EARLY CHILDHOOD: News Weekly
Kinder kids quizzed on their sexuality
, May 29, 2010
Special reportChildren as young as three have been quizzed about their sexuality by a Melbourne university academic.
Monash University's Dr Mindy Blaise spent five days at an unidentified Victorian childcare centre asking toddlers questions such as "Do boys give you the dreamy eye?", "Are you a flirt?" and "Have you ever kissed a boy?"
She has called for sexuality to be an official subject at kindergartens and childcare centres, and would like homosexuality to feature as a topic of discussion.
Melbourne psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg expressed deep misgivings about Dr Blaise's research and said he was surprised that the university ethics committee allowed it to proceed. "Why the hell can't we just let children be children?" he asked. (Herald Sun
, May 18, 2010).
Dr Blaise is a senior lecturer at Melbourne's Monash University and trains childcare supervisors and primary school teachers."Kiss and tell"
Her recent research was written up in "Kiss and tell: Gendered narratives and childhood sexuality", a paper published in Australasian Journal of Early Childhood
(vol. 35, no. 1, March 2010), which she summarised as follows:
"This paper is based on a small-scale qualitative study framed by poststructuralist and queer perspectives that explored how young children talk about gender and sexuality while engaging with activities commonly found in early years settings.
"Findings show that children are eager to talk about gender and sexuality and do have a considerable amount of sexual knowledge. Questions are raised regarding the role of the early years' teacher and the responsibility the field has for opening up spaces in the curriculum for children's gender and sexual knowledge to be heard, valued and considered."
Dr Blaise's research has been financed by an American-based organisation, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS, or "quad-S").
As part of her research, Dr Blaise asked toddlers to take photographs of things they thought were "cool, sexy or pretty". She observed that a girl, Heather, responded to a photograph of two crocodiles kissing by saying, "One is a boy and one is a girl".
Dr Blaise remarked: "Heather has drawn upon the heterosexual matrix in her naming of the crocodiles as complementary genders. In doing so, the possibility of imagining same-sex desire has been closed off."
In her paper, she quoted the French left-wing thinker, Michel Foucault (1926-1984), who said in 1978 that "sexuality is neither a fact of life nor something that is natural. Instead, sexuality is considered a constructed category of experience, which has historical, social and cultural origins."
Foucault was an active homosexual, one of the intellectual fathers of postmodernism, and an ardent follower of Marquis de Sade (after whom sadism is named) and Friedrich Nietzsche. He died of AIDS at the age of 57.
Australian Family Association spokeswoman Mrs Terri Kelleher asked: "What are supposed to be the benefits of Dr Blaises's research? What is it directed at establishing? Of what benefit is it to be for those children who are the subject of the research? Surely that should be the measure of any research."
She continued: "A child of 3–4 years of age has enough to learn before he/she even begins to try to make sense of sex - for example, how to get on with other children, how to take direction from the teacher, when to sit still and when you can run and play, how to tie shoe laces.
"Further, the childhood latency period in relation to sexual matters should not be disturbed.
"Sexual matters should be left to the child to raise, if he/she is so minded, and for the parents or adults in close contact with the child to answer in an appropriate manner for that child.
"It is a parental prerogative and responsibility to give such information to a child or initiate discussion about such matters with a child."
She expressed concern at Dr Blaise's remark that her research "shifts away from understanding gender as biologically fixed, coherent and stable towards situating gender as a social and relational construction".Resistance
Mrs Kelleher commented: "The research didn't show this at all. Quite apart from the extremely small size of the focus group (consisting of only 12 to 18 children), which would mean no real conclusions could be reached from it, Dr Blaise opined that the children's resistance to 'feminist storylines meant that the field (of research) needed to rethink their beliefs about how children take up gender'.
"Was she not satisfied with the children's spontaneous response? Was she expressing a need to somehow get the desired response ... i.e., 'accept(ance) of the notion that boys and girls can do or be anything'?
"Surely it is a parental prerogative to introduce a child at the right time and in the right manner to the highly sensitive and personal issue of sexuality."