Philobiblon: The reality of pre-teen life

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The reality of pre-teen life

The Observer reports today on a television programme certain to provoke a storm.

Laura-Anne Hanrahan is sitting on her doorstep, playing with a pumpkin as she describes how she felt when her boyfriend kissed her.
'Tingly,' she says, dreamily. 'He used to come over and cuddle me and put his hands up my top. It used to feel cosy. I feel desperate to go up to him and say "Ben, why don't we kiss any more". It hurts so much that we don't kiss that I want to rip my heart out and throw it away.'
Laura-Anne, from Siddick, a two-street village near Workington in Cumbria, is nine years old...
Although the programme is not sexually explicit, Steven told The Observer he first had full sex when he was 11, and had been several times to the family planning clinic. All the children said they had their first 'proper kiss with tongues' when they were six or seven.

You can already see the Daily Mail et al going ape over this, but it is a documentary, and it is reality. The reaction in this story is all talking about the sexualisation of children by society, but the fact is that children this age are, in large numbers, starting puberty, the hormones are flowing, and this is what is going to happen.

When I look back to this age at primary school, well it wasn't so much age nine (fifth grade), but certainly by sixth grade (roughly age 10) talk about the other sex, about puberty etc, was a huge part of the school day. (Although come to think of it in fourth grade there was a lot of fuss about a boy in the class who had a mild mental disability. The cruelty of children: the claim was that he had "VD" and that if you touched him you would catch it. I don't think anyone knew what VD was, but there were posters on the train about it.)

My nickname in sixth grade was "bra baby" because I was the first to wear one - and that was because I had to, although several others quickly followed suit with "training" bras. And there was one girl - the class rebel - who reportedly took payment to let others watch as she kissed her boyfriend in the sheltered area behind the loos.

That was thirty years ago, so you can't blame any recent "sexualisation of society".

I can see how it is hard for parents to acknowledge what is happening, but if they don't provide sex education and give children the tools to work through what is going on, the results won't be pretty.


Blogger Laura said...

I've been working on a series of personal essays about the way my parents ignored my sexuality and didn't educate me properly--with not so good results. In fifth grade, a girl started her period and not one of us knew what it was. I'm hoping to do better by my children. They both already know the basics (at 6 and 10) and I'm planning a more detailed discussion with the 10 year old very soon.

12/18/2005 12:46:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

It is horrifying when you think of what that girl went through. Reading accounts of historic diaries - when this happened more often - shows the girls often believe they are dying. That's probably still true today. And imagine the feeling of betrayal that your parents have failed to give you this vital information.

12/18/2005 01:30:00 pm  
Blogger Another Damned Medievalist said...

me? I just wory about the fact that puberty seems to be hitting so early. I do wonder it if isn't partially junk food and the huge amount of hormones in the water ...

12/18/2005 09:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Bitch | Lab said...

My mother started her's early, too. At 10 and she was terrified. She vowed to do it differently with us.

I don't know it it's hitting any earlier, but children are sexual at any age.

12/18/2005 10:03:00 pm  

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