently assumed that they do). While this is usually dismissed as natural curiosity, there are no studies as to whether both parties enjoy it, whether it is coercive or even whether it is sexualized rather than simply an exploration of gender and bodily difference. Sexuality is thus an important area for both anthropologists and historians, but it would be naïve to see the study of it as anything other than intensely problematic, because of the acute anxieties it raises and also because it raises such important questions, for academics, about methods, sources and ethics."(325)

"Mead’s work does still retain some valuable insights; most importantly that we cannot understand children’s sexuality without first deconstructing the notion of childhood and what is appropriate sexual experience for a child. Child sex has become, for the vast majority of westerners, the final taboo. Despite the apparent paradox that children are becoming sexualized much earlier than before and encouraged to dress, and behave, as sexual beings at a considerably younger age, and indeed that the average age of first intercourse is falling, the ideal of a sexually innocent childhood is key to contemporary constructions of childhood. These constructions are based, not only on ideology, but also on economic and social factors. A contemporary child has a separate room from his or her parents and is largely shielded from direct knowledge of sexual matters by the space and isolation seen as necessary for modern children. Slum children of previous centuries had no such luxury and looking ethnographically, in many societies, young children are very knowledgeable about sex and it is part of their daily lives. In communities where privacy is not valued, children are likely to grow up hearing adults talking about sex, seeing their parents and other adults having sex and the mechanics of sex are no great mystery to them."(327-328)

"This paragraph is key to understanding chid sexual abuse from both a cross-cultural perspective and historical perspective. Whatever contemporary western views of child sex, it is clear that from this description, no Canela feels that sequential sex is abusive; there is no secrecy and fear associated with this sexual practice, and however it might be interpreted by outsiders, it is condoned within the community. What is missing, of course, is the children’s own accounts of it, and whether they do consider it in the same way as adults. It is an unfortunate gap in much anthropological writing on the subject, that children’s own perspectives are rarely canvassed, and it is only in relatively recent studies, such as the one which concludes this chapter, that children’s own opinions are asked."(331)

"Within the community it was relatively easy to find out who had sex for money and who did not, but the children’s perceptions of what they did were much more complex. It quickly became obvious that categories and labels were fundamentally important to the children’s images of themselves and were consciously rejected or modified by the children. I realized early on that prostitution was not something that children were, it is what they did. I soon discovered that ‘prostitute’ was not a definition that the children ever used about themselves and that it had nothing to do with their sense of identity. While it was common for children or their parents to say they ‘went out for fun with foreigners’, ‘caught foreigners’ or even ‘had guests’, I never heard anyone refer to themselves as a child prostitute. Again, the term prostitute was a fundamentally western one, imposed by outsiders, based on western understandings of identity and sexual acts as being synonymous. The children themselves would rather use words which suggested an ambiguity and a conceptual distance between prostitution and what they did in their own lives. While some clients were customers who simply bought sex, these sorts of relationships were disliked and rarely talked about. What they preferred to discuss were the men who were ‘friends’ and who consequently had reciprocal obligations with the children and their families. They consciously downplayed the importance of the money to them. They never set a price for sexual acts; money that was given to them after sex was referred to as a gift or as a token of appreciation. Money was not the end-point of the exchange but a way of expressing affection. Sometimes a client would not leave cash for the children but would pay in kind, such as through the rebuilding or refurbishing of a girl’s house. Given this, it was easy for the children to deny prostitution. For both children and their mothers, the length of time that the men had been coming to them and the financial help they had given them meant that they were relied on, and spoken of, as friends."(339)

"These children could delineate clear boundaries between what happened to their bodies and what affected their personal sense of identity and morality. Selling sex was not immoral because it violated no ethical codes. Betraying family members, failing to provide for parents or cheating on spouses or boyfriends was roundly condemned, but exchanging sex for money, especially when that money was used for moral ends, was not blameworthy. Ideas about sexual abuse, especially those based on western ideas of inevitable psychological damage, played limited parts in their understandings of what they did."(340)

"It is easy to claim that these children were misguided or that they suffered from a form of false consciousness. Simply because a child did not recognise sexual exploitation, it does not necessarily mean that it did not occur or that selling sex did not in some ways damage their sense of identity and self. However, the children explicitly rejected such ideas and denied the status of victim. They tried to form reciprocal arrangements with their clients and their rejection of labels such as prostitute was not simply a denial of reality, but also a way of manipulating that reality. They recognised the structural power their clients had over them and did their best to direct it to their benefit. From the interviews carried out and the observations made of these children, it was clear that they had a profoundly different understanding of sex from those understood as fundamental and non-negotiable to most westerners. For them, neither prostitution nor sexuality were the focus of their identity. What was considered as sexual abuse by outsiders did not affect their own sense of identity which was based on being a dutiful son or daughter, belonging to a community, and fulfilling obligations to one’s family and to the community. The children might acknowledge pain or unpleasantness during sex, but they did not necessarily equate it with abuse. For a westerner, with western ideas and understandings of child sexual abuse, it is extremely difficult to accept that a child would not inevitably be damaged in some ways by this abuse, but as an anthropologist, it is possible to see this abuse in its wider context, both globally in terms of imbalances in structural economic and political power and locally in terms of very different sexual cultures. It is also possible to acknowledge that the children retained radically different understandings of sexuality and their bodies. It is not necessary to accept their understandings any more than they might accept those of an anthropologist but it is important to acknowledge the different discourses and definitions around abuse."(341)

"However, the study of Baan Nua does illuminate that even those issues that to modern western sensibilities are most important – the inviolable body of the child, the sexual innocence that is seen as the right of all children – are not natural, unshakable, universal facts, or even unquestionable human rights. They are challenged and contested in other places by peoples who have very different understandings of children, their bodies, their sexualities and indeed their families and societies."(342)

Start  ||   Glossen  ||   Weblog  ||   Boeken  ||   Onderzoek