The magical age of 10?

Why be happy when you could be normal? Our culture’s stifling obsession with normality and conformity, brilliantly captured in lesbian novelist Jeanette Winterson’s ironic question, has been snapped into focus for us by oral sex in the kindergarten and its shocking abnormality – or assumed abnormality. OK, most little kids don’t do it, but would they if they were not under a regime of constant surveillance and prohibition?
Hard to be certain in the absence of careful observational studies in conditions of true childhood freedom such as we are unlikely to find in the developed world. Studies of that sort would give us a benchmark. We would be able to measure the frequencies of particular childhood sexual activities, noting which were usual and which were rare. Statistically, some would be normal and some would deviate from the norm. And some idiot would seize upon these results to pronounce the “deviant” activities pathological and harmful!
I will say no more here about normality and abnormality, except to say there is a great guest blog in the pipeline titled Show Me An Abnormal Mountain.
For the moment, then, Heretic TOC will proceed with the assumption that there is nothing necessarily wrong with any childhood sexual activity simply by virtue of its being unusual. But studies of what is usual and unusual, or would be in conditions of freedom, would be very valuable in order to tell us more about the nature of childhood sexuality. One key question is whether infantile and early childhood sexuality is really sexual or whether it is just an aspect of discovery and play. Kinsey’s work showed that children of both sexes are capable of orgasm from infancy onwards, and there is a wealth of evidence, especially from less uptight cultures than our own, that children of all ages (including Freud’s alleged “latency period”) exhibit sexual behaviours spontaneously when they are not discouraged from doing so.
There is also evidence that individual children, like the four-year-old boy and his five-year-old girl partner at the Carson pre-school, will consciously desire to repeat experiences they have found to be pleasurable. Belittling this as merely exploratory behaviour is just a tactic to avoid facing the fact that children can indeed be truly sexual. Are such children exceptional? Do most children, as is commonly supposed, only become significantly driven by sexual desire with the hormonal surge of puberty? Or does this frequently come earlier? In my own case I can answer very definitely that I was highly sexual from age 10 onwards, fully three years before any visible signs of puberty.
Remarkably, considering how little has been made of it in “expert” discourse, there is substantial evidence that 10 is a common age for the awakening of distinct and abiding sexual attraction and desire. The silence is even more remarkable given that this awakening has been associated with a physical substrate, the non-gonadal “mini-puberty” known as adrenarche. Sex hormone levels in the child’s body are low in early childhood and remain so until the maturation of the adrenal glands around age 6-8. With increased adrenal activity hormone production begins to increase exponentially until it reaches the low adult range at about 10.  In a paper titled The magical age of 10, anthropologist Gilbert Herdt and psychologist Martha McClintock noted that 10 is the age for initiation into adulthood in numerous quite separate and isolated tribal cultures in New Guinea, with sexual intercourse for boys typically starting around this age.
Freud, as is well known, insisted on the sexuality of much younger children, locating the development of sexual orientation in the resolution of the child’s connections of erotic attraction and rivalry with its parents at around age 5-6. Important as this “Oedipal” period is, though, to the child’s sense of identity and social development, there is no convincing biological basis to suggest this is a key period of children’s sexual development in terms of the strength or persistence of genitally oriented desires.
For that, oddly enough, we might have to go back much further. It has been noted before here at Heretic TOC (search for “The Clitoral Truth” in the comments) that ultrasound evidence has demonstrated the phenomenon of pre-natal masturbation. Kids get their jollies even in the womb! This is not all that surprising when another little known (to the layman, at least) fact is taken into account: newborn babies have adult levels of the key sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen in their bodies. These levels then tail off to a low level. The high level at birth reflects a pre-natal regime in which the sex hormones play a vital role in developing the body of the foetus, including divergent sexual development for males and females of the baby’s sex organs and brain. Just how vital that role is was dramatically illustrated by a finding reported last year from a study of boys aged 8-11 whose foetal testosterone levels were known from amniotic fluid measurements at 13–20 weeks gestation. Higher levels of foetal testosterone were shown to be associated with increased “approach” behaviours, related to the brain’s reward system, all those years later as the boys approached puberty. The official news release from which I have taken this information does not say so, but I am guessing sexual forwardness could well be among the rewarding “approaches” in question!
Drat! I meant to get around in this post to writing, as requested and promised, something about sex in the Swedish kindergartens and how it is viewed by the adults – or used to be in more liberal times – as described in the book The Love Life of The Child, of which I translated parts from the Norwegian edition. Never mind, another day I hope.  I should not finish, though, without mentioning a couple of relevant articles kindly dug out by Dave Riegel. One, a translation from a 2007 article about Norwegian kindergartens, appears to indicate that things have not necessarily changed all that much from the research I described from over thirty years ago. This more recent article has already appeared in the comments: just search down the page for “Pre-school Teacher Pia Friis”. The other is a rather good piece following the Carson pre-school scandal in an online magazine called Jezebel, which promises “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women”. The writer, Laura Beck, teeters near the edge of downgrading children’s sexuality to “play”, but never actually loses her footing in a reassuring article titled Kids Are Going to Touch Genitals. Let’s Not Get Too Freaked Out About It.

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Pete

Yep, me aged ten too! And yes, it is magical.
“Do most children, as is commonly supposed, only become significantly driven by sexual desire with the hormonal surge of puberty? Or does this frequently come earlier?”
Questions I have long pondered.
For science here is my sexual awakening:
I was born in 1960s England. We were clearly healthier and earlier developed than my parents generation, but the girls especially not as shapely as they are now.
My masturbation has always been of two types: purely physical sensation or overcoming (pun intended!) desire/lust. And so it was from early years, with me being only mentally aroused by pissing outdoors. Then at 10 I simultaneously became very curious about both girls/women and boys/men. With the former I spent many an hour looking at my mother’s underwear catalogues (a cliche, I know!), encyclopedias showing naked African and Papua New Guinea women. With the latter I found my brother’s (he was 14) collection of monochrome magazine photographs of 1950s and ’60s muscular physique men either fully naked or in pouches. I do remember those making me go a little erect.
Then I became romantic with a girl aged I recall 6, then with a 10yo was pleasantly surprised when she showed me her bits by pulling down her panties.
At 11 I was about a year or two ahead in puberty than my peers, getting teased for having a “forest” and so on. Yet, masturbating from eleven was common with many or most of my classmates despite my being ahead otherwise. My first attempt being lying on the carpet and humping it. Then several attempts in the bath until that wonderful first time of the milky white substance pouring out of my cock’s tip. I can still feel that incredible pleasure.
At that time masturbation though was still considered anti-social, and I with much regret had the silly sense of God watching me and being disgusted. I tried to not wank but could only last a few days. My parents were average religious, but other adults in my life then were very so and alas highly neurotic.
Around 13 I had a crush on both Captain James T Kirk and his lookalike, a boy called David in my class. However, it wasn’t sexual. That I found in the first girlie magazines I started to see then, with quite a trade going on at my school. When I got home, after smuggling a mag past my mum, I would strip off and almost prematurely ejaculate as soon as I turned its pages. Fun times!
Then it wasn’t until maybe 15 before I directed my attention to actual girls I knew, finding their becoming women and showing off their cleavages and, in the summer, bare legs and pretty feet too much of a distraction. No wonder my grades weren’t good. 🙂
And the rest is history….
A final point: isn’t it bizarre that, as children hit puberty earlier each generation, reaching their full adult height sooner and, in the case of girls, their often being overweight nowadays means they have bigger bums and tits, our puritanical society has become more paedohysteric? I mean, a contemporary child is pretty young and mid-teens are already fully sexual adults.
As always Tom, a very interesting post.

[…] the increasing intensity of childhood sexual attractions and desires. Heretic TOC reported this in The magical age of 10? Actually, with the age of puberty currently dropping at the speed of a whore’s drawers, the […]

[…] It is often incorrectly assumed that all the major developments of sexual maturation take place during pubescence (typically from 11-14): enlargement of the genitals, pubic hair, breast growth and menstruation in girls, sperm secretion and ejaculation in boys. But there are major changes going on beforehand, beginning with a “mini-puberty” known as adrenarche around ages 6-8, as Heretic TOC noted last year in The magical age of 10? […]

Radical Queer Diva

OK, extremely belated comment here, but just to point out a few things. The average age at which boys enter puberty now appears to be between 9 and 10, with black boys closer to 9 and white boys closer to 10, at least in america. There was a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2012 that points out this very fact, a study in which the researchers were going to initially gauge puberty by asking boys whether they could ejaculate (I thought that came later in puberty, but apparently recent data suggests otherwise. I should mention that this is not talked about in the study itself but instead in a NY Times article about it, of which I posted a link below. But maybe I’ve misconstrued what they were saying.)
It seems to me that many scholars, sex researchers included, often times use outdated puberty data. If I’m recalling accurately, Philip Jenkins, in his book Decade of Nightmares, references the start of puberty for boys as being fourteen, which makes me think he might have been smoking crack when he wrote it. In addition, Bruce Rind, in his chapter in Censoring Sex Research, sets the normal begining age of a pederastic relationship at 12, but without contextualizing this by pointing out that puberty began much later back then. In a modern context, a pederastic relationship would begin around 10 and end around 15, not start at 12 and end at 17.
Hopefully WordPress hasn’t added all sorts of weird extra spaces between my words, like it always seems to do. Or maybe it only looks that way on my screen? This should come out to three paragraphs, with no extra spaces between every other word in said paragraphs.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/health/puberty-starting-earlier-in-boys-new-study-suggests.html?pagewanted=all

mr percival

i remember at school,must have been 11 or 12,giving a friend of similar age a piggy back,his legs were soft and it felt good.because it felt good i let him go,feeling dirty, must have come from my religious upbringing,though that hesitation did not last.also when about 9 watching a belly dancer,i would go up to the screen and pretend to feel her,my farther would say WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING.

Scholarbones

Many thanks, TOC! I didn’t know an awful lot of that! In the simplest terms, though, what THEY do is deny the humanity of children. Further, they denigrate young people by regarding them, and treating them as empty fools.

adamjohn2

I have often thought that it is a denigration of children to attempt to deny that they are sexual beings.

willistina556

Once more re-reading Gil The Great, always worthy of a revisit.
Quote Gil: ” This is not concerned with ‘norms’; it resides at the very core of our human being. ”
Respectfully re-phrased: “This is not concerned with ‘norms’; it resides at the very core of the Anglo-Fascist being.”
Then, slightly earlier Gil: ” And why ten? It has long puzzled me that humans are being age-stratified at all; not only ‘adults’ and ‘children’ – pre- and post-puberty – but these days regimented into strict age cohorts bounded by 18 months age difference at most.”
Respectfully rephrased: ” And why ten? To students of the post-Reformation Anglo psycho-lonial mindset (‘Divide & Rule’). It is long since clear that they stratify all of creation. Not only human ‘adults’ and ‘children’ – pre- and post-puberty – but always regimented into strict cohorts bounded by ever limited differences.”
No coincidence that the first Anglo Reformationist, unrepentant serial psycho-killer fascist Henry V111 Tudor variously adopted his father’s heraldic use of the ‘portcullis’. Grid symbol of barring, blocking and dividing all who would venture past it. A still vital Anglo-Fascist symbol central to HMRC/Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. Henry V11, last Anglo King to win his crown in battle (of Bosworth, defeated Richard 111 recently unearthed in Leicester) was born to Margaret Beaufort Countess Of Ricmonds & Derby who was 12 when she married 24-year old Edmund Tudor on 1 November 1455. The Wars of the Roses had just broken out; Edmund, a Lancastrian, was taken prisoner by Yorkist forces less than a year later. He died of the plague in captivity at Carmarthen the following November, leaving a 13-year-old widow who was seven months pregnant with their child.
Plus ça change.

willistina556

Stephen6000.
Check, victim of Anglo-Brit injustice Jonathan Kings’s site with ‘Your Views’ blog and quite recent threads:
1. ” Underage pedos? ”
2. ” America devours It’s Young ! “

stephen6000

Sorry, her name was ‘Ashley1988’

stephen6000

In case anybody misses it, the Laura Beck article cited by Tom above includes a comment from ‘Ashley88’, who describes a truly nightmarish reaction to some mild childhood exploration. Hard to believe such things can happen in modern-day America.

willistina556

‘Awakening’ may be subconcious or self-aware stirrings ?
1. First solo in utero self-pleasure or shared/mutual if twins or more ?
2. First extra utero solo self-pleasure.
3. First social/recreatioinal non-pen shared/mutual, sans or with some emotional bonding – Romantic Lurve.
4. First social/recreational shared/mutual pentration sans or with some emotional bonding – Romantic Lurve.
One’s own ‘awakening’ of the Anglo-dreaded ‘act’ was by observing street-pooches (dogs fucking), and then at age 11 returning suntanned to school from Summer Hols when one bold boy in a mixed-gender group (incl. LBGTs ?) brazenly announced, “I know how babies are made. You rub yer dicks together !”
Lifetime recommended, free (currently) of Anglo Fascist sanctions CUMS from ace Anglo commentator/masturbator Woody Allen, “At least self-masturbation is sex with somone that you might like.”
Woody plus: “Folks sometimes ask me if sex is depraved. I say ‘yes, if it’s done right !’ ”
Woody Sextra: From his pre-PC Sexy 1975 rampant self-penned parody of ‘War & Peace’, ‘Love & Death’. Woody as a young Russian soldier asks an ancient bearded priest the secret of his longevity: ” The answer my boy, is, a 12 year old blonde in bed ! No, no…better still TWO 12 yr old blondes in bed !! ”
Way to go Woody.

Peter

Well, it should be taken into account, first, that there is a difference between cultural norms and individuals. Norms can, will and must often be more conservative, security-minded (and sometimes even violently oppressive to pleasure the authorities).
When you look at the data in McClintock/Herdt (I presume you have it), then we can say – cum grano salis – that first sexual experiences occur at the average age of ten with a standard deviation of three years. In one of their sources you could see a plot with a 95%-CI from about five to eighteen years. Intervening are the cognitive capability to differentiate social roles (and perhaps more, Guy Davenport in an interview spoke of “sensuality” as an synonym of sexuality) and the existence of appropriate persons as objects of desire.
Note that the median age is < 10 years, as the distribution is, of course, skewed. It is amusing that generations of experts found puberty to be so important, while it means only greater risk taking for boys. But not all, I remember a German doctor who around 1900 mentioned ten years as the average age of sexual awakening. And earlier periods where more enlightened, too.

Gil Hardwick

Um, yes, Peter, there is a world of difference between some statistical norm contingent upon some question posed (one of my old anthropology professors introduced his fresher class to the discipline by writing boldly on the [still then] blackboard, POSE, SUPPOSE, PROPOSE, IMPOSE, DISPOSE, and he was right to do so), and what are empirically, under ethnographic field conditions, most commonly observed patterns of normative behaviour.
Whatever ‘norms’ may be imposed, I know for a fact because I was there and saw it myself; was arrested and imprisoned for it, that naked children of all ages will spontaneously fool around, and if they are not naked will soon get naked, most conveniently at bath and bed time. The rule of civil society, in fact, is by definition to enforce dress codes, not nudity codes.
I have no issue with the body, or nudity, or relaxing and having fun away from the strictures of public life. It is private.. The question is whether people in private, grown-ups and children alike, are ‘having sex’, or whether they are simply laughing and playing.
Thinking about that, it is irrefutable that ‘adults’ having reproductive, coital, copulative sex seek privacy. Playing children seek publicity – look at me look at me look at me – which is a core part of the issue here addressed.
I have raised this question many times, of those too who continue running from country to country hiding from ‘the law’, leaving a trail of disappointed, lost and lonely children behind them; in my mind refusing to answer to those with legitimate questions to ask of them, why don’t they simply come out and play?
By the same token, of course, a corresponding question can and must be asked of ‘the law’; to wit, why is play and laughter and happiness no longer allowed in contemporary Anglophone common law ‘democracy’?
Just because willy or pussy is involved?
No, I’ll never accept such a state of affairs.
This is not concerned with ‘norms’; it resides at the very core of our human being.

Gil Hardwick

I do like your post, Tom, except from an anthropological and therapeutic view an important element missing. The body and sex do not take much exploring. There is nothing complicated there; as you point out, it’s child’s play; foetal.
It remains very much part of an ongoing problem in modern Western discourse to presuppose the individual, when in fact we are an intensely gregarious species. The child left alone very quickly develops neurosis.
Going back for more all the time, to multiple partners? Is that little more than seeking and exploring genital self-pleasure? I dare suggest that this is the most fundamentally important social development phase in human life, not exploring sex over and over (again, it’s not that complicated) but the very real complexity of intimate relationships with others, in which the role of sex play is pivotal.
If it can be called ‘sex’, it’s bonding sex not procreative sex. This is highly inteligent human behaviour; the most intelligent children being the most precocious, adventurous, playful. Sit and watch them, the phenomenon is eminently clear and unambiguous.
And why ten? It has long puzzled me that humans are being age-stratified at all; not only ‘adults’ and ‘children’ – pre- and post-puberty – but these days regimented into strict age cohorts bounded by 18 months age difference at most.
This very issue that has been raised, that we seek to address, is very much concerned with the most basic human right to explore intimate relationships beyond the mandated age range. I have not at any time thought differently, though anyone here, please correct me if I err in this.
In my own work over 25+ years, I have used the Fibonacci series (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 35 . . . ) as a convenient and reliable way to map human physical development, and I can assert with confidence that children denied childhood intimacy and interrelational bonding sex from an early age approach puberty severely retarded.
Their psycho-sexual development lags increasingly further behind their physical development. In counselling and supporting lonely frustrated angry men approaching middle age, our technique is very precisely to take them back to the moment their terror began, and their development slowed. It does not start at all at the same age.
Among the healthy kids, I never met one wanting any more or less to play at age 3 or 4, 5, 8, 10, or 12-13. After 13 it just starts to get messy, is all, and different care has to be taken. It is no longer so spontaneous.
It becomes fairly obvious that against this model, chronic retardation is being held up as ‘the norm’, while vibrant, effervescent health of which routine sexual play is definitive, is considered if not quite ‘deviant’ at least ‘exceptional’.
It’s that false, pathologically repressive ‘norm’ which needs fixing.

willistina556

Understandably all Anglo-dominated narrative/discourse once more.
Again with an incredibly growing, not shrinking, huge credibilty gap.
Just who are they fooling, but themselves ?.
10, yes, a general, insular Anglo-observed age of wider sexual awakening.
Yet the ancients rightly noted that the ‘Age Of Wisdom’ is seven, when the human mind becomes aware of it’s own mortality, and much of what that might entail.
Not least the entrails, and sexual ‘tails’ of humping pets and other animals including humans.
Personally observed and heard from a knowing, nude 4 yr old lolling provocatively like a best-selling Brit ‘SUN’ newspaper Page 3 girl, on a rug in front of adults at an Anglo family gathering in the Sexy 1970s: “Look at me uncle.”
Over reacted to by her mock-outraged Anglo mum, “No one wants to look at you. Get into that bath !”
Also decades earlier by one’s own age 6, discrete ‘look, tell show, and hump’ pleasurable games, repeated at each opportunity because they were pleasurable even if the actual Anglo-sacred word ‘Sex’ may not have been part of our lexicon.
Tho it surely is for today’s ‘Generation Sex’, sexually aware now from age 4, and by age 6 proactive adultophiles molesting teachers ! As reported via Head Teachers’ Conferences, in that self-same best selling Sex-Filled so called ‘Family Friendly’, Murdoch’s Sun daily rag, 2010 – ongoing.
The ongoing Anglos, so called ‘adults’ supposed debate in deep denial is so self-serving, repetitive, and incredible that to break it up we always quote a cracker or two, based on street-reality.
1. Irrationally embarrassed Anglo dad to 12 year old son, “Er, you’re nearly a teen now, and I need to talk to you about, er ‘Sex’.”
” OK Dad, what don’t you understand ? ”
2. Mainstream-brainwashed Anglo mum to 12 year old daughter, “That video is not for you, it is ’18+ Contains Sex, Violence, Swearing’ .”
“What ! Like in our schoolyard ?”
In the still hopeful 1970s, BBC-TV ran a fly-on-the-wall docu filmed in primary schoolyards at playtime. With much childhood banter and innuendo, some clearly sexual and knowing – except to the most deeply in denial so called ‘adults’, then and now.
E.G. “Ooh, aah, I lost my bra, I left my knickers in my boyfriend’s car !”
Sadly, yet understandably, mocked by their own sexually aware kids, today’s backward Anglo post modern so called ‘adults are just post-rational. Infantile, and in deep De Nile away wit The Pharaohs.

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